Christianese Grammar

By Allison Myers

Christian, the adjective v. Christian, the noun
The following post was written during my #100Daysof750Words project. This was Day 20.

So, I really enjoy Josh Garrels’ music. I was supposed to go see him in Waco tonight but I didn’t get to go and I am still very much in mourning. But my friend Erin sent me a video of a little part of the show and it kind of got me thinking.

Like I was saying, I’d call myself a fan. I don’t know him personally but he seems like a great guy? All speculation, of course, but anyway. People always ask me what kind of music he sings and I never really know how to label it. It’s sort of indie/folk with like a hip hop kind of twist? And I always say, “He’s a Christian, but he’s not like…a Christian singer, if that makes sense?” And then they kind of give me a weird confused look. I think he’s one of the few who really hone their craft and their art based on the fact that they’re a Christian who is a musician, and not a musician who is solely creating content and music for a specific target market. This is a hard topic to explain my thoughts on, but it’s just something I’ve been thinking about and thought I’d share it here.

This seems super nitpicky and annoying but here it is.

I don’t like the way we use the word Christian as an adjective. We have Christian movies, Christian books, Christian songs, Christian clothing, Christian stores, and so on and so forth. I don’t like that. I think when we tack the word “Christian” onto our product or service or art, we muddy the water. We start to confuse what we do with who we are, and if you try to break it down, it’s actually a little confusing.

Christian is someone who places their faith in and surrenders their life to Jesus Christ. A song can’t do that. A movie can’t do that. A clothing brand can’t do that.

Of course I tried to break it down because this is just who I am as a person.

So, Christian music. What exactly is “Christian music?” In this instance, Christian is being used as a modifier, not a noun. We’re describing the noun. Does music have a soul that needs to be saved? No, can’t be that one. Maybe it’s made by Christians. Maybe it’s made for Christians. Maybe both. Either way, it’s confusing and I’d say it’s inaccurate.

“Christian” isn’t a genre. It’s not a category. It’s not what you do. It’s who you are. You are not a Christian songwriter. You are a Christian and you write songs. A Christian is someone who places their faith in and surrenders their life to Jesus Christ. A song can’t do that. A movie can’t do that. A clothing brand can’t do that. You’re not a “Christian filmmaker.” You’re a Christian and you make films. You make films and you’re a Christian. You don’t make “Christian films” because a film cannot be a Christian.

Now, I’m not hatin’ on your KLOVE or Air1 or the Kari Jobe playlist you have in your car. I listen to all those things and I’m not criticizing what they do. I think it’s great. And I think if you are a Christian, that should reflect in your work (in a tasteful, professional, well-written way) but I think there’s a wrong way to do it. When you’re creating and writing and producing products and services and content, I think you should just examine your motives. As a Christian, why are you creating this piece? Are you trying to share Jesus? Or are you writing and pumping out content because you think it will be catchy and fun and sell to this small target market that has unintentionally (or intentionally) isolated and separated from the rest of the bunch?

I guess that’s my main thing. Are we compromising artistically, skillfully and otherwise, in order to fit our product into a category? Are we “Christian filmmakers” or are Christians that make films? That doesn’t sound like much of a difference at all, but if you’ll really think about it, you’ll see it.

Yeah, I know I suck for taking the time to think about this and write all this out when there are much bigger issues in the world and, yes, I do know what you mean when you say “Christian music,” but to me it’s bigger than that. If I stop seeing myself as a “Christian musician” and start seeing myself as a Christian who makes music, I think I’d stop creating things for a specific market of consumers, and start creating things that reflect who I am.  The bottom line: When you see my work, I don’t want it to reflect a genre; I want it to reflect Christ.

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