Is that song Christian?

Christians are musical archeologists. When we hear a new song that we like, we like to dig in into the lyrics to ascertain if it may or may not be Christian.

We search through metaphors, brushing off the dust of the melody to see if we can hear a glimmer of “I love Jesus” somewhere in there.

Mumford & Sons is an obvious example. U2 doesn’t count because Bono has clearly and explicitly spelled out the nature of his faith in Christ. (Let’s see if we can start a fight with that sentence!) But I will never forget the funniest time I played the “Christian song game” while waiting for church to begin.

One Sunday, my wife and I were at church sitting in our seats as the service slowly started.  As people walked to their seats, they played a song over the speakers by the band, Our Lady Peace. They’re not a Christian band, but their song, “Somewhere Out There” kind of sounds like a God song. I mean this part does:

 Down here in the atmosphere, garbage and city lights, you gotta save your tired soul, you gotta save our lives.

That’s great. We’re down, which means you’re UP in heaven. And garbage could mean another word for sin. But then, in the middle of church, with thousands of other people, I hear the singer say this:

Hope you remember me, When youre homesick and need a change. I miss your purple hair,

OK, I think to myself, that’s a little weird. I’m not sure Jesus had purple hair but you know, when the sun is setting just right over the Dead Sea maybe it was kind of purple. The old testament mentions pomegranates a lot. Maybe they died their hair. I was willing to let that one go until the next line:

I miss the way you taste.

I had a hard time tying that directly to Jesus or God. End scene.

Question:
Have you ever wondered if a song is Christian? Which song?

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Comments

  1. says

    When I first became a Christian, someone suggested I do this, weigh the potential worship value of my fav popular songs so when I cleaned my house (like that’s happening often…not), I could double task by worshiping God while cleaning my house. The song was Summer Loving. I became a Christian in the summer. Let’s just say this song did not pass the potential-worship-song-screening-test.

  2. Brent says

    I know the comments are usually funny, but seriously — check out “The Other Side of Me” by Bret Michaels. I’m certain he didn’t write it with a Christian perspective, but I can’t help hearing it with one.

      • says

        Actually, as silly as it is, I think that “Yellow” by Coldplay is about God declaring His love to me. Like, think about it! It’s about intimate and beautiful love. And how the one the singer loves is so beautiful and precious. And when he says “For you I’d bleed myself dry” it’s pretty obvious.

        And I know, Chris Martin allegedly wrote the song about hep-c or his favorite sweater. So my theory is really far-fetched… And/or stupid.

      • caitlin.brantley. says

        All I can say. Coldblooded generation. Save yourselves from this Coldblooded generation. #sarcasm

  3. heatherhobbit says

    I do not have a specific song in mind right now but I have found a lot of music that could be taken as a worship song. For the longest time I would not buy or keep any music that was not made by a “Christian Band”. It was far too long before I realized how silly that was and that I was missing out on a lot of great music. I buy music that I enjoy now, the only criteria is that the lyrics are clean both in the words themselves and the meaning behind it.
    Also Jon Foreman from Switchfoot had a great response to this very topic. I hope this works (I am not very good at posting links!) http://ctkblog.com/2013/12/05/why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs/

  4. Matt says

    The Bible is pretty clear about what qualifies as worship of God.

    I dare say that your church probably doesn’t understand this if they’re playing Coldplay, U2, Our Lady Peace, or any other rock/pop/alternative band out there… :-(

    • says

      How about Yaweh or better yet 40 (directly from Psalm 40) by U2? Those are just two examples of songs clearly God centered by the band.

      Their are plenty others by them that don’t belong in the church, but that shouldn’t discount the ones that could. I saw U2 live and they ended with 40 and it was the most powerful worship experience I’ve been in. The crowd continued to sing out to God long after he band walked off the stage.

      • lee says

        This is my way of “upvoting” Marti. You always have to be careful of people that start their statements with “The Bible is pretty clear . . . .”

    • spinetingler says

      “The Bible is pretty clear about what qualifies as worship of God.”

