“Christian music,” “Christian movies,” and “Christian rap” are a staple of American culture. Some assume all this “Christian” stuff must be good. Others claim they’re false worship songs.
Are “Christian” Songs that Don’t Glorify God False Worship Songs?
There is a strict dichotomy drawn between the art of most Christians in the public sphere and the art of non-believers. TobyMac makes Christian music, but Drake does not. Darren Wilson makes Christian movies, but Chad and Carey Hayes (screenwriters of The Conjuring) do not. When Five Iron Frenzy sang about the “Blue Comb,” was that a Christian song? Was it a false worship song? Or was it just a group of Christians singing a silly song?
Ever since an interview I read with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, something has bugged me about this binary. Jon said, “I am a Christian and I make music. The music is not saved. It is not Christian.”
In other words, Jesus did not come and die to save songs. He did not suffer in order to bring Oceans 11 out of the flames of hell. “Christian” is a noun, not a verb.
It refers to a person who has put their faith in the man Jesus of Nazareth. Acts 11 points out that the word was first employed in Antioch, and it was an insult more than a descriptor. The accusers said of the Christians, you just want to be like your master, Jesus Christ. You are Little Christs. And the term was born.
For the first 300 years of her existence, Christianity suffered brutally at the hands of the Roman Empire until 313, when Constantine declared Christianity legal. Soon after, the persecution let up and the empire converted to Christianity. You may have heard of a little thing called The Holy Roman Empire. This was a marriage of religion and politics, from which the Western church has never fully recovered. We see signs of its recession now, but we are very much still in the paradigm of Christendom. Christendom is a fancy word for a “Christian culture.” It accurately describes things like the Bible Belt, and the fact that politicians still appeal to Christian values when making speeches. Christianity is not persecuted in the west because of what Constantine did 1700 years ago, and we are only now beginning to see signs of its fading.
When Christianity became widely accepted across western culture and Christendom became the predominant form of belief and action, this made room for “Christian things” to emerge.
For instance, in the 13th century during the fourth crusade, there are stories of western marauders breaking into eastern churches and stealing holy artifacts and relics. Were these things actually ‘holy’ and did they contain special power from the divine? Perhaps, but probably not. They were merely “Christian things.” They were elevated to a position of holding some sort of essence borne of man’s perception more than divine origin.
And we fall into the same traps today.
I catch myself creating this false dichotomy between Christian things and secular things; holy spaces and unholy spaces. How many times have you heard someone crack a dirty joke only to have someone else say “Dude! You can’t say that in a church! Not in here!”
It’s a Christian space.