tag : bright yellow-green apples: I tell you that's all

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I tell you that's all

fig.1.7. stereotypical 'Christian music'

Radio 1 is normally quite rubbish to listen to during the day, middle ground tat. But the evening is a different matter entirely – particularly John Peel’s show. He plays such a wonderful mixture of interesting music, new and the odd fragment from another time, that it’s required listening to make up for the dearth of anything half decent before 7pm. I was listening one night a few days ago, when I suddenly noticed that there was a grainy old recording of some guy with a guitar playing this furiously urgent song called denomination blues. I couldn’t help but stop what I was doing and listen to the performer (apparently Washington Phillips), it was so compelling.

I’m rarely stimulated by music which self-consciously uses Christian themes and imagery, this was a rare exception demonstrated by my singular captivation. Why so? Well (1) It tends to be substandard fare trying to ape what's already been done by so-called ‘secular’artists, but are always one step behind and often a little limited in scope, unable to express the fullness of life and it's complexities. Do we need endless variations of praising God when sometimes music might express other sides to life?(2) Christians often seem to be unable to let go of the need to make things 'worthy', it is usually so earnest a sanitised venture. (3) Self-consciously Christian music seems to be about subculture. Yes in marketing a whole range, baptised with Jesus to make it ‘safe’, it is simply aiding a mindset of separatism which creates mutual alienation with wider society. And maybe there is some idolatry by default, implicitly supporting the notion that God is not being praised by music not saying “Jesus”.

There are many exceptions, and there are many Christians out there making fantastic music (usually exploring the faith with a little more vim and creative daring, just unseen by the subculture). But what might sound like just getting principles in the way is actually more that much of the fare you might find in a Church or Evangelical stall is, to me, a bit hooey. And I’m a Methodist; coming from the movement which most of all taught people to use music in faith, and I find so-called 'secular' music much more inspiring. The irony of it all and another reason, as Andy would say, for the Wesleys to be deeply unimpressed by me. Oh well, it's not like most Methos aren't equally rebellious in regarding our general heratige, hehe....


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