Posted by: serrels | June 9, 2010

Preaching the Gospel

Do you know how sometimes, something just feels downright weird? A bit wrong? To the extent that your stomach does somersaults just thinking about it. Like fingernails scratching down a blackboard, for example.

How about this. You’re eating dinner and your fork hits a filling – that’s just… argh! You’re chomping on chicken and you hit cartilage. You’ve got an itchy ear and you wiggle your finger that little bit too deep. You dive into a pool and water goes up your nose. You follow your retarded friend’s advice and you put your tongue on a battery.

Sweet baby jeebus all of those things feel weird. But without a single shadow of a doubt, they absolutely, positively, pale in comparison to the way I feel about Christian Rock Music.

Please note for the record that I said Christian Rock Music. I like plenty of music about God – I love Marvin Gaye’s Christian stuff on What’s Going On, I love The Impressions, Slow Train Coming is one my favourite Bob Dylan albums, loads of stuff. I’m talking squarely about your Hillsong crowd, the power ballad odes to the heavens, the ones that sound like they should be played in the end credits of a rubbish 80s Van Damme flick (ah, who am I kidding, there are no rubbish 80s Van Damme flicks).

Van Damme: he fights for love

I really just don’t get it. Christian music has such a powerful history. Gospel, for example, is pivotal. Pretty much all of modern music spawned from Gospel. Gospel birthed the blues, which birthed Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, Funk, Disco. Then some genius started looping drum breaks and birthed Hip Hop; Disco fused with Funk and became House music, which subsequently splintered into a zillion different styles… Techno, Trance, Electronica. In effect, all modern music, to a certain extent, has traces of Christian music embedded in its DNA.

So why the sub-grunge cock rock? I just don’t get it. In every ‘hip’ church I’ve ever been to the youth revel in the fact they’re allowed to play Hillsong in Church. Having drums in church is like a revolution to these guys, and they take that momentum and use it to play… half arsed Rock music that sounds like Pearl Jam post-lobotomy?

Eddie Vedder facepalm

It’s not as if Christians have terrible taste in music. On any other day of the week you’ll find Christians listening to the exact same music as everyone else – so why do they tolerate this garbage? Is it habit? Loyalty? Works?

And why do Christians create these abominations? Go to any Church across Australia and worldwide and you’ll find a wealth of musical talent. I’m constantly amazed by the fact that almost everyone who attends any Church I’ve ever visited can play at least one instrument, and most have some sort of musical prodigy in their midst. So why aren’t these guys leading the charge – why does Christian music continue to mire itself in mediocrity?

I think it may just be the subject matter. Hillsong music, by its very nature, is evangelical, it’s used to convert hearts and minds. In that respect it’s only a couple of notches above a jingle used to sell, oh I don’t know… toothpaste? Whereas Gospel music, to an extent, was a response to slavery, Hillsong is all about eliciting belief in God and nothing more. And ask any musician, having to write a song specifically to sell some sort of product will only result in piss poor music.

I honestly don’t know what would enable me to enjoy this kind of Christian music. Maybe honesty? Hillsong’s music feels a bit off to me, it feels hollow and I can’t get anything from it. Maybe you have to believe in God, maybe I’m just missing something completely, but honestly at this stage I’d rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard; I’d rather chew through cartilage than suffer through another Hillsong cock rock ode to the heavens.

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Responses

  1. As an Adventist Christian I would have to say you have hit the nail right on the head. The whole concept of youth of a church having a sense of worth because of drums or a set music style is, dare I say, somewhat shallow. Coming from a fairly conservative church where the ‘holiest’ of all instruments must be used (according to some – the instrument being the organ) I can say that there is an element of freshness when something different occurs. This something different could be a full band or just accoustic guitar with piano. The fact of the matter is that no matter the style of music or the way a particular song is played, there is no real meat to it if the lyric is like a jingle for Bunnings. Any song can sound like your next big Justin Beiber twenie bopper hit but for music to endure, have meaning, and invoke a sense of worth it needs to be more than your typical evangelical song consisting of 10 words repeated 12 times with 3 different key changes finished off with a few ‘ooohs, woah’s and thank-you Jesus’

  2. I’m surprised you didn’t mention solos. I can’t think of anything I find more awkward than a solo in the middle of a worship song. Maybe because there’s no mosh pit like Hillsong have.

