I heard an interesting perspective from a devout Christian man the other day and have come around to finally closing my thoughts on the matter. The discussion began as a consequence of a friend’s comment, “my brother is a Christian and a musician, but not a Christian musician.”
Just so you understand the context of this, the intent of the statement was to demonstrate that while his brother’s religious choice is Christianity, he does not “spread the word” through his art. It was at this point that another guy in the vicinity picked up on the conversation and interjected his comments…and inspired this entry.
The Christian man’s side of the argument was that one cannot truly be a Christian and a musician, but not a Christian musician. If one is true to God, then there is no choice but to spread that Truth through everything they do. He related a story from his past where, in the military, he was asked to go and tour with a very popular military band as one of their musicians. He was flattered, but turned down the offer because he would not be able to profess his religious views through the music they created. I offered some contest to his points, but ultimately it was a question of his faith versus my logical reasoning. No contest.
The realization (days later) went a little like this:
Did you ever tell your brother that he’s a heathen for not demonstrating his religious preference in musical composition?
Because I was thinking about that just now and had a thought to the contrary…(rebuking the edification, not our own common sense)
If one is of the belief of a Christian (or nearly all spiritual paths), then one would believe that the power of the spirit is embodied within us all and anything we do is a direct demonstration of that fact. This, I believe, is especially true of creative efforts like musicianship. Therefore, if one were to abandon the creative impulse to develop a song that didn’t preach “the word,” then they would be dishonoring their own spirit, ergo god.
Perhaps it’s overly simplistic, or just missing a Biblical clause that someone else can fill in to give credence to the Christian side of the argument. And actually, I don’t think that this one person’s perspective is echoed by all Christians – perhaps not even by all of those within his particular sect. Even though religion was developed, more or less, to specify the way in which people engage in spirituality, individuals manage to shape their views of even the dogma by their own, very personal, feelings.
To “spread the word” is far more reaching than a sermon or a spiritual song. Everything we do and say is an expression of who we are. In that sense, a Christian doing the menial work of cleaning a toilet is expressing who they are in performing the task of cleaning a toilet and thereby they “spread the word”. That said, Jesus stated “Man speaks out of the abundance of the heart…”. Inevitably, a Christian will reveal their inspirational Source, especially in something as personally expressive as music. That doesn’t mean that God uses a hammer or a crowbar to deliver His message. Sometimes honoring God is a word spoken. Sometimes honoring God is a work unspoken. Tactful expression with sincere appreciation for the listener is the key. God, being the Creator, is quite creative. We often limit Him with our narrow interpretations of “how” His creativity should be expressed.
but Marc, what if there is no God or gods and all this stuff is made up? Then what?
If there is no God, regardless of his intentions, a Christian is a fool and his musical expression is meaningless. As a Christian, I have no interest in believing a lie. However my experience has been one of earnest searching. Not having been raised a devout Christian, nor overtly influenced by its traditions, I looked for significance in life with an open mind to all religions and faiths. I asked the hard questions and through logical analysis, not blind faith, have come to some conclusions that align with what is labeled Christian. The fruit of that pursuit is now a relationship with the living God, not a membership into some ritualistic belief system. Sometimes that relationship compels me to musically express thoughts and feelings that I believe come from God. Regardless of whether I’m on the mark, or a fool, the search for truth and the expression of love are noble exercises that virtually without exception better all who participate.