Remember those “If you like ____, then you’ll love ____“ posters, propagandizing Christian music by comparing the latest and greatest Christian artists with “secular” artists?
If you like Nickelback, you’ll love Kutless!
If you like Eminem, you’ll love KJ52!
If you like Switchfoot, you’ll love…Switchfoot!
Christian music has been playing catch up for a long while now. But sadly, this seems to be the larger reality of the Christian church as a whole. The topic of relevance sounds and feels outdated but we continue to engage it anyways. In self assessing, the church seems to ask the same questions endlessly: Is the music relevant? Is the message relevant? Is the pastor relevant? Are the ministries relevant? She has become an awkward middle schooler whose greatest concern is to fit in, while simultaneously wanting to stand out for the sake of uniqueness, but not too much lest she be ostracized as weird, peculiar, or, worst of all, irrelevant. This longing for relevance has regrettably led to the creation Christian sub-genres. There’s music, then there’s Christian music. There are movies, then there are Christian movies. There’s clothing, then there’s Christian clothing. Christian sub-genres provide some with the sense that there is a safe, wholesome alternative to the perverse, secular versions of things. But in creating these seemingly virtuous substitutes we may be losing something most Godly – the call to innovate and create.
Could it be that in busying ourselves with the struggle for relevance, we are missing out on opportunities to create something new or innovate something fresh? Could it be that we’ve become so defensive in our posture that our focus has shifted from expressing the beauty of God and life in new, unique ways to simply homogenizing what already exists into a more palatable and literal evangelical version?
The very idea of Christian sub-genres is a paradox. By their very natures, Christianity is about redemption and the healing of broken things, while sub-genres are about division, separation, and the fracturing of that which was once whole. Why have we believed for so long that the sacred and secular cannot mix? Why have we feared that when consolidated, the secular would outshine the sacred when in reality, the sacred is always amplified in the beauty and goodness of all things, both within and outside of Christendom? When did we fall for the lie that God was only to be found in evangelical versions of things?
God did not copy. God created. And made in his image, we are, at our core, creators not copiers. Duplicating or replicating the work of another, twisting and mangling a few details to fit our preferences and circumstances, just will not do. At some point we must go about the business of dreaming, in our heads and in our hearts, what could be that has not yet been. Then we must get on with the messy and exhilarating work of innovating and creating.