I am a fan of Rock. I’m honestly a little lost now living in the South with all this country music everywhere.
But I will listen to any subgenre of Rock. If you ask me if I listen to Christian Rock, my first reaction wouldn’t be to say yes. After doing some research, however, I would argue that most people, including myself, rock out to some Christian Rock on a daily basis. It’s everywhere: on the internet, on our iPods, on the radio. And I bet you wouldn’t guess that some of your favorite bands are actually Christian bands. They span every genre and are found in some unexpected music scenes.
I was honestly surprised when I found out that a good amount of the bands I listen to actually fall into the category of Christian. I was even more surprised that I never noticed that bands I have listened to for years have Christian themes right in their most popular songs and lyrics.
There’s actually a website devoted to Christian music artists. Christian Music Zine is site that features Christian bands and artists of various genres. In March of 2012 a list was posted of the top 10 Christian bands in the mainstream. Some of the bands listed didn’t surprise me at all. Relient K took spot number ten and is pretty widely recognized as a Christian band. At spot number one was Owl City. In a Q & A with Christianity Today, Adam Young (aka Owl City) responded to a question about how his faith plays a role in the creative process: “‘…my prayer has always been, “Lord, just give me the songs you want me to write so I can record them, release them, put them in the can, and reflect all glory and praise back to you.””
So is it fair to say that musicians use their gift as a way of mediating the sacred? It’s definitely something interesting to think about. Our textbooks and theorists have suggested that different groups of people have different vehicles for the sacred: people, places, and objects. So can we make the assumption that music is perhaps a form of meditation or prayer? Just as the writers of the books of the Bible were said to be inspired by God, are modern bands and music artists inspired as well?
It goes back to how Eliade says that a sacred rock is just a rock until the sacred reveals itself to you. But for all others to whom the sacred has not revealed itself, it is just a rock. So maybe sometimes music is simply a profane art. But maybe some other times, music is the result of a heirophany. For some people, music is created out of interaction with God.
In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
This song by Owl City is one of his more obviously Christian themed songs. It definitely sounds like something you might hear used in a prayer service.
The themes in other songs aren’t always so obvious. On example is his song Kamikaze.
Certainly not something you would hear at a Church or prayer service, but closer inspection of the lyrics reveals what seems like a reference to the save power and presence of God.
My captain on the snowy horse
He’s coming back to take me home
He’ll find me fighting back the terrible thwarts
‘Cause I’m not afraid to die alone
Owl City is just one of many popular modern artists who presents Christian themes in his music.
Would you be surprised if I said that U2 has Christian themes at the heart of most of their songs? Here’s just a few examples:
“40” from War has lyrics lifted from Psalm 40:
I waited patiently on the Lord / He inclined and heard my cry / He lifted me up out of the pits / And out of the miry clay.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a straight-up gospel song:
I believe when the Kingdom comes / Then all the colors will bleed into one / But yes, I’m still running / You broke the bonds / You loosened the chains / You carried the cross / Of my shame / You know I believed it / But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Most of the songs on Pop are about a crisis of faith, and “Wake Up, Dead Man” directly addresses Jesus Christ:
Jesus / I’m waiting here, boss / I know you’re looking out for us / But maybe your hands aren’t free / Your father, He made the world in seven / He’s in charge of heaven / Will you put a word in for me? / Wake up, wake up dead man.
I found these examples on a BuzzFeed music post from earlier this year. The title of the piece: 11 Bands you Might Not Realize Are Christian. It’s pretty interesting. U2 was at the number one spot and number two was Mumford and Sons. In a 2010 interview, Marcus Mumford said that his lyrics are “a deliberately spiritual thing but not a deliberately religious thing. I think faith is something beautiful, and something real, and something universal.”
“Sigh No More”
Serve God, love me and mend / This is not the end / Lived unbruised, we are friends / And I’m sorry / I’m sorry.
“Below My Feet”
And I was still but I was under your spell / When I was told by Jesus all was well / So all must be well.
“Whispers in the Dark”
Whispers in the dark / Steal a kiss and you’ll break your heart / Pick up your clothes and curl your toes / Learn your lesson, lead me home / Spare my sins for the ark / I was too slow to depart / I’m a cad but I’m not a fraud / I’d set out to serve the Lord.
Music has always been a prominent form of expression and story-telling. Musicians don’t write songs about things they haven’t experienced, they base their music off their lives and experiences. So naturally religion becomes a theme.
Whether artists express their beliefs explicitly or implicitly, I think that it shows that for some people, music is a way of interacting with God, or the sacred. If artists create songs about the experiences of their life, love, loss, dreams, etc… and spirituality is included, it just goes to show that experiences with God (or the sacred in general) have occurred. Something sacred has affected these people in such a way that they are so inspired as to create music based around these sacred experiences.
One of our textbooks (or maybe it was a documentary) stated that one aspect of the sacred is its ability to inspire something great. The people of Easter Island were inspired by SOMETHING to build hundreds of huge statues from a single quarry and then place them around the island! Creating music is not an easy thing. Not everyone can do it. And even the people who are gifted with such talent can’t always create on command. Music is inspired.
Maybe I’m biased because I’m a huge fan of music, playing, singing, listening, meditating to, etc, but I truly believe that there is something sacred about music. The fact that so many popular artists express their faith in their music does not surprise me at all. I think it’s awesome that so many bands and artists, regardless of genre, keep faith at the heart of their art.
There were times in my life when I was confused.
There were things between me and God that were blocking my view.
So I prayed,
“Oh dear Lord, take these things away so I can see.”
He answered my prayer and at the sight of Him
I fell to my knees.
And until I went onto that fateful trip.
I thought I was on a sinking ship.
I went on a balloon ride
(I could see everything from up there).
I went on a balloon ride
And now everything seems clear.
I strive towards infinity.
Though sometimes I don’t know what to do.
When other people laugh at me
All I do is look towards You.
Well on my through this life yet something was gone.
I looked round and round and then I found I needed some one.
So I prayed,
“Oh dear Lord, fill me up and make me whole.
Present in my life Jesus Christ, save my soul.”