On the Sufjan Stevens cover song by David Crowder...

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On the Sufjan Stevens cover song by David Crowder...

Unread postby musicmonkey » Tue Oct 11, 2005 11:03 am

CCM covers indie?
The Devil doesn't have all the good music anymore
but Why does CCM still have all the bad music?

CCM = Contemporary Christian Music

Indie rock crowd = godless heathen?

CCM = controlled by Christian Music Trade Association

Indie rock = no corporate control

Indie = independent Smile

CCM = salt? light? uplifting? gospel truth?

Indie rock = godless heathen?

CCM requires no personal discernment because it has the approval of some Christian Trade Organization???

CCM = nasty totally irrellevant and unoriginal; often sounds stuck in the 70s, bands that nobody's heard of except in the bizarre "Christian bubble" that is too afraid to step out into the real world and would rather insulate itself from those godless heathen while they consume products like Lord I Lift My Thighs On High, an aerobics videotape to help you lose the pounds without having to hear the Devil's music and see all those sweaty heathens in those secular gyms.

Indie rock = tres cool

Myth #1: Being salt and light means your music has to sound crappy.

Myth #2: Appreciating true art means you're on the highway to hell.

Myth #3: Ozzy & Harriot Christianity is the only Christianity.

Myth #4: Ozzy & Sharon aren't good enough to be Christian.

And on and on it goes... meanwhile, the only ones who aren't really arguing are the godless heathen themselves who have never even heard of CCM in the first place and would wonder why Christians would argue about a Christian covering another Christian's song.

At allgoodnaysayers.net, one Sufjan fan writes, "I'm not a Christian.. but I love the way Sufjan exposes his beliefs.. and his faith.. and how he doesn't preach them." Another writes, "i'm an agnostic, and i appreciate the spiritual yearning expressed. i think everybody can relate to sufjan."

Today finds me caught in that age-old dilemma asking myself 'What makes music Christian?' for the 1000th time.

CCM praise and worship dude, David Crowder, is doing a cover of Sufjan Stevens, a critically acclaimed indie artist. Both are Christians but how they approach music is very different. In fact, their entire audiences are very different.

Now, in his defence, David Crowder is probably one of the least cheesy artists in the CCM scene. However, many music lovers consider CCM a genre of music derived to create as much capital as possible by exploiting people's religion.

There's the stories of counting JPMs (Jesus' per minute) in songs and allocating more marketing dollars to artists high in JPMs. Now the flipside is all about message. Message message message. Some say CCM preaches to the converted (the gospel is 'Christianity 101' intended for unbelievers who never listen to CCM to begin with). Then of course, there's the Christian who says, "CCM uplifts me".

Uplifting or coddling?

Popular Christian rockers, Casting Crowns sing a song to Christians that poses more questions than answers... "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching, why aren't His hands healing, why aren't His words teaching. And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going, why is His love not showing... What if the light that we pursue came from a hunger for the Truth?"

I think the reality behind the questions is that most believers are living defeated spiritual lives with little if any difference from the world and that many Christians are merely nominal (in-name-only) yet consumers of an entire industry geared to their need for packaged religion.

Right message, wrong crowd?

Is it even the right message? I don't want to live the rest of my life on earth in what ifs.

Should Christianity have target markets to begin with?

CCM = major fromage

Indie = discerning art

Celine Dion = major fromage, too, by the way Wink

"We are the target market. We set the corporate target. We are slaves of what we want." - Switchfoot

In from church music to multimillionares... anduril05 wrote:To tell you the truth, I neither like nor respect the music that most "worship" bands put out. Call me an elitist. If they're truly worship bands, why are they charging people money to come listen to them? Shouldn't they be relying on the goodness of God and of people's hearts? Why charge someone to come "worship" with you? It's all a show, that's why. And worship bands tend to stay within their comfort zones by categorizing themselves that way. They don't reach people that need to be reached. That's why I respect Sufjan Stevens so much. A lot of his music contains explicitly faith-based lyrics (NEVER preachy) but he plays for a mostly agnostic/atheist scene. And a lot of people have been touched. Same with the Innocence Mission, same with Denison Witmer, same with a lot of other artists you don't hear about because the Christian music industry will have nothing to do with them. And that's what I prefer. The Christian music industry is a joke.

Shannon Stephens wrote:Honestly, I feel that the Christian music market was created out of a need for safety by separation. People wanted to know that the music they were listening to would not contaminate their souls or the souls of their children. The truth is that we are not contaminated by our culture, but by our own hearts. I do think it's important to feed the fire as little as possible, but shutting out the world and creating a safe subculture is not what Christ commanded us to do. Rather than making absolute judgments about Christian bands or labels, I try to take them on an individual basis. Sometimes people ask me if I play "Christian music" – I don't even know what to say. I'm a Christian, and I play music, but is it all praise and worship? No. I feel more comfortable outside of the box, where things are more dangerous and often times more real. This is where God utilizes my honesty to be a light in the darkness.

