The Christian entertainment Dilemma

Each year I create a “top 10” list of that year’s albums and songs. The process (because it’d be too simple just to choose albums without using a scientific method) involves taking over a 100 albums and judging how catchy they are, how many songs are on the album, the music, how original the album is, the lyrical content (not necessarily the message, more so how a message is conveyed), things such as album artwork or sales (sorry Taylor Swift) aren’t taken into account. Each year there are albums that surprise me, both in a negative way and a positive way and each year it amazes me how many christian albums end up in the “Ehhh” or “Wow it took months and this is what they chose to release?” category. It’s not that these albums sneak in drug references or anything un-christian, the albums are obviously about God, but the way in which they are produced is done in a horrible way. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve listened to a secular band up against a christian band and thought “Wow the secular band sold drugs, sex, and fame, better than the christians sold Jesus!”. Why is this? Are drugs, sex, and fame really king? Is Jesus or the idea of a God just ignorant to begin with? Of course not! But then, why is the opposite being found in the artistry?

If you’ve ever had a discussion with me about music or entertainment, chances are when we got to the christian genre, I had some harsh things to say. My reasoning is: if you’re creating something to reflect the most creative Being to ever live, why not make something of substance? Whether it’s film, music, or literature, christians have a bad habit of producing subpar stuff. Movies that have horrible writing, music that is filled with words, yet says nothing, books that take 300 pages to convey a message that could be said and explained in a sentence. All of these things are frustrating, but how do we combat it? That is where I come to a crossroads. The three ways I’ve come to combat it are: Saying sarcastic things about the works, trying to create my own works, and lastly, just accepting it. The problem is, all three have drawbacks. I can say every sarcastic and negative thing I want about the christian entertainment culture, but at the end where does it get me? Sure it gets laughs, but chances are no one is going to take time to hear out the guy who’s just bashing their products. Creating my own is fun, until I look around at the obstacles. The three writers who shaped my style of writing the most are: Tim Skipper, John Reuben, and Aaron Weiss, all three are fantastic and embody what honest and passionate lyrics should be and I look at their works and think “if people that talented cannot overcome the obstacles, how can the random guy from Neeses, overcome em’?”. And just accepting it is all fine until one day, you realize you’re just lying to yourself and that’s a feeling that is hard to keep bearing. When I stand back and look at the solutions it’s kind of obvious that there is not just one simple solution and I think that’s the point.

I think at the end it’s not just looking at fixing the problem with just one tool to momentarily fix the problem, but rather, using multiple tools to correctly fix the problem. I think sharing opinions, when done right, can really help. I believe that doing our part to produce an alternative style can help. I believe that meeting artists half way can help as well. When it comes down to it the point isn’t the music or film, it’s about God and the Son He sent for us and we cannot make it all about the music, but at the same time though why would want to bring a cheap offering to Him?

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Do I really have to say it?

Recently I read an interview with Jon Foreman (lead singer of switchfoot) in which he discussed why Jesus and God are never directly mentioned in switchfoot’s songs. In the interview Jon Foreman basically said, that when it comes down to it, serving God goes a lot further than mentioning his name in songs, but rather following God is about what you’re doing for Him. How you serve others, how you love others, and how you’re reflecting God to others. Which are good points, but got me started thinking about a debate that’s gone on for a while, as a Christian artist do you HAVE to mention God’s name in your music?

With debates, I always look at both sides and generally I can see where both sides are coming from and this debate is no different. The one side demands that Christ has to be mentioned in songs. To them if you’re really trying to serve God, why would you write your lyrics in such a way, that the listener could easily mistake the song as being about “that special someone”, a friend, a family member, even a fireman. On the other side they wonder why do you HAVE to put God into it? If you know what the band stands for then can’t you just realize Who it’s about? And if God isn’t directly mentioned, won’t that lead many un-believers, who normally would never pick up a Christian cd, to look into who these people are singing about?

In all honesty I agree to a certain point with both sides. As a songwriter who is a Christian, I eventually had to make a decision as to how I would handle both. Would my religion and songs go hand in hand? Would I be vague about by beliefs when writing? Or would my beliefs be completely separate than my songwriting? To be honest it really wasn’t a hard question at all. To me there’s a balance, a middle ground. In my opinion, if you’re a writing a song about God then say GOD. I hate the argument “It’s the same whether you say His name or not”, while sometimes that’s true, to do it every time is crazy. If you were married and you never said your spouse’s name, never wrote their name in cards, and never said their name when talking to them, they AND everyone else would wonder if you truly loved them, or if you were even comfortable with people knowing y’all were together. Now on the other hand I do believe there are exceptions. First off, I don’t think it’s right to be disingenuous as an artist or as a Christian. I don’t believe in just inserting God into a story or presenting unrealistic expectations of who He is. Secondly I don’t think every song has to be about God. As a songwriter I’m going to have stories, fictional or non-fictional, that do not directly involve God. Whether a love story or just a random song about a guy dancing on a street corner . Plus I do believe that sometimes a song that doesn’t mention God at all, can lead a person to Him faster than a repetitive worship chorus can. Perhaps the song doesn’t lead them to get saved at that very moment, but it can definitely plant a seed.

