God must really love music. After all, he’s wired musical talents into the DNA of so many human beings down through history.
I’m not one of the lucky ones. When they were little, my two oldest girls would hold my hands down whenever our church’s worship director asked if a few more men would volunteer for the Easter or Christmas choir. Believe me, it wasn’t a temptation.
Still, God has blessed me with an appreciation for a wide spectrum of music. A few days ago, my wife, Renée, and I enjoyed Carmina Burana, which closed out the Oregon Symphony’s 2007-08 season. Halfway through the evening, director Carlos Kalmar reminded audiences that anything truly pleasurable either is illegal, immoral, or fattening. Carmina Burana isn’t illegal, he quipped, but certainly the other two. To prove the point, Kalmar juxtaposed Carmina Burana over against French composer Olivier Messiaen’s L’Ascension (The Ascension), four wonderful biblical meditations. Let’s just say the second half of the evening was a bit less heavenly minded than the first half.
For a number of years, I had the privilege of working behind the scenes to help bring popular and new Christian music artists to cities across the U.S. to perform in Luis Palau’s open air festivals. Often, the artists and bands were playing to huge crowds, including the nearly quarter million (over four nights) who jammed Portland’s Waterfront Park to hear Steven Curtis Chapman, Ginny Owens, Sixpence None the Richer, etc.
Of course, most of the time I’m not going to concerts. Instead, I’m surfing the radio and checking out CDs old and new. I find it doesn’t matter if I’m listening to classic rock or new not-on-the-dial-yet alternative Christian bands. If you listen carefully, you can find the soul’s longing for God everywhere. Even more prevalent is the soul’s anguish after leaving God—or deciding that God has walked out on them.
If you listen to Aaron Shust, Amy Grant, Andrew Peterson, Audio Adrenaline, Avalon, BarlowGirl, Bebo Norman, Ben Glover, Bobby Boyd, Bono, Brian Littrell, Building 429, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, David M. Edwards, dc Talk, Delirious?, Erin O’Donnell, FFH, Ginny Owens, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, Jill Parr, the late Larry Norman, Margaret Becker (it was great to see her again a few days ago!), Mark Shultz, MercyMe, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, Newsboys, Nichole Nordeman, Nicole C. Mullen, Phil Keaggy, Plumb, Rascal Flats, Ray Boltz, Rebecca St. James, Relient K, Rickie Lee Jones, Sara Groves, Selah, Shawn McDonald, Skillet, Solomon’s Wish, Sting, Superchick, Tait, Third Day, tobyMac, Todd Agnew, U2, and many others, you’ll find they have given voice to many of the key themes of If God Disappears through their music.
The same is true in “Amazing Grace,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and many of the old great hymns of the faith…and some of the new great hymns of the faith being written by Keith and Kristen Getty and others.
It’s also true in fully 70 percent of the Psalms in the middle of our Bible.
Why is it we can be so much more honest in our music than we can be with our family and closest friends?
If truth be told, we all face ongoing struggles to keep our faith. After L’Ascension, who doesn’t wonder if it’s all too good to be true? After Carmina Burana, who doesn’t worry he or she is missing out on the good life?
Thankfully, God loves music all kinds of music. Even Sting’s admission that he’s lost his faith.
One friend who used to be a Buddhist claims Jesus spoke to him while he was listening to Joan Osbourne’s haunting old hit song, “One of Us.”
The bass guitarist for a local band and I were surprised to see Jesus show up at a Rickie Lee Jones concert a few months ago. Her latest album, Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, inspired by The Words of Jesus is stunning. It’s the most reviewed album of the past year. Who would have guessed everyone from PBS to The Los Angeles Times would be talking at length about The Duchess of Coolsville and Jesus Christ?
You may disagree, but I believe God can use any kind of music to lead someone back to a stronger, more vibrant faith.
When you’ve felt estranged from God, has certain music spoken to your heart? If so, I invite you to add a comment or two below. Feel free to add links to your favorite artists, albums, songs, and lyrics, of course.
David and Margaret Becker, May 2008