DATE: 2/08/2005 09:00:00 AM
Sanctified Songs? - While listening to the local Christian station, I heard some familiar lyrics:
Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell what will I find ( will I find )
Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find ( will I find )
Oh, heaven let your light shine downThe song was "Shine" by Collective Soul, but the soulful voice singing them was Christian artist Charity Von. Von's version is quite good, even if I do prefer the original (sentimental reasons). In MercyMe's recent concert DVD, the group starts out with "In the Air Tonight" and ends with "Where the Streets Have No Name." Other Christian artists, such as Sixpence None the Richer, Steven Curtis Chapman and Nicole Nordeman have also recently recorded cover songs.
Most of these songs have been well-done and in the case of Sixpence and their version of "Don't Dream it's Over," better than the original. The fact that such songs are being recorded and played on Christian radio stations brings up some interesting questions, the primary being why do the songs suddenly gain a measure of acceptance simply because Christians are singing them? Part of the reason, I suppose, is we know or can at least surmise, that the songs are being sung to God rather than to an earthly love.
This trend shows how absurd the modern-day church's definitions of what is 'secular' and what is 'Christian' can truly be. Is the determination based on the words or on the artists singing them? Are 'secular' lyrics sanctified when they are sung with the vocal chords of a Christian?
The music of U2 is a good example. Our local radio station plays Sanctus Real's version of "Beautiful Day." It's a decent tune. Is there any reason, though, not to play the original? How about "40?" It's a worship tune written in U2's early days. A version by dcTalk was played on Christian stations a few years ago, but I've never heard the original. The first couple of stanzas:
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new songAgain, a great song with a fabulous bass line. Michael W. Smith recently re-recorded it for a concert video and does a fine job with it. One group that seems to escape the Christian/secular divide is Lifehouse. To the local station's credit, they do play the songs of this band on their station.
I'm not suggesting Christian stations play the songs of an Eminem or Aerosmith. Nor should we give up the worship music that explictly offers praise to God.
As a church, though, it's time to re-examine our narrow definitions of what makes something secular and what makes something else Christian. The current definition simply doesn't work. I do not believe that because I'm a Christian, it gives my vocal chords the power to make secular songs into Christian ones. It may seem like a silly argument, but my point is this - Christian artists sing those lyrics because most of those songs are fantastic pieces of writing by any standard. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, maybe what the church needs is fewer Christians artists writing mediocre songs and more artists who happen to be Christian writing good songs.
Maybe it's time to start considering quality rather than fealty to the modern secular/Christian definition. After all, the Bible just says make a joyful noise. And, for my money, "Where the Streets Have No Name" fits that description pretty well.