The Next Step Is To Write It In The Sky, Or The Lost Art of Poetry

First off, just give me honest feedback if I’ve been picking on Christian music too much lately.

If you frequent certain blogs these days you’ll often discover Christian remixes of pop songs – meaning the music and the melody are the same of that top 40 radio hit but new clever religious lyrics are substituted. Suddenly the lyricist’s “baby” is actually Jesus and the song sounds more like an explanation of the Romans Road than a tale of love and loss.

(I’m not saying what they’re doing is wrong. Their parodies merely got me thinking about a larger trend).

Not just with “Christian remixes” but in Christian music as a whole – subtly is seldom used. Rather it’s blatant and obvious – there is no ambiguity or mystery and there is little art of poetry save basic rhyming.

I’ve found the Christian books I enjoy the most are the ones not written as simply extended sermons or as quasi-dissertations – but the ones that read more like a collection of stories, the ones that read more like poetry than a typed debate. I just finished a book last night that took me 4 months to get through because it was so dry –  however give me a book by by Anne Lamott or Sara Miles and I’ll stay up late every night digesting them.

I think poetry is a lost art in Christianity right now – it’s been overruled by blatancy. I’ll admit I perpetuate this. I’ve been wanting to find a different way to communicate on this blog – a more creative way than just writing essays. I obviously didn’t start today, in spite of this post.

I’m sure some could take issue with me judging art – though sometimes Christian music doesn’t feel like art – it feels like theology and religious agenda transposed over an art medium. And somehow in that transposing the soul seems to have been left out.

Naturally these are generalizations and are not all inclusive. There are some notable exceptions of Christians who make music that is much more covert and poetic. And guess what – those are the often the ones that get chosen to break into the mainstream market (and then once they get there Christians complain they aren’t taking a stand, that they’re wimping out and not proclaiming the gospel boldly.)

Grace is best described in a poetic way, not through systematic descriptions. How do you write about a beautiful thing? Certainly not with bullet points.

As always please don’t read what I’m not saying. In this case, I’m not saying we should stop being blatant altogether and only speak in subtlety. Rather I’m merely suggesting that we may benefit from being a little more artful in our delivery. This is why Jesus chose parables rather than explaining doctrine – as doctrine often doesn’t have the capacity to break the shell around the heart.


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12 Responses to The Next Step Is To Write It In The Sky, Or The Lost Art of Poetry

  1. David says:

    This whole idea of cultural religion makes me sick.

    I am back to, if it doesn’t connect me with God, I am not doing it.

    As an artist and a musician, I care about the quality of the ‘art’. What bothers me is how we are disconnected from God in so many things that we do. At my church, there are a couple of artists that paint or sketch during the music. There are those that song prophetically (by the Spirit), and others that dance. Each one is moved how they are moved… it is about the Spirit of God, not about the performance. I also see excellence; that is folks working to use their gifting to the fullest.

    Religious people care about the performance more than God. The spirit-filled believer can find Jesus in anything.

    • In my opinion and observation, the music that comes from/by the Spirit tend to be more artful and poetric rather than dry theology, mostly because the Spirit is welling up the heart, and lyrics/art flow naturally from that.

      Great reminder that its not about the performance though. As a musician I found myself very distracted during worship merely evaluating the performance (either if was good or if it was bad) – still a fault I have to do this day…

  2. Chris says:


    it’s hard to disagree with you on this one. It seems a lot of the stuff that passes for Christian “art” these days is so shallow, and it does I feel, encourage shallow faith.
    It’s funny, when I was attending a previous church, in terms of music, all we ever heard were these really old hymns. I mean a contemporary hymn would be like 100 years old. Often it was hard to even decipher the meaning of the lyrics. I was forever pleading, “Can’t we just have some newer, contemporary worship music just once in a while?” Well, be careful what you wish for as now where I’m currently at, all we get is a steady diet of it. The music is pretty well performed and there are some very talented musicians, but I basically find the content to be more-or-less teenage love-songs to Jesus. And that’s no fault of the musicians themselves. The music selection overall is I guess, fairly tightly scripted by the leadership in the church.
    Anyway, I also found that a strange thing happened to me over the course of all those years of listening to those “old” hymns. I discovered that they were truly very poetic, theologically rich, and in ways that made me think and really experience God. They actually stuck without me knowing it, because I actually had to think of what these lyrics meant. Once I did their power to move and change me was amazing.

    Anyway, these days I don’t much listen to “Christian” music as I find it rather depressing. There are though, as you say, a few that are more genuinely creative and not just imitating other popular artists. The ones that I’m drawn to tend to be much more oblique in how they communicate, both lyrically and melodically. I don’t much like being hit over the head with a hammer, be it musical or otherwise. I guess I’m strange that way.

    Something to keep in mind. During the time that some of those old, old hymns were being written, some of the greatest art in history was being produced, and it was in fact Christian. Could it be that the shallowness and lack of excellence in Christian music and art is a direct result of the shallowness in teaching, preaching, and theology in the contemporary church?

    • fascinating question at the end that I never considered – but I could easily see it.

      I think you make a good point about the hammer – as many Christian songs are written in order to convey a particular message or agenda, and this is a somewhat isolated phenomeon in music – as transposing an agenda sucks so much creativity and life out of the art.

      The old hymns are very eloquently written, and it definitely takes some time to decipher what they are saying (and to jump over cultural hurdles). I admit I haven’t looked into old hymns in a while, but I agree they are not only poetic but as you say theologically rich.

      Glad I got a post up where we could come together :p

  3. jay @ bethegospel says:

    sad thing is i think these guys are trying to do this for real.

    I saw a video of girls who redid Kesha’s Tik Tok at a VBS program on

  4. Larry Hughes says:

    Well the Christian music really gets to me. I like contemporary and the classical music as well as the rock if it is well done. My favorite is the Revelation Song as well as other music by Kari Jobe. Celtic Women has some great Christian songs and some Bach classics are appealing. All that I am and Hosana by certain artist are really spiritual songs that can get you to jumping to the beat. Do I like remixes to popular mainstream rock songs? Not really.

    There are some alternate rock bands that attempt to play Christian music but that does sound shallow. I see no spiritual connection but perhaps that is my age showing.

    What I look for in the artist is the spiritual connection. Their voices, their expressions, their actions, and what they put into the song from the heart. That is what gets to me.
    Nothing turns me off more than a worhip leader that stands on the stage with a silly grin that never changes through out a performance that calls for emotion and passion. None is shown which leads me to think he wishes he was somewhere else rather than what he is doing. On the other hand, another worship leader sings and performs straight from his heart showing emotion and praise for God. Naturally one would find the later worship leader one to become emotional and moved right along with him.

    Much of the old time classics are poetic and it takes a gfted misician or worship leader to pull them off correctly. I have only seen a few that could do the songs justice.

  5. David says:

    Come on gentlemen, the art was lost when Disco ruined rock and roll!

  6. Pingback: Most Christian Books Are As Dry As The Moon, Or Things Are Just Never As They Should Be | Charlie's Church of Christ

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