I love music. I cannot imagine my life without it. I write songs and play piano. I used to play in a band. A playlist must happen when I do my cardio. I despise commercials on the radio, because I want to hear the tunes, dammit! (But also tell people “I don’t really listen to the radio much” just to sound cool.)
While I do have my preferred genres, I can like pretty much anything. My iTunes shuffle runs the gamut of music styles. But there is one style in which I do not have a single MP3 present: Christian Music.
Yes, that is right. I call myself a Christian, but I am not the biggest fan of Christian music. Now, when I say “Christian Music”, I am really referring to “contemporary” Christian music or stuff that is commonly sung in church. I am also put off by the average Christian “alternative” or “hipster” bands.
I admit it. Praise and Worship is my least favorite part of the service. While others are holding their hands out, swaying like they are about to faint because God’s love is just washing over them…I am thinking about the most random stuff. Like, where I’ll go to brunch after church. Or what to write in my blog. Or what it would be like to be famous. Or this cat video.
Thus begs the question….as someone who is so moved by music in general, why can’t I get moved by church music?
During my initial ruminations, I felt it had something to do with my past. I was forced to sing a lot of these types of songs at camp or day care or school…during times where I felt most ostracized. Times I was away from my family. I was weird and socially awkward, and other kids wanted nothing to do with me. How can I sing about how “Jesus Loves the Little Children” when I feel so alone?
There is always that voice in my head that tells me I am a loser, and I am not worthy of having acceptance and respect. And what is wrong with me that I cannot “get over” the bullying and unpopularity I dealt with? I bear a serious cross of depression from negative self-talk, a rut I got into believing that stuff and being afraid that if I believed good things about myself, someone would pop my happy balloon and say it was not true. But, Praise the Lord…since Jesus loved us so much and saved us from our sins, that is all we need right??! I should NEVER feel depressed. EVER!
While I do have a decent amount of uplifting songs in my music library, my preference is darker, “gothy” music in some sort of minor key. Like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. When I listen to NIN, as sacrilegious at it sounds, It’s like someone validating my pain, rather than trivializing it with some saccharine music and a happy praise message that just ignores all the trials and struggles in life. It “Reznorates” with me.
God’s love for us is awesome, but cheerful lyrics and depression don’t really mix well. It’s like forcing someone with an ulcer to eat a fattening meal because it’s just so tasty and wholesome. While the feast is indeed delicious, the ulcer needs to heal before the food can be enjoyed.
So many Christian music lyrics spout how awesome God is, and how we should worship Him because of what He did. It talks about how we are all sinners…lost sheep that have now been found. How can this music help someone who is emotionally resistant, or does not feel loved and good enough to draw closer to God?
I sometimes am not ready to let God in on that level. I still have a lot of pain to work through. My pain and rumination have become my identity. Sometimes I wonder if my dreary, overcast outlook on life is who I am, or just not letting go of my past. It is hard to differentiate sometimes. Letting it sink into my spirit feels so uncomfortable, and I often resist it. I am afraid if I don’t, I will start crying in front of the congregation. And I don’t like to cry in front of others. This is why I often revert to distractions during worship.
While most churches don’t play Christian music that resonates with me, I have thankfully gotten some good suggestions for Christian artists who don’t rehash John 3:16 every way to Sunday with a campy guitar melody. It is a wonderful thing that the Lord has inspired art in many forms. He has inspired music throughout the ages, from Gregorian chants to classical music. There are Christian artists out there who still convey the Gospel, but in a darker, more ethereal , and/or contemplative style that is more appealing to me than the overplayed stuff.
I feel that praise and worship is a personal thing, and like God often meets us where we are at, music should convey the same. Happy fanfare about how awesome God is because He came down from heaven to wash away our wretched sins may not be where everyone is at. For some, the contemporary music and hymns are working for them, and that is great. But it’s not the only worship music out there.