Guest Post by Caleb Bagdanov
A worrying amount of talent, effort and money is wasted everyday to create “Christian” music and apparel. As a Christian community we have become obsessed with taking parts of our American culture and making Christian (and many times subpar) versions of them. We have radio stations that exclusively play Christian music; we have Christian clothing stores filled with Christian versions of every popular style; we have Christian bookstores whose shelves are filled with Christian books of every genre. We have created a subculture for Christian musicians, artists and authors to exist in, and in doing so, have effectively prohibited many talented artists from reaching and affecting the broader culture.
In Matthew 5 Jesus says to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” This is not a command to his disciples but a description of them. He does not say be the salt of the earth but “You are the salt of the earth.” This may seem like a small distinction but it makes a big difference in determining our role in the society at large. Consider the properties of salt. For salt to flavor, preserve or in any way affect food, it must be applied directly to the food. The same is true of Christians. The idea of being the salt of the world may seem elementary to many, but I think its implications are often overlooked when considering the production of exclusively Christian products.
Take for example Christian music radio. Christian radio stations provide a market for Christian bands, singers and rappers, and as a result Christian pop music is being produced more than ever before. This seems like a great success; it might be intuitive to many to think that a higher volume of Christian music would equal a higher volume of positive influence in our society. My discomfort with this can be seen in the illustration of Christians being called the salt of the earth. The volume of salt produced makes no difference if it is not properly applied to anything, but instead kept safe in its salt shaker.
Don’t get me wrong; I grew up on DC Talk and the Newsboys and I played in a self-proclaimed Christian band all throughout high school. As Christians, the things we put our energy into are and should in some ways be influenced by the fact that we are sons and daughters of the one true God. My worry is that many Christian artists have severed themselves from the rest of the music industry and have forfeited their potential for impacting a significant portion of our society. Instead of attempting to positively affect what is played on major radio stations, we have created a way to ignore it. Instead of applying ourselves directly to the world of music, we have pulled away from it. In essence, we have made one pile of salt, contained and too overwhelming to be tasteful to anyone coming from the outside.
I am not advocating a complete abolishment of Christian music or Christian radio, but rather an examination of the difference between distinguishing ourselves from “the world” and separating ourselves from it completely. I do not wish to accuse or belittle the efforts, which I believe to be in good heart, of those producing Christian versions of popular culture; instead, I challenge Christians to critically assess the ways in which we flavor our own culture. For as I see it now, we have a Christian subculture that is overwhelmingly salty while leaving our popular culture flavorless and bland.