Josiah at Irresponsible Journalism wrote:So a little hub-bub has been stirred up in the Sufjan community over David Crowder covering "o god where are you now (in pickeral lake? pigeon? marquette? mackinaw?)" in an upcomming CCM worship/compilation album entitled "A Collision".

I'm unfamiliar with David Crowder's music and its highly unlikely I would ever listen to a CCM compilation album. Things of that nature either make me want to forsake Christianity or doubt that I ever had it to begin with (i.e. mebbe they've got it and I don't).

Regardless, it's got me wondering if this little upswing in ridiculously talented Christian musicians with serious indie-cred will be able to avoid the bastardly machinations of CCM and keep from selling their soul. It's funny 'cause I guess its analogous to the whole indie-rock problem in general (nothing band gets a cult following, big label snatches them up, loss of creative control, suckiness ensues).

Stay strong Sufjan. Stay strong.

Once people start buying your albums in Wal-Mart, I don't think you need "big labels" to bring home the $$.

CCM = corporately controlled suckiness

Indie = independent from corporate control

Christian Music Trade Association = decides what music is "Christian."

My brain = can decide whatsoever is true, pure and lovely

In For rockers, 'Christian' blessing can be fickle, John Letzing of Reuters wrote:WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rocker Sufjan Stevens frequently channels faith through his music, but falls short of the standards of the Christian Music Trade Association -- a key U.S. gatekeeper in deciding what music is "Christian."

The association's seal of approval can mean lucrative exposure in a hot segment of an otherwise stagnant music market, and provide a stepping stone to broader success.

Stevens' ode to Jesus Christ, "To Be Alone With You," was heard during an episode of the popular and racy Fox TV teen drama "The OC."

An appearance on such a show would not necessarily hurt an artist's standing with the group, said president John Styll of the CMTA, which represents music labels specializing in Christian music.

"I would love to see more Christian music in venues that need it, so to speak," he said. "We love to let the light shine where it is darkest."

However, Styll said, Stevens lacks adequate distribution through Christian channels and has not shown a desire for the association's imprimatur. "He just doesn't want to play the Christian music-market game, and that's OK," Styll said.

According to CMTA's Christian SoundScan arm, U.S. album sales of Christian rock grew around 125 percent from 2003 to 2004, expanding to 8.25 million from 3.66 million. During the same period, total U.S. album sales grew only 1.6 percent, rising to 666.7 million from 656.2 million.

Christian SoundScan data, collected with Nielsen Media Research, is publicized through Christian charts in Billboard magazine. Nielsen and Billboard are the property of Dutch media group VNU NV.

Hot groups on the Christian-music charts include Jars of Clay and Relient K. Jars of Clay sold 6 million albums last year, including many outside the CMTA's tracking.

To qualify, CMTA's Styll says albums must receive some national play on Christian radio, 25 percent of sales in the first week must be in Christian shops, and lyrics must have "Christian content."

Lyrics must be "in line with the principles taught in scripture," Styll said, a definition he acknowledges can be "a little loose."

Other factors might also play a role, he said, such as the venues an artist plays, or one's willingness to appear at Christian events like the twice-yearly Creation Festival. "You just kind of generally know" if someone fits in, he said.

Sufjan Stevens' growing appeal is not reflected in the Christian charts, despite songs like 'To Be Alone With You' and often strongly spiritual lyrics ("Oh Lamb of God!/Tell us your perfect design").

A favorite of the secular indie-rock scene, Stevens plays at edgier, smoke- and beer-choked venues, and his lyrics occasionally veer to off-color.

Lowell Brams, a manager at Stevens' label, Asthmatic Kitty, said most of the label's artists are Christian, but care little for the association's certification.

Other artists do care. The benefit of certification can be their first widespread publicity on Billboard, catching the eye of bigger retailers and labels.

"It's worked fine for us," said Jeff Risden, an agent representing Relient K.

The group got its first national exposure on the Christian charts in 2000, and eventually signed a recording contract with major label Capitol Records.

Corporations are evil.

Deconstruct propaganda! Whiter teeth won't make you happier.

Unplug from the Matrix.

Again, this totally isn't about bashing David Crowder. I really respect him and actually like a few of his songs. I just have huge issues with the most original religion in the world producing some of the most unoriginal, unmovitaved, un-outward-focused, uncreative followers on the planet.

Having thought about this for many years, my own picture is slowly coming into better view. Religion and religiosity and religious people never worked for me. Likewise, bad coffee, ketchup on everything, and other small town mentalities never worked for me. I was raised in a small town but felt dead until I moved to the city at 19. So these issues go far deeper with me and into the realm of tasting oppression, fear, hatred, and shame in my early years.

