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Some Christians espouse the view that the only music worth listening to is Christian music. But if you ponder this idea long enough, a curious question then arises: What counts as "Christian music" anyway?

When asked in 2004 if the Grammy-nominated Switchfoot was a Christian band, frontman Jon Foreman offered a classic answer. If you haven't read this yet, well, you're in for a treat. Foreman's words lead us to question what we mean exactly when we use the words "Christian" and "secular" to describe the things we make, do, and consume, and they lead us to pursue faithfulness to Christ no matter what our calling in life might be. So tell us, Jon: Is Switchfoot a Christian band or not?

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Do Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonatas Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.

The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.

Switchfoot hail from the glorious land of San Diego, California. It's not the only reason I dig them, but it's a pretty cool reason. Fun band live, too. :)

Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.

I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.

We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”

--Jon Foreman, as quoted on Sojourners (https://sojo.net/articles/why-switchfoot-won-t-write-christian-songs)

A final word: I [Carlo] wholeheartedly agree. I have found the label "Christian music" helpful when talking about music that contains more overt biblical content, but it ultimately becomes unhelpful when you try to locate the dimensions of this man-made boundary. For instance, how many times must a song mention God before it becomes Christian? If a Christian band is one signed to a "Christian record label," what about those outside the ark of such a label? Of course, as Foreman implies, the whole thing breaks down completely when you consider that Bach's sonatas are wordless though the composer himself was a devout Christian. And don't get me started on the Song of Songs... ;) Choice words, Jon. And a great lead-in to a forthcoming article: "Five Unexpected Bands that Inspire Worship." Coming soon at Victapolis! -C.
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