Some Christian Music

I work at a faith-based Christian rehab center, and one of the house rules is that only Christian music can be listened to on FM radio. There are a lot of rules in the program, but if I were a student I would find this one to be probably the most difficult to follow. Sometimes when I drive the guys anywhere they turn up KTIS 98.5 and sing a long, much to my consternation. If the radio is on and no one is really enjoying it I’ll turn it off, and state rather forthrightly, “That music is terrible.”

This always elicits a lively conversation about music, the arts, and Christian expression. “How can you not like it? It is uplifting and honoring to God,” they say. “Is it,” I reply. “I don’t think it is honoring to God at all…” and so it goes.

Usually, I have to make a lot of qualifications to say that it is (superficially) honoring to God, or that the intentions of the songwriter were likely good, but I maintain that there is nothing obligatory in this form of music that demands that I appreciate it or consider it beautiful or even worshipful.

So in an effort to be more positive I am going to post this playlist of Christian songs I think are exemplary. Each I consider to be well-crafted, honest, reflective, theologically interesting, sensitive to human limitation, and honoring to God.

1. The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash. Any song that quotes the texts of terror from Revelation and makes God’s judgment sound “cool” has to have a certain quality to it that is original and unmatched.

2. Dead Man (Carry Me) by Jars of Clay. Jars usually suffer from the problem of overproducing and recording to many songs in any given year. But this track has always been very strong in that it utilizes the angst of rock n’ roll to express the angst of feeling defeated and beaten down by one’s own sinfulness, inadequacy and lack of faith.

3. A New Law by Derek Webb. Webb has always been one of the more theologically literate songwriters, and in this song he expresses his frustration with the Christian community’s lack of thoughtfulness. “I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy” is the money line.

4. Alabaster by Rocky Votolato. A story about growing up in a church full of misunderstanding and then encountering the real thing. Great lyrics on the parable of the sower mixed with some harmonica.

5. Stranded by Plumb. Though not overtly filled with metaphors or a clear message, the arrangement is very well done and the theme of isolation and loneliness is explored in way that is soothing.

6. This Is Your Life by Switchfoot. Very poppy, but very pointed in its profound yet simple question “This is your life… are you who you want to be?” It is avoids narcissism by asking challenging it in view of things larger than oneself.

7. I Am by Jill Phillips (not online). A tender lullaby from the “fatherhood of God” perspective.

8. Save Me by Welmore Mile (not online). Yes my friend Peter makes the list, but he really does score points for sounding a simple tune into something far more encouraging than the overproduced drek you hear on the radio

9. Goldmine by The Great Upset (formally known as ODYC–not online). Yes more of my friends, but still a very sweet sounding acoustic arrangement with a thoughtful commentary on selfishness.

10. Hope by Don & Lori Chaffer and Hey Ruth (not online). A simple melody about a Christian virtue that is quite comforting to take in

11. Unwind by Don Chaffer (not online). Chaffer takes a Midwest-Americana sound a gives doleful testimony of the lostness of himself and his friends and how God intervened. The guitar work at the end is outstanding

12. Sweet River Roll by Waterdeep (not online). An easygoing psalm about suffering people and the hope of comfort.

13. Jesus Went to the Garden by City On A Hill (not online). A crescendo-ing telling of the Passion narrative

14. Drift by The Common Children (not online). A dressed down rock song about finding guidance, moving on to new adventurous things, and trusting things will turn out well.

15. Clean (My God Has Rescued Me) by The Violet Burning. How could I not include the Violets? Seriously, though, it is one of the more original sounding worship songs I’ve heard. Lots of slowburning energy and serious lyrical piety.

16. Peace by Glassbyrd. Very calming… lives up to its name.


9 thoughts on “Some Christian Music

  1. Tina says:

    Adam, the first time I stumbled upon your words years ago, THE THING that caught my attention was your logical consistency. . . but come on, when will you stop making such strong accusations against Christian music IN GENERAL?! Oh Adam, Adam, Adam. . . you’re killin me :)

    Personally, I cannot stand to listen to most Christian radio stations for more than 10 minutes at a time. . . they never cease to get on my nerves, but that said, I have a ton of Christian music I love!. . . music that is absolutely honoring to God and worshipful! Agreed: so many “Christian” artists are not even remotely believable, and seem to have no real depth at all. . . but how can you keep making such general accusations :) when I KNOW you are not that illogical!

    Have you even tried listening to Starfield? Listen to Starfield! Begin with their first album. . .

    Jimmy Needham. Tim Hughes. Kutless. Jonah 33. Jennifer Knapp. Ten Shekel Shirt. Phillip LaRue. AND OF COURSE THIRD DAY–DON’T YOU DARE KNOCK THEM!

    And if none of that touches your soul, you should hear the student chapel band at the school where I teach as they sing Aaron Shust’s My Savior My God. Read the story of how he wrote that song, and then listen to the honest faith of a few battered teenagers. . .

  2. You should check out Black Eyed Sceva (a RC group, lyrics are great), or, as they’re called in their later album, Model Engine. Good stuff, and I don’t think I’ve EVER heard them on a Christian radio station.

    And I love When the Man Comes Around. Brilliant.

  3. BTW, thanks for the mention of Save Me, Adam. It’s funny how I’ve gotten more nice comments about that song I spent maybe 25 minutes writing back in 1999 than any other creative thing I’ve done. It was obviously a God thing.

  4. littleguyben says:

    Just a thought…Even if some of the Christian music is overproduced, done in a heartless and selfish fashion to make a buck but still causes me to stop and to think of our God and worship Him, isn’t that good? Often times secular music can also cause me to worship and that music is many times overproduced and done just for the money as well. I just try to enjoy the Lord in the midst of everyday life and music is one thing that turns my thoughts to Him and His character.

  5. Chad says:

    I think you might enjoy Josh Garrels… I could be wrong. I miss the old “cheers icons” that was on your site years ago.

  6. Chad! I do like Josh Garrels. I bought his CD on your recommendation a while back. I don’t think I ever told you, but I love his music.

  7. David says:

    If you have, or ever come across, and HD Radio check out KTIS’s HD-2 stream — I’d wager at least half of those songs get played.

    It’s online for the summer at — their college student station.

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