Christian Music Retrospective, aka Abstinence is the New Sex

Welcome to part 2 of a ?-part series where I make peace with the Christian songs that prevented me from discovering Nirvana until 2002.

Superchick, “Barlow Girl”

We met these sisters Barlow’s their last name
Ordinary girls they don’t live in the fast lane
They don’t rate with the guys that score
Cause they don’t flaunt what the boys want more

Christian teenagers have it rough. When you’re being told your natural hormones are simultaneously a gift from God and a gateway for Satan, sometimes your trendy Ex-Masturbator T-shirt just isn’t enough to stem the tide. Thankfully, groups like Superchick are there to remind you that abstinence is, like, totally cool and stuff.

They don’t date they won’t date
They wanna see how they’re gonna grow up
Who they’re gonna be
But in the meantime they might feel unloved
When all the girls around them are hooking up

As an official representative of Boys, I can confirm that dating leads inevitably to the mortal sins of mixtapes and Non-Committal Make-Outs (aka NCMO – thanks, Christian college!).

All the boys in the band want a valentine from a Barlow Girl
Boys think they’re the bomb
Cause they remind them of their mom

Freudian vibes aside, if I were using the Mom Standard to rank women, then I’d be ensuring any potential dating partner has her casserole game on point.

No girl should feel she has to trade
Her body for love or be an old maid
And yes there are guys who are willing to wait
Ask a Barlow girl on her wedding day

Credit where credit’s due, it’s not the worst idea to remind teenagers that high school relationships don’t really matter in the long run (CW dramas notwithstanding), but the issue is always presented as if there’s no happy medium between chastity and promiscuity. Why do millions of Christian teens think their only options are complete suppression of their sexuality and wanton indulgence of it? It’s this kind of thinking that leads to abstinence-only education, and the shortcomings thereof.

Maybe instead of deceiving them, we try giving teenagers the information they need to make wise choices regarding sex. If they decide on their own that it’s not worth the risk, good for them! But if they decide to have safe sex with a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, should they be threatened with the same hellfire as a mass murderer?

See also: Rebecca St. James, “Wait”

4Him, “Can’t Get Past the Evidence”

You broke into this world of mine
Stole my heart, you robbed me blind
While I wasn’t looking at all,
Without a warning or a sign,
It seems You caught me by surprise
Now I know the reason why Love is the alibi

As an erstwhile apologist, I appreciate it when Christians argue from evidence, not from gut feelings or “faith.” Even if their evidence is faulty, at least they’re coming at the God question from a logical foundation. So when the extremely 90’s-named 4Him declares that they “can’t get past the evidence,” they must be talking about something solid, something that will put those know-it-all atheists in their place, right? Let’s find out!

This particular song takes the novel angle of describing God with criminal metaphors. In this scenario, I’m not sure what love is supposed to be an alibi for. “No, you see I couldn’t have been at the scene of the burglary, I was in Todd’s heart the whole time!”

And I can’t get past the evidence,
I can’t get past the proof,
I can’t get past the evidence
It’s impossible to do
I can’t get past the evidence
And I can’t deny the truth
I can’t get past the evidence of you

The chorus makes it clear: mountains of evidence point to the existence of God. Will 4Him give us any examples? I sure hope so!

We look for pieces on the way
To fix the puzzle of this place
Is there an equation to life?
But in the midst of every day
There’s a clue there is a trace
A remnant of love remains
I’m ready to rest my case

You see, science thinks it knows everything with its fancy “experimentation” and “figuring stuff out,” but can it explain LUUUVV?? (Insert mic drop here.)

Beyond the shadow of a doubt
I see the light
I’m a victim of a love I can’t deny
I’ll be the first to testify,
That I can’t get past the evidence of You

More on love here, but also another crime comparison. If one is a “victim” of love, does that make love a crime? Are my parents love criminals? If God is love, and love is crime, then is God crime itself? The math checks out.

