Gungor: “When Death Dies”

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To be totally honest, I usually have a somewhat difficult time with the mostly disingenuous marketing invention that is “Christian Music”; a term that essentially serves as an excuse for mediocrity. I’m sure a lot of church musicians will cringe at my saying this, but for the most part, I find a majority of anthemic, Jesus-is-my-boyfriend praise music to be really… hokey. I know, I know, it really does work for some people. And I respect that; if the gift is the message, for some folks praise music packaging hits the nail on the head. It just doesn’t for me most of the time.

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To be even more honest, I hear God at work more often when I listen to artists like John Mark Nelson, Ravi Shankar, and this Sufjan Stevens/Coldplay mashup.

I mean, there are some very distinct exceptions to my general distaste for the “Christian” genre… whatever that means. Derek Webb, some All Sons & Daughters, Rachel Kurtz, Agape, and a lot of bluegrass gospel-ish stuff is really, really great. Right now, I’m really digging this band, Gungor. A somewhat experimental rock group who write music that hits a religious tangent and who have studied music outside praise band music?! This guy’s got some serious song-writing and composing chops. Enjoy this acoustic performance, including a beat-boxing cello player.

Best of luck, and be good to other humans.

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5 thoughts on “Gungor: “When Death Dies”

  1. I completely agree with you. Christian music, and the response that it gets, has never spoken to me. For the longest time, the only “Christian” music that I responded to was Relient K. They definitely have tracks that fall into the “Jesus is my boyfriend” realm, but they’ve also created some tracks that really speak to me, not just in a spiritual sense, but in an everyday, relating-to-things-that-are-happening way as well. Then I found out about Gungor through you, and although I haven’t listened to most of their stuff yet, “White Man” and “Beautiful Things” are simple, beautiful, and full of meaning. I’ve played those as I went to sleep more than once.
    By the way, have you listened to “Beer With Jesus” by Thomas Rhett? Definitely country, but a good song. At least I think so.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ian!

  2. Most Contemporary Christian music is just as shallow, bland, repetitive, and boring as most pop music these days, which is a shame. When I was at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, for a couple years we had a dedicated “praise” music group that led worship about once or twice a month. The two responsible for finding our music had the hardest time finding good music because we were dedicated to using only music with good theology that spanned a variety of topics; you can only sing songs about how much you love Jesus who saved you from your sins so many times before you want to claw your ears off. We were committed to producing good arrangements and actually leading and encouraging the assembly to sing with us, not just listen to us sing at them. It was much harder than people think, because we weren’t just picking up the most popular tunes from the previous week on the radio.

    1. Ken, I totally agree! As a youth director, planning music can truly be a challenge; I don’t ever want to sing solely love songs to Jesus– where are all the great creation songs? “Conflicted leader” songs? Songs about our call to justice in response to grace? I’d love to hear more about your experience at TLS sometime!

      1. There was a publication by the Lutheran World Federation called “Lutherans Respond to Pentecostalism”*. It was a good mix of what we can learn from Pentecostalism and what issues to be aware of. One of the articles was titled, “A Lutheran Critique of Popular ‘Praise and Worship’ Songs” in which the author charted the top 50 theological references of the 50 most popular worship and praise songs. The results were astounding. Percentage-wise, these statements were the top ten theological points:

        1. “I Surrender My Life” (45%)
        2. “I (want to) Feel God’s Presence” (42%)
        3. I am / We are Saved (40%)
        4. I Worship Jesus/God (39%)
        5. Jesus is the Exalted King, Reigns in Glory (39%)
        6. Jesus is the Love of my Soul (erotic language) (34%)
        7. I Love Jesus/God (33%)
        8. Jesus Died for Me/Us (31%)
        9. God is Love (General Reference) (24%)
        10. I Believe in Jesus (22%)

        Notice how many of them are about me, me, me?

        These were the bottom ten of the themes that were actually referenced:

        37. The Spirit Motivates Us to Witness (2.5%)
        38. I Am Sorry for Concrete Sins/Wrongs (2.5%)
        39. The Spirit Comforts and Guides (2%)
        40. Jesus Died for the World (2%)
        41. God Calls Us Into Fellowship and Unity (2%)
        42. God Will Restore the Earth and CAll All People to Himself (1.5%)
        43. God Wants Us to Love and Serve Others (1%)
        44. God Calls His Church to be a Sign of Peace and Love (1%)
        45. All Nations will be Gathered before Christ (1%)
        46. God is a God of Justice (0.5%)

        And important theological themes that are never mentioned in the 50 most popular worship/praise songs?

        47. Jesus Healed, Fed the Hungry, Went to the Outcasts
        48. God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed
        49. Jesus Meets us in our Brothers and Sisters
        50. We are the Body of Christ

        Finding good worship/praise music is a monumental task. What we need are more writers willing to go where others won’t and write about that which our faith holds most dear.

        *Gertrude Tongsing. “A Lutheran Critique of Popular ‘Praise and Worship’ Songs.” Karen L Bloomquiest, ed. “Lutherans Respond to Pentecostalism.” Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2008.

        1. That’s a really interesting breakdown, but definitely not surprising, having heard the popular Christian music tunes. Thanks for sharing Ken!

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