Friday, April 17, 2009

"Christian" Singers Covering Secular Songs


One topic that has really stuck with me over the past week or two is “Christian” artists covering secular songs. Be it on a CD or in concert, it doesn’t really matter. I guess I was first exposed to this with DC Talk doing “Jesus is Still Alright”, an extension and not really a cover of “Jesus is Just Alright” by the Doobie Brothers and the Byrds. More recently while attending an unnamed traveling Christian Concert Tour, I saw DecemberRadio do a cover of Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” and EleventySeven do a cover of “The Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way”. The later was done purely for comedic value (and was quite funny), but a cover nonetheless.

The question is….. Is this acceptable? Does this glorify God? Is this edifying to Christians? To those questions I would have to give it a big “NO”. Admittedly, my ears did perk a bit when I heard DecemberRadio plug in to a Kansas song. Why? Because at the time I had spent 30sumodd years of my life listening to that kind of music, (I even saw Kansas in concert in the early 80’s) as well as a lot of heavier artists and none glorified God. So when I got home I had to look into Kansas a little further. Come to find out a couple of the guys are/ were professing Christians and even released some Christian CD’s at one point.

I also did a quick search of other Christian artists that have covered secular songs. One that came to mind before my search was Third Day covering U2’s “With Or Without You” during the medley on their “Offerings II” release. (I’ll just firmly state without apology that U2 is NOT a Christian band, and until they denounce their ecumenical beliefs there is not much hope in me seeing them any differently, and no I am not a Pharisee, just a Bible believing Christian that happens to BELIEVE what the bible says and not the mainstream… sorry for that PSA). If you go here there is a list of some songs that have been covered by “Christian” artists.

Personally I frown heavily on someone that calls his or her self a Christian and sings a Beatles’ song. I mean, what’s the process like? Do you just think “Oh, that will be cool to sing” or do you look past all the worldliness and sinfulness of that type of artist and think that you might be able to draw a person to Christ using a song by somebody they have heard before? Let me emphatically point out that it is the Father that draws people to the Son John 6:44 – not a cheesy cover song. One song that really popped off of the list was “Crazy Train” covered by Jars Of Clay in concert. Who would have thunk it? JOC is a favorite of mine, Ozzy Osborne used to be, back in my sinful life. In fact I was introduced to Ozzy at Youth Camp at my former church. Now how’s that for irony? But an Ozzy song? A Beatles song?

It's also increasingly alarming that secular songs are making it to “worship” services as well. In fact see below for a “worship” band at New Spring Church covering AC/DC’s Highway To Hell on Easter Morning. Does the word Blasphemy come to mind to anyone but me? From what I see on the web, this is a common thing to do now. Maybe not at this shocking level, but Coldplay is a name that keeps coming up. So it’s a downward spiral (and no I’m not quoting Nine Inch Nails) into the pit, or toilet. It is getting progressively worse as one “church” sees what another is doing and they then push it a little further. All the while the “pastor” sits back and bangs his head as the congregation becomes larger and his numbers get bigger. That is typical as well in that most modern pastors will do or say whatever it takes to fill his pews. They have even come up with a different gospel. I think scripture says a lot on that subject. Galatians 1:6-9 hits it dead center and says that who does this will be cursed. Yikes. I’m really not up to being cursed by God. Actually the Greek word from the original text is anathema, which means doomed or more bluntly let them be damned. Double yikes! Just look at all the false gospels that have proliferated our times and I will not go into detail in this posting, but just check out my other posts for details.

So what is my point? To sum it up in a few words, DON’T DO IT! DON’T CONDONE IT! God has been really gracious to me and opened my eyes to a lot that I had been deceived about. In my false conversion state (not Kentucky) I thought it was perfectly okay for me to listen to the secular artists that these “Christian” bands are covering. I also thought it was okay for me to drink, smoke, fornicate, look at porn, cuss, lie, steal pens from my employer and a million other things. But as the Lord opened my eyes that I was sinning against Him, that I had created a god in my image that accepted my sins and that I had made many false professions through my years that I needed to repent (stop doing these things and turn to God) and trust in Him and His Word. When I did that I began to see things a lot differently, you might say that I became a new creature 2 Cor. 5:17.

