There was an interesting segment today on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on the nature of the Christian Music Industry (CCM). I wasn’t able to listen to the whole segment, but I was able to catch most of an interview with Jay Howard, one of the co-authors of a book titled “Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music.”
In this book, Howard makes the case that there are actually three groups that predominate in CCM. The first group is identified as “separationists,” persons who see themselves as ministers or musical missionaries. These persons view culture as evil and are focused on conversion from culture into a Christian subculture, and/or building up believers through worship. Petra was given as an example of this group, as was Rez Band from the ’70’s.
The second group is called Integationalists. These folks identify as entertainers and don’t believe that culture is evil, but that Christians have a responsibility to provide a wholesome alternative to the excesses of culture. Amy Grant and D.C. Talk were listed as falling into this category.
The third group were what Howard called “Transformationalists.” These folks believe that the act of creation itself connects the artist with the task of co-creating with God, that simply being creative is Christian. These folks are often brutally honest in their writing, not tying up loose ends. The Seventy Sevens were lifted up as an example of this trend.
It would be easy to make the jump to saying that the last group is most reflective of postmodernism. But to do so is too easy. For one thing, the categories aren’t always as uniform as they sound. In example, which Amy Grant are you talking about — the 18 year old that used to hang out with us at Koinonia or the 43 year old who has had a bunch of kids and lived through a divorce? Howard admitted that Glen Kaiser of the Rez Band regretted some of the strident tones of the band in the 1970’s and felt more in tune with the transformationalists now.
And then again, where does one place U2, or any of the other groups that fall outside of CCM but are probably just as important (if not more so) in influencing emerging culture? Likewise, what does one do with Bob Bennett, a guy my age who was a transformationalist before we had that name but who can’t keep a record deal because of his body size and the fact that his writing doesn’t fit into the predetermined market niches?