    A question I’ve always wondered about is; what makes music appropriate for worship? How can someone say some genre’s are ‘holy’ and some not…? Someone might say it’s the lyrics, but I doubt if you removed the lyrics from Metallica’s Seek and Destroy that it’d go down smoothly in a church service. For that matter, neither would the biggest hit from the most popular Christian Metal band, I’d hazard to guess.

    Conversely – I wonder if there are hip/hop worship churches. Or electronica. Blues or Jazz? Maybe all these things would work, it’s just that we’re not used to them.

    I agree with Josh somewhat, you’ve hit a nail on the head. I’m not entirely sure which one though.

    • Dude I almost posted this vid on the blog. Wait for the solo: it’s so worth it.

      http://www.shinebyfinalplacement.com/

      The thing that really gets me about Christian Rock, Hillsong in particular, is that it’s somehow seen as this progressive thing. We’re pushing boundaries, they say, with our drums in church and our rock music, and those squares just can’t handle it – but the truth of it is, I can’t think of a more conservative style of music than Hillsong.

      Imagine if they played if they played The Eagles in Church – that would really knock the starch out of those stiff shirts man!

      But there’s a million different things I could say about Christian music. I just think it’s kinda off on so many levels, and the overwhelming feeling I get from it is a severe lack of sincerity.

      Edit: I don’t hate The Eagles Jenny! They’re alright!

    • Mario – I actually have a really great sermon and study series on what exactly constitutes holy as well as another on the idea of worship styles. Would be happy to send some info to you… If your like

  3. Honestly, I am not ‘up’ on the contemporary Christian music of today…as my era is the 70’s…and I LOVE 70’s music! Christian and Non. Christian=Larry Norman “Only Visiting This Planet” or Petra and their “The Coloring Song”!!

    Well, of COURSE the NON’s are good ole Elton whom I saw in concert back then a couple of times and then of course The Beach Boys, Eagles, Chicago, Three Dog Night and Tower of Power….
    also Tina Turner.

    As far as the music that is ‘allowed’ today in churches I think it is their way of trying to get the kids in….altho, to me, it is many times a substitute for showing authentic concern and love…as coming from the tail end of the Jesus
    movement, and also having been a teen myself once a long time ago….many kids are truly just looking to find a place of love and belonging. I have been to churches that look good and have emotional services, yet when you walk out the door…you are forgotten.

    Anywayyyyy….thats my take….

  4. music is a highly debated topic within the Christian church esp the SDA church. So you are not the only one who does not like Hillsong music.

    What I find the most irritating is when Harry (made up name, that is meant to represent some people i know) says oh I don’t like that song or I don’t get anything out of that song. Well excuse me Harry the song is not for you is it mate! We’re not singing I love you Harry.

    If worship music is meant to be for God how many people are thinking about what God wants?
    Thats my 2 cents.

    A question I have for you. Is is purely the music or what about the lyrics, do they irritate you as well?

    • “We’re not singing ‘I love you Harry'”. Hahahaha!

      About the question… I find it difficult to express what really bugs me about it.

      I think it serves a purpose, in the same way that I wouldn’t want to listen to dance music outside of a club, I wouldn’t want to listen to Christian music outside of a Church, but in certain contexts it’s tolerable.

      I think it’s the overall purpose of it that puts me off it. That and the fact it sounds so generic. I find it really hard to put a finger on it. Specific songs about God I’ve loved – I Would Die 4 U by Prince is awesome, hearing and understanding that song is the closest I’ve ever come to understanding Jesus. The fact that a band has been conceived and put together for the sole purpose of bringing people to God seems a bit insincere to me, like a sales pitch. All they write and sing about is Jesus. The music and everything else is secondary. It has this sort of ulterior motive behind it that bothers me. But maybe that’s me being paranoid…

      But I really liked The Life of the World to Come by the Mountain Goats, an album in which every song is inspired by the bible. I thought that was a clever concept, and the songs are all really interesting. I wonder why more Christian music can’t be interesting like that.

