10 June 2009

losing christian music

Christianity Today ran an article regarding the recessing market for 'Contemporary Christian Music' which seems to be happening. There appears to be no shortage of opinion for the reason(s) for this trend, many of which come from 'industry insiders' and are thus completely clueless. Others have some insight, but I believe there might be something which is being overlooked among the hand-wringing.

Mark Geil's article in CT includes many possible reasons for why Christian music is fading into the woodwork - the overall decline in the music industry in general (?), the emergence of iTunes over traditional CD sales, touring costs, the economy in general - all the reasons for such a situation, except for one important one. Inferior product.

That's right, the harsh reality of the majority of the CCM market is that it is by-and-large not quality music (there are a few notable differences). And I personally have been pointing out the decline of the industry with the rise of the worship-music-movement. Ever since the whole worship-music trend became popularized two effects can be identified: 1) the dissolution of genuine creativity in the Christian music market, and 2) the loss of artistry within the local church experience. How? The former is because it became en vogue for every artist to cover the same songs over and over and over again (with little variation); the latter is a reflection of every small praise band to act as though their congregations are meant to be the same experience as the David Crowder* Band concert last night.

(This loss within the local church is most disturbing, for it also works on the assumption that there is only one way to do church - only one approach to be 'successful' - and thus marginalizes the diversity of the body by allowing each congregation to infuse their own personalities and theology into the community worship experience.)

There seems to be no slowing down on the production of worship-music within the CCM market. Unfortunately. And before the objection is raised let us recognize that CCM being worship-music-oriented may be good in theory, the reality is that it makes the overall experience of Christian artistry shallow and one-dimensional. It is as if Christian expression only happens in this particular mode and that there is no spiritual significance unless it expressly uses certain words and phrases. And this is complete baloney. Possibly malarky.

In the end, it cannot be iTunes or the economy . . . it is only the decline of artistry in our culture. But does this come on the heels of truth being undervalued in the evangelical subculture? I believe it does. Thus we have lost beauty as well, for as Keats immortalized for us: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

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