      Cymbals. Lots of cymbals.

      So, probably Neil Peart.

  5. says

    On the other side of the scene, my daughter dances and so some of the music the studio selects is a little racy. My 13 year old can discern but I had to explain to the 11 year old that “Are you going to spend the night” was not talking about a slumber party. When the 3 year old sings some of the songs they play, I do the dad veto thing.

  6. says

    I seriously wondered about M&Sons’ first album. Phillip Phillips has some songs that make ya wonder. I think Seryn, the Lumineers. and the Civil Wars all have some songs that make me think, ‘they have been to church a time or two’. (Jon, don’t kill me because I mentioned your fav band. I have stuff Christians like to live for – just sayin’)

  7. Chawn M. Wilson says

    It’s a Christian song obviously written by the younger generation. “Purple hair” refers to the older generation. You know when the light hits their dyed hair just right it looks purple. And the “I miss the way you taste” is the butter scotch candies they try to hand out.

  8. Michael says

    I’ve thought that Metallica’s song “Nothing Else Matters” could easily pass as a Christian song. Just change the one line to ‘My life is yours/I’ll live it your way’

    • Korrine says

      Grew up like that: extremely limited music, literally afraid of God.

      Since leaving my legalistic, fundamentalist roots, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by how many “secular” songs can be interpreted in a worshipful manner.

      So, no thanks. You can keep the god you’re afraid of. I’ll continue to forge a relationship with the One who loves me enough to hide glimpses of Himself everywhere, if only I look hard enough.

  9. Jason says

    While I have heard many secular songs in church, (some hits and misses) the one that always gets me is an actual Christian song where “we will dance with joy, like we are dancing now” in a slightly conservative church where raising your hand is tough for some, let alone actually dancing.

  10. Josh jmoney says

    One Christian(X Rated) song that I chuckle whenever they play it at church and the congregation waits for the climatic ending is Cory Asbury’s “Where I Belong” -(or should I say it’s Solomon’s song. But I digress).

    “So come into your garden and take delight in me”

    ::Ahem:: Can we just peg this one as the Christian “Crash”?

  11. Jason says

    Just this past Sunday, one of our younger dads (he was guest preaching) used T.I.’s (featuring Justin Timberlake) ‘Dead and Gone’ as part of his sermon. Even showed the video. This may not seem like a huge deal to some of you, but I attend an ‘a Capella’ arm of the church. So you can imagine the tense atmosphere T.I. speed style rapping (with JT’s smooth vocals) caused. The sermon was great and his point was even better in that God has and will use whatever he desires to reveal himself to mankind. And that he’s been doing it forever. He’s not going to rely solely on the church to do it, likely because the church likes to keep God behind walls. Anyway…Christian song or no?

  12. rtamhall says

    Desperado by the Eagles. The entire song is a salvation plea except for the card playing section. We ALL know that real christians don’t play cards!

  13. PJ B. says

    “When heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart beats violently inside of my chest….” Can’t stand that line. I imagine a sloppy wet druling baby kiss? My heart beats only because when our baby drules on my face in an attempt to kiss its likely she is also squeezing banana mush into my freshly pressed dress shirt. Cringe…..

    • Michael says

      I think the implication is more along the lines of a reunion that was a long time in coming. Like a soldier returning to his/her family after deployment or something like that.

    • Steven says

      David Crowder sings it (now, at least; I don’t know when a change occurred) as “unforeseen kiss,” and that’s how we’ve been doing it in our church for some time.

      • Stephanie says

        Yes I believe it’s an unforeseen kiss, “my heart turns violently inside of my chest.” That song is quite poetic while somewhat unconventional.

      • Brian says

        The original song was written by John Mark McMillan and include the “sloppy wet kiss” line. David Crowder changed it when they performed the song because they felt a lot of people would be offended by the original lyrics.

