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With more and more Christian artists continually pushing the artistic boundaries there is always the issue of profanity. Some Christian artists feel that it is acceptable to use profanity in their music. Fringe Christian artists like Derek Webb, David Bazan, Sufjan Stevens and others such as Mike Knott (Aunt Betty’s) come to mind on this subject.
Really there is no justification for using profanity in the same way that it’s never justified to take the Lord’s name in vain. Yet somehow these musicians feel free to proclaim their faith on one hand and use whatever language they like on the other.
How many of us would feel comfortable if our pastor started dropping verbal bombs left and right in the middle of a service? If we wouldn’t tolerate it from the pastor, why should we tolerate less from someone who claims to be a Christian artist?
If you take someone like Derek Webb for example. He is trying to use profanity to stir up his listeners to care about poverty and other problems facing people in other parts of the globe. So basically he’s using a positive end to justify his means. Now there are people out there like Keith Green who wanted to shake up the young Christians to care about the rest of the world, but he never used profanity in his music. There are plenty of other creative ways to convey that message.
It does bother me a bit that there are Christians who think profanity is an acceptable form of art. I understand there are complications that come from being known as Christian artist and being able to make art that pushes boundaries. But I see profanity in the art as a perversion that leads to the death of true art.
As Christians our worldview makes sense of the fallen nature of mankind and the brokenness that only Christ can cure. The biggest hope for a Christian artist is for the Lord to speak through their art. But how can the Lord be expected to bless art that is corrupted?
In honor of the Chicago Cubs commericials with Relient K I decided to make a video of my own. The video was taken at Miller Park in Milwaukee and the Cubs won the game 7-2. I also posted it on Vimeo.com, but that site doesn’t get as much traffic as YouTube.
Dogwood is one of the Christian punk bands I grew up listening to and the song “1983” is one of my favorites. It says:
When we were young, our whole lives ahead of us,
And it was well understood we’d all become astronauts,
Let’s not pretend, we all become famous,
Let’s not pretend, there’s more to this then we hoped for,
When you reach a certain point in life you realize that you’re probably not going to be famous and you have to accept that. A person’s occupation is a big part of what typically defines him/her. In the midst of all the people moving to California and trying to get on TV to become famous, we have to accept that we’re regular people and we need to be content with that regardless of our jobs. Sure it’s cool to have goals and want to make money, but the things that bring fulfillment in life have little to do with fame and fortune.
Your parents are proud,
You’ve got everything,
No passion at hand,
You’ll be Ivy League,
It’s more probable,
We all become salesmen,
You know it,
You fear it,
It’s well on it’s way, well understood,
And this is your life,
Don’t apologize for what you are,
Because you’re a star.
The Blah Blah included an entry about rare Stavesacre MP3s and True Tunes yesterday. If you haven’t been over to the Blah Blah you should check it out at http://theblahblah.wordpress.com. The site features a wide variety of Christian indie music and offers free MP3s. I’m proud to say the site has been an inspiration for the True Tunes blog and I hope all of you will check it out.
Since the Christian music industry began there have been discussions of bands and how Christian they are or aren’t based on their lyrics and things they say from the stage. Growing up I knew of bands that talked about knowing the Lord on stage and gave altar calls for people to get saved regularly at concerts. Being a Christian band was not necessarily a big money-making profession. It was about the message and the music–in that order.
Flash forward to more than 20 years later and we have a number of artists that cross over from the Christian industry to the mainstream: groups such as POD, Switchfoot, Relient K and others. Some of these crossover groups don’t like to be called “Christian” artists because of the stigma that goes with the labeling of the music. Yet these artists started in the Christian scene and worked their way into mainstream success.
It’s always easy to badmouth your old job after you quit working there and so it is when bands leave Christian labels. I think sometimes it is a little dishonest for bands to deny their Christian roots. Maybe being in a mainstream band was their goal from the beginning, but if that was the case they should never have gotten involved with the Christian industry.