  5. Maybe the whole thing erks you because essentially you don’t believe or love the person we are singing about. Now I heard a man once talking and he had the same issue with hillsong. He said that they just write songs to sell their cd’s if you go to hillsong they hardly sing songs they wrote 4 years ago it’s mostly what will be on their next album. So this man then went on to talk about hymns. I mostly just rolled my eyes and was whatever your just old blah blah…. but if you look at some of the history of some of these hymns then one can see why even 100 years after they have been written they are still being sung.

    For example they hymn “It is well with my soul”
    Was written by a man after all his children died. Songs that come a very deep emotional place, songs that mean something. I think that is beautiful!

    I’m also thinking back to other posts and how you say you can’t handle when people talk earnestly about Jesus. Maybe it’s the same thing with singing?

  6. You may be right, but I don’t mind songs written by people like Marvin Gaye or Prince, who are both Christians. And I really liked the Mountain Goats album. Also, it may just be that Hillsong just isn’t my thing. I wouldn’t like Hillsong music if they sang about anything!

  7. Ha! I hate a muso mate from an Anglican church who joined an online group called Christians Against Christian Music – or something like that. So there definitely are people who are irked by it both in and outside the church.

    I have tendency to feel uncomfortable with it too. Perhaps more than anything, it’s the feeling that I’m being shoe horned into someone else’s (usually the lead singer’s) intimate moment. It makes me feel uncomfortable by way of emotional voyeurism. It’s like I’m an invisible piece of salami sandwiched between two love birds confessing their deepest feelings for one another. I guess the key is to go off and make your own sandwich. I’m still working on that.

  8. I agree and probably for a different reason than has been expressed before.
    Yes, the repetative repetative repetative repetative lyrics get to me. I once had to go through a ‘song’ that involved the same phase repeated 12 times, which involved some serious mental work to get myself out of some weird dejavu loop.
    But it is the loud concert type ‘worship leadership’ that results in a group of people just standing and listening to the Hillsong music. Christian music, at least in church, should be about bringing a group of people together not isolating them. In my experience, hearing others singing together, yes even the deaf old guy up the back singing loud off key, brings a group to ‘oneness’ … I am part of something…
    But music is one of the most individual things that humans experience and we are probably never going to please everyone – even when there are only “two or three gathered”.
    One last thing, I absolutely agree that the music and lyric writing talent in churches is amazing and it would be excellent if these could find an opportunity to share it with others… maybe a “non Praise style music festival”…

  9. I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now and really, really love it.

    You have such an honest, open-minded approach and ask the good stuff. Stuff I’ve been asking myself actually. And this entry was worth putting in my cents’ worth.

    So, this morning at church while singing some new Hillsong song introduced at our church today (perhaps I should just mention that my husband and I are both musicians who have an appreciation for lots of types of music), and decided this morning that the new song we were singing was just awful. And then there was dread. Oh yes. There’s going to be a bridge. And I just HATE the bridges in Hillsong music. It ruins the flow of what already was an average song.

    And there it was. The bridge.

    It was just as bad as I imagined it.

    It’s official. I don’t like Hillsong songs. I think I’d rather scrape my fork across a plate.

    • Kym, can i ask you what the song was?

  10. The new Hillsong Live album is out in the first week of July. Tonight at the Hillsong Mega Prayer night we sang two new songs, so they will not be on that album but probably the next one!

    There is a sameness in some of the Hillsong songs – i have heard the same guitar solo on an album from 5 years ago that is part of a more recent song.

    But I think generally, the Hillsong live music at Hillsong Church is evolving with more improvisation – the musicians and singers letting the Holy Spirit work in them. Unfortunately that is not going to come through on an over-produced album. When I listen to the stealth recording I made of the Hillsong Live album recording last year i can hear the atmosphere of the people around me, and their, mine and the singers raw emotion, energy and love for God. When I listen to the track previews of the album i can’t hear that and so to me something is lacking as the Holy Spirit and the atmosphere, to me, is gone.

