A Puzzling Paradox

A friend sent me the following quote by A.W. Tozer, that has been floating around the internet lately: 

“Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.”

-A.W. Tozer

I’m puzzled by something.

There is a paradox, a contradiction of sorts in so-called Worship Music, and I don’t know what to do with it. I’m the kind of person that sees things as black or white; right or wrong; good, or bad, so when I come across certain music, I tend to run it through this filter. The problem is I can’t define all of it this way. It just doesn’t seem to work because some music has different purposes. I can think of music meant to tell a story, make a point (political or otherwise), entertain, woo a lover, heal the soul, make you joyful or sad, put you to sleep, keep you awake, lead you into battle, etc…

The paradox is that we have this thing called worship music, and yet my spirit is not, no matter how hard I try, in a state of worship when I listen to most of it. I have to say most, because it would be untrue to say all. And herein is the problem: What makes some of it put me in a spirit of worship, but not all of it?

I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I think I’ve hit on something.

Jesus told the Pharisees that they were following the letter of the law, and not the spirit of the law. What does this have to do with music? I believe some music is written in true worship to the Lord of lords, the God who redeemed the writer’s soul from the chains of bondage, and that it comes through in their music, and that the other music is possibly written, (even if unwittingly) to please man, to glorify self, to produce an emotional high, to bring smooth words to a certain demographic, to complete a record, or to fulfill a publisher’s demands, as this article supposedly by CCM artist Matt Papa, confirms.

It could also be that the writer isn’t really actually a true believer, and that they don’t have the spirit of God filling their entire being, which might also explain some of the music, lyrics, techniques, performances, and the lives and appearance of some of the composers and performers. This was unfortunately true in one of the most successful modern Christian worship bands, Newsboys. George Perdikis, founder of Newsboys has renounced Christianity and become an Atheist.

And George isn’t the only one. An atheist female backup singer for an unnamed Christian contemporary band had this to say on Reddit.com Athiest’s forum,

“When I was hired, everyone got wasted and the casting director told me the reason I made it to final callbacks was because I had the “good girl look” and was “Christian sexy”…Also, the typical CCM-listener is an evangelical middle-aged woman with kids that radio has named “Becky”, and this article describes how they target her better than I can:

“Christian radio plays songs for Becky. The labels know that in order to sell music, they have to get songs on radio. Radio = Becky. So the labels coerce their artists and bands to all write and record songs for Becky….songs that will make her feel good. Songs that tell her she is good. Songs that are “safe for the whole family”. Songs that remind her of her snow-flake-ness and tell her to turn that frown upside-down. Songs that focus on love and hope. Songs that aren’t confrontational. Songs that aren’t theological because man, that stuff is up in the clouds. Songs that don’t talk about blood and crosses and depressing stuff like that. Songs that focus on Becky and her busy life. And if the artists or bands want to write songs for another demographic or another purpose, that’s fine, they can just make music somewhere else. There is money to be made. And sure, all radio stations and all record labels do this, they sell whatever the listener wants to hear, and they hire musicians and singers for their looks, but CCM markets their whole operation as FOR JESUS. Meaning HOLIER than NOT FOR JESUS.” (Emphasis in original)

If you think that’s bad, it gets worse.

This article, quoting Tim Lambesis, a former member of the band, As I Lay Dying, which has traveled with many bands, says that your favorite Christian band probably isn’t Christian:

“We toured with more ‘Christian bands’ who actually aren’t Christians than bands that are. In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.”

The article goes on to say,

“I remember one Christian festival where an interviewer wanted one of the guys to share his testimony, and he just froze up and let one of the guys who was still a Christian at the time answer the question. We laughed about it afterward, but we were only laughing because it was so awkward.”

“When kids would want to pray with us after shows, I’d be like, “Um, go ahead and pray!” I would just let them pray. I’d say ‘Amen.’ If praying while I have my hand on their shoulder makes them feel better, I didn’t want to take that away from them. When they would specifically ask me to pray for something, I’d say, ‘I don’t really like to pray out loud, but I’ll take that with me to the bus.’”

These sad testimonies don’t prove that this is why my spirit resonates with some contemporary songs and not others, but it does point to some evidence that indicates it’s a strong possibility. Even so, as I read these testimonies and looked into the lives of some of these people, I am convicted- especially when George Perdikis, the founder of Newsboys, said in his interview with Patheos,

“The Christian music scene is populated by many people who act as though they have a direct hotline to a God who supplies them with the answers to the Universe. There seems to be more ego and narcissism amongst Christian musicians than their secular counterparts.

Recently, the Newsboys were featured in the movie God’s Not Dead. The movie demonstrated the pervasive attitude of Christians. They demonized everyone while giving a pass to their own particular brand of Christianity, making themselves look like fluffy white angels with perfect, synchronized lives.

The truth is — from someone who knows what went on then and what goes on now — the Newsboys aren’t as holy as they profess. Instead of wearing a mask of “righteousness,” they should acknowledge that they are struggling as much as everyone else.

Now that’s a movie I’d like to see.”

 

Now I didn’t see the movie, so I can’t speak to whether or not that part is an accurate portrayal or a jaded perspective, but whether on purpose or not, he makes a point saying that the Christian musicians have the same temptations as the world and maybe ought to be more honest in both their music and their lives. I’m not suggesting living in the cesspool of sin because we were born into it, rather, being honest with ourselves and with others about our weaknesses, and living like we were redeemed out of it!  After all, God resists the proud but gives grace to the truly humble. He doesn’t despise the broken in heart, or the contrite (broken; crushed) spirit. I really believe that it is in this humility, this place of brokenness, that the Spirit of God comes and dwells in men and women and allows them to be an instrument of praise, writing, singing and making a joyful noise unto the LORD.

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