WHATS THE MESSAGE
"The music's message is clear, adding the words Jeus Christ to the lyrics does not make one bit of difference. Whether a metalhead is listening to Ozzy Osbourne or Stryper, the feeling he or she gets in his gut is one and the same. The music inevitably overwhelms the best intentions [or in the case of Osbourne, reinforces the worst intentions] of the lyrics - James Chute in the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL
It is abundantly clear from the messages in the music, from statements made in print, and from the theatrics on stage that many of these religious rockers are on an ego trip.
That clearly seems the motive in a number of cases where the "star syndrome" has taken over. In fact, when one religious rocker was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in a state prison for sex crimes, it was suggested that much of the individuals problems stemmed from the fact "he was the lead singer of a rock band." Thats ego?
I categorically state that the message is more money than Gospel. Especially do I find this the case in the so-called "crossover music" that moves from the gospel arena to the Top 40 charts and rock stations.
Contemporary Christian Magazine, in reviewing Amy Grant's record UNGAURDED, concluded:
""I really think that, given half a chance, UNGAURDED will make a significant impact in the mainstream market and expose contemporary Christian music to a whole new audience. And for those who say shes selling out, its a matter of direction. Are we in this business to stroke the body or to take the message to a dying world? With UNGAURDED, Amy Grant takes the message where its needed most.""
The reviewer was right about one thing - the album had mainstream acceptance, going gold in 45 days and platinum in 1986.
The bigger question, however, is: What is the albums message?
Amy Grant herself was quoted in THE HEART OF ROCK AND ROLL as saying:
""...And the kids who are trying to find out whats really happening in this life look at somebody who is presenting all the answers and they think, "Theres no search here. They're already telling me everything. Theres no looking; theres no finding'. So I found that the lyrics of this new album started not saying everything. And it wasn't to say, "Im not going to say Jesus." But it was an effort to say, "You know what? I want to allow a little bit of mystery of God to be in this album."
Evidentaly there is a lot of mystery in the album to hear many believers talk.
Ms Grant obviously plans to take her music elsewhere other than the usual concert halls where many Christian groups perform. She has stated publicly:
""I aim to bridge the gap between Christian and pop""
I can inform her that the gap will never be bridged with that which is genuinely sacred and that which is tainted with the worlds emphasis and touch.
"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18)
Phil Driscoll, a gifted musician and singer who has constantly testified about keeping "my craft at a level that will allow me to flow with the Holy Spirit," made the following comment to DESTINY magazine in the January/Feburaru 1987 issue:
""I no longer believe in crossover music. Every crossover thing that I see so waters down the message of the Gospe that there is no Gospel""
That expression "no Gospel" would probably best describe the crossover efforts of many in religious rock. The Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes so watered down, it literally evaporates. The result: no Gospel.
In an interview with PEOPLE magazine in 1983, Ms Grant said.
""Its like theres this huge mountain called the music business, and this thing next to it, a little bitty saltshaker - thats the Christian music business. My question is, how can I sing to that mountain of people out there?""
The answer to that question has evidentaly produced some unusual opportunities. During her fall 1984 tour of the northeast, she sold out Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Centrum in Boston, and the Spectrum in Philidelphia. More than 17,000 people showed up for her performance in Los Angeles last year.
She also played a music theater in suburban Chicago. An advertisement on the concert read "Mill Music at Poplar Creek". A smaller headline announced, "Miller Music Played the American Way." In case that sounds like a TV beer commercial, you're right. Its the same Miller folks that produce Miller beer.
Amy Grant appeard with special guest Russ Taff.
Its the same music theater which hosts a variety of rock groups: Dire Straits, Beach Boys, Commodores, Sting, Chaka Khan, and a menagerie of others.
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Rich Wilkerson, and evangelist with a special ministry to young people, observed in a recent article on religious rock.
""You dont have to be around religious rock starts too long before you begin hearing a key catch word "Industry." The religious world has an industry that makes music just like General Motors makes cars. The religious rock stars are very concerned that they stay in touch with where the industry is going. They want to do what the industry wants them to do. If the industry doesnt want them to sing a certain song, they wont. If it wants them to dress a certain way, they will. The industry features large record companies, a major religious rock magazine, and hundreds of religious rock radio stations that play the music nationwide. For many religious rock stars, the industry is god!""
US News & World Report headlined an August 25 1986 article, "Gospel music rolls out of the church, onto the charts." The story noted among other things that the big-four record companies that produce almost 100 percent of religious rock "earned $86.5 million [in 1985], up from $74 million in 1984, and 20 percent of their products were sold in mainstream stores."
I would ask if these people are attempting to expand their market into secular areas to gain converts to Jesus Christ, or to enrich themselves riding the crest of a popular music trend.
U.S. News & World Report (August 25, 1986) acknowledged the religious rock trend and the growing interest from secular record companies:
""Capitol Records already distributes records by one of the Big Four companies, Sparrow, to mainstream stores and is negotiating a similar deal with another. Mainstream retailers are more willing than ever to stock CCM, observes Dennis White, the Capitol vice-president who handles CCM distribution. "Its a good trend to be in on.""
