Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sniffing Glue - A childhood in Christian Pop

Meghan O’Gieblyn writes about her experience growing up in the CCM culture of music and the church. In some ways it completely mirrors my experience. I think she nails it here in her conclusion. We have much to learn.
Basically, CCM caught on to the number one rule of coolness: don’t let your marketing show. The best bands—the successful ones, at least—learned to gloss over the gospel message the same way TV producers camouflaged corporate sponsorship. Explicitly Christian lyrics prevented DC Talk from crossing over to the secular market in the ’90s; today it’s difficult to imagine their unapologetic faith making it in the Christian circuit.

This trend spreads beyond CCM into many areas of evangelical culture. The church is becoming increasingly consumer-friendly. Jacob Hill, director of “worship arts” at New Walk Church, describes the Sunday service music as “exciting, loud, powerful, and relevant,” and boasts that “a lot of people say they feel like they’ve just been at a rock concert.” Over the past ten years, I’ve visited churches that have Starbucks kiosks in the foyer and youth wings decked out with air hockey tables. I’ve witnessed a preacher stop his sermon to play a five-minute clip from Billy Madison. I’ve walked into a sanctuary that was blasting the Black Eyed Peas’s “Let’s Get it Started” to get the congregation pumped for the morning’s message, which was on joy. I have heard a pastor say, from a pulpit, “Hey, I’m not here to preach at anyone.” And yet, in spite of these efforts, churches are retaining only 4 percent of the young people raised in their congregations.

Despite all the affected teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a believer made me uncool or outdated or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my Facebook page, next to my music preferences. The gospel became just another product someone was trying to sell me, and a paltry one at that because the church isn’t Viacom: it doesn’t have a Department of Brand Strategy and Planning. Staying relevant in late consumer capitalism requires highly sophisticated resources and the willingness to tailor your values to whatever your audience wants. In trying to compete in this market, the church has forfeited the one advantage it had in the game to attract disillusioned youth: authenticity. When it comes to intransigent values, the profit-driven world has zilch to offer. If Christian leaders weren’t so ashamed of those unvarnished values, they might have something more attractive than anything on today’s bleak moral market. In the meantime, they’ve lost one more kid to the competition.
Read the rest.


Song of the Suffering Servant said...

I agree with the main point of the post that the Church's tendencies to consumerism, etc., need to end.

However, shouldn't we allow different standards for what music can be sung in a corporate worship setting vs. what music can be listened to individually by the unchurched masses? Or should we require frequent Gospel-message insertions within music for it to be considered effective evangelism?

MStephan said...

I read this article last year and re-read after your post here. And I still have the same problem with it.

Maybe I missed it, but when did christian music = the gospel? It doesn't. It was never meant to. And yet, throughout her article, it seemed that christian culture (in America) and the gospel of Christ Jesus are one and the same. They are not.

And a point that was also brought up by one of the commentors there; I did not read a single reference to her spending any time reading the Bible. If a christian fails to read the God's word to them, where will they ground themselves? If it is in the contemporary christian music scene, they are going to come up woefully short. CCM is not the Gospel of Christ.