Christian Bands in the Mainstream can be Dangerous

by: Reggie Edwards

It didn’t used to happen. It used to be rare. Nowadays, however, it’s becoming more and more common to see Christian bands crossing over into the mainstream music market.

There used to be a very select few Christian artists who played to both crowds. Relient K, Switchfoot and P.O.D. were once some of the only ones to cross over.

Now, however, it is very normal to turn on the radio or attend a rock festival and see or hear a Christian rock band.

Bands like Skillet, As I Lay Dying, Norma Jean and RED are among the many Christian artists who have made the jump to mainstream music.

RED

Image taken by Reggie Edwards

In fact, Skillet and RED have played music festivals with Godsmack, Rob Zombie, Three Days Grace and other bands in the last two years.

This isn’t a new event and there can be great outcomes from this happening.

Many people may remember Stryper crossing over to the mainstream market in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Stryper’s lyrics were heavily Christian (i.e. “To Hell with the Devil” and “In God We Trust”) and they were very open about what they stood for. Their album covers all had “Isaiah 53:5” on them, they handed out Stryper-decked-out Bibles at their shows and they always had a salvation message at their shows too.

Somewhere along the line they entered the mainstream market and became very popular with MTV and secular music fans. Skillet reminds me of them a lot.

When a Christian band crosses over, they are putting themselves straight into the battle lines. Touring and playing with secular bands gives these bands an opportunity to share the Gospel with an entire community of rockers that may not have had a chance to hear it.

If a band stays strong in their faith, crossing over can be a very good thing and their music can be an extremely powerful tool that can be used to bring multitudes of people to know Christ.

Now, there’s a downside to this happening too.

Often times, unfortunately, a band can lose their faith or become weak in their message when they cross over.

In the 90’s, Stryper signed with a new record label which demanded they take “Isaiah 53:5” off their album cover for the upcoming “Against The Law” record.

That record had virtually no Christian lyrics whatsoever, they began partying and fighting with each other. Ultimately they lost their faith and broke up.

It wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that they got back together and now they are stronger than ever.

POD Satelite

Image courtesy of Reggie Edwards

Relient K and P.O.D. both at one point said they did not want to be classified as a Christian band and even Evanescence originally came out as a Christian band and then went back on that.

Finally, Skillet, even though they have not lost their faith or stopped performing at Christian festivals, releasing Christian music or playing Christian shows with Christian bands and are very open about their faith, seem to have still weakened a little bit.

Skillet’s early music was heavily-Christian, their lyrics filled with Christ-filled metaphors and cries of Christian love.

“Locked in a Cage” talks about wanting to rest in Christ’s arms so closely that it feels like being locked in a cage, “Kill Me, Heal Me” talks about wanting to die to Christ only to be renewed in his mercy and grace and “Best Kept Secret” talks about God being put on the down-low in our modern world but that even when people have such a hard time finding him, they did find him, finding out the best-kept secret in the world.

Now, although their latest album “Awake” and its predecessor, “Comatose,” are still prominently Christian, their message appears to have gotten more watered down.

Both albums are amazing and very uplifting, but they contain more mainstream-influenced songs.

“Comatose” contains songs like “Those Nights,” “Yours to Hold,” “The Older I Get” and “The Last Night,” though very positive and good songs are not Christ-based songs, or at least they don’t sound like it. They seem to be more mainstream-influenced.

Ignite Fest 2011

Image courtesy of Reggie Edwards

“Awake,” their most recent album and biggest success to date has a lot of really good songs but a few songs that aren’t necessarily Christian-based and one that doesn’t even sound completely original.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the album and it played a big role in me becoming a Christian, growing in my faith and strengthening my walk. However “Monster” seems like an exact copy of “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace. I’m not accusing Skillet of plagiarizing that song at all. It just has a lot of similarities.

“Lucy” is more of a love song written to a past friend or girlfriend who died and “Should’ve When You Could’ve” seems to be more of a breakup song about getting over a break up than a Christian song.

Is the album good? Absolutely. Are there still some strong Christian references and strong Christian lyrics? Definitely.

Songs like “Comatose,” “Awake and Alive” and “Better than Drugs” are prominent Christian songs and have been the anthem of many born-again Christians’ lives.

But as a spectator and somebody looking and seeing them going mainstream and this happening right as it happens, some red flags have gone up to me.

I know they are strong in their faith and I know there is a very small chance of them going down the same path as other bands have, but sometimes it can be worrisome for a Christian band to go mainstream.