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Post-Christian Pop-Culture?

I have more questions than answers. My mission for the past few years has been to bring Christians across a bridge between church and culture, to recognize the holy in unexpected places. Lately, however, I feel all our efforts to rescue people over the bridge weren’t fast enough.

I recently called a publicist for a popular band coming out with a new album in September. Two of the band’s members used to be in a group under a Christian label. However, their current band is signed to a mainstream company with a mainstream following though many of their songs weave deep biblical themes throughout them. When asking for an interview on behalf of a Christian publication the publicist answered, “Look, I like you guys, but the boys in the band have decided not to take any press from Christian media outlets. Once Christians are under the impression that you’re a Christian band, they sink themselves into it, they start having these certain expectations for you, and it’s literally impossible to get out.”

I’m not sure what frustrated me more: the publicist’s answer or the fact that his experiences probably reflected his views on Christianity. I wish I could say this is the first time I’ve heard this. I’m friends with many artists dedicated to a Christ-like life who embed elements of that life in their music but feel trapped, burned, and segregated after choosing to tell their story to Christian publications. What amazed me about the conversation with the publicist is he knew I work for the forward thinking ones, the ones that are “conversant” and “relevant.” The truth is, as a writer, it’s getting harder and harder to get any artist to tell their story to a publication with a faith-based association.

For once I have no opinion on this. I don’t know what to think either way. It’s no big news that the “Christian music” industry is shrinking (something I’m actually thankful for) and that more and more artists of faith are choosing more organic, all-encompassing methods to make their stories heard.  Do we still need platforms to bring awareness to people interweaving their faith with culture? Is it truly debilitating for an artist of faith to be categorized as a Christian artist? Is the American evangelical still that polarizing and archaic that we set unreasonable expectations on culture makers?

Finally, what does this mean for Christian media outlets, even the “forward thinking” ones?  Do Christians still need to be educated on culture by other Christians or is it more realistic to go the route of “you either get it or you never will?”



Hmmm something to definitely think about. And I'm not saying this is the answer, just my initial thoughts after reading that. But my initial reaction to that personally is disgust. I get it, I understand it. I've recently decided to pursue an acting career with the specific purpose of doing TV/Movies so it's something I've started to think about in my own life and have begun to process how to balance my faith with a culture that doesn't think nicely of someone who chooses or gets labeled a "Christian". But if you truly seek to honor God with your art and you're given a platform to share your story and how you ARE sharing your faith without specifically attaching a "Christian" label to it, to turn that down to me is counter productive. Those who are bravely and successfully accomplishing this should be sharing their stories and encouraging others to do the same.

If they choose not to for fear of being put into a box then to me that say's they are treating the Christian culture the same exact way that the Christian culture treats outsiders and either way you slice or dice it, to me that's wrong.

I don't want to be a Christian that has to run around and say "I'm a Christian" for anyone to notice I'm different. At the same time when someone Christian or otherwise comes along and say's "Hey there's something different about you, can we talk" how can I turn that down when my heart really is to reflect the light of Christ in my life?

It's about balance, and it's sad to see that (it seems) in the pursuit of being "relevant" or meaningful some have decided to deliberately stay away from all things labeled "Christian" because they are afraid of the perception or don't want to be labeled/followed by a certain crowd.... :/

HI CJ: A few things captured my attention in your post...

1) The publicist said, "Once Christians are under the impression that you’re a Christian band, they sink themselves into it, they start having these certain expectations for you, and it’s literally impossible to get out.”

That is an interesting statement that begs for a follow-up question or some research. What are these "expectations" and what does it mean for people to "sink themselves into it". Have many Christians come to so idolize "Christian artists" that they are choosing - intentionally or by instinct - to step down from the pedestal?

2) You wrote, "I’m friends with many artists dedicated to a Christ-like life who embed elements of that life in their music but feel trapped, burned, and segregated after choosing to tell their story to Christian publications."

Two questions come to mind here: First, these folks are trapped, burned and segregated by whom? Second, I wonder if they tell their stories differently (language, focus, etc.) with Christian publications than they do with secular media?

3) You ask, "Do we still need platforms to bring awareness to people interweaving their faith with culture?"

