Why does contemporary Christian music have to, well, suck?

It doesn't, and here's proof from mewithoutYou (hat tip to Chris Bodenner at the Daily Dish): 



mewithoutYou is fronted by Aaron Weiss, raised with his brother in a Muslim-Sufi tradition which informs his, I would say unique, but uniquely faithful might be better, understanding of Christianity. The song embedded above brings to life a parable, complete with moral, from Sufi mystic Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. Weiss is famous for his poor hygiene and willingness to eat out of dumpsters, personal deportment that some consider unhinged. Weiss has a different take on his casual nonconformity in this neat interview at Relevant:

What is your reasoning behind not following traditional hygienic standards? I'm thinking of bathing and digging through trash cans.
Ah, lots of reasons. One's I'm a cheapskate, and I'd rather find food than buy it and not spend the money on hot water or soap. Another's that I feel some inclination to care for the creation and not use the resources it takes to bathe all the time and to produce, ship, package food and so on. I used to be embarrassed taking food from a trash bin or looking dirty. Anymore I feel embarrassed buying food when it's being thrown away everywhere I look! And dressing up in new clothes every day, trying to look attractive or desirable and stay clean and respectable—it's a lot of effort, and I don't have it in me anymore.

When I see people with their hair done and make up and stylish clothes, it looks silly to me now, like a costume. I try not to come down hard on that sort of call for affirmation (I'm not far removed from it at all), but the Scriptures say we should try to look beautiful with a gentle, quiet spirit—if there's peace in our eyes, this is much more beautiful....

What is your advice to those who aren't ready to give up all they possess like you have?
I haven't given up all I possess. I've been trying to live more simply, getting rid of things rather than accumulating them, but I still have things. I don’t even need as much money as I make in the band.

 Anyhow, material possessions are just one way we can be chained to this world. Even if we were to give up all our stuff, what good will it do us if we then judge others who haven't done so? Giving away everything we own is right, but we can get rid of our belongings but hold onto lust, jealousy, pride, arrogance, ambition. My advice is to ask forgiveness for trusting in what is useless and to pray for God to give you the love for others that would move you to sell all you have to give your money to the poor, not with reluctance or motivated by guilt, but with joy. Pray for that, and if it doesn't come pray for it again and again, and whatever good does come don't make a big show of it but keep your goodness a secret for God, and tell someone you trust the things you do that are the most wrong and shameful. Keep praying for mercy and forgive everyone, and show gratitude to the One who made you, and pray for me is my advice.

 Here's more background on Weiss from an old interview at BustedHalo that's worth a read.


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Joe Garcia
8 years 3 months ago
Sadly, almost all contemporary Christian musicians seem to "coast" on the earnestness of their Christianity with appallingly little thought to technical ability or artistic merit. A particularly clever - if rather...er...rough - take on this was featured on South Park about a year or two ago, when one character cynically decided to become a multi-Platinum recording artist by becoming a "Christian recording artist" with appalling love song lyrics tweaked to be about Jesus.
Brian Volck
8 years 3 months ago
If, by "Contemporary Christian Music," one means music categorized under that genre for marketing purposes, then much of it does suck because the genre values sincerity over artistry. Not that folks in CCM are all hacks, mind you. But there are musicians who place art above message, often because they understand that the thing well done gives more glory to God than a boilerplate hymn.

Pierce Pettis, Kate Campbell, Brooks Williams, Jan Krist, Robert Deeble, and the duo, Over the Rhine, are just a few of the names that come to mind here. U2 does some extraordinary Christian work, as does Joe Henry. And, to my mind, Bob Dylan's best exploration of religious profundity were songs like "All Along the Watchtower," not "Gotta Serve Somebody." 
Joe Garcia
8 years 3 months ago
I must admit I perversely enjoy - no, really - Christian Lounge.
Christopher Kellerman
8 years 3 months ago
Such sweeping generalizations can be dangerous, my friend. It took me a while to warm up to contemporary Christian music- but one thing to remember is that it is often written for the purpose of being sung in congregations. Ergo the melodies will be a little simpler in order to encourage singing. And of course the theme will be more explicit- they're prayers.

Take a look at the only Catholic singer-songwriter who has found his way into this contemporary Christian music world: Matt Maher. He's a talented pianist and guitarist, and his songwriting is top-notch.

Check out from his latest album ''Alive Again'': Alive Again, Hold Us Together, You Were on the Cross. Go to his album ''Overflow'' and listen to Rivers of Babylon. Each is thoughtful, artistic, and accessible.
Joe Garcia
8 years 3 months ago
As far as recs. go, I like Jars of Clay, FFS, 13th Tribe and Newsboys. (YMMV.) That all said, to me, the overwhelming majority of what is presented to listeners under the banner of contemporary Christian music is so achingly earnest and saccharine I am left with an irrational desire to procure insulin by the pint.


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