Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"So, are you guys a Christian band?"

We hear this question on an astonishingly consistent basis. The answer is not a simple one, so I thought it would be appropriate to take a few moments to address it in a blog, since this seems to be a point of interest for so many. I find that when people ask us if we are a Christian band, they are really asking one of two questions, so I will address both seperately.

“Do you classify yourselves within the genre of Christian music?”
The short answer is no. We do not choose to use our faith as a means to sell music or advance our career. The Christian music industry targets a very specific crowd. There is a large segment of the population that will not listen to any music that is not labeled as “Christian.” There are entire festivals and radio stations that exist based on this principle. I recognize that the confusion on this subject stems from the fact that we willingly play at some of those festivals and receive airplay from some of those stations. We are infinitely grateful for both opportunities. In the same way that we do not discriminate against a non-Christian audience, we would likewise never discriminate against a Christian audience.

The truth is, we have some lyrics that contain very clear Christian concepts and references (i.e. cross, Jesus, baptism). We did not shy away from these topics in the process of writing our album, and I don’t imagine that we will in the future either. But we are not a worship band. We are more comfortable playing in rock clubs and bars than we are churches. All the same, the lyrics in our songs will always be reflective of what we experience in our lives. We will not compromise truth and honesty either to please the Christian market or to please the mainstream market. Honestly, we wrote like 50 songs for “Home” and just kept the best ones. So while there is a song on the record that says, “It’s not the cross that saves, it’s the man who came and wore it,” we also almost kept a song with the lyric, “She woke up in a bed with a pile of clothes on the floor. He was a coward who got up and crept out of an open door while she slept.” There was another song that contained the lyric “Oh, how I used to love all the benefits of spotlights, sailing deep into the dark night, stealing innocence from girls who said their daddy’s didn’t love them.” These songs just happened to not be as good as the ones that made the cut. We will never shy away from honestly portraying the lives that we have lived, even if that makes people uncomfortable. We cling to the hope that there is some level of redemption to be found in honesty. For better or for worse, you will know the real us. If our lives and beliefs are an encouragement to you, then that is awesome. But if our experiences and mistakes are a warning to you, then is that any less beneficial?

So, if Christian radio, Christian festivals, or Christian music outlets think that their listener base will enjoy or benefit from our music, then we count it a privilege. But we will not EVER define our art based on our personal religious beliefs. There is money to be made in doing so, and we have fought the temptation to cave to that pressure, just so we can eat. But at the end of the day, we would rather have to work other jobs to pay our bills than to whore out our religion for a profit. This is not to say that there is not a place for “Christian” bands. To be sure, there is. We are friends with many musicians who would not be fulfilling their calling if they were not in the Christian music scene. We will gladly support bands that are strictly seeking success in the Christian music world. But that place is not ours. Michelangelo was a brilliant artist; his work was primarily religious in nature. Michelangelo is not remembered as a Christian artist, but simply as an artist. Yet his work still moves and inspires the world.

“Are the individuals in your band Christians?”
There are currently three core members of our band, Mike, Shannon, and David. The three of us are all Christians. We are all active in local churches. I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone but myself, but because I have discussed the subject with Mike and Shannon extensively, I can say with confidence that our faith is the center of each of our lives. It is my hope that our passion and love that are a direct result of that faith will be evident in everything that we do, musical or otherwise.

That being said, we have not shied away from bringing people on the road with us who are not necessarily on the same page. Currently, our touring crew also includes a bassist, Nate, and a merch person, Courtney. Again, it is not my place to speak on their behalf. But from the talks I have had with each of them on the subject, I have gathered that either because of personal experiences or unanswered questions, they are not in the same place in their journey of faith as the other three of us. And that is okay. We do not want to be so dogmatic or judgmental as to tell anyone that his or her experiences or questions are not valid. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the asking of questions that leads to the eventual solidification of faith. Just because Courtney is not comfortable being super involved in a church or Nate is not comfortable voicing a group prayer does not mean they have nothing to share or bring to the table. Furthermore, just because a person does not maintain the same views as you does not mean that they have nothing valid to say. It is often the people that I disagree with on fundamental levels who open my eyes to new truths. It is my hope that Nate will soon start contributing to this blog as well. He is wise, funny, and occasionally insightful!