        I still did the song in crowders style but I changed the lyrics back to the original. I always thought “unforeseen kiss” conveyed more of a surprise to the imagery, where “sloppy wet kiss” conveyed more reckless abandon (kinda like what Michael said about the solder)

  14. DonelleU says

    I grew up in a church that was NOT welcoming or inclusive to say the least. Once when my husband and I came back to visit my mom we went with her and the worship song that day had a verse or chorus that said, “life is hard, and it’s not going to get easier” … My husband and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. To this day when one of us starts to complain, the other will start singing “life is hard…” Usually off key and loud. I would love to know what this song actually was and I thank God that I now attend a church that reaches out with messages of hope and affirmation ;)

  15. Stacey says

    Dobbie Gray’s Drift Away – I can sing that song straight to God. I think a lot of songs (not all) can be sung to God.

  16. lee says

    “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West.

    OK, I know this is debatable, but Kanye considers himself a Christian. While he doesn’t always follow Christ’s teachings very well, neither do the rest of us; but the ways that we fail are more acceptable in American Christian Culture. If nothing else, he gets the ultimate point, which is that we all need a relationship with God.

  17. Melody says

    What Child Is This is obviously a Christian song, but the second verse is one churches change sometimes. However, over Christmas I was in Illinois with my in-laws at a very staunch, Baptist church full of old people. Together, in one accord, those little old blue haired ladies and spectacled old men sang out: “Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding?” It was all I could do to stifle my laughter. Childish, I know, but still really funny.

  18. Kyrie says

    I’ve always thought, with a few minor changes, Rob Thomas’ Someday and David Cook’s Time of My Life could be made church-appropriate. Some of Daughtry’s music as well.

  19. Liz says

    In college one of the worship leaders for chapel would sing a song that talked about running through the Forrest and the meadows and I don’t know what else. It sounded more like a song for hippies. I was always confused when he sang it.

  20. Will says

    My friends and I like to imagine Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You” as a heartfelt, though somewhat dysfunctional, worship song.

  21. says

    On Sunday I tweeted how my 8yo was singing I Was Made for Lovin’ You by KISS on our way to church and how we tried making it into a Jesus thing.

    FYI: it’s on Wii Just Dance.

  22. Howie says

    Last Sunday, my pastor was reading different Psalms, where David was crying out to the Lord…and then proceeded to read the entire lyrics to the Beatles’ “Help!”.

    I was stupid proud of the fact that I happened to be wearing my Beatles T-shirt…

  23. Rob says

    I’ve always been bothered by the lyrics in “All hail the power of Jesus name”.
    Singing about “Angel’s prostates” and “sacred thongs”. And in Church no less!!!

  24. Alli says

    I have to throw this one in to the mix. Bethel’s song “I love your Presence,” stole lyrics directly from David Grey’s song, Babylon. I remember when my church first sang it, I immediately stopped and thought “hold up! This is NOT what that song is talking about!” (And then proceeded to laugh. That is one FAR stretch to find a religious parallel in that song.)
    Below are David Grey’s version of the lyrics compared to Bethel’s.
    “And if you want it, come and get it, for crying out loud. The love I was giving you was never a doubt. Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel it now. Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel it now.” – David Grey (2000)

    “And if you want it, come and get it, for crying out loud. The love He has given you was never a doubt. Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel it now. Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel it now.” – Bethel (2011)

  25. says

    This reminds me of when I was growing up and my dad used to blast “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” by Third Eye Blind and “Every Morning” by Sugar Ray in the car. I remember having a moment where I realized that he definitely did NOT know what either song was about.

    Anyway, I have the opposite–our local Christian radio station plays “Hold Me” by Jamie Grace a lot, and is it terrible to say that even though the word “Lord” is tossed in a couple of times, I always think more of my husband than of God.

  26. says

    I have been forever ruined by a class I had at Palm Beach Atlantic University where we learned to analyze music, especially the lyrics. And yes, it is a Christian school.

