by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

Based on the material you've been showcasing, "Can church be hip?" is not the question you're actually exploring. Those songs may make reference to Christian concepts or images, but they are lyrics; they display an intimate, personal, unique and emotionally charged state of mind, and are clearly intended for performance or for private listening as recordings.  They are manifestly not appropriate for "church" in any sense that I as a lifelong churchgoer would recognize.  They are not songs for worship - communal in nature and addressed to God or expressing the community's universal understanding of God or the faith story.

I could see these pieces in a "Christian coffeehouse."  But if the "hip" emergent church or the megachurches have begun using this sort of material for "worship," then they have departed even further than I realized from thousands of years of Judeo-Christian tradition for gathered celebration and supplication.  And in that case, the answer to your question would be, it may be hip, it may be Christian, but it's not church, because it's not worship, any more than listening to a reading of John Donne's or T.S. Eliot's lyrics - admirable Christian poetry - would be worship.

True, the thread has veered a bit from the original post, but Dish threads always have a life of their own. And without getting into a semantic debate about what constitutes "church" and "worship," I think the central theme of "religion and credible indie music are not mutually exclusive" holds. Plus, the thread is a good excuse to air great music. Another writes:

The conflation of Christian themed songs with a supposedly hip "Church" is ignorant of music history. In fact, it gives evidence that the Church struggles to be hip. Music has never had a problem being hip, and never shied from referencing religion, God, etc.  Nick Cave? Black Sabbath? Is that all people can come up with? For Christ's sake, classic Soul is mid-century black Gospel music with a couple of words changed. The white, European Church has the issue, not musicians and songwriters. (BTW, Ozzy didn't write "Beyond Forever," Tony Iommi did. Do your "hip" readers think the band is called Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones?)

I made the Ozzy reference regarding the lyrics because of his famously incomprehensible voice, not because he wrote them. Also, the dozen or so artists that have been featured so far are just a fraction of the submissions that I am still sorting through; expect many more, and more obscure ones. Another adds:

Sabbath guitar hero (and really, band leader) Tony Iommi is on record saying that he was worn a crucifix and had a large crucifix placed on stage for every concert Black Sabbath ever performed. He is Italian-Catholic and was taught by his superstitious grandma to be not play with dark forces without the vital protection.

Another:

The Velvet Underground song "Jesus" is one of my favorite Christian songs. And you can't get much hipper than the Velvet Underground.

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