Saturday, September 10, 2005


Always a dangerous topic when you get into Christian circles, the idea of what is acceptable music has long been of interest for me. Mind you the first musical tape that was ever purchased for me was a Steve Taylor tape and my first purchase was another of his works. I still love the guy and think he does great work now too as a producer. But, the question remains, what is acceptable music for a Christian to listen to, let alone celebrate in worship.
This particular question came up again for me when Michelle Shocked was considered to be unacceptable music for the church, but U2 was invited to come play by the same person who condemned Michelle Shocked (even if it was tongue in cheek, it was not well thought out). This was made all the more poignant because the criteria for inviting Michelle to sing was that she sings of peace (and that she rocks), while the objection was that her career was recently marked by anti-Bush sentiments. Going on that criteria, U2 would probably be discounted from any church appearances too, at least without a strong counter-musical influence of someone who is admittedly pro-Bush with strong record of support in the media as well. For that was the basic premise for frustration, that Michelle Shocked was not balanced by someone who was pro-war, or pro-Bush.
But, I want to push the argument a little bit further. That of acceptable Christian music, and musicians in the church. Should U2 be allowed to come and play at a church? After all, they did claim their christian roots early in their career, but have since denounced a God who would be so punishing and unloving as to allow the pain and suffering in the world. Further they have renounced the faith they once proclaimed, by claiming that any God who would sacrifice His own Son was unworthy of worship.
There is little doubt the music of U2 is powerful and has changed my own faith dramatically as it has helped me to come to grips with some of my own struggles. There are many pieces of music that have also done that for me, including goo goo dolls, Green Day, Missy Elliott, Baha Men, Dixie Chicks, Newsboys, Big Daddy Weave, DC Talk, and myriad more. My music collection claims that as well as anything else for me. There are those that say that the only music acceptable is that which is produced by "Christian" artists. I just find this to be a very difficult and slippery slope. What if someone claims Christ in his actions but does not claim him in their words (like U2's front man Bono). Are they acceptable music? What about someone who claims Christ with her words, but whose music is more suggestive, and actions fall outside of fundamental views of Christianity (like Brittany Spears)? Is this acceptable music?
I venture to say that where you can grow your understanding of who Christ is in the world and in your life through conversation with your music (that means more than just listening to your music, but paying attention to lyrics and challenging and being challenged by those lyrics) then it has value.



At September 13, 2005, Blogger DogBlogger said...

Wait a sec -- did I miss something Bono/U2 said recently? Maybe after their latest CD was released? Because I've been listening to "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" repeatedly and have gathered much spiritual sustenance from it. Overtly Christian themes abound.

At September 13, 2005, Blogger David said...

Recently, no, and the original may be far removed from the truth...I tried to find the original quote, but I recall it was from around the time of 1992...a long time gone now...transitions do occur, and I am a firm believer in grace. I have no doubt the current album has helped to affirm and develop your faith. I, too, have been aided by many of U2's lyrics in my own spiritual development.

At September 19, 2005, Anonymous Tim Sisk said...

Dave, do me a solid, and link to my blog (new ( or old ( if you are going to bring me up for discussion (even if you didn't do it by name). In a world ruled by Dukies, fellow Candler alums should look out for each other.

Only a literalist would have read my post as saying it was okay for U2 to play at my church. The problem I had with Michelle Shocked's performance at the church had much to do with the event to which she was connected, ostensibly an event to discuss the Iraq war.

The problem was that all of the speakers were not only anti-war, anti-Iraq war, but anti-Bush. And Michelle Shocked has been virulently so. And it was clear to me that she was invited to perform because she was (not because she sings songs of peace).

When it comes to performing in the church, I doubt I would invite U2 (in part because I've never heard them introduce "Sunday Bloody Sunday" without saying the f-word), although some of their music is explictly Christian ("Yahweh", "40", "Gloria" come quickly to mind). I doubt it because I doubt they would be interested in leading a worship service. If they are and I'm comfortable with the message (a judgement every pastor must be prepared to make), then maybe so. Here I would have to allow my membership a lot of consideration in the decision. Bono is also responsible for a new FCC rule (for using the above epithet in a live broadcast).

I probably wouldn't invite Michelle Shocked because her website features nudity and graphic language. But I definitely wouldn't invite her to a church discussion of the morality of war when she uses extraordinarily personal, hateful language publicly about anyone, including our president. Not because she has done so, but because I doubt she could add anything meaningful. There are lots of Christian reasons to oppose the war (any war, but particularly this one) that don't involve ad hominem, hateful speech. The language of love should be the language of the church.

Context matters. I'm not saying listening to Michelle Shocked is a sin or that her music can't be worshipful or that somehow U2 is okay but Shocked isn't. It just depends on context.


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