Just seek the Lord in this area. I did. You know what else? As I did He began to show me that some professing Christian artist might not be. I am cutting down my listening of a few certain groups. These claiming to be Christians and they do not glorify God in their craft, they sing about the same things the groups on secular stations sing about. So be ready for a little pruning if you seek His council.

In the mean time, look at this perversion of a pulpit area at New Spring Church and pray that these people will see how Holy and Righteous God is and pray that they will come to know God and not just about Him, that they will put away their god that allows this type of sin the penetrate a church building.

21 comments:

Sophie said...

Wally, I love your blogs. This one in particular. Thanks for sharing this, I pray God uses it to open up people's eyes to how perverted the modern church is... Highway to Hell? Seriously...

A while back I went to a little concert and they also did a hysterical cover of the BSB's "I Want it That Way." It was so funny and I loved it, but after reading this, I'm reminded of the same old question that is popping up more and more in my daily thoughts: if it's not glorifying God, then what is it doing?

missyjreed said...

You and I are on the same page here. I think most music is junk anyway and listen to very little of it. Justin has been closely involved with the industry off and on, and I have been jaded and annoyed at so-called "Christian" artists who are anything but.

The link you provided was pretty shocking. I will say that some of them I found totally acceptable and many have enjoyed over the years (such as Geoff Moore's "Rescue Me" which I didn't know was secular until I heard it on a TV in the Hard Rock Cafe by the original band). I don't see the problem with Michael English covering "Go Rest High Upon That Mountain" or many of the others on that list.

But one that jumped out at me and shocked me the most was Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" covered by Jars of Clay. Wow. I can't imagine why they think that's OK... unless they're attending one of those churches where the pastor is issuing 30-day challenges on that very subject. Yuck.

Actually I was just talking tonight with Justin about a similar issue... churches that are using secular songs as worship tunes. We were driving with the iPod on random and "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys came up. I told Justin some churches are now using that as a worship tune. I've heard through the grapevine that some are also using "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce, and Todd Friel has played that church using "You Spin Me Right Round." It's shocking, distressing, enraging, and sad.

Interestingly, today I finished a Christian novel about the dumbing down/sexing up of the church in America called "And the Shofar Blew" by Francine Rivers. I wish everyone would read it... starting with Perry Noble.

Tina said...

Another thing about hearing those cover songs is that it can take you back to a past time/place in your life and remind you of memories in your life associated with the song. That alone can be a temptation; if thought of wrongly. It can also glorify the Lord though if we are reminded of what He has done in us. However, I do know of someone that never wanted to listen to a certain type of music for that very reason. She stated that it made her want to do things she used to do...sinful things.

Northlake Youth Ministry said...

Some Christians, including artists, see media and go all chameleon - just becoming like what they hear, see, etc. Not healthy. Others go ostrich and bury their head in the sand blushing with embarrassment and being offended. Not healthy.

It seems that you have chosen the latter. Neither, to me, seems to reflect the way that Jesu engaged the world. Maybe there is a way to hear the world, to know its poetry (i.e. see Paul), and - rather than taking offense or absorbing its beliefs - we can develop a heart of compassion for the world, for what they think, for who they are.

I remember about 10 years ago a CCM article criticizing Jars of Clay for getting play on MTV.

Sad.

It is possible to have a healthy, critical, and compassionate engagement with the world. The Christians I know who listen to both Christian and secular media and do it with a Kingdom lens, are usually healthier and more relevant in expressing their faith. There is a Christian radio station in Atlanta, where I live, that, frankly, plays songs and has conversations that are more detrimental to living out vibrant, relevant faith in this world that a host of secular songs I know.

Don't misunderstand. I enjoy Christian music. But I think it is too shortsighted to assume that drawing a hard and fast line between secular and Christian media somehow glorifies God more than a healthy engagement with it.

We must guard against the Christian cloister.

Get those old Kansas albums back out and listen again, just differently. You'd be the better for it.

Jeff said...

The person from Northlake ministry brought up some points that I would like to address. Unfortunately I will not do it in a comment, but will need to make a part 2 to this blog post.

I will say here that I have not "gone ostrich" (whatever that is supposed to infer). I am very open and do not blush or shy away from something that is in direct opposition to the Word of God.

A few verses that address this are:
1Peter 1:14-16 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (Which was a reference of Leviticus 11:44)

1John 2:15-16 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 Petre 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

There are just so many things that the last commenter made that need to be addressed, because sadly these are the views that have permeated the churches. Which was exactly the point of my original posting. A good tree cannot bear good and bad fruit, a well can not bring forth sweet and bitter water.

By the points made I am under the impression that this person may be from the Rob Bell school of thinking.

I also think that as Christians we MUST (and are commanded to) draw hard and fast lines between everything that this world has to offer. Is this legalistic? No, it is biblical. Am I a modern day Pharisee? No, I am a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and actually believe what His Word says... That we become new creations, that we must shun the world, that we must not give season to the lusts of this earth and that we must follow Him and stop living for our own selves.

abillionbuckbabe said...

Oh ye of little faith. Our God is the God of the universe. Religious people sit and argue about things like "should cover sings be played in a church setting." Look at the reward. We are called to meet people where they are at and bring them the Good News. Culture is relevant to our lives. you cannot escape the culture you live in, so why not use it as a tool? One example is that many can relate to music. Who knows how many could be drawn into a church because of a song? That can be a spark, then they are suddenly in an environment where the Lord is present, and the church (which need i remind you, is the BODY OF CHRIST, not a physical structure or building) can love on this person and share the Gospel. Who are we to say that the song "highway to hell" can't be used to bring God glory? Are we ones to put God in a box that small? Are we not ALL on a highway to hell? God is the only one that can save us, it is not of our doing. OUR FAITH IS A RELATIONSHIP NOT A RELIGION. It is sad to see that we have come to the point where we forget that. People at Newspring Church are MEETING JESUS. Lives are being changed, people are being transformed. And the church will continue to grow. Because that is our true mission, isn't it? To reach the ends of the earth? Why doesn't that excite us anymore? The God of the universe loves us enough to have sent his only son to die for us, that's AMAZING LOVE! Why don't we stop quarreling about music and start learning how to live without putting God in a box. We can move mountains and change the world! Jesus loves everyone. That's Newspring's message, that's my message, is that your message? I challenge everyone today to truly think about what it means to love Jesus and be his follower. Let's show the entire world his amazing love and grace. What an AWESOME God we serve.

Jeff said...

Sadly, abillionbuckbabe has fallen prey to the mentality that permeates the “church” today. I want to address the things she said, systematically.

“Look at the reward. We are called to meet people where they are at and bring them the Good News. “
We may be called to meet people where they are, but we are not told anywhere in scripture to become like them or to do what they do to relate to them. There is also no reward in bringing sinful music into God's house, if anything it is blasphemous to sing songs like “Highway to Hell” or any other song that does not glorify God. But then again, New Spring may not be a real house of God anyway. If they were would they really stoop to these antics to “draw people in”?

“Culture is relevant to our lives. you cannot escape the culture you live in, so why not use it as a tool?”
Last time I checked we were called to be in the world, but not partakers of it. Culture is relevant only to those that entrench themselves in it. We are called to make disciples not to become like them in order to relate.

“Who knows how many could be drawn into a church because of a song?”
This is the exact problem I was trying to address. People these days think that it is all up to them, that they have to be relevant, be exciting, sing sinful songs, dress in skinny jeans, drink beer at the tavern, have a coffee shop in the lobby. They do not remember that the Holy Spirit is what draws someone to Christ, not a person. All we are to do is preach the Word – in season and out of season and leave the work up to God. Not use worldly devices to draw a crowd, while in the meantime dishonoring God's Name in the process.

“Are we ones to put God in a box that small? “
I do not put God in any box. He can rach anyone, anytime and in whatever way He wishes. But I am fairly sure He will not do so with a device that is purely against His Word. Glorifying a roadtrip to hell is not really scriptural.

“People at Newspring Church are MEETING JESUS. Lives are being changed, people are being transformed.”
People are meeting the gross misconception of the jesus that New Spring is portraying. Their jesus is not holy, doesn't expect change (sanctification), is happy with leaving people in their sins and is just a “cool guy that loves everyone”. They have created a false god to fit their sinfulness.

“ The God of the universe loves us enough to have sent his only son to die for us, that's AMAZING LOVE”
I happen to agree with this 100% - that is if you are referring to the God of the bible. Not the god that is preached at many of the church buildings today. Jesus came and preached “Repent or perish!” as His first words in His earthly ministry. While it is true that God loves His creation, He hates sin. He can not be in its presence and He will not show up to a service that uses worldly devices to elicit excitement from familiarity to the world.

“Why don't we stop quarreling about music and start learning how to live without putting God in a box.”
Again with the “box”. Even if I wanted to I couldn't put God into a box. I do, however, believe scripture is a glimpse of the character of God. Saying that He “is love” only and not saying He is also righteous, Holy, judge, a consuming fire, immutable, Truth is actually putting Him into the “box” that you talk about. Even using the attributes of God to describe Him is borderline blasphemous, so tread lightly and don't use only a single of His attributes to try and describe Him.

“What an AWESOME God we serve.”
AMEN!

geckomac said...

Jeff, you are correct in all areas on this blog. God has given you the ability to clarify (the issues about secular music)by using the "simple Gospel". Northlake is in error in their beliefs. May they come to the God of Truth and live lives that brings glory to God and grace and peace to each of them. Too sad that the poster appears to be a Youth Minister, but titles do not disciples make.
Northlake: Bow the knee to God and He will show you the truth about secular music(ians).

geckomac said...

Attended an Easter service several years ago where the opening song was Highway to Hell. NOT appropriate. We had been invited by friends who felt their "church" was "on the cutting edge" by using such songs to draw in sinners. Huh. As a Christian, I was most impressed by the Bible the pastor used. It was a box that, upon opening, caused a flame to erupt from inside. I was impressed because the pastor was supposed to be reading from Revelation, but he was reading the first pages of his "bible". Wonder what God really thinks of such gimicry? BTW, I have never heard a clear confession of Faith from the pastor, though he does lead a mega-"church". The friends who invited us have since left this institution.

Carlos said...

I understand where you are coming from with 90 pecent of your post but you can not lump every single artists that does a "cover" as rehashing something the the world put out. I can go down the list and name quite a few artists that took the covers and tweaked them a but to change the message to something that glorified God.

Mark Farner for example who was one of the founding members of Grand Funk, took the song he wrote and remade it to glorify God (Some Kind of Wonderful). Kerry Livgreen fomer Kansas member covered his own song Carry on my Wayward Son and even let another Christian band Rachel Rachel cover it with glory going to God. Paul Q-Pek covered "Things can only get Better" in the same way. What about parody bands like Apologetix who takes secular songs and totally rewrites them? Do they get lumped in also?

I am not saying that all artists have the same heart behind what the do but you cannot judge every single christian artists that covers a secular song the same. I look at it this way if you will indulge me. A gun in and of itself is not a bad thing but in the hands of different people you can get a different result. in the hands of a robber, it can be used to intimidate or even kill; in the hands of a hunter, it can provide food; in the hands of the police, it can save a life.

Music is the same way. A song that was sung only for the money can certainly be used by another to get an entirely result and change a life. We need to look at their fruits to see which case turns out to be the truth

Carlos said...

I just realized that this may be an outdated post. I just came across this post while I was searching for artists that have done covers of previously released songs.

God bless you for being willing to accept dialogue about this even with those whom do not agree with you.

Jeff said...

Hi Carols - THe biggest issue with trying to "Christianize" songs or anything else is that it draws interest to the original. It also gives the impression that the artists that are being covered are acceptable to listen to. This can be extremely dangerous as with Jars Of Clay's cover of an Ozzy Osborne song. How many people were led to believe that Ozzy's music is ok for a Christian to listen to by them covering that one song?

