Music is an amazing gift. It can uplift us, it can sympathize with us, and it can tell us stories. Many bands are created by Christians, ranging stylistically from praise and worship to death metal. Yet, this question is asked of almost every band: “Is __________ a Christian band?” The truth is, there’s no one definition for a “Christian band.”
Many people have taken positions on what makes a band Christian, but I would consider a lot of them to be wrong. One interesting quote was made by Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf:
“I don’t know what you mean by a ‘Christian rock band.’ It’s hard to say that because people all have a different definition of what that means. If it means that we’re Christians, then, yeah, we’re Christians, but if a plumber’s a Christian, does that make him a ‘Christian plumber?’ I mean we’re not playing for Christians. We’re just playing honestly and that’s going to come out.”
A lot of people seem to have taken this idea to heart – similar comments can be found all over the internet. The problem is, Lacey’s comparing apples to oranges. When you call a plumber, you’re not asking him to do anything related to your mind or soul. It doesn’t affect your beliefs when he says: “Well, I unplugged your drain and toilet. That’ll be fifty bucks.” However, when you listen to music, something unique happens. The music transports you to the viewpoint of the songwriter, and if the music has a Christian message, that’s probably what you’ll be thinking about while you listen. The same is true for secular or even evil messages – your mind will dwell on those while you listen. (I would consider Flyleaf a Christian band – keep reading for why.)
Another popular viewpoint is that the idea of a “Christian band” is just silly. A frequent comment goes along the lines of “LOL. Christian band. When DC Talk died, it didn’t go to heaven.” This argument just doesn’t make sense, though. It’s attacking a position that doesn’t even exist. No one (I hope) thinks that bands have souls and go to heaven when they “die.”
The most frequent mistake people make, though, is when people over-label bands as Christian. Many people seem to assume that if a band puts out a mostly positive message and doesn’t cuss while doing it, then the only explanation is that it’s a Christian band. It REALLY irks me when someone labels a band Christian because they have one vaguely faith-related song, or one or two of their members are religious. Linkin Park is not Christian. Seriously.
So, how can you define the great line between secular and Christian music? (Underoath fans, see what I did there?) Like I said before, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition. Like many things, you just have to take it on a case by case basis. The main thing you have to look at are a band’s lyrics, which should show where the band’s heart is at. This is the best indicator, because it tells you what message the band really wants to get across. Not every chorus has to be shouting “HALLELUJAH, GLORY ON HIGH!”, but the way you judge a band’s Christianity is similar to the way you judge a person’s – the Gospel doesn’t have to be pouring out of their mouth constantly and awkwardly, but their life and words should show that that’s what they are truly centered around.
So, in the end, whether a band is Christian or not is really up to the interpretation of the listener. I’m not saying that it’s wrong or even bad to listen to non-Christian music. It’s fine for entertainment, or for a glimpse into what they believe, but if you’re looking for something to nourish your soul with, it’s best to listen to something that centers around the most positive message of all: the Gospel of Christ.