Monday, May 5, 2008

Christian Pop Culture

Slate has a review of a book by a man who investigated the problems inherent in making Christian versions of various forms of pop culture, particularly music. Notable excerpts:

.....You shoehorn a message that's essentially about obeying authority into a genre that's rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.

The entertainers in Radosh's book complain about watchdog groups that count the number of times a song mentions Jesus or about the lockstep political agenda a Christian audience expects.

A Christian friend who'd grown up totally sheltered once wrote to me that the first time he heard a Top 40 station he was horrified, and not because of the racy lyrics: "Suddenly, my lifelong suspicions became crystal clear," he wrote. "Christian subculture was nothing but a commercialized rip-off of the mainstream, done with wretched quality and an apocryphal insistence on the sanitization of reality."

My contact with such music has been limited to sporadic listening to a local Christian radio station in my car when nothing else was available. I have found most of it (at least what that station plays) to be roughly comparable to the kind of insipid "easy-listening" dreck that might help a baby fall asleep. That said, the production values were acceptable, and the performances competent.

I recall the flak Amy Grant took when she recorded some perfectly inoffensive songs that were considered "not Christian enough". I believe Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" had similar problems. (Although nothing like her dad Pat had when he put out an album covering heavy-metal songs. The sight of him dressed in a black leather vest and pants, on stage at an awards show with Alice Cooper, was just fabulous. I think all those years as Mr. Squeaky-Clean caused him to blow a gasket, and it was great.)

Artists have to accept that if they're going to work in the Christian subculture, their creativity is going to be limited by the dogma of the religions that created that subculture. Not that this is new: artists and scientific researchers have had to deal with religious-based limits for centuries. At least the current artists can be thankful that it's a subculture they can leave. In the past the limits were the mainstream, and there weren't many options.

No comments: