Sunday, December 07, 2008

Living Above 'The Fray' of Christian Cliche'

One of the most promising bands to hit the music scene over the past few years is The Fray. Not only does this talented group produce great music, but they are also committed Christians. Along with a number of other bands like Switchfoot and P.O.D., The Fray seeks to have their music exposed to a much broader audience than those that would typically purchase music on "Christian" labels.

While reading up on the band I came across this interview that they did in Christianity Today a couple of years ago. While providing some background on the history of the group, lead singer Isaac Slade offers an interesting take on the band's purpose. Here's a segment of Stan Friedman's article:
"Critics have credited the band's success in part to their catchy hooks and melodies, but the power of Slade's lyrics also has been key to catapulting The Fray into the national limelight. How to Save a Life is filled with songs that tell stories of depth and emotion that go beyond the ever-present angst—and Christian—bands. The band members' lives were largely formed in Denver churches where they helped lead worship, and in the Christian school three of them attended. Slade, 24, and guitarist Joe King, 25, were several years ahead of drummer Ben Wysocki, 21, at Faith Christian Academy. Wysocki and guitarist David Welsh, 21, played in the same worship band.
The band avoided Christian record labels, saying God called them to the secular market instead. "I feel he would be disappointed with us if we limited ourselves," Wysocki says. Slade says he used to "write all Christian lyrics" until he had an epiphany while working a shift at Starbucks: "None of my friends outside the church understood any of my songs; we had a different set of vocabulary," he says. "So I went home and threw away all those songs." He adds, "If I handed somebody a double grande mocha latte and told them, 'Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,' they might throw it back on me.
"If we grow up in the church, it's easy to think it's our Christian duty to preach to every single person because God is the most important thing. And he is, but I'm a musician first. This is my job. We're not pastors. We're not preachers. We're not even missionaries." Slade likens his job to any other. "If you're a painter, paint, but you don't have to have Jesus in every picture. Paint well, and if you paint well enough, they might ask you why you do that."
Within Christian circles there is often an expectation placed upon musicians to be more upfront and vocal about their faith than we expect from those in other professions. For example, we don't expect lawyers who are Christians to refer to Jesus in every opening argument, but we are often dismayed if a singer who is a Christian doesn't use the name of Jesus in every song. I am not at all saying that singers who are followers of Christians shouldn't refer to God in their songs. I would be disappointed if they didn't.

But what I am concerned is the desire of some of us to place Christians artists in a box and relegate them to the Christian subculture that we've created. There may be some that have a calling from God to minister to and encourage those that are already part of The Church and that is a great thing. However, there are others that have a calling to reach those outside of the Christian faith. In order to do this effectively they need to speak a language that the broader culture will understand and do so in a manner that points them to God.

As in any profession, musicians that are believers in Jesus need to work at their craft with excellence and seek to let their light shine wherever God leads them. Simple things like working hard, showing up on time, completing assignments and being a friend to co-workers are all things that honor God in the workplace. On the other hand, musicians have a platform that many of us don't possess. They have a voice that is heard by millions and opportunities to influence culture. Whether they are explicitly Christian in their lyrical content or they seek to raise questions that will cause people to seek spiritual answers, Christian artists should seek to live as God would want any of us to live. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
No matter if I claim the title of pastor or missionary or singer or plumber, my role as a Christian is to follow God each day and live in a manner that pleases Him. We are to seek ways that honor him and opportunities to make Him known by always being prepared to share the reason for the hope that is within us with gentleness and respect. (I Peter 3:15)

28 comments:

LaBelleAurore said...

I was looking up The Fray as a Christian band and came across this post. You make some excellent points that have helped. I agree, we do seem very hard on Christians who sing secular, and yet aren't hard on Christian singers when they have songs that aren't explicitly Christian featured on their albums. Many Christian Rock bands such as Relient K or Skillet come to mind.

There's just one thing that bothers me, and that's between him and God, but it's why a person would throw out every single specifically Christian song, and then claim they don't really publicly open up about their faith unless asked. Does it fall under the category of the salt losing it's flavor? I don't claim to know the answer, I just was thinking about it as I read this post.

