At Stuff Christians Like, guest blogger Paul Angone discusses the tendency among many Christians to attempt to claim "secular" musicians as belonging to the Christian fold:
Jon Acuff already wrote about arguing about the faith of U2, but the list of Secular-Christian, Christian musicians is longer than the Levitical laws. Such reputable artists include Collective Soul, OneRepublic, Justin Bieber, Jessica Simpson, Regina Spektor, The Fray, Miley Cyrus, Jewel – the list holds no prejudice to genre or style. If Google says they’re Christian, then it must be so.
Creed was driving the train for years with star-struck Christians climbing aboard — Five Iron Frenzy t-shirts quickly being replaced by Scott Stapp looking pensively towards the sky with arms wide open.
Mumford and Sons was the main addition to the list from 2011. Songs like “Awake My Soul” and “Sigh No More” leading countless people to the Lord, of this we are sure. Sure “Little Lion Man” and its chorus of F-bombs confused the equation a bit. But those F-bombs were nothing more than explosions of authentic-emotional-truth. Nothing more. And when in doubt, we’ll just turn that song down in the office. Problem solved.
He offers several reasons why this is done, partly to aid in evangelism, partly to offer a guilt free listening experience, and partly to be able to come across to the world at large as "cool."
Although I don't relate to music or society the way many evangelicals do, I have to admit that there is a part of me that likes to discover that my favorite bands and I share a religious worldview. It's never really bothered me if they don't. I mean, I listen to some of the most profane, vulgar, and anti-religious music without batting an eyelash or thinking that it matters much in terms of my faith. But when I discover that a band or a musician is "Christian" without belonging to the "Christian music" genre, I feel both glad to have that connection and pleased that my sense of good taste doesn't create a conflict between my religious beliefs and my preferred music. Given much of the dreck that passes for Christian music, I'm always happy to know that there is music that I can connect to thematically that doesn't require me to suffer through the horror of CCM.
Since I have the Mountain Goats in regular rotation in iTunes, I'm always struck by the Biblical and theological literacy of John Darnielle's writing, but from everything I've been able to gather, his relationship with religion is deeply ambivalent. At times he has identified himself as an atheist, and at other times a Christian, but always in either case with a foot in the other camp. I find this comforting, insofar as I often feel like I too have a foot in both camps, even though I am quite clearly by default and by intention a Christian.
At the end of the day, I think the desire to share a link of this kind with people we respect or admire is probably at least partly rooted in a degree of insecurity -- the suspicion that we really aren't as plugged into something real or meaningful as we think we are. Or perhaps its the feeling of being validated by the connection, the idea that despite our doubts, our shared worldview testifies that we are on to something true. And again, perhaps its the desire to feel like we have something worthwhile, and its recognition by "the world" enables us to continue to insist on its worth.
Whether the people we want to insist on including in our club actually want to be included of course, is another matter.