About three years ago, at the Ichthus Festival, a Christian-oriented music festival in Wilmore, Kentucky, I saw P.O.D., the heavy metal band that was nominated for six MTV music-video awards this year, perform for the first time. This was before their hit "Rock the Party" launched them into the pop culture stratosphere. At Ichthus, they were performing during the dreaded daylight hours, before Jars of Clay, the headline act of the evening.

They were incredible. I'm not a hard rock fan, but P.O.D. was electric, and I was blown away by how explicit Sonny was to the crowd. "Play pray for us as we tour with Korn and Kid Rock," he said from the stage. "Pray that we'll break their hearts with the love of Jesus . please support us as we hope to bring God's love to the mainstream."

Backstage after the performance, P.O.D.'s lead guitarist Marcos ran into Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars. Dan congratulated him for their growing success. Marcos excitedly thanked Jars for all they'd done for so many years, then quickly brought him over to Sonny, where I saw the three guys congratulate each other. I heard both Marcos and Sonny thank Jars for "doing it right" and for helping blaze trails for Christians in mainstream music.

So imagine my surprise when I saw a recent article in RE: Generation Quarterly, where P.O.D.'s Marcos and Wuv "dis" Jars of Clay after Wuv expresses how much he dislikes Christian music.

"Christian music is the cheesiest music," says Wuv. "They copy too much. I hate that." But surely there must be at least one Christian rock group P.O.D. likes? What about Jars of Clay? Marcos makes a face. "Nah," he says. Wuv grimaces: "Arrggghhh!" he says. "You can quote me on that: Jars of Clay--arrggghhh!"

Et tu, Marcos?

Okay, let's consider the differences between P.O.D. and Jars of Clay and what qualifies Wuv to lump Jars into a genre he obviously dislikes. First of all, Wuv says "Christian music" is cheesy and derivative. To be fair, most of us (including Jars of Clay) will admit to expressing similar thoughts. Maybe we fans will be more careful with our words after seeing them directed at Jars. But Wuv's comments illuminate a greater problem inherent in the term "Christian music."

What makes Jars of Clay, but not P.O.D., a "Christian band"? The lyrics? Surely not. Both bands' lyrics have followed a similar pattern through their careers: a more explicit "message" early on, less explicit later. In fact, "Satellite," P.O.D.'s latest, is arguably more explicit in its spirituality than Jars' recent "The Eleventh Hour." (For that matter, I've got 100 bucks for Wuv if he can admit to listening to a recent Jars album.)

Is it the faith of the members, or what they say in concerts? P.O.D. doesn't deny their personal faith (especially in front of Christian audiences, as at Ichthus), so it can't be that. Is it their distribution label? P.O.D. and Jars both have Christian-market labels in addition to their mainstream ones--Word distributes P.O.D. to Christian stores and radio stations, Provident handles Jars in the same market. So it can't be that, either. That leaves Wuv's definition of Christian music: "They copy too much." Hmm. I'm a huge fan of P.O.D.'s music, but on the MTV awards show, one of Jimmy Fallon's early jokes was that he couldn't tell the difference between P.O.D., Linkin Park, and Papa Roach. Let me be clear: I don't believe that P.O.D. "copies." But the point is, we never know what's behind a band's music, and P.O.D. isn't immune to sounding like they've taken a page from other bands.

Wuv also said that U2 has "something to say"--as opposed to most rock bands, which I'm sure he'd say includes Jars. He's right; U2 is another incredible band that sings about important matters, and I'd claim that P.O.D. is one as well. But consider their song "Boom," which Wuv proudly quotes in the article. "Boom" is an awesome song, but don't its lyrics and message, which consists of loud boasts about P.O.D.'s massive success and a repeated rhetorical question--"How do you like me now?"--sound a lot like every other "mainstream" rapper? Does that song have something to say? Again, the song's incredible, and I couldn't care less if it's not deep, but if Wuv is going to make such broad statements about "copying" and importance, he's got to remember the Golden Rule.

The fact is, P.O.D.'s career path is closer to Jars than they'd like to admit. Both bands worked their tails off to build a following with explicit spiritual albums; both bands found overnight success through a single song and video ("Rock the Party" and "Flood"), and both bands quickly abandoned the Christian festival circuit in favor of the higher-profile, mainstream radio and tour circuit.

Was P.O.D a "Christian" band when I saw them three years ago, but not now? Does P.O.D. reject Christian festivals because of artistic integrity, or is it because they can finally afford to? Both bands have been stuck with inappropriate labels, and it sounds like Wuv is making a desperate attempt to distance himself from the "Christian music" label. I agree 100 percent with his intention, as the term--which at this point is nurtured only by the CCM labels themselves to increase "niche" sales--has damaged the relevance of countless musicians who sing about faith. But why attack a band that, as much as any other, has tried to do it right? Jars has to deal with enough unfair labeling from the other side; why should they have to worry about the same treatment from a should-be ally?

Musical success goes in mysterious cycles. Seven years ago, Jars of Clay was selling records at P.O.D's current rate while P.O.D. was selling a fraction of what Jars is now. Jars of Clay was the hot band on MTV and touring with Sting, and it's entirely possible they'll be there again. I just hope that P.O.D. remembers that success, especially in pop music, is fleeting, and that they should be gracious to those they pass on the ladder of success.

I love both bands, and I often annoy my wife and friends with my constant excitement every time either band makes an impact on pop culture. I pray strongly that P.O.D. gets even bigger and better, but I wish they'd pray the same thing for Jars, because both bands are trying to do the same thing.

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