Christian music has a broader definition
The lines separating Christian music and secular music are blurrier than most think. | flickr.com
To the great dismay of many students, Biola recently decided to strengthen their commitment to only allowing Christian music in campus coffee shops and the fitness center, in effort to avoid potentially offending students and customers. Although it is no surprise the Biola administration and student body clash on their preferred coffee shop music, it does raise the question of what qualifies as Christian music.
NO SOUL TO BE SAVED
When we refer to a Christian as an individual, we refer to someone who has repented of their sins and given their life to Christ. However, music has no soul to be saved. So what then, is Christian music, if not a series of notes heading to heaven?
Because we cannot directly apply the typical use of the word Christian to music, we must seek to define it. Perhaps the immediate response to what Christian music is involves worship music — the music we would typically hear in a chapel or church setting. Many would think of Phil Wickham or Hillsong. Surely, Christian music and worship music are synonymous. However, the music used in worship services differs from church to church and more broadly from culture to culture, so it cannot act as a clear definition of Christian music.
Others might believe Christian music or Christian entertainment in general is content created by Christians. However, this also breaks down quickly as many artists claim to be Christians, or they claim to be Christians at one point in their careers and then later renounce their faith, like artist Katy Perry. Plus, even when Christians do make music, their work does not necessarily reflect biblical values.
On the other hand, sometimes it does. For example, Matty Mullins, frontman of the post-hardcore band, Memphis May Fire, often incorporates Christian themes into his music and is a self-proclaimed Christian, even though the band itself does not identify as a Christian band. Yet, this does not mean every song with a hint of Christian values is a Christian song. Sometimes Christian values are not exclusive to Christianity. Love, justice and redemption are common themes in music, yet they are often enjoyed in a secular way or without reference to its biblical conceptual source.
To avoid the confusion surrounding the blurriness of the definition of Christian music, we therefore must consider “Christian” when referring to Christian entertainment as an umbrella term for different ways that music can reflect Christianity. Within this umbrella term we can have subcategories referring to explicitly worship music, or music preaching the gospel. We also have other subcategories such as music made by Christians from a Christian perspective or music that reflects Christian values or portrays Christian themes.
Due to the fuzzy definition of what qualifies as Christian entertainment, we must be wary of labeling songs as purely secular or purely Christian. We cannot treat each group as a monolith, but rather we must acknowledge the beauty and nuance in them and appreciate each subcategory for what it is — and also perhaps let the student body hear them as they consume their preferred caffeinated beverages.