Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

The other day I watched the documentary called “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” It’s basically a low budget exploration of the Christian music scene. The film-makers shot most of the footage at the Cornerstone Music Festival in Illinois a few years back. It’s not very flashy (with most of the footage coming from a handheld camcorder) and the bulk of the music footage seems to be from the hardcore bands.

All in all, it was a decent documentary. They were obviously trying to be objective about the topic, but even the casual viewer can tell that they are not Christians. At one point, they interview a dad who is there with his wife and son. He mentions that is older son is not there because he has recently announced that he is gay. The interviewer asks if he’d ever come to the festival. The dad answers “no”, but that’s because his son “doesn’t like camping”. The interviewer pushes further by asking “Do you think he’d feel safe here?” That question revealed s little of what’s really going on with this film.

Two points really stuck out to me though:

One was from a non-Christian music industry person who talked about “Christianity”. He said he kind of thinks of it as a product that is being marketed. The product claims that if you “buy it”, you are saved from your sins and death and get to go to heaven and live forever. In his mind, how can you go wrong with a product like that? It’s the best product out there and should be easy to sell. But, he sees Christians selling other stuff and focusing on that. T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. He incredulously asks, “They’ve got the best product on the market, why are they selling this other s***??”

The other point that I thought was excellent was from Daniel Smith (leader of The Danielson Famile) speaking about the difference between secular and Christian music. He said that every musician is “praising something or someone”. They are all lifting something up. Usually, it’s themselves. Non-Christian musicians get on stage and extol their own virtue, placing themselves in a place of almost-worship for the audience, and no one seems to have a problem with this! The crowds see this as the norm. However, if a musician gets on stage to perform and says that this performance is not his or her own, but comes from God and God deserves the praise; then people get upset or uncomfortable with it.

Dave Bazan (from Pedro the Lion) unsurprisingly had the most negative comments about “Christian Music”. He said (while apparently being interviewed in a bar with a beer in front of him) that his biggest achievement as a musician was when one of his albums got positive reviews in a secular publication. He also said that when they play bars and only Christian kids show up, he’s kind of disappointed. He doesn’t like being placed in the category of “Christian rock” (which he underscored by dropping the F-bomb during the conversation). I highly respect Bazan as a musician, but I guess I don’t understand why he’d be so adamant about not being a Christian band and then play Cornerstone (a Christian Music Festival).

Anyway, what do you all think about the distinction between so-called “Christian” music and (so-called) “Secular” music?

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2 thoughts on “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

  1. Hmmm…I’ve been on about this one for awhile now. I think it is incredibly problematic to use ‘Christian’ as an adjective. ‘Christian’ is a noun. To use it is an adjective is to claim something about the music/art/literature’s redemptive purpose that is often unfounded.In my opinion, we can discuss whether or not music is glorifying to its creator, and this is a much more nuanced conversation, isn’t it? As with any aesthetic, a myriad of opinions will be brought to bare. But I’m quite confident that much of what passes itself off as ‘Christian’ is quite simply not glorifying to the One True God in lyrical creativity, musical artistry or musicianship. The lines are, blurry, I guess. It’s like–I find that Sigur Ros’ music does a much better job of facilitating a time of Christ-worshiping than much of the CCM stuff.I could go on and on (and I already have). But the main point, I think is that the lines are a good deal less defined than we’d like them to be. Using ‘Christian’ as an adjective, in my opinion, creates more harm than good with regard to music or anything else.

  2. I agree that “Christian” should not be used as an adjective. I have the same problem with the word “Worship” being used as a genre name. I don’t like it when people say they like listening to “worship music” and mean that they like Third Day and Casting Crowns and stuff. Worship is in the attitude of your heart. Therefore, any music can be worship music. I believe it was Derek Webb who pointed out that there is no redeemed art. Art cannot come to a saving knowledge of God because it’s just a thing, it does not have a soul. So Sigur Ros’ music can be just as spiritually significant to a person as Keith Green’s.

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