I was looking up information on them before deciding to listen to their music, which is being offered through a Christian site despite the band's claims. Given some of their lyrics, I still am undecided on whether or not they would make an edifying edition to my music collection.

Anonymous said...

I heard the newest song by this band on Christian radio several times over the past few days and decided to look up the lyrics online...I love the tune of that song, but it is not edifying to my Spirit at all. I'm not a "Christian music only" person either...it just makes me sad and takes me back to a dark place that I just don't want to help myself go back to anytime soon. I find it odd that they play it so often on Christian radio...I hope I'm not sounding legalistic. I just don't understand the song lyrics. They seem to be angry at God, (if it is God who the lyrics are about, not sure) saying You found me, lost and insecure...goes on to say it was a little too late and where were you?

I don't know but it saddened me.

scottcrocker said...

I think these are good points. I will leave it up to the band to the meaning behind their lyrical content, but I do appreciate Christians that are willing to explore the difficult questions of life. Both of these comments are valid and raise some good questions. ~Scott

Connor said...

For the guy who was wondering about "You Found Me":

I think the song is more about having faith in God. I do believe that the song is talking about God. I think it means that while we may think that God showed up a little late, he was still there and he still showed up. And he still "found us". I think it's about having faith in God. And even if it seems that He is a little late, he still has a purpose.

Anonymous said...

love this article makes some great points i think that by using a more braod usage of lyrics they can captivate both christans and non christians i mean in their latest song it couldn't be more clear "i found god...." the song goes on to talk about a point in his life. Many people can relate to that both christian and non believers. that's powerful that they have the ability to reach those who have found jesus and those who haven't. i mean that's was jesus was able to do right?

CH said...

quoting from the song.
"Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late
You found me, you found me
why'd you have to wait
to find me, to find me"

whoever has a relationship with the Lord and abides in His words knows that whoever calls upon Him, He will always answer.
As it is said in Jeremiah 29:12-14
"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.I will be found by you," declares the LORD..."

But the song is saying the total opposite of what the bible teaches us. This song is not one that is reaching out to God but a " I'm shaking my fist at you God" kind of song.

If this song is playing at christian radios, they need to stop. It's sending the wrong message about who God really is to us.

God is the God of Love. Never Forget that!!

Anonymous said...

CH...
Try telling Job or some of the psalmists that God will always come running to you if you have a real relationship with Him. Maybe read a little Psalm 13. Sometimes God doesn't answer right away because He is teaching us. It is ok for us to tell him how we feel. Thats a REAL relationship.
God isn't a gumball machine in the sky that you put a quarter in the form of a prayer and you should expect a result.

Fray, keep it real

Anonymous said...

Psalm 13 is one of my favourite verses.... Have you ever read Ecclesiastes? Or what about Lamentations? Half of the Psalms are laments as well.... There's a time for everything...

God just wants us to be real and authentic, and if you can't, that's just religion....

Craig said...

I would rather 100 people listen to my music and be led to Christ than 1,000,000 listen and never know I'm a Christian.

Natasha said...

Craig - exactly! I am confused by their reasonings on not wanting to share Christ. We've all been called to be disciples.

Adamgv said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joseph said...

After reading both the article and comments, i made my conlcusion. Most of you do not understand what is what their trying to do? They are reaching to the secular world, the world that actually needs more of Jesus and God. When Jesus came, did he preached to the faithful? no, he went looking for those who know nothing of him. You dont go to the doctor if your dont have anything, only if your ill. Those lyrics that ch posted are just how a son of God feels when angts and suffering surround him. As the book of lamentations very much makes clear. Faith is not the cure for pain, only by learning to accept and understand it, its the only way we come out strong with Love and God, since Faith should be our source of strength to remain faithful through hard times.

Stacey said...

