Have you ever noticed that a lot of times Christian music is its own form of Christianese? There are a lot of very talented musicians out there with some great songs, but sometimes those songs are just Christianese phrases put to music. Not only the lyrics can seem Christianese, but the style of music can be Christianese as well. Have you noticed that it seems like a lot of Christian praise songs just sound the same?
One of these songs that I have always had a problem with is Our God. Our God at first is a catchy tune that sounds like the generic praise song. But I’ve always had a problem with the chorus of this song:
Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is healer
Awesome in power
Our God, our God!
The problem I have, other than the fact that it’s just another praise song, is the word “our”. It just sounds like a school yard chant “Na na na na na na, Our God is greater than your God!” And maybe I’m just overanalyzing it. To me it takes the emphasis off of God and onto “our”. Our brings exclusion. It brings seperation. Even though the tune itself is Christianese, even if the lyrics were “God You are greater, God you are stronger…” etc. it would be so much better. Whenever this song is sung I can’t sing it, because all I hear is exclusion. And if God “so loved the WORLD…” He is not an exclusive God.
I want to touch briefly on the sound of Christian music and how most of it sounds the same, thus becoming its own form of Christianese. Recently I was at a Youth Leader’s Convention and there were different praise bands and musical artists. It was interesting to see and hear how most of the praise music just sounded the same, filled with Christianese phrases and tunes that sounded genre-specific to middle-class church-goers. To be honest, I was kind of getting annoyed at the sameness of it all, as well as the exclusive lyrics and phrases. But then one morning everything changed.
I came into the convention hall and there was a sign on the outside that read “Please enter in silence.” As I made my way towards the front of the place, the lights were dim, candles were lit, and there was a realness to the atmosphere. The musicians they had were unlike any I had heard at a Christian setting. The stage had a keyboard, guitar and drum set, but also violins and cellos and when “the band” came out you could tell it was different.
Instead of being the Christianese rock stars of the Christian church-goer’s bubble, there was an authenticity to the music and even their presence. I was brought to tears and felt for the first time in a long time within a Christian setting an authenticity that was spiritual as well as healing. I felt a piece of God. Instead of singing about a Christianese-experienced God, I felt like I was given permission to be me in the presence of a God who meets us all in the authenticity of our own experiences. A God who weeps with us. A God who is perhaps annoyed with the hypocrisy of praise and just wants to BE with us and hear us and see us for who we really are in whatever situation we find ourselves to be. A God who is not exclusive, not cheesy, not defined or confined by Christianese phrases or lifestyle. A God who is Emmanuel – God with us, all of us, all the time.
Which makes me question my life. If my life were a song, what would the sound be? Would I be a generic tune, just sounding like every other Christianese representative? Or would my life be one of invitation to everyone around me to be real, to seek authenticity, that the journey is one of brokenness and healing. Which begs the question: what kind of God do I worship? Because most likely that is the God that I extend to others. I hope our lives will be songs that are out-side-the-box. I hope our lives are the tunes that resonate with the authenticity of every beautiful and sacred creation, inviting a place of relief, acceptance and healing. And ultimately, may our lives not be lived within the box of Christianese.
Here is a sample of the music I heard that morning. The group is called The Brilliance and all of their pieces are real, honest and their genre is out-side-the-box for being a Christian band. Their website is http://thebrilliancemusic.com/