Is worship music dishonest?
The man bobbing his head along to my unreleased demo on the fuzzy screen opposite was one of my musical heros.
As I stared at my feet awaiting the final verdict, his musical credentials paraded across my mind : for one, he is a main co-writer for A-listers like Ed Sheeran.
He popped off the headphones, and nodded in a way that seemed positive.
“Yeah I can totally see where you’re going with that. And your voice sounds amazing Chris!"
So far so good.
And then I saw a flicker of brief hesitation. Uh oh.
“I have no doubt it’ll work for your audience…but personally I just can’t look past the lyrics. All this Christian-ese. It just comes across so dishonest. But that’s the genre you’re in I guess…”
It was a long time since I'd had professional feedback on a song from outside the Christian “bubble” and it stung a little bit.
Because I knew he was right.
Despite honesty being one of the defining character traits we expect from Christians; our songs are full of lies. Well-meaning lies - but dishonesty nonetheless.
As AW Tozer said, "Christians don't tell lies they just go to church and sing them."
The silliest, and most hilarious lies are contained in the songs of the 90s, in which congregations proclaimed “I will dance” multiple times throughout a service, all while remaining perfectly and uniformly stationary!
But the more significant lies occur in our efforts to be “theologically sound”. We tie up our struggles in a bow. Everything has a rom-com style happy ending. We might be hurting in verse one but by the chorus everything is fine again.
We feign total confidence in our future when the reality is we live lives full of doubt. And faith. And whatever the middle ground is. But it’s rarely as tidy as our songs make it seem.
We have a tendency to smooth away the rough edges, to protect ourselves from the angular realities of life.
But what if we’re doing ourselves a disservice?
The legendary songwriter I met this week gave some advice: “One day a week I want you to write songs that have nothing to do with being a Christian. Just write about what’s happening in your real life. The real stuff you’re passionate about. And I guarantee you’ll write the best “God song” of your life."
What if as Christian creators we had the radical faith to believe that God wants to use the unvarnished content of our actual day to day, rather than some theologically pruned hymn to speak to the world?
Maybe our songs would reach a little further than the walls of our churches. Maybe we would learn to see God from new and unexplored vantage points.
At least we couldn’t be accused of being less honest than secular pop music.