The Music That Made Me, Part II

In 2000, I was 21 years old. 2000 was an eventful year. First of all Y2K turned out to be a bust (as I knew it would). 2000 is also the year I married Lyndsay. Finally 2000 was the year I stopped listening to secular music. By the way, would 2000 be considered the first year of the 21st century or the last year of the 20th century?

About two months before Lyndsay and I were to be wed (June 25) I had a God moment. In my vocabulary a God moment is one of those times when, regardless of how certain or uncertain you have been in the past about God speaking to you, you know without a shadow of a doubt He is telling you something and you simply can not ignore the fact. I will not run down all of the details but at this point in my life I was extremely down. I was living in Milledgeville (a town I hated) attending a university (that I also grew to hate). Furthermore Lyndsay was an hour and a half away in Warner Robins.

Since being converted in 1999 or so (no, I do not know the exact date) I had discovered Christian music (besides DC Talk) and had begun to listen to it in conjunction with secular music. I would jam out to some Smashing Pumpkins, follow it up with a little Smalltown Poets and finish it all off with Our Lady Peace. But during spring semester 2000 at Georgia College & State University I was hearing God say something that I never wanted to hear but I knew needed to happen.

At the time I had been playing with a Christian band called Mordecai’s Courage and I had already dedicated my music ability to the Lord vowing that I would never play for any reason but Him. But there in my dorm room in 2000 I knew He was taking it to another level: “Turn away from listening to secular music.” As I prayed I began to imagine never listening to the Pumpkins, or Zepplin, or Metallica, or Aerosmith, or Radiohead, or the Beatles ever again. It seemed crazy. How could I turn my back on the music and art that I loved? As I said before, the fact that God was speaking to me was undeniable. I knew right then that if I decided against doing so that I would be walking in disobediance.

Let me pause to say that God does not call every Christian to this. There is a reason for it. Since I was a child music has always played a large part of my life. I form memories as well as moods around music. Certain songs can create deep emotional responses for me. The music I had so loved was important to me because I drew a large part of my identity from it. I still categorize phases and times in my life by the music I listened to at the time. And at that time the music I listened to was quite melancholy at best and nihilistic at worst and I believe that it affected my behavior negatively. However to turn away from the music I had listened to (some of it from my youth) would, in my mind, mean throwing away memories and experiences.

But I did it.

I called Lyndsay to tell her what I was doing. Though music was not as much a part of her as it was for me, she decided to do the same. From that day forward we have not listened to secular music (well, unless you want to count 40’s big band instrumentals which we have on record).

Christian Music Only: The Beginning of Birth Pangs

After the first two weeks I realized that I was not going to be able to get by on Skillet alone. Eventually I embraced more and more Christian groups like Newsboys, PFR, the Supertones, etc. But inevitably I would grow tired of them and long for something different. Something more off the beaten path.

My first exposure to a band that was more than a little out of sync with CCM was when my friend Lance turned me on to Denison Marrs. Their offbeat melancholy shoegazer style and interesting writing caught my attention. In a way they reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkins, though this guy was a much better singer than Billy Corgan, who does the best imitation of a buzzsaw I’ve ever heard. Soon thereafter God gave me a new source of music discovery in the Christian music video channel TVU. Through TVU I discovered a lot of mediocre bands. But I also discovered some real gems, some diamonds in the rough. The first band I saw on TVU that really made an impact was Spoken. I saw the video for their song “Promise” which at first I did not like. When their next album “Last Chance to Breathe” was released I checked it out and ended up purchasing it. The Elms are another favorite that I discovered around this time. Their stripped-down blue collar rock was simple and raw.

During this time I began to scour the internet for new groups. I was able to discover new artists by checking out the bands that were on the same label as or toured with some of the artists I had already discovered. My love for Dead Poetic, The Afters, Spoken, Andy Osenga,Forever Changed,Edison Glass, and the like came about through this type of research. And no, these artists do not always right songs that could double as praise and worship songs but there is an obvious worldview that is like mine expressed in their music and lyrics. And I have come to the place where any time I hear modern rock music I can not help but notice how much more creative “my bands” are. In my opinion, if I went back to listening to secular music there would be few bands who would sound like what I would want to hear.

Finding good bands that have a Christian outlook can be difficult but rest assured there are some artists out there doing some very creative things. In the last year or so I have discovered (or in some cases re-discovered) Ever Stays Red, Starflyer 59, Andrew Peterson, Turn Off the Stars, Future of Forestry, Seabird,and probably a few others I’m forgetting. So if you are yearning for some new music, head to iTunes or Google and begin looking up some of these great artists and pretty soon you will begin to find all kinds of artists you might not have otherwise found.


3 Responses to “The Music That Made Me, Part II”

  1. April 14, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Good post Babe! 😉 I love you so much.

  2. April 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Two Questions:

    (1) Perhaps you’ll cover this in a later post: how does one find “good” Christian music? Do we just keep our ear to the ground or are there good resources for we laymen? If it’s in the queue, I’ll just wait.

    (2) Could you differentiate for your reading audience what you mean by “Christian music” and “secular music”? Again, if it’s in the queue, I’ll take my answer off the air.

    Your friend Lance who turned you on to Denison Marrs

  3. April 14, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    @Lance: No, I don’t have any plans to write further about this right now so I’ll answer your questions here.
    1) How to find?

    Well, for me, considering the style I like, it takes considerable leg work. Usually when I’m in the mood to discover some new music I’ll turn first to iTunes. If you have an iTunes store account set up you can go to “iTunes Store” in iTunes and then on the front page of the store (if you’re logged in) there will be a section of recommendations. These recommendations are based on what’s currently in your iTunes library plus what you’ve purchased from the iTunes store in the pasr. You sift through these and sample the suggestions. As you go you can rate what you do and do not like so over time it learns more about your tastes.

    Next, I will find out what record label bands I already listen to are on and then I’ll go to that label’s site and find out what other artists they carry. Usually (though not always) artists who are Christians will be on the same label with other Christians. But not always.

    Finally I listen to podcasts which feature music by Christian artists. Two such would be the RELEVANT podcast (though they sometimes discuss and/or showcase music by secular artists) and the Bored-Again Christian (same disclaimer though to a lesser degree).

    2) Defining my terms.

    I realize that my brethren (Bible word) in Christ will have different standards for music and artistry than I do. The Bible does not address what type of music one should listen to. This is one case (and there are few) in which I have to mingle what the Bible DOES tell me with personal conviction. The definition I’m about to give is FOR ME. Please, no one comment telling me why it’s wrong or that I’m being legalistic or not “free” enough. I’m not telling anyone else they should be this way.

    For me to listen to an artist, the artist has to be openly Christian and not abhorrent to the label of Christian (e.g. “well, I don’t really like to be called a Christian musician, I’m simply an artist” or the like). I know that calling yourself a Christian in the music industry can be the death knell for a career. But I’m looking for artists who aren’t try to simply be a star.

    The artist has to show lyrically that the purpose of his music is to propagate Christian ideals (this does not mean every song is a sermon or that even every song says “Jesus” in it). I’m looking for music that expresses a worldview similar to mine. Of course there maybe secular artists that sometimes hit upon that worldview, see criterion number one (openly Christian).

    Secular music is like any other thing we call secular: It is not religious. It is not meant to be. It is music which does not seek the glory of God or, in this case, is not meant to express Biblical truth. PLEASE NOTE I do not mean to say secular music is therefore evil. 40’s big band is secular yet I would not say it is evil.

    I am a music lover and I am looking for other Christians who share my worldview and want to express it (all facets of it) through music.

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