First, he writes a review of a Sigur Rós concert that makes me feel guilty for not seeing them next week, then he posts this little rant about the core tenets of “Contemporary Christian Music” (aka “CCM”) that has me nodding in agreement. The fact that it was originally written 16 years ago, and yet still seems relevant, is either A) a sad indictment of CCM, or B) proof that Mr. Whitman was, indeed, a prophet.
How do you get people to buy this stuff? You simply tell them that the music is annointed. You emphasize the (false) dichotomy between “Christian” music and “worldly” music. You carefully control your product so that only overtly religious material or upbeat, wholesome material is released. You carefully control your artists so that they are presented as larger than life and Superstars of Holiness, and you ensure at all costs that their sins are kept hidden from their followers. And if one of them slips up and lets his sin become known, you have no choice but to boot him out of the club. How do you justify the extra $3. Simple. You tell people that they’re not only getting music, but music from Giants of the Faith. And God help the poor wretch who doesn’t live up to the image.
I’ve been saying the exact same thing for years, which has resulted in many “concerned” looks from fellow youth group members, youth pastors, friends’ parents, co-workers, and other authority figures in the church. Not to sound drastic or anything, but CCM strikes me as an industry (not a ministry) that just needs to fade away gracefully.
Sadly, given Christianity’s sad desire to remove itself from the “real” world and live in safe, sterile little bubbles of culture, it probably won’t be disappearing anytime soon. As long as Christians feel threatened by the big, bad, scary “secular” culture, CCM (and its parallel industries in the publishing and filmmaking arenas) will always be there to comfort, encourage, and most of all, protect.
BTW, make sure you read through the comments on Whitman’s blog entry. They’re just as interesting and insightful.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.