The Question Behind the Question

When I put together my last collection of Christian music faves, I wasn’t sure about some of the artists I listed. I mean, I loved their music and all, but I wondered if a few of them really counted as Christian bands.

So I turned to Google for answers. I kind of hate to admit that, but it’s what I did. And as it turns out, I wasn’t the first to ask Google this question. All I had to do was type Is [band name] into the search bar, and there were four suggestions for four different ways to ask if these guys were a Christian band.

Apparently, this isn’t a rare search on Google, no matter which band you plug in. You can hop on there, type the word is, followed by a band name, and you’d be surprised what bands people apparently think might possibly be Christians. A fun game to play is to try to come up with the most obviously not-Christian band you can while still getting Google to suggest asking if they’re a Christian band. My high score is Sevendust.

For the longest time, my response to the “Are they a Christian band?” question was the trusty battle cry of many other Christians: “Of course not. Bands aren’t Christians. People are Christians.” It’s a fun answer to keep in your back pocket. It’s slightly witty, slightly deep, and it echoes a quote from the controversial-yet-hip Rob Bell, which goes, “Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective.”

It’s true. Music can’t be Christian. Jesus didn’t die for your Spotify playlist.

But as I sat there on Google, ashamed to be asking the same question I’d mocked for years, I realized something. When people ask if someone is a Christian band, they’re not asking about their discography’s relationship with Jesus. There’s a question behind the question. And the question behind the question is different for a lot of people. When I asked it, I wanted to know if someone would show up in the comments and say “Um, those guys definitely aren’t a Christian band. Don’t you know anything?”

That’s a really weird definition for Christian music.

So all this brings us to a new question. What do people really want to know when they ask “Are they a Christian band?” In my limited experience, there are a few possibilities.

It’s been an interesting journey going through these questions. When I started writing this blog, I had planned to address what I thought were some of the most popular questions and then tear them down one by one with blazing, sarcastic wit. It was going to be awesome, and you’d leave thinking how cool and smart and world-wise I was. But while I still believe these questions do a poor job of classifying music, the more I dug into them, the more I realized they can be helpful. They say a lot about the weird relationship between Christians and music, and they can even help frame the way we consume art in general.

I’ll be spending the next few weeks writing about a few of these questions. I’ll be writing mostly from the perspective of Christian music, because that’s the realm I’m most familiar with, but I think a lot of these points will also transfer over to Christian books, movies, visual art, and any other medium that folks like to put in the Christian box.

So we’ll chat next week. I’m really excited and nervous about the coming weeks, and I’d love to get your feedback as this series progresses.

In the meantime, what is your question behind the question? What do you feel is the most common question behind the question for others?

Read more in the series:

Question 1: Was this music made specifically for Christians?
Question 2: Will this music benefit my relationship with God?
Question 3: Is this music safe?


7 thoughts on “The Question Behind the Question

  1. If I ask that about a band, my question behind the question is sometimes “are the members Christian and do they write music that reflects their relationship with Christ?”, but more often it’s, “should I fill my mind with their lyrics?”
    (NOT to say that non-Christian lyrics can’t be good, or that the only music worth listening to is Christian music, but words affect me deeply, so I know I need to be choosy for my own music diet.)

    • Definitely a great point. I’ll touch on this a bit more in the future blogs, but asking “should I fill my mind with these lyrics” is just as valid a question to ask of some worship bands. Sometimes, we give guys a free pass and let some shaky theology sneak in.

  2. My main question would be “Do their lyrics honor or defame the Lord Jesus Christ?” The reason for that question is that I believe if the band members are Christians, I don’t think they should or could sing lyrics that dishonor Christ. But I, like you, am also concerned about ‘shaky theology’ because there is too much of that even in our ‘Christian world’. There is a good deal of Biblical illiteracy today, and I am concerned when so-called Christian media (music, books, movies, TV, etc.) somehow seems to validate it.

  3. Pingback: The Question Behind the Question: Part 1 | Taylor Hohulin

  4. Pingback: The Question Behind the Question: Part 2 | Taylor Hohulin

  5. Pingback: The Question Behind the Question: Part 3 | Taylor Hohulin

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