These days, I happily listen to Christian radio. This may seem odd since I don’t have a church I regularly attend and am not 100% sure the beliefs I hold at this point count as Christian. Furthermore, when I was into a religion, I hardly ever listened to Christian music. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew there was religious music outside of church hymns until I went to college. It was there I made friends with a self-proclaimed pagan, the first to raise my awareness of Christian music.
I was reflecting on this the other week as I drove with the boyfriend listening to Christian radio. My family is so intense about their religion. Why on earth aren’t they listening to Christian music? Other friends who were obsessed with their religion hardly listened to anything else. I do remember hearing about Mercy Me and Barlow Girls, but I never heard them on pop or country radio, so their music was still a mystery to me.
As I made my way through high school, discussing ideas, beliefs and futures with my friends, developing further understanding of other cultures and figuring out where I fit in it all, I became to solidify my core ideas on life. While I would continue to be Catholic for years to come, it was here that the first cracks started to show. I was fooling myself into thinking I could believe in things Catholics didn’t, disagree on the things Catholics did believe in and still be Catholic.
On college went, where I met my aforementioned pagan friend. She was a fan of a band called Skillet. While I knew Christian music existed at this point, Skillet was not what I expected. They had a rock sound that matched what I was currently listening to on the radio and a great message in their songs.
If you’re wondering why a pagan would listen to Christian music, it’s because they kept their lyrics vague. one of her favorite songs was Better Than Drugs. The words about being better than drugs and love being like wine were meant to describe the love of God, but never specifically saying that, she choose to listen to the music with a different perspective. The song could relate to the love she shared with her fiance or her family.
This friend was not the only one interested in this music, and my collection soon grew. I was at a point where I was trying to justify being a part of a religion I didn’t believe in. My argument was that I could change the religion. It would be slow, but maybe my influence would help.
The cracks in the hold organized religion had on me broken when I studied abroad in Northern Ireland. It seemed crazy to me that Catholics in this day and age still used their religion as a reason to hate. The whole area was different. This was not the universal church I thought it was. I didn’t want to be associated with a religion like this. Just like that, everything piled in that idea. I didn’t want to be associated with a religion that didn’t have gender equality or marriage equality. I didn’t want to be a part of a community that looked down on people who believed differently or who did something ‘sinful.’
I cleared my music collection of the Christian music that suddenly felt tainted and went on my merry way. The only thing I kept was Skillet, which – religious or otherwise – I couldn’t help but enjoy.
This brings us to 2014. Am I listening to Christian music today?
My boyfriend has a long trek to work. He found listening to the local Christian radio station made him happier and more at peace during his commute. Whenever I drive with him, that’s the radio station we listen to. My interests in the music has grown again, and I even went so far as to embed a video from Barlow Girls as my musical obsession last week.
Maybe it’s odd for two people who don’t practice any organized religion to have such an interest in Christian music, but here we are. My boyfriend always notes how they share positive stories and how the music makes him feel happy. What more could you ask from a radio station? I admit, I intended to hear something about those heathens trying to pass equal marriage and popping contraception like candy, but those things are never mentioned. Specific religions are never mentioned. By far, the only thing they discuss are positive stories.
Sometimes, I listen and wonder if my interpretation of a song is the same as another’s. How many people, who dislike each other because their religions don’t agree, listen and enjoy the same Christian message in these songs? Or are they getting a different message? I can’t imagine someone who participates in organized religion thinks the same thing I do when I listen to Skillet’s ‘My Religion.’
Are you surprised people who aren’t religious actively listen to religious music? Do you? What do you think of Christian music? Does it make people more fundamental in their beliefs or more accepting?