The religious rockers always maintain that they are simply trying to reach people for Jesus. If thats the case, then Id like to suggest they go totally secular and leave out their appeal to the church. Why bother with the crowd thats already saved anyway?
Of course, since 80 percent of religious rockers income is derived through Christian bookstores, we already know the answer to that question.
Its my conviction that the religious rockers are not reaching the lost, and there is a good chance the church could be losing the "found" by bringing rock music into the sanctuary.
Rolling Stone magazine observed the following about Amy Grant:
""In 1984 alone, Grant performed to a half million fans, grossing $1.3 million; her managers predict she'll gross more than $2.5 million from concert appearances this year .
Her managers were quoted as saying, "We never played many churches with Amy. That was the way everybody else had done it and nobody ever made it doing it that way"
Isn't it interesting that some people consider churches as places where you "play" instead of minister?
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15)
If money is not the factor, then why attempt this effort at bridging the so-called gap between rock and religious? Whats the purpose?
If you dont present the Gospel clearly on your recordings and you dont present it in your concerts either, how are all these unsaved people that the rockers are supposed to be reaching suddenly going to see their need for Jesus, repent of their ways, and come to Him? What avenue have you given them?
The hard truth is, you havent given them anything, and people cant find Jesus until somebody tells them in unmistakable terms.
Rev. Bud Calvert, pastor of Fairfax Baptist Temple, assessed some of contemporary Christian music:
""To me, Amy Granst music is a very fleshy, sensual program of music undermining Christianity itself. She's saying the end justifies the means, that to become a Christian you have to go down to that level. Christianity is not about God going down to our level, its about us going up to His level. I studied the lyrics of her [recent fourth consecutive Grammy-winning] UNGAURDED album and you cant get a peanuts worth of Gospel from that record. Its ungodly, its worldly. I think shes a sincere person, but shes sincerely wrong...""
"And they that are Christs have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
"Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another" (Gal. 5:24-26)
KEITH GREEN'S STATEMENT
Before his untimely death in a 1982 airplane crash, singer Keith Green wrote an article decrying the trend advancing in contemporary Christian music:
""Why are we so starstruck? Why do we idolize Christian singers and speakers? We go from glorifying Elton John in the world...to Andre Crouch when we become Christians. Its all idolatry! Cant you see that?...How come no one idolizes the missionaries who give up everything and live in poverty, endangering thier lives and their families...How come no one lifts up and exalts the ghetto and prison ministers...How come? Because (1) We're taught from very early on that comfort is our goal and security...and (2) that we should always seek for a lot of people to like us. Who lives more comfortably and has more "fans" than the latest and bright and shining gospel star? Who lives less comfortably and has less friends and supporters than selfless missionaries? Why do you spend more money on gospel records and concerts than you give to World Vision to feed the poor, and to the missionaries your church is supporting? Lets all repent of idolatry and seeking a comfortable, "rewardingg" life while we are passing through like strangers and pilgrims in this world (Heb. 11:13). Our due service to the Lord is "not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil 1:29).""
The late singers statement brings to mind the words of Colossians 3:5:
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and coveteousness, which is idolatry."
In this passage, covetousness is called idolatry because the thing coveted becomes an idol. It actually describes the erotomania which can be common even among Christians.
Erotomania is an extravegant display of affection or idolization even to the point of mental possession of an individual.
The erotomaniac actually falls in love with a person in high social esteem or intellectual standing, such as a diplomat, a general, and actor, a rock singer, or even a brilliant preacher. This erotomania would especially affect those who "worship" rock and roll singers.
Idolatrous admiration and worship is responsible, among other things, for the present-day "swooning" and mobbing of singers, actors, and other celebrated persons for autographs, photographs, or parts of their clothing.
WHAT ABOUT THE LYRICS?
The lyrics on many so-called religious songs seem perfectly vague and meaningless. In some cases, Jesus is not mentioned at all. The emphasis now is issues of the day. All of this, of course, is done in the name of reaching people at their level without "turning them off."
James Chute of teh Milwaukee Journal comments:
""The contemporary Christian musicians would have us believe that changing the words changes the musics very nature, as if the power of the music resides in the words alone; as if music can be completely severed from its cultural and social context and suddenly take on meanings no only removed but contadictory to those contexts...In the struggle between the words and the music, a struggle that has existed for centuries, music most often has the upper hand...The CCM movement, however, has gone far beyond a few musicians strumming guitars and singing in harmony, Tune in to any of the Christian cable programs and you wont have to wait long before some band, dressed in its best sequins and tuxedos, looking for all the world as if its last gig was at Caesar's Palace, will praise the Almighty in the same way Las Vegas praises the almighty dollar. They all make the same fatal mistake: that somehow the lyrics change the musics context, its subliminal message. More likely, the very opposite begins to happen: the Vegas/Wayne Newton lounge act style is sanctified through Christian associations. (Amy) Grant and other middle-of-the-road Christian performers are often more subtle in their invocation of the Lords name. They are not so overt as to actually mention the Lord; this might turn off a large segment of the mass audience they are trying to reach. So they sing about you - you as in, "You Light Up My Life". All the listener has to fill in is the blank: You can be God, but it can also be a lover, a husband, or a wife, a father or a mother, a dog or a cat""
Yet there are a few singers who do not employ this kind of approach. Dallas Holm, who has written such classics as "Rise Again" and "I Saw The Lord", is one such individual. In a March 1986 interview with Contemporary Christian Magazine, he talked about the potential for reaching people - yet his emphasis is considerably different from what is being expressed in many places.
