I don’t like Contemporary Christian Music. I think this is mostly a knee-jerk reaction against my teenage ALL CHRISTIAN EVERYTHING SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD asshole days, so I am probably throwing some babies out with the bathwater (sorry, babies!). But there is also a little truth to the fact that a lot of CCM is just…not creative. Not technically good. And most importantly to me, they are often too Happy Happy Joy Joy.
I can’t stand a faith that pretends life is good. I can’t stand a faith that refuses to acknowledge domestic violence, addictions, bad moods, and doubt. Unfortunately, most of our worship music is “blissfully” free of our uncomfortable reality. But I want to be uncomfortable! I want the songs I sing to God to be messy and truthful and desperate, because that is how I am.
So even though I don’t like traditional worship music, I DO love me some songs about faith. Here are a few of my favorites.
1| “Jesus, Jesus” by Noah Gundersen
This is one of my ALL TIME FAVORITE SONGS EVER. I wrote a whole blog post about the time I saw him in concert and he changed up the last verse of this song and made it EVEN BETTER, but the track itself is phenomenal. I love me some people cussing and doubting and crying out to God, hoping that life is something better than it seems.
Jesus, Jesus, there are those that say they love you
But they have treated me so goddamn mean
And I know you said ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’
But sometimes I think they do
And I think about you
If all the heathens burn in hell, do all their children burn as well?
What about the Muslims and the gays and the unwed mothers?
What about me and all my friends?
Are we all sinners if we sin?
Does it even matter in the end if we’re unhappy?
2| “In Memoriam” by The Oh Hello’s
Their entire album Through the Deep, Dark Valley is AMAZING and more spiritually restorative than every WOW CD ever released. The beauty of this song in particular is in the last line of each verse, which when taken all together is a PERFECT description of the gospel.
But you are far too beautiful to love me
And I think I’m far too poor for you to want me
And yet you’re far too beautiful to leave me
3| “The Child With the Star on His Head” by Sufjan Stevens
This is technically a Christmas song, but WHO CARES. I love it to pieces. Sufjan does such a good job of infusing his mystical songs with boring reality (“the trust we put in things/In small ideas, in engineering/The world of sports and second best”), which makes it all the more relatable and heart-stirring.
Why crawl around in the snow
When you know I am right here
Waiting for you to expect something more?
For I am warm, I am calling you close to my table
Where I have made us a feast
For the year of troubles, they have gone
The winter brings a Christmas song
4| Paul Newman vs. the Demons by The Avett Brothers
Artistically, this song is AMAZEBALLS. It’s all about reliving the past, so it is embarrassing how long it took me to understand why they “weirdly” started the song over again even after it seemed it had finished. Whoops! I love this song because there’s no resolution – this is the moment of desperation where there seems to be no way out, and I need my worship songs to be here too.
You may have to drag me away from my demons
Kicking and screaming
It’s been so long now, I’ve been with them
Don’t know where they stop and I begin
5| Farther Along by Josh Garrels
I first heard this in an eschatology class at seminary, and it quickly latched itself to my brain. It is one of the best hope-infused songs that still acknowledges the awfulness of life. It would fit into the book of Psalms very well.
Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves em’ both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by
Those are five of my favorite “worship” songs!
What do you think and how do you feel about Contemporary Christian Music?
What are some of your favorite songs that express your faith and worship in a way you relate to?