What would a Christian music scene look like? It probably wouldn’t look like “Jesus is my boyfriend” music produced by tiny imprints of huge multinational record companies that spews out photoshopped “talent” targeted at core demographics that offer the sweetest profit points. In other words, it wouldn’t look like the Contemporary Christian Music scene.

There needs to be a Christian music scene just like there needs to be a Christian scene in all the arts. But it should not take the form of a mimic-industry that produces “product” for sale. It should not be narcissistic in the way so much Christian art is- a kind of spiritual masturbation- seeking to recreate again and again the kinds of experience that only come from true spiritual encounters.

A true Christian music scene would be a bunch of Christians pursuing their musical gifts because that is a legitimate calling. The Creator wants us to create, after all. Derek Webb is a perfect example of a musician who happens to be a Christian and so lets his art and (crucially) his business be influenced by God. Go download his latest album for free or whatever you think you ought to pay.

In the movie I have just seen I was greatly encouraged that just such a movement of Christian artists who see their art as an expression of their vocation and not simply a way to make a profit or propagandize a message may well emerge in our time. And that would be a clear indicator to me that the church is regaining confidence in the stuff it should be confident in.

Daniel Smith is an artist from New Jersey. His parents raised him and his siblings to love music and to love the LORD. For his final project in art school he decided to record an album and he got a first for it. He and his siblings wrote songs, eccentric and idiosyncratic songs that were resplendent in the hues that can only emerge from an open willingness to be pursued by God. And that gave rise to the Danielson Famile. They wore nurses outfits on stage because music can heal. They sang songs about how much God loved them and they danced in routines they prepared in between bellyaching laughs. They brought their friends in on the deal. And although most people hated them they kept on doing what they loved and slowly built a following.

These nerdy geeky Christian kids with their homemade sets and their xylophone heavy sound inspired their band member, Sufjan Stevens, to get serious about his work. They collaborated promiscuously and their confidence grew. And the ability to watch them at work in this documentary is a joy.

Danielson Famile

The movie is just over 100 minutes long but in it you get the back-story of each of the family members and lots of in-depth insight into how the music is made and what drives Daniel and his family. The joy of the work is such a delight to behold. How can you not love a band when they take to the stage dressed in a home-made tree costume representing the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Well, actually, I don’t really like the music. I am a much bigger fan of Woven Hand, label-mates of Danielson. But I still enjoyed the movie tremendously. Smith is obviously a gifted, funny Christian artist and sadly, we don’t have enough of them:

Success to me, is, first and foremost staying true to who you’re made to be; who you are created to be. You know I believe that from the beginning of time, from before time, there’s a plan that’s been written for each one of us and when you’re born those things are in you and the life’s journey is to find out what those things are and discover those tools within us and to exercise those skills within us and refine them.

To me, that’s success.

Your Correspondent, Trying to spell out the l-word with his life.