So, I’ve recently been thinking about how I call myself a “Christian” songwriter. On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with this. I am definitely a Christian, and I am definitely a songwriter. Therefore, I am a Christian songwriter. If one thinks about it, however, the title implies more than that. In reality, when you call yourself a Christian songwriter, what it means is that you write and sing songs ONLY for Christ. And therein lies the problem. I DON’T write exclusively Christ centered songs. I don’t carefully map out each verse to ensure that I include the name of Jesus at least two times, and make no less than seven blatant biblical references, and repeat the word hallelujah (or any of it’s partial syllabic variants) for at least 30 seconds of the song. In fact, I have several songs in the works that are in reality totally secular. I drive Interstate 5…a lot…and I am writing a song about that (think Officer Krupke from West Side Story). I’m also working on another soprano/tenor duet that is a tongue in cheek look at the life of a singer. These songs just jumped into my head. At the same time, I’ve got six notes that I am definitely going to develop into a song that will be “Christian”. I hear it in my head. Just gotta get to work writing it.
So maybe I’m not a Christian songwriter. Maybe I’m a songwriter who is a Christian. There! Problem solved! Right? No. Not quite.
I don’t believe that the secular songs that I write are bad, but I am careful about how I treat my faith. No one lights a candle and puts it under a bowl right? (Luke 11:33 Matthew 5:15) This article (which I’ve posted before) gives a pretty good argument against “Christian” music. I’m worried, however, that the argument can be used to bolster a position of totally ignoring our responsibility as Christians to work for God. It is an interesting position that is filled by Christian artists.
I cannot count the number of times that I have been told (by Christians) that I need to “sing for God” or that I need to “write songs for Jesus”. I cannot remember a single time, however, when (as an aircraft mechanic in the Navy) I was told to fix the airplanes for Jesus. Neither can I remember ever hearing person tell a gas station attendant to pump that gas for the Lord (“I’m sorry, but I can only sell you gas if you are driving to church”). This is a different context from Colossians 3:23. I wholly endorse that verse and believe that if more Christians applied it to their lives the world would have different view of Christianity. This is not what is meant when people tell Christian artiststs to “do their work for the Lord.” What they mean is that you need to only act in plays that have religious themes. You should only paint pictures that are of churches and the disciples. And you should only write songs that use the name Jesus Christ at least once per verse and twice in the chorus, and end with Hallelujah repeated fifteen times (with different syllabic variants).
So, at this point, the reader may be confused. I don’t want Christian artists to shirk their responsibility to work for God, but I’m whining about how it’s unfair that gas station attendants don’t get told to pump gas for God.
The truth is, I am in fact unresolved on this issue. Hey, I never promised this blog would deliver answers. It’s call “A Space for Thought.” not “A Space for concrete direct solutions to metaphysical and mental dilemmas”.
The thing about the arts is that they have no mundane value. No one has ever been able to eat a painting to stay alive. A song doesn’t keep the rain off your head. Plays and movies don’t carry you to the grocery store or clothe you. This is not to say that the arts have no value. One doesn’t even need to have a deep discussion on that. Just look at the amount of money spent on the arts and that should give you an idea. The value of the arts, however, is exclusively within the emotional, mental, and spiritual realm. This means that they are inseparable from personal messages and statements about beliefs and opinions. Even the most brainless bubble-gum pop song on the market is about something. Because of this, Christian artists do have a heavier responsibility in what they do. We do have to be more careful about the words we sing, and the parts that we play, and the pictures that we paint.
So there is a thought that we should move away from the Christian label. But at the same time it seems like we are denying our Christianity by doing so. The C.S. Lewis quote that I posted earlier is pretty strong, but the arts hold a special place in the world. It may be that I am totally overthinking this.
That’s about it for now. I think I’m gonna go get in my Christian car, drink some Christian coffee, and maybe go buy a Christian sandwich.