Christ was a trailblazer. He was a countercultural creative. He wasn't standing in the sidelines poorly imitating popular culture. Christianity is far too big to be boxed in by the Christian Music Trade Association.

I know that David Crowder means well and this is further evident by his response:

All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! wrote:Sufjan to be covered by CCM/Worship band on upcoming album

nicolerork wrote:How have we let the Church get to this point? We have artists expressing themselves and praising God. Ok. Fine. And then these same artists sell thousands of albums, charge fans money to come "worship" with them, charge money for fans to get into their fanclub and meet them, sell merchandise in the back of churches, and now possess a heck of a lot more money than they need. Sounds very Christian to me. Didn't Jesus cast the moneychangers OUT of the temple? Oh, but we sure did find a way to bring them back in. And it all seems legal, doesn't it? With any industry comes corporate greed. We've commercialized Christianity. Congrats, everyone. Now go buy cds and self-help books at the local Christian bookstore.

What is Christianity? That's for you to figure out. Think good and hard about it. And then think about this Christian Music Industry. Is it fulfilling the requirements? Is it reaching out to those who don't know Christ? No. Because these acts label themselves as "Christian", nobody but Christians come in to listen to them. They can't reach out, not when they're isolating themselves like this. So when these Christians artists form bands and make good music and DON'T label it as Christian, it's a good thing. They're not betraying their faith, they're not disrespecting the Church, they're taking the Gospel where it might not have gone otherwise.

Placide wrote:To me, an artist labelled into a certain religion is not appealing at all. I don't want to be preached to when listening to music, I like to make my own interpretation of it. You can write songs about spirituality without it being propaganda and Sufjan is a good example of that.

David Crowder wrote:this has been an absolute joy to read. of course there were tears involved. i mean, i used to feel ok about myself in general and now it has been reduced to mere conjecture, but this thread is truly an enlightening and enjoyable read so far. i should explain and introduce myself perhaps. i have been a frequent “guest” of the forum since it’s beginnings (which means i was able to peruse content from a safe and impartial distance as a lover of information and sufjan’s musical offerings without any of the ‘members only’ privileges.) i would observe the modest ‘current users’ indicator at the bottom of the front page and see my diminutive number registering along with the one or two other ‘guests’ that seemed to have had the same, concurrent, allgoodnaysayers perusing design, and i would feel bound to them by the exclusivity of our ‘guest’ status. and i would read and read, always safe, always with distance. and then here, suddenly, unexpected, there is fire on your breath. distance suddenly is not possible. and so i lean in. to feel the fire on my skin and in my eyes and i taste myself charring. i meant no harm and yet harm is extended. i regret to have birthed things that churn in you in such an unpleasant manner. i am a simple fellow who happens to have come to a belief in the things that jesus christ espoused; you know, love for god and each other and all. i am a part of a small group of people, here in the middle of texas, mostly college students, whom it has become my responsibility to create and find art that expresses and articulates our particular experiences of faith; to somehow find words and sounds that say what it means to be human in relationship with the divine while stuck here on this desperate spot of earth. the art that i must gather is for the simple purpose, of addressing our maker. to offer words of belief and affection. words of doubt and pain. words that most often are inadequate and fail to encompass the goodness that we have found or that has found us. i happened to have been quite moved by this particular sufjan offering while a close friend of mine was dying with cancer. sufjan's words expressed the doubt and fear we held. i think a lot of it had to do with the fact that somehow there was hope in his address of god - "o god where are you now?". i mean if the absent god wasn’t really anywhere to be found, what’s the point in asking where he is? in the question is the answer. and in the questioning even, hope. i simply wanted others to experience the same hope, born from such a desperate place of questioning that i had found in sufjan’s simple words. i’m certain our attempt to articulate his song will fail in many ways and for this i apologize. i know how meaningful art can become, it interprets for us what it means to be alive, what our present condition is and this becomes personal and ownership transfers. of course this is what i love about music most and so i offer my apologies for those that will be offended. it is my intent only to expose sufjan’s art to many who would not be aware of it. i find it intelligent, full of all that is life. pain is present. joy is present. the culture that most of this thread seems to be addressing is unaware that art born of faith can bare such burdens and i think sufjan’s presence would perhaps be a help in expanding the christian community’s ideas about what is appropriate - what possibilities exist. it is worth that for me, despite the harm it brings to you. i too feel many of the sentiments that have been verbalized in this thread and i find myself right in the middle of things, able to exert some amount of effort in adjusting course. i don’t fancy myself being adequately able to change everything that is broken but i do have the aspirations that some small number of christian-cultural, self-marginalized individuals (referencing tragically harmful speech givers) will spot sufjan’s name in the fine print of the credits, track down his music, give a listen, and become, to some extent, dissatisfied with their previous mound of consumption. oh by the way i have currently an advance copy of our latest recording sitting on my table here in my kitchen, to be mailed to heather one of the goodnaysayer site keepers tomorrow. so i trust that heather will give us all a good naysaying here in short time. i would expect nothing less, being here now, leaning in, a fellow naysayer such as you, with fire in my face and charring on my tongue. my apologies for my tamperings and my gratitude for your insightfulness.
david crowder

