Written by Keith Strohm
While I've got music of a spiritual nature on my mind, I wanted to make a quick comment about "Christian" Music. Normally I resist categories like Christian Music or Christian Politics because, of course, there really isn't such a thing--there is music and there is politics. We are called, as lay men and women, to render all areas of human endeavor more authentically just and truly human, bringing the presence of Christ to the areas of secular life in which we live.
Fostering and supporting categories of "Christian" endeavor leads to a kind of enclaving, where Christians only support or inhabit "Christian" areas, and the rest of the world avoids those areas because of their specifically Christian topography.
And yet, I cannot dismiss the profound effect that "Christian" Music has had on the faith of millions of people. It has been a powerful tool for evangelization and encounter with Christ and shouldn't be "tsk-tsked" out of hand.
Many Catholics look down their noses at "Christian" music, pointing out that it is highly reliant upon a "me and Jesus" theology and overly emotional. And yet, the Catholic Church, for all its traditional success in music and the arts, simply hasn't made the inroads into the surrounding culture that our protestant brothers and sisters have in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I can think of, perhaps, a handful of specifically Catholic musical artists whose work has the depth of musicianship, production quality, and marketing muscle routinely given to "Christian" musical artists.
To be sure, utilizing the culure to transmit the gospel message carries with it some dangers. Looking in to the Christian music scene, it is clear that sometimes the medium has co-opted the message. And yet, bands like Third Day, Jars of Clay, and Switchfoot make their mark--leading hearts and minds to Christ through music.
As Catholics, we can learn a great deal from our protestant brothers and sisters on how to more effectively support and promote the fullness of the gospel message using contemporary forms of music. Note that I am NOT talking about guitars in the sanctuary, but rather, I'm highlighting a specifically secular medium in which we have not lived up to our potential.
And it's a shame.