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?”