David Crowder = tres cool

In an interview at Delusions of Adequacy, Sufjan Stevens wrote:Well, faith is art: the art of taking a big risk, I suppose — the art of making a big mistake and suffering the consequences. But logistically I suppose my process of making art is driven less by abstractions of faith or politics and more by practical theory: composition and balance and color. On an aesthetic level, faith and art are a dangerous match. Today, they can quickly lead to devotional artifice or didactic cr*p. This would summarize the Christian publishing world or the Christian music industry. If you are an artist of faith (a Methodist or a Jew), then you have the responsibility to manage the principles of your faith wisely lest they be reduced to stereotype, which is patronizing to the church and to the world, and, perhaps, to God. Consider what John Zorn has done for Jewish music. It’s not so much that faith influences us as it lives in us. In every circumstance (giving a speech or tying my shoes), I am living and moving and being. This absolves me from ever making the embarrassing effort to gratify God (and the church) by imposing religious content on anything I do. I mean, I’ve written songs about stalkers. Is that any less religious than a song about an ordained pastor? No way.

I feel like people, Americans in particular, like to create a singular archetype of religions and make grand summaries about cultures and societies. Islam is a perfect example of this. People have a tendency to misinterpret Islam and stereotype its beliefs based on the actions of a handful of violent individuals. It's a very beautiful religion that gets cast off because of the pigeonholes created for it within our culture.

What I believe and what I write comes from an intense love for mankind and if people want to interpret that another way there's nothing I can do to stop them. I feel like there are two facets to differentiate between: Christianity, which is a personal belief and a love; and Christendom, which unfortunately is all some people think about when they think about Christianity. Christendom is the ugly, hateful, corporate institution that aligns itself with Christianity. I feel like I constantly have to resolve myself between what I believe and this deadly institutional entity. I feel no affiliation with what they push - what they believe - and I hope I can make that distinction in my music. But I'm just singer storyteller with a small voice really.

Switchfoot's Jon Foreman wrote:It's 2:30am in Philly. We've been hitting it hard latelyÂ… very hard! The road is long and worthy of resting for. But I just read a question worthy of response. First off, thank you for your compliments. I would love to speak to all of you in person as I've had some great conversations so far this tour and look forward to many more. To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions:

Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series?

Are Bach's sonata's Christian?

What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset?

There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more "Christian" than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God's sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music.

No. Christ didn't come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions

My life will be judged by my obedience not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We're not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we're trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: "Jesus Christ" is no more or less "Christian" than an instrumental piece. (I've heard lot's of people say jesus christ and they weren't talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn't die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience.

We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge "brothers" who have a different calling and thank you for reading.

In Stevens' songs pursue divine, the Washington Post wrote:Mr. Stevens' music is often soaked in the same brooding desperation felt in Bright Eyes or Radiohead tunes. Yet Mr. Stevens is distinctly different for one reason -- his music is rooted in postmodern angst but takes the listener outside that angst to look beyond themselves.

Mr. Stevens has rejected a focus on the world inside himself and writes instead about a world around him that is alive with divinity.

Some wish he would go further. David Crowder, one of the edgier Christian musicians writing praise and worship albums, said he thinks that Mr. Stevens has declined to explain his songs because he is "probably trying to gain distance between himself and the visible Christian culture."

Mr. Crowder, whose new album "A Collision," will be released on Tuesday, said that many younger people perceive Christians in the media as being "more about dogma than about dialogue."

However, said Mr. Crowder, 32, "I don't necessarily agree with Sufjan's elusiveness, simply because of the platform he's been given and because I can tell he's a really intellectual fella who could articulate our faith in a beautiful way."

Hear a clip of this song

All Good Naysayers = Speakup! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!

David = Patch


Unread postby So_Says_I » Sat Oct 29, 2005 8:20 am

Fantastic post. I feel a little guilty saying that because I was quoted up there a few times, but oh well.

There's just something about the Christian Music Industry that puts a bad taste in my mouth. I can't quite put my finger on it...well, I can, but that was just a figure of speech. Anyhow, the farthest I'll go with explicitly Christian music are my Lutheran brethren Lost & Found. Sufjan covers just about everything else and does more good for me than the entire bulk of CCM.

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