Christians making music for the many rather than the few

Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil’s Music
Author: Mark Joseph
Publisher: BP Books (
Pages: 325

If you have ever wrestled with God, others or yourself about music, Rock Gets Religion by Mark Joseph is helpful. Even if you don’t agree with the author, he covers the main issues.

At the Crossroads by Charlie Peacock and Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner were like forerunners for this volume, which expertly chronicles progress in the visions contained in those earlier works. Music by Christians in the marketplace has come a long ways since the Jesus music era beginning in the late 60s, and the story is still being written. This remarkable volume brings readers up to date and shows where it is heading.

Part of my response is marvel as in “Look What God is Doing” (Scott Wesley Brown):

Look what God is doing
All across the land
See His Spirit moving
Feel His mighty hand

God’s hand may be seen in all of this. I’m glad that followers of Christ are being heard in popular music. Those who might look down on this need to read this with an open mind.

Even though I have followed this subject by reading whatever I could find, I didn’t realize until now just how many Christians are in mainstream music. In my other life as a mild-mannered office worker for a big box retailer, I even hear them on the piped-in music. Most people probably don’t even realize it as they may not be paying attention to the words, but the message is there.

Just the other day I heard Blanca singing on “Different Drum,”

So let’s break the mold
Go off the wall
Be in the world, but not of it

This infiltration has become so pervasive that one book cannot tell the whole story. Sufjan Stevens is one artist that I would have liked to have seen included in the profiles. Despite any omissions, I’m amazed by the many artists, a number of them new to me, others ones I recognize, featured here.

This tells their stories. Many of whom them completely bypassed the Christian music industry and experienced some level of notoriety in the world at large. Something only dreamed about in the past is now a reality.

This has been achieved with varying degrees of integrity and success. The author is careful to chronicle failure along with victories. Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus are two of the cautionary tales. Both had a religious upbringing; both shed early confines when they grew older. In each of these two cases, readers not only get their own words but also the perspective of their parents.

If Peacock and Briner supplied the theology and vision, this is rich in illustration. The stories are well-written, insightful and inspiring. It’s hard to put down.

A slight weakness is that it becomes a little repetitive. Like many music critics the author has an unfavorable view of contemporary Christian music (CCM). The criticisms are not unwarranted and have been well-documented in a multitude of sources. I would have preferred fewer reminders of the negative aspects of CCM. They detract from the otherwise excellent analysis. Others, however, may appreciate his point of view.

Probably every artist dreams of being heard by as many people as possible. It’s a valid reason for avoiding the CCM label. However, if some feel they should primarily be making music for other Christians, they should not be judged for not having a wider audience. The Holy Spirit gives different gifts; not everyone has the same ministry. Some callings are more oriented to the Church.

Some artists who happen to be Christian want their music to be accessible more broadly. They should not be judged as worldly for operating in a different sphere. Personal convictions don’t need to be imposed on others. Let everyone be persuaded in their own mind.

This is one of the best and most current resources available on the sometimes tumultuous intersection of faith and music.

It even gave me the opportunity to catch a glimpse of a past favorite’s faith. Among the albums that were played frequently at one friend’s house back in High School was Pretties for You, an early release on Bizarre Records, Frank Zappa’s label. I never imagined back then that my connection to that artist would involve more than music. He writes the foreword for this book. It was a delight to start with Alice Cooper’s brief thoughts. The presence of Christians in popular music is more widespread than many may realize. “Rock” now defies easy categorization.

Michael Dalton