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Pixabay.com

Pixabay.com

In some situations, there is just no winning. That certainly seemed to be the case for the oxymoronic genre of Christian Rock. Secular audiences mocked and scorned it while many Christians disdained it. Martin Luther King, Jr. described Christianity as being “totally incompatible” with rock or rock ‘n’ roll as such music “so often plunges men’s minds into degrading and immoral depths.”

The sense of a failed union of opposites permeated popular thinking about Christian rock both within and outside the church for decades. Books such as “Religious Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” decried the practice, and the genre served as the punchline to jokes on popular television shows including “Seinfeld.”

Christian rock, however, did not crumble in the face of scorn from both secular and faith-based audiences. If anything, the heaps of disdain leveled at their art convinced Christian rockers that they were righteous rebels who were challenging both elitist Christians and the dominant culture. As a result of that stubborn, defiant refusal to lie down and die in its early years, Christian rock has endured and become surprisingly popular. The story behind the classic Christian rock song, “I Can Only Imagine,” was made into a movie in March 2018 and grossed over $83 million.

As Christians began to increasingly embrace Christian rock, questions still arose about whether the more visceral sound of guitars and drums would lead believers astray. Christian rockers insisted that Christian music of every genre was based on the lyrics of the song, not the actual notes played on the instruments used. The idea caught on and spawned a slew of new genres in Christian music including Christian punk and Christian metal. The best of the Christian rock genre, however, did not consider itself to be Christian rock. Instead, those artists cut their teeth on the more demanding, and consequently more talented, secular music industry but continued to write and perform songs that were imbued with their Christian faith and values. They were not “Christian rockers” as much as they were “rockers who were Christian” and as a result, they both produced higher quality music and enjoyed a wider reach than traditional Christian rockers. It may or may not be a good sign that Christian rockers are leaving behind what would once have been their traditional genre behind. One on hand, going mainstream allows Christian messages to reach more people. On the other hand, it is never good for a music scene when the best talent is abandoning said scene. What the recent movement of Christian rockers away from Christian rock will mean for the genre is unclear, but it is highly unlikely this stubborn movement is going anywhere.

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