And I can’t get past the evidence,
I can’t get past the proof,
I can’t get past the evidence
It’s impossible to do
I can’t get past the evidence
And I can’t deny the truth
I can’t get past the evidence of you

I’ll say this: while I don’t think the existence of a concept of love is evidence in God’s favor, it’s probably a more interesting subject for a song than, say, the cosmological argument. That said, if William Lane Craig ever dropped an album, I’d Spotify that in a heartbeat.

Christian Music Retrospective, aka Trix Are For God’s Children

I listened exclusively to Christian music all the way until I discovered bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam – ten years after everyone else. CCM isn’t all bad, and I still have some of my old favorites in the iTunes rotation, but there’s a lot of Christian songs that are derivative at best and lyrically problematic at worst. Here are a couple songs that I enjoyed as kid but now recognize as falling into the latter category.

Newsboys, “Breakfast”

Hold the milk, put back the sugar
They are powerless to console
We’re gathered here to sprinkle ashes
From our late friend’s cereal bowl

Hell is a bad place, right? Just the worst. Between the gnashing of teeth, brimstone, and shit-covered suck-ups, it surpasses even Florida for least desirable final destinations. Stunningly, it took until 1996 for the Newsboys to uncover the most sinister aspect of hell, one even Revelations was too timid to reveal: inadequate catering.

When the toast has burned
And all the milk has turned
And Captain Crunch is waving farewell
When the Big One finds you
May this song remind you that
They don’t serve breakfast in hell

The Newsboys were the first Christian band that really caught my attention. They’re still going today with a more worshipful tone, but some of their earlier work was sardonic and oddly confrontational.

Back when the chess club said our eggs were soft
Every Monday he’d say grace and hold our juice aloft
Oh, none of us knew his check-out time would come so soon
But before his brain stopped waving, he composed this tune

The whole point of hell as described by the Bible is “You don’t want to be there.” Its portrayal is a contrast to the eternal bliss and wonder of heaven, and you as the reader are intended to fearfully recoil from your sinful trajectory and rush with gratitude into the loving arms of Jesus Christ. However, the perils of hell seem diminished when couched in cheeky wordplay and cereal puns. It makes the decision to follow Christ seem as inconsequential as choosing between Cocoa or Fruity Pebbles.

Those here without the Lord, how do you cope?
For this morning we don’t mourn like those who have no hope
Oh, rise up Fruit Loop lovers, sing out Sweet and Low
With spoons held high, we bid our brother Cheerio

See also: Relient K, “My Girlfriend”; The W’s, “The Devil is Bad”

Chris Rice, “Cartoons”

I was thinkin’ the other day,
What if cartoons got saved?
They’d start singing praise
In a whole new way

Christian culture gets pretty bizarre once you’re on the outside looking in. You find yourself asking the question, over and over again, “Why did I ever think this was normal?” The question could be applied to everything from the ritualistic simulated cannibalism of your revered founder to the mental state it must take to watch Saturday morning cartoons and wonder, “But what if they were Teenage Mutant Christian Turtles?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
“Cowabunga-loo-jah, Dude!”
Then there’s, “Kermit the Frog here, singing,
And that little bald guy, Elmer Fudd:

Admittedly, this is a novelty song, the Christian equivalent of “What Does the Fox Say?”, but the theological implications of it are astounding. How could the Flintstones know about Jesus in prehistoric Bedrock? Do all dogs go to heaven if they enunciate, “Resus ried on the ross ror my rins”?

Oh that big old moose and his friend Rocky
And our favorite bear named Yogi
“Hey, Boo-boo-boo-loo-jah”
Then there’s all those little blue guys
And they’d sing, “Hah-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-lay-loo-jah”
How about Beavis and that other guy?

Most distressing is the acknowledgement that some cartoon characters are beyond salvation. Beavis and Butthead were only teenagers with plenty of time to turn their lives around. If only someone would introduce them to Christian metal, perhaps they would be less like the Great Cornholio and more like the Great I AM!