The other day I was talking with someone about the Cambridge Drive Concert Series and the person asked me whether or not we presented Christian music.
It is a curious question, isn't it? I answered, "no," but now I wonder whether that was the right answer. I'm not entirely sure what the question means. In my theology, to be "Christian" involves a commitment to try to follow Jesus. How could a song do that? You might argue that lyrical content could define a piece of music as either "Christian" or not, but you'd need to be very careful there. What about instrumental music? There have been times when cultural definitions have come into play and certain intervals, rhythms, or even specific instruments have been declared anti-Christian... In some traditions, having instruments at all is still considered idolatrous. It wasn't that long ago that Larry Norman asked, "why should the Devil have all of the good music?" Now you wouldn't find many churches in SoCal that don't have a band with bass and drums. As times and cultures change so have those definitions of sinful music. And what about a song with lyrics that never mentions God? Can it be "Christian?" The Song of Songs in the Bible is interesting in that it never mentions God and includes material that according to many definitions might be labeled as pornography, especially if the euphemisms where translated into modern language. So context and interpretation become important. So what does the question mean. What is "Christian" music?
After thinking about it, I'd push the question in a different way and ask myself, "what is the role of music (or art) in the yearnings of God?
I have a clear answer to that question. We do art or music because we are created in the image of God, at least part of which means that we are by nature, creative. When God created, God pronounced what had been made as "good." We can continue to add to the beauty, the goodness of creation by what we create. In creating, we show forth our nature as human beings. In creating, we present new ways of experiencing and knowing the creation and of experiencing and knowing God.
So... I'd have a hard time finding much art that isn't "Christian." Sure there are some things out there that are just gratuitous and even some that just make the world uglier, without inspiring us to see with new eyes or hear with new ears... but sometimes even those works tell us about the pains and frustrations of being human and illuminate the work yet to be done.
Next time I think I'll answer "yes... Christian, but not necessarily religious" and let the questioner figure out what that means.