  27. Patrick says

    Have you ever wondered if a song is Christian? – Heaps of songs from “Creed” & “Nickleback”
    For bonus points…… try this blast from the past…
    Mercy River Boys – Would They Love Him Down In Shreveport

  28. Carly says

    I can think of a lot of worship songs that I wonder if they are Christian…”I want to touch you, I want to see your face, I want to know you more”

  29. Karen says

    Churches play ‘Hallelujah’ all the time and that is MOST definitely NOT a Christian song. There are some messed up lyrics in the next verses. The Goo Goo Dolls’ ‘Better Days’ is pseudo Christian except for the line about any child could save the world. I think ‘Hotel California’ is about hell.

  30. Korrine says

    Ever since Sister Act, I can’t hear “My Guy” without mentally changing the lyrics to “My God.”

    This last Sunday, our (crazy talented & accomplished) church pianist played Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” as the postlude. Terribly impressive, but Christian? Ummmm…to the pure all things are pure?

  31. WolfKnight says

    I know I’m late to the comment party,

    When I left bible college, my old roommate had to get a new one for the following school year. He were hanging out, and talking about his new roommate, and told me he had heard him singing in the shower: “Jesus you’re lovely, Jesus you’re wonderful” over and over again to the melody of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely”. I don’t know how the roommate replaced “Less than one minute old.”

  32. Eric says

    I don’t do it too much, but thats cause I listen to a very limited amount of music.

    But many songs from Lights are clearly about Christ in one way or another.

  33. says

    I’ve been doing this for a while, looking for the theological implications of songs. It’s a fun game and helps hone your discernment when listening to music.

    Here’s a fun one – try to determine the theological ramifications of NWA’s “Express Yourself”

  34. WalaY says

    Yesss! I wondered about this the first few times I heard “Kiss Me” by Sixpence non the Richer – o wait … I just googled them and the first thing I see is “Sixpence None the Richer (also known as Sixpence) is an American Christian rock/pop band …”

    *shrug*

  35. Stephanie says

    This song is not meant to be Christian, nor did Freddie Mercury write it about Jesus, but I can sing it in the car about Jesus all I want–“Best Friend” by Queen.

    “Ooh, you make me live,
    Whenever this word’s been cruel to me,
    I’ve got you to help me forgive,
    Ooh you make me live.

    You’re my best friend”

    Really?? Go ahead, do your worst. I think about Jesus and I belt it out when I drive to work. Is this traditional, organ-laden Worship? No. Does it please my Savior? I feel like He can’t help but smile at me singing to Him driving down the highway.

  36. Ali.Y says

    Im a huge Paramore fan.. (Don’t even get me started) and I know they themselves are professed Christians.. some of their music doesn’t show it but I always wondered if a few of their songs were Christian… songs like Miracle, Turn It Off, Part II, Let the Flames Begin, and even Fast In My Car- mostly because of lyrics like this-
    No one’s the same as they used to be
    Much as we try to pretend
    No one’s as innocent as could be
    We all fall short, we all sin

    Like other bands I know that profess to be Christians themselves (Owl City comes to mind) but don’t sing about it in a context to where secularists can read into it… Im wondering if Paramore does the same. This article makes a really good point.

  37. says

    I’m a little late to this party, but I do this all the time. “Beautiful With You” by Halestorm was definitely not written as a Christian song, but can be interpreted as such. Even if not, it’s a good message.

    “Fight the Good Fight” by Triumph (the Canadian power trio, not the insult dog).

  38. Daniel Bull says

    A bit late to the conversation as I was just trawling through the archives.
    I remember when I went to Bible school in 1998 we were only allowed to bring Christian music, and Classical music (figure that out!).
    At the time there was a band called the Lighthouse Family (I’m British btw, so maybe you haven’t heard of them). They had some great uplifting songs (one was called “Lifted”). I searched so heard to find out if they were Christians so i could take their cd to college guilt free. But alas I couldn’t find any proof, so they and their uplifting tunes stayed at home.
    Interestingly, through the year, the college changed there policy to allow music that wouldn’t be dishonouring the Christ – that opened the floodgates!

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