“Christian” Music Can Also Kill Your Soul (And You Don’t Even Have To Play It Backwards)

This is not a rant against the Christian music industry. I’m a big fan of plenty of the artists who thrive in that very industry: Gungor, John Mark, Josh Garrels, etc. Many artists in the CCM scene are biblically minded and extremely talented.

This is a bit of a rant against some of the bad theology in the Christian music industry. But I place the most of the blame of this rant on the pulpits of evangelical America. Metrosexual dudes with a guitar, gelled up hair, and tight(ish) pants don’t set the theological bar in cultural Christianity. Pastors and church leaders do. The Bieber wannabes on Christian radio often just regurgitate what they hear from their spiritual leaders on a consistent basis.

The lyric I’m about to share is a microcosm of many such messages you may hear on the Contemporary Christian Music scene. There’s more to this song than I’m about to share, but for brevity I’m only highlighting where it gets dumpster fire bad:

Yeah, I wanna believe, Jesus, help me believe / That I am someone worth dying for 

In those two short stanzas, the grace of God and the precious blood of Jesus has been utterly denied, rejected and made of no consequence. It may seem like a shocking conclusion but hear me out.

To be someone “of worth” means by definition to be “someone who deserves to be valued.”

Who is man? and What does he deserve from God? The abject inherent evil of man is a consistent thread in the Bible from the Old Testament:

There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:3)

To the New:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
(Romans 3:23-24)

What do such abhorrent sinful people deserve from a Holy God? Dr. Phil lessons on self esteem? A Stuart Smalley pep talk every morning in the mirror? No. Man deserves wrath:

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18)

“God is angry with the. wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11)

No one jot. Not One tittle. Not One iota of Scripture will lead anyone to believe in the pop psycho babble craze of “self worth/esteem/actualization.” On the contrary, Scripture makes it patently clear, that no man has any inherent worth that could recommend himself to God. If anything, a basic tenet of the sinfulness of man is that he is manifestly unworthy in regards to deserving love or grace. At its fundamental level, grace is undeserved favor, or to put it another way: favor given to people of unworth.

I’m saying this in love: This is entry level Christianity, folks.

And this type of false doctrine is being pumped into our souls and sang by our children because of a nice clean Christian veneer. Telling someone to love them-self more will create a self lover, but not a self denying disciple (Luke 9:23).

CCM gospel aside, what the Bible teaches is the incomprehensible good news! Man is sinful and has scorned God and His commands. Even when this sinful subject tries hard to be very religious all God sees are “filthy rags” (Is 64:6) But God finds a way to shower eternal wells of free grace to unworthy ones through the perfect person and work of Jesus in the gospel.

“But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, unless any man should boast.” Eph 2:8-9

Jesus will not help us believe we are worth dying for, any more than he would glibly trample over His own precious blood. Much more, He wants to convince us of our unworthiness so we can see with more clarity the supreme worth of His work on our behalf.

The Christian walk is not about our self esteem. If we were to do anything with “self” the Bible sternly recommends this: Kill it. Murder it. Crucify the you that screams for any worth apart from the free grace of God in Jesus Christ (Gal 2:20).

How liberating it is to be set free from the cruel bondage of being and feeling “worthy.”

You aren’t. And you will never be.

This is what we were created for: Not to discover our worth, but to discover His. And the resulting overflow of praise will resound forever from the lips of the unworthy ones:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Revelation 5:12

Bryan Daniels

Jesus is Better Than the Superbowl?!

I came across this video last year before the Colts and Saints played in the Superbowl. It’s just awesome(ly bad). And it is not a joke; intentionally anyways. It seems the creators of this song are sincere in their attempt to point out the idolatry of football in many men’s lives. I hear that it may have even been sung at a church or thrice during Superbowl Sunday last year.

I tend to agree with the sentiment that football is an idol in American life, especially considering that college football is my drug of choice. But I have some serious reservations with this attempt at a rebuke. Though I know it wasn’t their intent, it’s hard to consistently draw comparisons with Peyton Manning and Jesus without beginning to sound superfluous and even a bit irreverent. Pairing Jesus up with a wide scope of forced football analogies in song doesn’t seem to qualify for Sunday morning praise. On top of that it’s woefully syrupy, the sound is off (I’m being generous), and it only gives credence to those who decry the quality of Christian music.

I miss the golden years when Christian music had a uniquely authentic sound and theological depth to match. I miss the days Christian music had the mind of John Calvin, the heart of Corrie Ten Boom, and the musical talent of Bach. I miss these guys:

A Debt to P.O.D.

I owe a debt to “Payable On Death.” They helped lift me out of the miry (and grungy) clay of  late ’90s alternative and rapcore.

In my early to mid-teens I was a sucker for bands like Soundgarden, Deftones, Beastie Boys, and, I’m afraid to admit: Limp Bizkit. I was a “good” church kid that didn’t miss a Sunday or Wednesday service thanks to my mom, but I wouldn’t categorize myself as much more than a spectator among Christian festivities back then. And though I assimilated much about cultural Christianity into my life during that time, I had a serious aversion to the Christian music industry.

With all due respect to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and dc Talk, I couldn’t shake the notion that the only thing that Christian music had to offer was, well, cheese.

Then along came P.O.D. Their “Southtown” release helped ignite the beginning of the short lived “rapcore” rage. At the end of my 9th grade year I happened to stumble upon a $1.99 demo that featured their song “Lie Down” (still have it memorized). I was shocked and hooked at once.

A bold and refreshing new world of Christian music opened up to me. It didn’t include keyboard solos and “Jesus is my boyfriend” sentiments. It had nasty guitar riffs, timely screaming, Rastafarian undertones, and contrarian rap lyrics like:

They feed us lies, dress up my King in false disguise

Behind those eyes, soul of Savior I recognize

No compromise, while the whole world becomes corrupt

Tonight we break the surface for lives, we comin’ up

There’s probably a lot more that can be said about P.O.D.’s choices for collaborations and album cover art, but not here.

I owe them more than that.

They helped me find my two choices were not limited to Nine Inch Nails or Steven Curtis Chapman in the musical style spectrum. There possibly was a righteous middle ground.

My passion for the group has waned significantly in my adulthood but my appreciation for them has not. The band God used to spark my formative spiritual years still finds itself caught in a cultural rock and religious hard spot. P.O.D. is still somewhat too hardcore for the Christian music scene and too Christian for the hardcore music scene.

But I remember a time when listening to their heavy handed riffs and Christological lyrics was like a desert traveler drinking from a fire hydrant.

It's tricky to rock and rhyme. It's even trickier for a Christian to rock and rhyme

In a CCM land of cookie cutter music styles, cliche chorus lines, spray tans, and self conscious image projections, a gritty movement arose. That movement included a dreadlocked, tatted up, metal cover band with a passion for the youth of a nation.

One misguided youth caught their vision and hasn’t quite been the same.

I couldn’t tell you one song on the latest P.O.D. album. But for old times sake, and as a tribute to the first Christian band I ever liked, I’ll conclude with this:

Tribal Warriors unite!

Bryan