Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music

Article excerpt

Apostles of Rock: The Splintered World of Contemporary Christian Music. By Jay R. Howard and John M. Streck. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, c. 1999. Pp. viii, 299. $29.95, ISBN 0-8131-2105-1.)

Contemporary Christian music (CCM) is a business phenomenon that generates a billion dollars in annual revenues. Integrated since the 1980s into a powerful religious book and music industry, cynics dismiss its religious motivation as long since co-opted by commercial demands. This thoughtful study by Jay R. Howard and John M. Streck, whom the dust jacket identifies as one-time CCM disk jockeys, suggests that the story is much more complex. Drawing from the analytical tools of sociology and from an interpretive framework based on art criticism, the authors define CCM as "a 'splintered' art world characterized by distinct and occasionally competing rationales" (p. 13).

Howard and Streck trace the origins of CCM to the late 1960s transformation of popular music that followed the emergence of "Rock and Roll" as a defining element of youth culture. CCM was marketed as and became an acceptable alternative to rock for evangelical Christian youth. The authors base their analysis on the discography of the music, and on popular magazines containing articles describing and critiquing new CCM releases as well as interviews with leading artists. The authors argue that CCM artists write and perform three different types of music, which they label "Separational CCM," "Integrational CCM," and "Transformational CCM." The artists and periodicals of each type are frequently in conflict with the others and have constructed contradictory defenses of their art. Howard and Streck interpret these defenses using the five-part theological typology developed by Richard Neibuhr to explore the Christ-Culture dilemma that Christians faced in reconciling their faith and their worldly lives. This typology includes: Christ against culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, Christ as transformer of culture, and Christ of culture (pp. 42-45).

"Separational" CCM justifies itself, in this analysis, as a ministry: it positions itself as Christ against Culture through evangelism, praise, and exhortation to youth. "Integrational" CCM, by contrast, sees itself as "sanctified entertainment" (pp. 82, 97, 99-100). …

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