Thursday, January 19, 2006

Christian or Secular Music: You tell Me?

It seems to me that the distinction between Christian and Secular music may not be so clear. While it seems that most record labels are up front about their "Christian" emphasis, others are less so. Take for example Seattle, Washington's Tooth and Nail Records whose purpose is "to give independent artists a forum to creatively express positively through music." By many people's standards, Tooth and Nail is known as a Christian Punk label. The Christian bookstores that I've visited lately have all carried most of their artists. However, as the above statement and as a quick surf of their website reveals, no such "Christian" disclaimer can be found. While some of their bands do profess the Christian faith through both word and deed, not all of their bands are Christian. Even more telling, many of those who are considered Christian seem to offer only a few small references to the need for something "more" - hardly Christian?

So, one might ask, as I have, what makes a record Christian or not? And does it matter how it gets labeled? To answer the later question first, I will say that in a world where much of the mainstream music produced today is decidedly not Christian, I think it does. I was recently listening to that latest record by what some have labeled the greatest Rock N' Roll band ever - U2. For years I have been befuddled and bewildered by those who have tried to make U2 out to be a Christian band because three out of the four members have professed the Christian Faith. I was further struck as I heard some recent concert goers describe their recent time at a U2 concert as a worship experience to top all worship experiences. While I've loved much of what U2 has done musically over the years, I have never considered them a Christian band. To me, they were always a great band with a mostly positive message. Nonetheless, I was surprised as I listened to their latest offering - How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. What surprised me was how Christian it appeared in comparison to some music that is explicitely named as Christian. While I don't have time to go into the specifics, simply find yourself a copy and have a listen for yourself.

So I wonder how it is that U2 gets labeled as Secular while these other so-called Christian bands get their rather illustrious label? I don't have an easy answer, maybe you can enlighten me on this one. My conclusion is that perhaps we need to create some middle ground that could clear up some of this ambiguity. Then we could simply label the music that fits neither as Positive - a category that I'm very interested in.