Okay, so everyone knows where this one is headed, but first let me say that though it’s very easy to see and point out the obvious problems with “Christian music“, this blog is actually an attempt to discover answers and maybe even spur on some inspiration to something fresh, genuine and alive - while also giving a back-story and grid for the new record.
Christian Music? What an extremely weird concept. To think that a song, band or genre of music can be dubbed “Christian” is an anomaly to me. Can other things in this world be “Christian” as well? (i.e. My, dogs, my socks, my dirty tour sweater)?
I think this “Christian music” idea boils down to something very simple- That most Christians aren’t interested at all in affecting our culture but are already fully employed in creating a “Christian” sub-culture. Because, of course it’s more sanitary and predictable than the mess of embracing and affecting this world as it is, with all of it’s loud rock-and-roll and pogo-sticks.
But I think I’ve seen a wholly different attitude in Jesus. He seems quite comfortable with making messes and embracing “secular” culture even at the price of losing some of the “Insiders”. Really, the want to create our own little world of Christendom is “Pharisaic” in the truest sense, in that these ideas are sectarian and escapist.
We are finally free from all the dangers of Love and change when we create our own empire.
So the problems and effects of that issue are pretty obvious- Christian Radio being one of the biggest. And of course I don’t even have to mention why we all absolutely despise it. Alright, I’ll just mention a few things. When is the last time you heard a song on Christian Radio that didn’t sound like the last ten? When is the last time you heard a song that was actually “Positive” on the supposed “Positive Alternative” that didn’t make you feel like you’re a snail just waiting to be crushed by God? Ok, we will move on.
So now let’s add to this mix, “Worship” music. Now, I can understand music being a form of worship, but a genre of music named “worship”?
So, who makes the rules on what is accepted forms of this genre? Because it seems that if you don’t have a huge Brit-Rock/Coldplay/U2 sound then it doesn’t fit the bill.
I mean worship is such a subjective thing. To one person worship is belting out a song at the top of their lungs and to the other it’s walking through a forest playing a flute like the Pied Piper. As much as I don’t want to admit it, even the crazy guy at church who blows the shofar and stinks the whole place up with a peculiar butt smell emanating from the shofar, yes even that is worship music to him.
No, I’m not quite sure we as Christians are ready to have our own brand of music. I can totally understand songs that are dedicated specifically for worshipping corporately in a community setting – But what I am unwilling to swallow is the creative one-sidedness often accompanied.
And of course we have the lyrics, oh the depressing lyrics… In my humble opinion a corporate worship song should be an expression of the goodness and nearness of God – not the cry of orphaned kids desperately begging for time with their father. Corporate worship songs should carry in them celebratory and thankful tones. I’m not saying that all worship songs have to be in major keys, but please, please throw one major chord in there just for fun!
In the scriptures I see quite a different picture of worship than our current definition. I see that ALL is worship– It just depends on if you have the ears to hear it or not. All throughout the Biblical narrative we see things like the psalmists talking to whales and trees telling them to glorify their maker - We read that the whole earth is declaring the glories of God, which is strange because I don’t hear the mountains playing Coldplay rip-offs.
It seems that the scriptural definition of “worship” is an expression of God’s goodness and glory that can come from nearly every avenue imaginable.
What about love songs written by a man to his wife? Can’t these also be “worship” songs? Obviously, not worshipping his wife but expressing the goodness and glory of a holy union in marriage!
Just take a quick skip through The Song Of Solomon, pausing for a moment from all the mystical allegory, and what you will find is a very hot and erotic love song between a man and a woman. The book is FILLED to the brim with “boom shaka-laka” and this is probably the greatest of all songs ever written!… It’s a love song!… and it’ s scripture!
We have to see that music isn’t sacred just because of its message but that music is the message and is sacred within itself. Whether it’s Metallica or Cumbayå, It’s all worship.
Now I know that some music carries frequencies that are naturally more worshipful, but that’s because I believe that they are carrying a clearer picture of heaven. That is what I think all successful art truly is – glimpses of The Heavenly Country. This is what was told to an artist in C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce:
“When you painted on earth–at least in your earlier days–it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too.”
CONCLUSIONS AND ANSWERS-
So where does this leave music-lovers and worshipers? Well, the reason why the “system” is the way it is, is because we all buy into it. We rarely explore the realms of music. We seldom seek true creativity, which leaves us settling for the current worship trend.
There are some great bands and artists out there who are doing their thing without the fear of not fitting into the CCM/Christian Radio/Accepted Worship world. Go on itunes and get some Gregorian Chant if you want to hear something spiritual and ecstatic, go buy John Mark McMillan’s albums if you love a great lyricist. Go get a Beatles album and run through strawberry fields or be an octopus under the sea. Just go listen to anything that catches your heart without the fear that it’s not ok because it might not be “Christian” or that it might be different from what you know as “worship” music. And as you broaden your musical and worship horizons, then things begin to change. The creative bar actually rises and this produces innovation and evolution in music within the Church and in the worship community. In plain terms, when the creative standard rises then the current trend can’t be milked anymore – and this challenges artists to begin to realize their true potential instead of riding the Coldplay-ripoff gravy train.
Let’s create stuff that is true to us, genuine, and alive without the fear that it won’t be accepted because it’s too weird or not “corporate” enough. If you are a worship leader then start writing your own original corporate worship songs – songs that are true to your community and that are indigenous.
We have to realize that God doesn’t need another copy – he wants your original expression – and if you look you will find it!
Part of my writing this post is to give language to some of what has been on my heart lately. Secondly it’s to tell a little of the back-story of our forthcoming record to be released.
Fable (The soon to be released record) is a new class of venture for me in that I wrote it from the perspective of different Characters. While writing this record I was heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis’ books and I actually think within this last year that I’ve read most or nearly all of his material more than twice! The Narnia Series, Perelandra, Out of the Silent planet etc. - all of them found their way into this album. As most of you know these books are in allegory - They are like parables. They are stories and characters that speak of the “Heavenly Country” and have spiritual meanings though hidden a little in mystery and imagination. And I think I would also define the new record in the same terms – it’s an allegory.
A lot of the songs are sung from the perspective of characters within these Lewis books. There is a song sung by Reepicheep (a chivalrous and brave mouse) about sailing to the end of the sea to find the Lord and Heaven. There is a song about the venturous and burning desire of some sailors that set out to sea and end up discovering the true treasure of the satisfaction of a home. There are songs about singing elephants, and a boy who changes into a dragon and back by the work of grace, and love songs between characters.
So as far as a traditional worship album, that it’s not. But the songs are spiritual. They were born out of the glimpses of “The Heavenly Country” that I’ve seen in C.S. Lewis Literature. It’s imaginative and true to who I am and how I perceive. I feel everyone can connect with the songs in that at one time or another we have been one or all of these characters – and in the end their stories and ours always lead to an Author of Grace.
OUR NAME CHANGE –
Sonically this record has more of a band sound than any other previous album and we feel that our name should reflect that. Because we feel that our audience is broadening beyond the borders of the church we have decided to change our name.
Not to worry though, it’s not too far off from before - And besides, who doesn’t want to imagine an ensemble of creatures clanging symbols and blowing trumpets?
BENJAMIN DUNN AND THE ANIMAL ORCHESTRA
Go like the new music page and you can download 2 free songs including the new single! http://fb.bandpage.com/BenjaminDunnAnimalOrchestra
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