  11. I’m 23, and an SDA. I’ve grown up a Pastors kid so have had the ‘joy’ of experiencing all different worship styles from the extremely conservative churches to the more so progressive ones. When I say ‘Joy’ at times there really was Joy, at others it was the most depressing thing I’ve heard in my life, and I wished they would stop singing like it was a funeral.

    During my teen years I loved Hillsong (probably because before that we were at a church where wearing red, and eating dairy was considered a sin, so we never got to hear anything other than the old hymnal songs). But The other day at chuch my younger sister and I were sitting through a million new ‘popular’ hillsong songs in a row, loud with lights, and smoke machines, in a key that no one can really sing. We knew none of the songs, becuase they introduce 3/4 new songs every week it seems (which probably is a good thing, other wise things would be even more repetative wouldn’t they!) and she said to me, “Oh my goodness, I think i’m becoming Conservative, I Just wish we could sing one hymn” and it was exactly what I was thinking too.

    The rate at which Hillsong releases albums bothers me, it seems almost like it’s just for the money.

    I agree with what someone else said, when i’m not getting anything out of the music/ lyrics I try to think about God, or pray for the people that are getting ‘touched’ by the music. It’s not about me.

    For me, I love to hear harmony, I love to have variety, I have no problems with drums and also no problem with a good old hymn or 3. What I do have a problem with is when the music doesn’t allow for any of this; when it’s so loud you can’t hear the people around you singing, when it becomes about the flashing lights, graphics and smoke machines. I think we lose the point…

    Some bongos and guitars and harmony, that’s what really speaks to me. But everyone is different, and I want them to be able to worship too.

    But I agree, something about recent Hillsong really bothers me… and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

  12. Hillsong: 7 songs analysed – unique word count approx. 750.

    What are the songs about?

    “All of my days” – ‘We will always talk about how great god is’
    “blessed” – ‘christians are good, and god is great, too.’
    “Emmanuel” – ‘we’re in church, talking about how great god is, and god is here too.’
    “Everything that has breath” – ‘everyone should let god know how great he is”
    “God is great” – ‘Jesus is god, god is great, and everyone’s singing about it”
    “I adore” – ‘nothing’s as totally great as god, not even close”
    “Made me glad” – ‘god’s done all sorts of nice things for me. he’s the best’

    I did a unique word count for just 3 lauren hill songs, and that came up at about 850 – and the 3 songs had much more variance in the subject matter.

    check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hillsong_songs

    There’s *hundreds* there – almost all on the same basic themes of ‘god is good’ ‘christians are good’ ‘jesus is good’. – there’s nothing there that a non-christian could take seriously, and even for christians, there’s very little real content other than the nice, worshippy, bibley phrases and repetitions. again and again and again. pure pap.

    BTW, I’m not just ‘turned off by worship songs because I’m an atheist’ – here’s the lyrics to one of my top 5 songs of all time, ‘you’ve got the love’ by candi staton.

    Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
    I know I can count on you

    Sometimes I feel like saying, “Lord, I just don’t care”
    But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

    Sometimes I see that the boy is just too rough
    And things go wrong no matter what I do
    Now it feels like life is just too much
    You’ve got the love I need to see me through

    Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
    I know I can count on you

    Sometimes I feel like saying, “Lord, I just don’t care”
    But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

    Time after time I say, “Oh Lord what’s the use?”
    Time after time I say, “This just won’t do”
    But sooner or later in life the things you love you lose
    Just like before, I know I call you

    I can’t believe my palms, degrading friends of you
    I can’t believe my fire, oh Lord, what must I do
    I can’t believe what I caught up, master made me new
    But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

    Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air
    I know I can count on you

    Sometimes I feel like saying, “Lord, I just don’t care”
    But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

    You’ve got the love x4

    I need to see me through x4

    You’ve got the love, yov’ve got the love, you’ve got the love
    You’ve got the love, you’ve got the love, you’ve got the love

    Mmm…

  13. Newtaste… I’m so sorry, I cannot remember. The song blurs in with a whole lot of other Hillsongs that sound EXACTLY the same.

    R, I’m with you. And I think I can put my finger on the oddity. Most of the songs are about me. Me, I, My, Me. Oh, and I think I’m becoming conservative too! And I’m not even old yet.

    Oh dear.


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