I encourage anyone reading this to examine what you believe. Do you follow your religion because your parents or friends do? When is the last time you stopped to evaluate why you do what you do? A faith unchallenged is a house built on the sand.

I hope that this blog clears up any questions that you may have had about our stance on this controversial subject. It is not our goal to offend anyone. If you have any further questions, or would like us to elaborate on some point, feel free to submit comments on this blog, and we will happily respond.

-David

19 comments:

  1. Nice clarification, this is something all bands that have christian members have to go through!

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  2. I think too many people confuse being a Christian band (such as mewithoutYou) with being a worship band (such as Hillsong). Worship is merely a genre within the Christian industry.

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  3. Seth, not to criticize, but is worship really merely a genre within the Christian industry? I guess one of our frustrations with this whole subject is seeing a religion that we identify with being used to for profit. Matthew 21 seems to suggest that industry and faith don't always mix super well. Just my thoughts though. I would love to hear you expound more on what you mean.

    -David

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  4. Very well said. I think part of bringing the light to the world includes playing in bars and places where those outside the faith tend to gather. That's one thing that bothers me about bands labeled as "Christian", they usually only attract like-minded people and only play in churches and christian festivals. Doing so excludes those who need to hear the message.

    Also, refusing to write lyrics about the darker side of life doesn't change the fact that they happen and effect us all. I welcome a band who isn't afraid to be realistic and honest.

    God Bless!

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  5. For me its great that you are believers in Christ, but there is no need for the label of Christian Band, I agree not everyone is on the same page as you but do you discourage them just because they are not, no you would help them, encourage them more to improve their faith. You guys keep rocking love the music.

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  6. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy your music. I like the Christian themes in some songs and I find your music very accessible to non-christians as well.

    I hope more musicians that are Christian can follow your example.

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  7. One other thing I forgot to mention, Jesus did not preach in churches He preached in the bars, in the clubs and any other way He could to get His word out, so kudos to you for going out where it is needed most.....God Bless You

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  8. Jeremy, I appreciate you noting that bands who label themselves as "Christian bands" often only attract like-minded people. Though it is more of a challenge, we think it is of the utmost importance to listen to the views of those who disagree with you, as well as to maintain a non-judgmental attitude towards everyone, regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. Pride judges. Humility loves.
    -David

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  9. This is something I always try to think about, rationalize, and come to a solid conclusion about. In being in a "Christian" band, I try to make sure we always have our "mission" in mind. I don't want to get caught up in using the Christian label to make money for myself. Then again, I have nothing against Christian bands gaining popularity and playing in a band full time. It's a personal dream of mine, honestly.

    As a music listener it's something I'm trying to come to terms with as well. One band who comes to mind who I absolutely love is Mumford & Sons. It's hard to deny the Christian themes in some of their songs, but they also have songs that are seriously raw (I believe they drop the F-bomb a few times), and I personally have close Christian friends who will intentionally not listen to those songs. I'm not saying they are wrong for not listening to those songs, but they are truly offended by those particular songs, so on the surface it seems like Mumford & Sons is contradictory.

    I personally have nothing against those types of songs. Similar to a point you were making - I see music as an extension of the musicians' lives. Sometimes it can be pure emotion; sometimes it can be pretty serious things they have experienced in life. One reason they write is to find healing through expressing themselves in their music.

    Christians deal with things just like non-Christians do. In the song in which Mumford & Sons drops the F-bomb, the listener can truly hear the pain and regret in the writer's heart. That's what music is about. Sharing life with others so they know they're not alone, and hopefully they can learn from those experiences.

    Sharing the rawness of life through music does not make a person a Christian or non-Christian. It doesn't make a band Christian or non-Christian. It makes them all real, actual people.

    Fans and listeners realizing that can lead to more of an impact than bands who purposely try to avoid serious and heavy topics so they can "fit in" with the Christian music scene and not offend anyone.

    But those are just my thoughts.

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  10. Jake,

    Thank you for wording those thoughts so eloquently. In preparation for this blog post, Mumford & Sons came up in discussion. It is interesting to acknowledge a band who can say "I really f***ed it up this time" and "Awake, my soul. You were made to meet your maker" in the same album. There is so often this invisible line in the sand between what is sacred and what is not. I personally believe that all creation is evidence of a creator, regardless of how profane or offensive. The mere ability to write and sing songs is strong evidence for me. I have found truth and hope in some of the least likely of places, that album included.

