Spiritual Ambivalence In Music

Spiritual ambivalence is a disturbing trend in the music industry; both popular music and Christian music. It pervades the mainstream music industry and nobody seems to bat an eye at it, although it warrants some real examination. In the Christian music industry, it happens all the time. While some people talk about it, most of the time it is seen as a positive move for the artist involved, and therefore should be respected by the artist’s fans and listeners.

The practice of seeing one’s spiritual life as so disconnected from an artist’s music, that it can be flaunted or discarded at any time with no sense of consequence, fails those searching for true values for in this world of temptation. Now, this is my own theory, so I don’t want anybody to hold what I am saying as fact. If you disagree or agree this post is merely an attempt to have people talk about much of an impact an artist’s spiritual life (or lack thereof) should have on their musical expression and career. Secondly, my intent is not should overtly negative, just realize that I am trying to present a concept, and so I am going to use my experience to try prove what I am trying to bring to your attention.

Although I have been noticing this trend for some time, it really came to my attention again as I was watching Fuse TV’s top video’s of 2008. The video that was playing when I turned on the station was a hip-hop video (of course feat. Lil’ Wayne) in which the rapper was talking about how hard his life has been coming from the particular neighborhood he came from, and how most of his childhood friends were either dead or in jail. Not an overtly offensive subject, but as most secular rap videos go, I could hardly understand what was going on lyrically because constant “bleeps” were making the song almost unlistenable. After two minutes of unintelligible ( due to the ”bleeps”) rapping, the song started to fade out displaying a huge graphic quoting Galatians 2:20. It struck me as funny that this guy could sit there for an entire video and speak in a language that would offend a sailor, and then expect me to take his Christian values seriously. In all honesty, I don’t know what is in his heart, or what his relationship with God is, but after a few minutes profanity, drug use and violent posing I couldn’t understand what was going on. I was a bit reluctant to believe that we were reading from the same Bible.

This has been happening in the hip-hop community for a long time. When a rapper accepts an award at any level, they make a great deal of effort to thank God (most times “God Almighty”) before anybody else. I would love to believe that these men (and women) were my brothers and sisters in Christ, but the majority of guys that see it so important to make God first as they accept their “Best Video of the Year” award, are the reason that we have those parental advisory stickers on CDs. I really love hip-hop, so don’t take this as me being down on the rap industry, because the country music scene is almost as bad. While the profanity is a bit more subdued, country music is notorious for its “beer, fightin’, women” mentality. Yet, almost every interview given by the same artists who write entire songs about how they can’t remember who they went home with, will talk about teaching Sunday school, and how their singing career started with them singing in their church’s choir.

The progressive watering down of the Christian message is perpetuated by these celebrities and musicians that build careers celebrating their transgressions towards God, and then praising Him for their success. Like I said before, I am not judging these musicians hearts, but it just doesn’t seem like anybody sees anything wrong with this anymore. We are trying to teach the youth in our churches that the reason they should avoid the life styles presented by the popular media because it is in opposition to God’s will; but when they see their favorite country star talk about the same God, and then introduce his new video “The Beer Made Me Cheat”, what do we say then?

In the Christian industry, the exact opposite is happening. Where as mainstream artists that have no business talking about Jesus take every chance to do so; droves of Christian music artists seem to be scared of the subject. I have read and seen countless interviews with artists whose music and message is full of their walk with God, shy away from the subject when questioned about it. Musicians who are making Christ-centered music in both the Christian and mainstream industries seem almost afraid of the subject in public. So we have artist’s whose whole musical platform is built on their faith in Christ, and are unwilling to talk about it, and the artists whose message is in almost complete opposition to God who are more than willing to talk about theirs. In both instances, Christ’s involvement in the music seems flippant. Once again, this is not an attempt to be judgmental, but why is so hard to tell if an artist is believer or not? Why is it so easy for the secular industry to talk about their version of faith, but for musicians who love God to not want to bring up the subject?

So where does this leave us? What is the point? The point is that these trends are not going to go away. We as listeners have to strive to seek out the artists that truly share our beliefs. We have to be the ones that don’t fall haplessly for scripture quoted at the end of a filthy song. To allow the artists out there that are believers in Christ to speak freely about their faith no matter who is asking by showing our support for their career. Hopefully we can change this trend, but until then we have to approach the music we listen to with a large amount of discernment and understanding.

Has the music industry become too complacent with its view of Christ? Is it possible to have content (in music) that is deemed offensive even in a secular world, and still have a strong relationship with God?