I don't think that they are really turning their backs on God or their Christian faith. It seems to me that their reaching out to those who most need to be reached. In today's society, people tend to stray further from Christ when they feel they're being "pushed" or "preached at". Secluding yourself into a life where you don't connect with non-Christians is not the way to show God's love. He says "If you are a painter...Paint well, and if you paint well enough, they might ask you why you do that". People will seek to find what makes you who you are, where your outlook on life, and the love that you have to share with others stems from.

Heather said...

I think that the song is a little confusing. The band is trying to reach out to a wider group of people, so by having the following they already have, I understand it was time to throw their Christianity into the mix to expose their love for Christ to non-believers. However, I also must say that the lyrics themselves insinuate that God is not always there, and that He finds US. When, in fact, it is our worldy selves that stray from Him while He waits for us to return to Him. Maybe I'm crazy, but this is a mixed message on some levels...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Heather, I think the lyrics are confusing and they don't send out the right message. Reading some of you all comments, it's right that sometimes God doesn't answer right away and telling God how you feel is part of a real relationship but also God appreciates it when we trust him , and trust what he is doing is for the better and thank him for the stuff that maybe at this point we don't understand because his word tells us that great things he has prepared for us. Therefore, complaining doesn't solve anything in fact it aggravates, would you like someone complaining to you when you are doing something nice for them, and in that process is when characters are built. To the comment that said that Jesus came to talk to those that had stray form his word, this is true, but Jesus did this by bring them the word, the truth. The Bible says that the Word will never come back empty and i don't think this band is is bringing the word to the people or at least sending the right message.

"I've been callin'
For years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
Ya never send me no letters
You got some kinda nerve
Taking all my world"

IN this lyrics they seem as if they were saying that God did not care about the person enough to save them from the beginning. IN the Bible says that If God knocks at your door is up to you to let him in. It also says that God has promised to be by you but it doesn't say that you have promised to be always by God, although in the lyrics is making God responsible for what has happened to him while he choose not to be by God and make his own decisions.

I am very disappointed in these lyrics, although catchy i believe that if the message they are sending is totally contrary to what i have stated above they should first of all write the lyrics a little more clearly. If not then the message that the world needs to here, is that there is a God that loves them and although they choose not to be by Him and choose to ignore him he is always there and does not show up late, because he has always been there is just we have been to busy to even say hi and often stray from him. So in fact we should be saying "just a little late" God.

Julia said...

I respectfully disagree with you Heather. If you read the story of the prodigal son Jesus says that "while the son was a long way off, his father RAN to him" in the same string of stories he tells of a woman who loses a coin and SHE finds it again. Also Jesus talks about how if one sheep strays from the group HE will go, leave the 99 behind and seek out the lost. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. So when we stray away God, in His infinite grace, chases us down to bring us back to himself. He is an amazing God and he does find us, he always knows where we are and puts us in any situation He has to to make us see Him again.. He loves lost things.

Julia said...

and Anonymous, I understand and appreciate your thoughts on complaining, but sometimes its hard to not feel crushed. God allows dark things to happen to his children and we don't always understand. I know that trust in Him is key, but there are moments in life where all you can ask is "why God?" and you don't always had an answer. It doesn't mean you don't love him, it just means that in certain moments it feels dark and lonely even though He is there we don't always feel him.`As humans it is hard to feel totally secure and trusting when you feel all alone... Read Job; God never left, but if you ask Job, it sure felt like he did...

Frankie said...

Ok, I understand that music is their job. I can completely handle that and think it is cool as long as lyrics don't get out of hand and lives still line up. I do agree they can hold this as a job as long as they don't compromise their beliefs with their lyrics or actions.

Here is my only problem. How can you say they are reaching out to the secular world when they do not discuss their faith. Yes Jesus used parables and then referenced it being like the Kingdom of God etc.

As I said, music as a job is awesome. I just don't think you are going to reach the secular world with a pretty song about things they understand. Many of them do not have a clue that The Fray is a group of Christians. I guess my thought is don't try to sale the Christian community on we are still doing this for God in order to get their money too.