    As artists, we are faced with the challenge of being real, knowing full and well that what is real is not always marketable. But I stand by the hope that the truth will set you free. So while our boys in Mumford & Sons may very well be quite offensive to some, perhaps they walk in a freedom that can only be attained through such raw honesty.
    -David

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  11. "...perhaps they walk in a freedom that can only be attained through such raw honesty."

    I love that. Great way to say it. Thanks for the post that led to this discussion.

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  12. I downloaded this music on emusic. Is this you guys? http://www.emusic.com/listen/#/album/Branches-Letters-To-Thomas-MP3-Download/12720504.html:

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  13. Very well said. Loved the music before I knew that. As a christian love it even more.

    Greetings from Slovenia-Europe.

    Matej

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  14. Just wanted to say that's awesome and I really respect and found some more understanding with this post! I pray God blesses you in every aspect of your journey as artists in the world.

    Just one question. Do you guys ever get scared that too much compromise or compromise at all will lead you to deception or another path of life? As compromise I mean like straying away too much or even completely from lyrics about God's Truth.

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    1. I think this article (found below) is helpful to consider on both sides of your question. I can't speak for the band but I would say that it is critical to not have a dis-associative mentality when it comes to our role in "secular" society. The fact that we even decided to label things as "secular" is a bit heretical at the core. Colossians 1:19-20, "19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." God's in the process of reconciling all things to Himself... secular and non-secular. If their lyrics make you wrestle with things that bring you closer to God, then their lyrics are being used to reconcile you to God; regardless of wheter or not the content is explicitly "Christian". If their lyrics are only consumed by the arrival of reconciled beings, or what I would more commonly describe as exclusively Christian music, then where does that leave those non-reconciled? Of course, there is need for both, but one without the other leaves a gap or a trail without an end. Obviously, I think it takes more courage and trust in our faith to go out into the world, but I think we should be able, and are called, to come to a point that our faith cannot be shaken by doing so.

      http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/let-s-revise-the-popular-phrase-in-but-not-of

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  15. I can appreciate a lot of the views here. Music is a reflection of who we are and a God given way for us to express the trials and triumphs we experience. The psalms were full of such. David poured out his heart in them, and sometimes they were not real positive. I also agree about not accepting "labels" (especially for financial gain) as long as you are not avoiding labels in order to be accepted by others for fame and fortune. I do have some unsettled thoughts and feelings about the whole conversation though. I believe that the standard for those who have put their faith and trust in Christ should be much higher than it was before their lives were "changed" by Him. As "ambassadors" of the King, there needs to be careful consideration of one's life representation of Him in word, deed, conversation etc. Yes, Jesus was known for going out among the ones who were looked down at by the "religious" folks, but I really don't think he would have been hard to tell apart from them by his lifestyle. The Bible talks a lot about being holy and abstaining from evil and even the "appearance" of evil. I have also heard people so many people say that Christians are hypocrites because they don't live by what they say they follow--that their lives don't reflect what they claim to believe. No one's perfect, but I believe we need to raise the bar a little higher if we are going to be associated with the King of Kings. I work overseas in an area where Christians are about .01 to .04 percent. They believe that America is a Christian nation, and they see all the immorality and the high divorce rate, and all the drug and alcohol problems, the shootings in schools etc, and they don't see why they would need something like that. The only way they will be receptive to what I share about my faith is if my life is different. I'm far from perfect, but my testimony of who Christ is is that He changed my life and gave me a desire to be holy like Him.

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  16. Very nice words have been used in this blog! I am really impressed and completely agree that music cannot be imagined without having a pure spirit towards God. Only that spirit can support christian bands.

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  17. I appreciate your music and your honesty! I think being raw and honest is rare but needed in our culture, especially as Christians. We spend too much time putting on the expected "everything is great all the time" face, when none of us truly feel that way. Christian or not, life is hard and we all face challenges and make mistakes.

    IF you do have a moment to answer a question, I really like your song Noises, but I don't completely understand the last two lines in the chorus. What or whom are they referring to?
    "Sick and tired of hearing you say how I love you dear, when are you going to get up and going away"
    Would love to hear back from you! Thanks for sharing through your music! :)

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