Christian Music: Art or Commerce?

I read an article the other day which asked the question, somewhat problematically for me – ‘Is Christian Music Dying’. Inspired by another, much earlier post by Michael Gungor – it focuses upon the relationship between using Art as a message to reflect the Gospel (Christians making great music) – or what Gungor originally described as ‘formula driven music’ – which has the potential to lack authenticity due to a potential disjuncture between the words of the music and the ’emotion’ of the singer. I am writing this as a Christian, who performs and listens to the music being criticized – so am sort of sitting on the fence on this one – asking for other opinions.

What I would suggest, is that when considering this, one needs to be clear regarding the distinction between the multiple instances of a recorded piece of music being sung in the local church (which according to my own experience is in the main very authentic) – and that of the Christian music industry – and it’s potential, like any industry, for incorporating mediation in order to sell product. I have to say that I have personally found the songs themselves to be genuine conduits in leading a congregation into the presence of God. However, I do concede that like all music – some evangelical songs have a tendency to be more ‘formula driven’ than others: but is it an equatable thing to assert that ‘worship music’ as an entity is riddled with inauthenticity – I would suggest not, although I do understand (in places) where Michael Gungor is coming from.

I would also suggest that some music written by non Christians can also act as a conduit to God. For example, I was listening to Supers Ready the other day by Genesis – a piece that has always impacted me on this level – which was made more profound when I  recently discovered it was inspired partly by the Book of Revelation. I would be interested in examples of other pieces of music that has had this type of impact on people.


About Paul Carr

Academic working at the University of Glamorgan
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