The Apologetix are also dangerous in endorsing the musicians that they "parody". Also it is dangerous to those that once listened to the artists that they "parody". The music brings backs memories of those times that the original music was listened to. If I hear them cover a song by Rush it would immediately take me back to the 80's when they were my favorite group and I would be singing the original lyrics again in my head. There would then be a struggle to ensue within me to want to listen to the original again. Think of it as one of those "don't eat meat in front of your brother" issues. Of course, not everyone will be affected the same way I am and others may have never heard the original song before. But that is why I do not condone or endorse the Apologetix.

When the issue comes up is just how far does one go to be relevant? Where is the line drawn when something becomes "bad" or not. It is pragmatic to try and sway someone using worldly music, for that to be the draw to bring people to church. It is also very dangerous for these new CCM artists to be covering groups like Muse. I have seen it firsthand. The crowd goes wild when worldly songs are covered and the artists feed off of it. Why? Surely singling a Beatles song does not glorify God. Why not cover a Christian song, redo an old hymn or take a few verses straight from scripture and build a song from there. Why must the world be the go to place for Christian entertainment?

I'll stop writing now with the thoughts of Alice Cooper on my mind. He is a professing Christian, who seems solid. He knows scripture and he endorses some really hefty theologians. BUT, why does he still perform his shock/ horror music and stage show? Does decapitation really make someone say "Praise the Lord" during one of his shows? Would a former pornographer still be allowed to make porn movies as long as they said they were doing it to praise God in the process? And don't think that's too far out there. I have seen that there is a "Christian" porn website that is supposed to be "safe". What can be safe about porn is anyone's guess, seeing how it is SIN through and through. So, just where is the line drawn and why would anyone want to continually move that line out? Why can I draw a line and say "no worldly entertainment should be 'Christianized'", others say "sure as long as you say "God bless this' before or after" others say"it doesn't matter what you do as long as you get people to church" and others say "it doesn't matter what anyone does, ever, as long as you believe in Jesus"? I believe scripture is very clear, do not love the world or the things of the world. What the "things of the world" is what the debate is over, for the most part. But, it is best to say that when you're in doubt or have to question something in the least, to err on the side of caution and forget about it. Don't try to rationalize, don't try to Christianize, just don't do anything with it.

Caring said...

The author of this blog is guilty of psychological projection. He admits that he listened to a lot of unhealthy music for decades, and now that he is clean he has an adverse reaction to even the semblance of secular music, which is understandable. But don't project your experience onto everyone else. The fact is, whether you admit it or not, MANY people have become open to the gospel because they heard a Christian song with the familiar melody of a favorite artist, or because they were introduced to Christian music that did not sound like the "stuffy" music they were forced to listen to growing up, or because they simply loved the way the melody gripped them. Everybody is different, you simply cannot project your own experiences onto everyone else as if we all had the same makeup. If Christ is being glorified through melodies that were formerly used to glorify the devil then praise God for the victory and support His laborers. You might not agree or accept their methods, and the truth is, you don't have to agree. If the "fruit" is planting seeds in the hearts of people and ultimately leading people to follow Christ, then ultimately it doesn't matter what you think.

The funny thing is that these artists are often planting seeds in people that would never even consider stepping foot in a church. They are doing more to advance the kingdom of heaven than you will probably ever know.

Mr C said...

Wow just stumbled on your post as we were looking into this subject ourselfs, i totatly 100% agree with you, it is not right for us to use this kind of music

Mr C said...

Wow just stumbled on your post as we were looking into this subject ourselfs, i totatly 100% agree with you, it is not right for us to use this kind of music

geckomac said...