In the end I think it’s all about finding a balance, whether writing songs or everyday life. Serving God goes a lot farther than just saying His name a lot. As Christians we should not be cheapening the name of our Saviour by over using it. However if we are not using it, we should definitely examine why we aren’t. If we are purposely avoiding saying His name to gain notoriety, money, or something else then there is something seriously wrong with our faith.

The 10 albums everyone should own

Here it is, the top 10 albums everyone should own! Now a couple of things before you start reading. 1.These are not my opinion of the greatest of all-time, but rather based off of a “If you’re stuck on a deserted island” or “I got an itunes card I want an investment”. 2. If you disagree then comment on what youe list would be. There are thousands of albums not listed on here that would be suitable, so give me your opinion!

1 .Jesus Freak by dc Talk- Christian music would not be half of what it is today without this album. When dc Talk released the album they never could have imagined the impact it’d have. For me the album has a magnificent blend of rap, rock, pop, even legit poetry! It is a must have for any Christian music fan….plus secular fans, you can’t listen to the trio and not be impressed!

2. Brother, Sister by mewithoutYou- named this album the best of the decade and I can’t agree more. mewithoutYou as a whole is an acquired taste however I dare anyone to listen to the songs, look at the lyrics, or look at the band and not fall in love with something about the album. From beginning to end the album is incredible and is without even a single weak spot. Songs such as “Messes of Men” and “In a Sweater Poorly Knit” will leave you never looking at music the same way again.

3. On the Run by Children 18:3- Children 18:3 has always been an awesome band and their whole catalog is awesome, but this album was especially great. It combined everything that people loved about them and rolled it into 12 tracks. For me the album is really special, at a time in life when I had a huge decision to make, I heard “Why are you afraid of the dark?”, it’s a song about how it’s ridiculous it is to follow a God that we truly do not trust.

4. Welcome to Diverse City by tobyMac- No list would not be complete without a tobyMac album. Out of his abulms this one won out because it was the first Christian album I ever owned. It was a time where I believed anything with a beat was of satan but this album quickly showed me how silly that assumption was.

5. Are We There Yet? By John Reuben-Mr Don Reubio, Jack Zappin, this album is where the Professional Rapper stepped out into the world. This cd is one of the greatest of all time, because it’s real. Other than a mewithoutYou album, I can’t think of another album that has so much emotion. From the happiness of “Gather In” and “Him Her, He She” the seriousness of “X-Ray” and “Rest Easy”, the boldness of “Do Not” and “Identify” and the list goes on and on. This is an album that will not disappoint.

6. Say No More by House of Heroes- Everything House of Heroes’ records turns to gold. The guys from Ohio are awesome and each album is incredible. This one though has a special feel. From “Bucket for Bullet Wounds” to “Angels in Top Hats” the honesty is so in your face. The band holds nothing back in their call for wrongs to be made right and once you add in the catchy songs of “Friday Night” and “Make a Face Like You Mean It” then you have a recipe for an incredible audio experience!

7. Smile it’s the End of the World by Hawk Nelson-Before the listening to the album the title always confused me, until I listened to the album and got the meaning of it. The problem with many Hawk Nelson albums is there’s always some filler on them but in my opinion this album has none. It has the qualities of a great album, it’s a combination of fun, seriousness, and even finger snapping! This album isn’t the top album on this list, but once you give it a listen, you’ll understand why everyone should own this album.

8. Underdog by Audio Adrenaline- Audio Adrenaline will always be one of my all time favorite bands, and their Underdog release a pretty big part. It’s hard to choose highlights for this album, after looking at the tracklist it was hard to tell you the songs that were awesome, because they all were. From songs that everyone knows like “Get Down” and “Hands and Feet”,others that are Audio A classics like “Good Life” and “Mighty Good Leader” to the amazing piece of music that is “The Houseplant Song”, the album is incredible.

9. The Black and White Album by The Hives-If there was ever a summertime album it is this one. Two summers ago I listened to this album in it’s entirety on the way to the beach and it fit so well! Each song is like a snowflake, coming from the same place but being different than the one before. Songs like “You Got It All…Wrong”, “Wont Be Long”, and “Bigger Hole to Fill” will make you already happy to have bought the album and once you listen to the rest, well then you’ll be simply ecstatic!

10. Sex, Drugs, and Self Control by John Reuben- My opinion on this album has changed so much on this album. I’ve listened to the album in it’s entirety probably over a hundred times and every time it fit that mood. Whether I was just wanting to jam, whether I was feeling like crap, whether it was 1am and I just wanted to listen to some music. Given it’s chameleon traits this album is perfect to have. It’s not an album that you listen to once and put away forever.