""...if, in a concert through my album, I can challenge Christians to be motivated to a new intensity in their walk with the Lord, they're going to, in turn, affect other lives that I would never even get to. So the potential to reach the unsaved is still greater if I can really challenge and affect the life of a believer who may be just kind of loafing""
Do you hear what he's saying. Reach the unsaved by motivating the saved. Thats a novel approach Dallas Holm is suggesting. Why? Because the average Christian is usually kind of loafing - he or she needs desparately to be motivated! He says further:
""And so through my music - and especially on this latest album...I want to kind of shake American Christians to re-think what it really means to be a Christian - a New Testement type of Christian. Radical Christianity! To re-think again the words and principles that Jesus and the Scriptures teach, to apply them litterally to our lives, and to see how that stacks up against the cultural Christianity we've created.""
Terry Talbot is another singer/songwriter who takes a completely different approach than what a multitude of artists are espousing today. In a February 1986 interview with Contemporary Christian Magazine, he said:
""The reality is that if you proclaim Jesus, the person who is seeking the Light will find it...It doesnt take artful lyrics and pretty songs to move someone to Jesus. There are a lot of good lyrics and pretty songs out there. It doesnt take a believer to write a great song either. It doesnt take a believer to talk about God or the Lord. It doesnt take a believer to stand against abortion or pornography. But it usually does take a believer to speak boldly and confess the name Jesus.""
Talbot is right on target. How will the world ever know about the wonders of the Lord Jesus Christ unless believers tell them? How simple...how wonderful...how true!
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14)
A SHADED OPINION
Yet there are many singers, songwriters, and record companies who somewho believe there should be a totally different presentation in religious lyrics.
An article in the July 1986 issue of Contemporary Christian Magazine concerning a new record label - What? - explores their approacch. In case you thought the name of the record company is a typographical error, the correct name is WHAT? The article suggests:
""What exactly is Christian music anyway? Is it music about Christ or is it music about the entire spectrum of human existence - love, pain, relationships, death.
Theres been a growing contingent of artists...with the understanding of how to write a commercial song that could be an across-the-board hit and at the same time let out real insight into life...and what it means to be a human on this earth...tied into the Creator.
The idea behind What? is that there needed to be a place where these people could do what they do so well without being forced to fit into either of the two molds. Buyers can expect releases that my be filled with biblical illusions...This is material for the most part that is not about religious topics but its made by Christians and I would hazard thats Christian music if you must define it Literally all truth is Gods truth whether or no it specifically deals with Christianity...what this label isnt is contemporary Christian music. The label is music done by Christians""
Do you hear what these individuals are saying? We seemingly need material with biblical illusions instead of going right to the heart of the matter and telling the wondrous old story of Jesus and His love.
Their statements are further confusing with such phrases as "all truth is Gods truth whether or not it specifically deals with Christianity." We must be quick to define truth, which is actually Jesus Christ and reality or facts. Reality may be real and facts may be true but they are not distinctly truth.
This kind of statement is frequently used in theological areas to cover up false doctrines. The realm of psychology is another prime example.
The Christian psychologist might say, "Well, admittedly there are errors in psychology but there are also truths in psychology."
Realities or facts are being mistaken for truths. Its not a truth just because its a reality; neither is it a truth just because its a fact.
It is just an approach such as this that is being used to cover a mountain of error and wrongdoings in religious rock.
For instance, Contemporary Christian Magazine makes the following statement in its December 1986 issue:
""By providing interviews with artists and musicians, features on music-related topics, and information on records, videos, and books of particular interest to todays Christians, CCM endeavors to enhance its readers' enjoyment of, and to encourage their participation in, music which reflects a biblical perspective on all areas of life. We believe that all truth is from God and glorifies God, and that when expressed artistically, truth can be embraced by Christians regardless of the personal beliefs of the artist. Recognizing that there are many purposes for music, we focus on contemporary music which reflects biblical truth and uplifts the human spirit...""
Once again, reality ore facts are confused with truth in this magazines statement of purpose. The result shows a basic lack of understanding of biblical truth.
The phrase "truth can be embraced by Christians regardless of the personal beliefs of the artist" is the most dangerous statement that can be made. Thats the kind of smoke screen Hitler used to cover his murderous activities against the Jews.
To suggest that an individuals life-style, pursuits, or personal beliefs do not affect what that person says has got to be one of the most incredulous statements ever made!
In effect, a truth becomes a lie basically when uttered by a liar. Thus, this person is saying, "Hey, dont do what I do; do what I say do:. Of course, this is the very opposite of biblical interpretation and biblical life-style
"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mat. 15:7-9)
"A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Mat. 7:18)
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man..." (Mat 7:22-24)