I suppose that depends upon what the goal is? What do you hope to accomplish?

GREAT stuff so far. Thanks for your convictions/questions. Who's next?

As someone who has recently thrown some art into the marketplace (art that does not settle into comfortable marketing platforms), I recognize these frustrations and questions. Here are some more questions:
1) What makes art successful? Is it the revenue you generate? The number of people who read/listen/absorb it? The quality of the project? The motive of the artist? These are hard questions. If you're twenty-five and passionate about making your living as a musician, then you have another goal entirely. It must be monetized somehow. Is it crass or less spiritual to expect a financial payoff?
2) Is this work of art God-honoring? I'll be honest here. Lots of people who want to blur the line between secular and Christian art are happy to insert a few Christian themes or lyrics or ideas, but they're kind of embarrassed by Christian marketing's cheesy past, so they intentionally (or subconsciously) embrace a fuzzy theology. Not cool.
3) Are we comfortable with the notion that not every great work of art is designed for a wide audience? What if I write the very best book I can (or you write a song)--and it challenges/moves/inspires a dozen people? Is that okay? And even harder--what if I give it all I got, and no one is moved by it except for me? Is that okay and was it still God-honoring to do it?
4) Are we content to tell our children that being an artist is something that God loves and affirms even if they don't make money for it? (Are ministers only God's servants if they land a nice church salary at a big church?)
5) If you sell a million songs and are admired by a huge audience, does that mean the God was blessing your project? Does it mean he wasn't blessing it?

I will attempt to answer all of your questions with one overarching answer and hopefully this will sufficiently address them.

Personally, I think the aversion of this representative to have the band speak to a Christian publication is for one reason and one reason only. Money. I am sure that many bands and artists feel that if they get labeled "Christian", especially the more alternative and rock artists, that they will not make as much money or be as popular. Their motivation, in my mind, is strictly monetarily related. There is no other reason not to grant the interview.

Let me give a bit more information about myself that will explain why I feel this way. I just came to Christ in April of this year. Prior to this event in my life, I would not have been caught dead in a Christian book store, music aisle or anything else associated with Christianity. Without going into my specific situation, I would imagine that a majority of non believers are the same. Most probably feel that type of music and art is not for them and only for Christians. Hence, Christian groups could lose quite a bit of money if nonbelievers see them as Christian music.

For what it is worth, that is my 2 cents. Great article!

P.S. Third Day rocks and I have to credit them as being one of the big influences for me accepting God and Christ into my life. Just thought I would add that.

The issue you've brought up is extremely complex. I don't think it can fully be discussed in a message board format. Better to be attempted over a cup of Chai at The Refinery. :)

There's a call and a need for artists outside and inside the Christian subculture. God has sent in artist evangelists and testimonial artists who are not evangelists. By the very definition of a subculture, or the def of a market for that matter, there are things in that subculture/market that are out of the mainstream. Because a subculture/market is smaller than the mainstream, it generally moves more quickly than the mainstream. That's why an artist can be pigeon-holed in the smaller market.

It's not that "the American evangelical is polarizing and archaic," it's that the very definition of this market is based on spiritual cause and effect relationship, so that's what the market audience wants to hear about. Unfortunately, that's often the opposite of your counterparts in the mainstream market. There's a reason that can exist, and why you aren't on staff at say Rolling Stone, and probably never will be regardless of talent, experience, education or connections.

There are many artists who don't fit the Christian radio mold, or who have come into the market a bit and not found a home, or who have no desire to be aligned with the freakiest part of the subculture, and even some who just have too much ego to think their art should be considered Christian...

I think it all boils down to what God is telling an artist. He doesn't need anyone to accomplish His will. We can help that artist by praying for them, or if given the opportunity, by praying with them. We have to hope and trust that the artist is hearing from God, and seek the artists God is telling to speak out about their faith. It is amazing to me that artists exist at all. I am astounded by any artist like Chris Tomlin or Steven Curtis Chapman who can take what is a form a SELF-expression and so thoroughly give it over to God that He can express Himself through them. Talk about art...

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CJ is a writer, artist, and cultural communicator with a passion for raising a new generation of innovative leaders and forward thinkers. He is's Social Evangelist and manages their Undiscovered Artist Platform.