Jesus Christ, This Music Rocks!
The New York Times has a really interesting article on the newest generation of Christian bands, who are all basically breaking the long-established rules of Christian music — i.e., that the music has to be a pathetic imitation of safe, already existing musical forms, the lyrics all have to mention God and Christ every other line, that it can’t freak out parents who see The Powerpuff Girls as examples of secular evil, and that any attempt to reach a larger audience beyond the already-saved will result in an immediate shunning. In short: boring, unoriginal and paranoid. The new kids are saying to hell with that (well, you know) and are making music they like, tackle themes that give the safely saved the jitters, and make no bones about reaching a larger audience.
Good for them. Beyond the fact that no creative person should have to make art that sucks simply because they believe in a higher power, in showing the willingness to present their relationship with God on their own terms, these bands exemplify one of the best traits of Christianity, which is its total plasticity and it’s ability to adapt to changing situations. Part of this is the simplicity of its core message, which is to accept Christ and to love one another. Once you’ve got that down, the rest is mostly window dressing (don’t tell the Pope. Or Jerry Falwell). This makes Christianity portable, malleable and adaptable, which is why there are over nearly 21,000 denominations of Christianity, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia.
Implicitly this suggests that Christianity (and Christians) also have problems with authority: If a Christian feels you’re getting in the way of his or her relationship with Christ with your rules, you’ll be told to go hang. This is particularly the case here in the United States, what with that whole freedom of religion thing we’ve got going in our Constitution, but it’s been going pretty much as long as Christianity could officially have been said to become a religion. Anytime Christianity gets too far boxed in, someone takes it out of the box and starts over. In other words, Christianity evolves, although I know some Christians (but tellingly, not nearly all), who would wince at that description.
So what you’re seeing these new Christian bands do is part of the great Christian tradition of adaptability — and a new generation of Christians saying “I’ll experience Christ my way, not yours, thank you very much.” Many evangelical Christians may fret that these bands are losing their way by breaking off from the current Christian mainstream thinking, but that’s an interesting perspective coming from any evangelical Christian, whose current state of Christian understanding is itself informed by numerous doctrinal and social schisms. I expect these kids will be fine. I also expect the kids they reach with their music will also have a new appreciation for the message of Christ, namely that it doesn’t have to be painfully dweeby. Christ can rock.