Everybody is familiar with Christian artists who make music for other Christians. This is the primary thrust of most CCM and Christian radio: Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, Mercy Me, Casting Crowns, etc. There is a valid ministry of providing music and worship resources primarily for the already convinced.
But there is another sort of Christian artist— one who brings his Christian commitments and sensibilities into a broader, more secular setting. They play outside the walls of the church; their primary audience may be people who have not yet trusted Christ. It’s practicing what some might call “subversive Christianity”—quietly bringing the truth of the gospel to people’s minds and hearts. This is the sort of artist to which I am increasingly drawn.
Dave Barnes is such an artist. His blend of acoustic –alternative is increasingly popular on college campuses and in other venues. His most recent CD is Me+ You+ the World displays a fascinating blend of musical styles and a maturing sense of message. Barnes is a fabulous songwriter who is able to write a singable melody, some of which are achingly beautiful. That makes it a whole lot of fun to turn up loud, roll down the windows and sing along. This is just really fun music—whether up-beat or a love song.
But what’s even more fun is to notice the Biblically rich content that is under the surface of each lyric, which show the soul of a poet. Good World Gone Bad, there’s depravity and salvation: “I’m told/ at days old/ she was left on the preacher’s door/ mom and dad/ they felt bad/ But that’s one more problem/ that they didn’t have/ what would it take to change their minds?/ Just one more someone left behind/ It’s a good world/ gone real bad/ and only love can bring it back”.
Since You Said I Do celebrates the power of a husband’s commitment to marriage: “Tell me what to do I’ll try it / Anything in the room? I’ll buy it/ I’ve done everything you asked me to/ since you said “ I do”/ If we ain’t got it, I’ll make it/ Don’t worry ‘bout your heart, I won’t break it/ I’ve done everything you asked me to/ since you said “I do”.
Carry Me Through has a black gospel feel that has the most explicit Biblical images: “There’s a mountain here before me/ I’m gonna climb it with a strength not my own/ He’s gonna meet me where the mountain beats me/ and carry me through.”
Believe is a plea for faith in the face of life’s difficulties: “It’s true what they say/ The devil’s alive and well/ He picked the locks and escaped the gates of hell/ It’s evidence for all you feel right now/ If I could beg, I would beg that you somehow/Believe/There’s hope in this that you will soon see if you only believe.”
10,000 Children is the issue song — about hunger and refugees: “10,000 children and all I can do is just talk/ while my home is full of possessions that negligence bought/10,000 children are my invitation to change/ living in excess now suddenly feels oh so strange/ only love can save us all.”
This is good stuff—showing how a Christian worldview can be integrated in the ordinary stuff of falling in love, marriage, pain and world events. Worth a listen. (Check out Chasing Mississippi, too!)