Thursday, April 26, 2012

In Defense of Christian Music

I still remember the day I got my very first CD player and my very first CDs. it was Christmas. The summer before, I had heard DC Talk's Jesus Freak at summer camp, and I had asked my mom to find out what it was. That Christmas morning, I awoke to find, on the chair reserved for my presents, several books; On top of the books were two smaller, thinner objects, wrapped in paper; And on top of them was an object of unfamiliar shape.

It was a CD player. My first CD player. And below it was DC Talk's "Intermission: The Greatest Hits" and the O. C. Supertone's "Loud and Clear." Although that was years and years ago, I have no doubt that to this day, they remain among my most-listened-to CDs.

I grew up listening to Christian music. I grew up on DC Talk, O.C. Supertones, Relient K, Switchfoot, Toby Mac... They sunk into my head and my heart, and as Anna can testify, I can identify certain songs in as little as 3-4 seconds with my iPod on shuffle. I grew up listening to them. I grew up with Jesus Freak ringing in my ears. I grew up doing chores to Momentum. I grew up singing along in my horrible, horrible singing voice to Wilderness.

And so I grew up with all these songs echoing in my mind. And so I came to know, in my heart and in my head, that as we wander the wilderness, God has been there too. I came to know that our appeals to God merely echo Christ's more passionate and more desperate appeals to God. I came to know that while Christianity is peaceful, that is not the same as being "quiet" or "weak," and that we must refuse, at any and all costs, to merely roll over in the face of the world.

I grew up, in short, listening to theology: To Christology, to apologetics, to theodicy. I grew up listening to songs about God and Christ and the Incarnation and suffering and questions and doubt and faith. And I grew up, and I continue growing up, and who I am today I owe in large part to the music I was blessed with. I can find the roots of my affinity to Job and The Man who was Thursday in my old Supertones CDs: In Wilderness and Like No One Else. I can trace my unwillingness to compromise on scripture back to DC Talk's Socially Acceptable, and the essential "active-ness" and liveliness of Christianity to their Luv is a Verb.

These are only seeds... but they were planted early, and they were watered often. When I came to Biola and started really reading Lewis and Chesterton and a whole bunch of other really dead guys (much love to Cyril of Alexandria and John Henry Newman and too many others to list), I was ready to really think about the ideas they put forward: I'd already been thinking about them for years.

This has value. This has more value than I can say. Christian music has its detractors, even (some might say especially) in Christian circles. But done well, it can be invaluable. That is all.

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