Last Sunday night Christian Contemporary music star Natalie Grant walked out of the Grammys. She was nominated for two Grammy awards (Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and Best Christian Music Song), but couldn’t quite make it through the award show. Between Beyonce’s twerking, Mrs. Carter’s unladylike chair straddling, Jay-Z’s hyper sexualized performance, Katy Perry’s “Satanic Ritual” and “Reverend” Queen Latifah’s same sex marriage ceremonies, Natalie and her husband, Bernie Helms, could take no more. She later politely posted:
“We left the Grammy’s early. I’ve many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I’ll say this: I’ve never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I’ve never been more sure of the path I’ve chosen.”
This week I’ve noticed a number of people on Facebook and other social media discussing whether “rock” or “pop” music is an appropriate “path” for any Christian singer, and whether such music is even worthy of the Church’s attention. Is “rock and roll” unholy? Is there something prohibitively un-Christian about this form of music? Can we, as Christians, listen to “rock and roll” or contemporary “pop” music in good conscience? I think the answer is “yes” (and “no”).
Musical expression is a combination of melody and lyric. As a Christian, I will not listen to (or affirm) unholy, demeaning, profane or ungodly lyrics. That’s an easy call. But what about the melody? Is there something innately ungodly about the melodic, rhythmic form of rock or pop music? Can I affirm rap music if it’s lyrically appropriate? Can I enjoy a punk or metal band if their lyrics are God honoring? Sure. I do it all the time. My iPod playlist tonight includes a number of Christian rock and pop bands, including Skillet, Switchfoot, Kutless, Project 86, Sumerlin, House of Heroes, Stellar Kart and Relient K. I’ve been to a few of their concerts. They’re loud –very loud. But, they’re God honoring.
I haven’t abandoned watching movies or television even though there are lots of inappropriate films and shows out there. I haven’t stopped enjoying art, even though there are many profane painters and sculptors. I haven’t stopped reading fiction, although there are many inappropriate titles to choose from. These varied forms of artistic expression are not innately evil, they’re just co-opted on occasion by fallen humans, bent on perverting an otherwise promising art form.
I bet you haven’t abandoned these forms of artistic expression either, even though they might not have had a Christian origin and there may be many inappropriate examples on display. Instead, we continue to engage films, music, art and books, carefully assessing each offering through our Christian worldview. Sometimes we’ll be able to rejoice and enjoy. Sometimes, just like Natalie Grant, we’ll have to calmly walk away and be sure of the better path we’ve chosen.