Christian rock music is a subculture and there are different circles of it. Christian Contemporary Music or CCM is often associated with Nashville, Christian radio and Christian music festivals with bands like the Newsboys or Jars of Clay. The Tooth and Nail segment of Christian music is associated with Cornerstone Music Festival and is an edgy less overtly Christian scene. Many bands that play Cornerstone don’t want to be associated with the Christian scene because Cornerstone is the only Christian concert they play the whole year.
So we have CCM bands that make big money playing music to only Christians and we have edgy bands that focus on the secular scene yet have ties to Christian rock. Both groups are considered Christian, but they feel differently about the association. The CCM industry was birthed out of the Jesus Movement in the 70s and the underground scene became known to mass audiences with the emergence of Tooth and Nail Records.
Not every band is going to be evangelistic like those bands I grew up with, but that doesn’t mean songs have to be intentionally vague where it could be about God or a girl. I think bands ought to be more honest with themselves about whether they’re in it first and foremost for the money or for God. Bands shouldn’t be ashamed to be Christians and fans shouldn’t disown a band because they’re Christians or not making music only for Christians.
Below is a video with an interview with Ronnie Martin:
Keith Green is a musician that needs no introduction. It’s been more than 20 years since his death, but his music tills touches people all over the world. A DVD of previously unreleased Keith Green videos was recently released. You can watch the videos here.
How do you view your records? Do you set out to do a concept record?
Jason Martin: It’s whatever 10 or 12 songs we come up with. We just want to make it different than the last one. We try not to put out the same record.
Which record is your favorite?
Jason: The Fashion Focus.
Does that mean you’re not happy with the latest one?
Jason: I don’t think any of them are perfect. I don’t think we’ve ever put out a perfect record by any means.
What comes first the music or the lyrics?
Jason: The music.
How do you come up with the music?
Jason: I play a guitar riff over the chords and that’s the melody. I try to find words that will fit into that. Sometimes the words mean something sometimes they don’t.
What are the songs about?
Jason: Songs are basically me having a conversation with myself like if struggling in this area of my life or my job is bumming me out. It means something to me like if I had a diary.
Will Starflyer put out an instrumental record?
Jason: No, Starflyer is bordering on instrumental. Nobody’s going to buy an instrumental record.
Was there anything to the hushed vocal sound of the early records?
Jason: That’s just how the guy mixed it. I sing kinda better now than I did then, but I’m not like a singer.
Is the reaction of the fans to the sadness of the songs accurate to how the songs were written?
Jason: I’m not trying to be like this bummed out artist… It’s cool people can relate to it.
Do you listen to music in the truck?
Jason: I don’t listen to anything. (He later admits to listening to Starflyer demos in the truck.)
Will there be a reunion with Ronnie?
Jason: He’s played on stuff before. (Jason doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen anytime soon.)
About the strings on Leave Here A Stranger?
Jason: I wanted to give it an old fashioned sound. I was sick of guitars.
Do you view your band as a ministry?
I view it as anything you do should be to the glory of God… No, we don’t give altar calls or anything like that. We’re at a Christian festival and we’re a Christian band–it’s entertainment.
Check out the Starflyer 59 message board at sf59fans.com.
Cornerstone Festival is one of the most popular Christian music festivals in the United States. The fest is put on by the Jesus People USA (JPUSA) and features edgy underground bands, a couple CCM bands and some older Christian acts that reunite for a show at the festival.
I went to Cornerstone about five or six times in the past and have seen my share of bands. Looking at the lineup I no longer get excited about who’s playing this year. Most of the bands I grew up on don’t play the fest anymore. You know like Five Iron Frenzy, the Supertones, Squad Five-O, Ace Troubleshooter, MxPx, POD, Pedro the Lion and Switchfoot. I think something’s wrong with your festival when Hawk Nelson is on the main stage. Whatever happened to PFR, Jars of Clay or Relient K?
My last Cornerstone was six years ago, but it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. Bands come and bands go all the time because it’s hard to keep a band together. But some days I wish my favorite bands would stay together and I wish I was still at the age when all my friends were at Cornerstone. But the truth is that most of the bands I love have all gone the way of the dinosaur and the golden era of Tooth and Nail and Christian rock is slowly winding down.