If ‘Rock Gets Religion’, What Are We Missing in Gospel Music?
This post is a response to another article. To better understand my perspective and fully grasp what is being said in response to the article, it may be best to read the article or listen to the podcast, first. You can read the article, here.
There are a number of topics and issues about making music as a believer today that are difficult to understand. Varied perspectives, upbringing, experiences and preferences all shape the way we approach Christian and Gospel music today. It also affects how it is delivered to the broad audience the genres cater to. Earlier today, I read an article by the Christian Broadcast Network entitled “The Battle for the Soul of the Devil’s Music’: Christian Singers Treated Like ‘Second-Class Citizens?” which detailed Mark Joseph‘s interview on Billy Hallowell’s podcast. In the interview, he spoke about his book “Rock Gets Religion” which ponders why and how religious music should transcend genre specifications. In the interview as was the premise for the article, Mr. Joseph bemoaned the current stature and perception of gospel and contemporary Christian music artists. In short, Mr. Joseph feels that CCM artists should bypass the genre label and join the ranks of mainstream music makers, but is that even possible?
In the interview, he noted that “Right now, Christians are being treated like second-and third-class citizens.”
Mr. Joseph believes that some artists’ creations are inhibited by the genre and would perform better as mainstream music. This incessant debate may never go away. We all know many celebrities who got their start in church and honed their skills on Sunday morning. Some of the world’s best singers and musicians cut their teeth praising the Lord. Many have gone astray, and many others simply “make” music in non-religious genres. But Mr. Joseph suggests that some artists take their talents beyond the “walls” of religious music. At this point, I believe the issue is whether or not labels would agree with this premise. In fact, many of the Christian and gospel labels are simply in another room or suite at many of the mainstream labels. The way the music industry is set up, almost every company and record label is under the umbrella of the big three.
Joseph’s very interesting points are sacrilegious to some, and I don’t know who will be the lamb of sacrifice willing to decline a GRAMMY Award (as Joseph suggests) in these ever evolving musical times! Gospel and Christian music are awarded in the non-televised pre-show with only two categories each. I mean who in these days and times is going to decline a GRAMMY?!? Some of Joseph’s points are good and some are unrealistically outlandish. I do however sense that a catalyst for the next real revival within our genres will consist of non-traditional ideas and industry practices.
All in all, there’s lots to unpack in the article. I think that every now and then, someone in gospel says something like this but not often enough or with enough follow-through. It’s actualized at the Stellar Awards with the influx of secular entertainers who are believers and mainstream financial sponsors, but that’s mostly it. As Mr. Joseph said, our industries are walled off…even from each other-I’ll add. Additionally, I’ll say that CCM is an entirely different world from gospel and what may work for them isn’t even at play in gospel. For example, Mr. Joseph works at PureFlix, which by default is a film division of the contemporary gospel genre.
Mr. Joseph’s point of view isn’t altogether implausible, however. What if the bridge beyond the great divide in gospel and CCM is found in banding together to reach beyond implicitly Christian audiences for art’s sake and without abandoning the great commission?!? I don’t think this will solve Mr. Joseph’s issue of Christian artists being treated like second and third class citizens, but it will increase the net worth of the work put out by artists in the music industry. This article is the latest entry in the ongoing conversation here at SMG entitled: The Gospel Music Series, feel free to join the conversation.
What are your thoughts on Mr. Joseph’s premise? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.