Heard ACDC's Highway to Hell at an Easter service (we were invited by, yes, Christian friends) and we were saddened by it. Yes, HtH has a message. Yes, lots of unbelievers have heard that song. No, it does not glorify Christ to have it played in a service of worship to HIM. Let's quit catering to the sinful desires of lost souls by tempting them with secular music but let Christ's message call them to Him. At the same time, we should be through living our lives as HE desires. Yes, many will be offended by our lives and walk, but those who are searching for Christ will be impacted.
Don't know what my stand is on Christian singers singing secular songs. I don't listen to secular songs (haven't since 1982 but that is between me and God) and would wonder why a Christian singer/band feels they need to use that as a vehicle. If it is just for their enjoyement, well, then, that is a matter of being dead to the world and alive to Christ.

Enderby said...

Well said

Jim Moses said...

Hi Jeff,

Nice of you to write openly about this topic. I'm from India. I know it's an old post to comment in, but the contents are not out-of-date! I've seen something similar happen in my country, but the other way round - popular secular musicians invited to perform Christian songs in big meetings to attract youth. These musicians no doubt work with those who write filthy songs. But despite their background, popular Christian ministries do not hesitate to invite such musicians on stage to perform in big events - like meetings of Dr. Ravi Zacharias or Franklin Graham. When I spoke to one such ministry, they told me that those musicians were coming 'closer' to the Lord. But what about the bad example they are setting by what they are doing for a living? By allowing such musicians, the youth will be misled to think that it is not wrong listen to their secular songs too. Pray and hope things would change for the better. Under the cover of 'Evangelism' and 'reaching out to youth', a lot of serious errors are creeping in. Do we need the popularity of secular musicians to attract people to Christ? How bad have people gone in their thinking!

Jim Moses said...

Hi Jeff,

Nice of you to write openly about this topic. I'm from India. I know it's an old post to comment in, but the contents are not out-of-date! I've seen something similar happen in my country, but the other way round - popular secular musicians invited to perform Christian songs in big meetings to attract youth. These musicians no doubt work with those who write filthy songs. But despite their background, popular Christian ministries do not hesitate to invite such musicians on stage to perform in big events - like meetings of Dr. Ravi Zacharias or Franklin Graham. When I spoke to one such ministry, they told me that those musicians were coming 'closer' to the Lord. But what about the bad example they are setting by what they are doing for a living? By allowing such musicians, the youth will be misled to think that it is not wrong listen to their secular songs too. Pray and hope things would change for the better. Under the cover of 'Evangelism' and 'reaching out to youth', a lot of serious errors are creeping in. Do we need the popularity of secular musicians to attract people to Christ? How bad have people gone in their thinking!

Jeff said...

Thank you for your comments Jim. It is a sad state that many that say they are doing God's work think they must use worldly means to do so. You are 100% correct that the hearers of the groups you mentioned will believe that it is Ok to listen to the sinful music as well. There is something similar here in the States that country music performers occasionally will record or sing a song with a reference to God in it, but their lives/fruit show that they know nothing of God. The public drinks it in and somehow the perception is that just because they sing a song that they are Christians.

This post is aged a little now, but is still very relevant, if not more so.

Sarah Nelson said...

Man I'm real late to this party :P

I just wanted to explain something, as a Christian who has recently started rewriting worldly songs into worship songs... My personal reasoning is because I fall in love with the tune & sometimes just can't believe the lyrics are sad. I have rewritten 4 songs in the past 4 months & am about to perform the 3rd at church. I've had a remarkable response to it, not to bring people to Jesus, because most of my listeners are already saved. But I believe that God made music to be for His glory & the only way I'll sing it is to glorify Him! It doesn't make me less of a Christian. Learning their lyrics for the rhythm of the songs doesn't hinder my faith or beliefs at all. It helps me to write what I need/want to say!

I understand why some may not think its a good idea, but for me it has been a great process! It has drawn me closer to God, being able to write my own lyrics to music (that I have no clue how to compose)! I truly believe that God is using me to tell my own story through these "Praise Parodies". I think that comical parodies are worse, as they make fun of people & situations of the world. It's like bullying through song, which is much more worldly than what I do.

Anyway, just thought I'd share that, not sure anyone will read it lol. I'll gladly share the process of how I rewrite them, if anyone is interested. And even explain what they're about & why. <3