Side note, I am with an earlier responder why in the world would you throw away your songs about God?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how "You Found Me" has sparked such conversations. I hope you all realize that is what it is doing for non-Christians as well. They are talking about it. I have found many articles online about the meaning of that song. Isaac said in an interview that he wrote that song when he was going through some hard times in his life and all he wanted was to call out to God. To try and understand why the bad things happen. He actually talked about how he had to rely on his faith to get him through, even if he was upset he was going through hard times. This was not said on a Christian post. The band is sharing their faith with people who are asking and quess what the question was... not about Christ or God, but their new hit song. They aren't shy about their faith at all. They are writing songs that non-Christians can also relate in. However, I do think that they would appreciate our prayers and support because they are out there in the secular world and everyone needs support and prayer when it comes to keeping a good relationship with the Lord.

Anonymous said...

I think its important to remember that they are doing ministry through music, even if they don't term it as such. If their heart is to reach non-Christians, and furthermore, if they follow that up by singing non-"Christian" songs, then they are missionaries, and their heart is in the right place; they are accustoming their music to their audience.
Another thing to remember is that music is an art form, meaning that there is almost always inspiration behind the work. Thus, I agree that music doesn't have to be outright Christian to have a Godly influence on people, just as long as it aligns itself with God's heart. Just look at Brooke Fraser, who publishes music that isn't outright Christian but with meanings that can easily be traced back to her Christian faith.
I also believe that artists should be able to express their emotions, especially Christians, lest they be unemotionally or unpassionately singing praise songs when they are really struggling. Its fine to display frustration and confusion about God: that's human, and its been going on for ages, just check out psalms. But its different if you leave frustrations at that and do not reconcile them with God, and that's the problem that I found with the song "You Found Me". It doesn't portray God's love very well: He makes it sound like God was incompetent at intervening at the right place and time and at understanding him; it makes God seem cruel and uncaring. Personally, its frustrating to listen to the song. Their hearts are in the right place by not officially associating themselves with "Christianity" to reach out to non-Christians. However, if songs like this are just the tip of the iceberg, its not advancing God's kingdom on earth.

Jed Estrada said...

Hey, I also came across this while researching The Fray as a Christian Band. Thanks so much for publishing this! Somehow, I always got the feeling they were Christians. There was something inspired about their songs.

While I don't quite agree with their opinions on ministry, I respect them for what they are doing... and I LOVE their music!

Anonymous said...

Keep doing what you are doing Fray!Don't listen to the many narrow minded christians who think that we are called to be sales people for Jesus, we are called to keep it real and live our faith in the REAL workd not the fake subculture of church with all its Jargon and junk. How blind we have become peopl, how blind we have become.

Anonymous said...

As Christian who just re-connected with God. I completly get this song. Where was God, when heartache was all I knew. Why didn't God help me. The answer - God was there all the time. I just was not listening. So when "he found me lying on the floor" I was asking for his help. Remember we are the ones who have sinned and turned OUR backs on God. But when we are ready he is there for us. I to wished he would have found me sooner. So many day and years lost. Like a good movie, a well wirtten song leaves room for the audience. In other words, when John Lennon said "a working mans hero is something to be" was he talking about himself or his audience? A good song writer will let his aucience in, let them take thier own meanings form the words, while at the same time tell a story. This is the power of music.

Carol said...

Well,

Seems that pretty much everything has been told...just a few comments guys:

-I think The Fray has two albums...am I right? two. And we are just focusing on one song. they are more than one song...one stanza, one verse. We should take a look at the big picture, give them a listen, a chance, and see where we found ourselves at the end of the journey (if we really want to have an educated opinion on their work). For me it seems a little harsh to point fingers at the guys (at least that is the feeling I get from reading some comments here), I would say that that's not our job. We are entitled to an opinion, but please let's be careful of our words. I'm on the journey that I proposed before, and found myself pleased with their sound. I have listened to way too many christian bands with the same tunes and lyrics over and over agains. About the lyrics that should take a little while longer...
I am one of those christians that are very careful with what I listen, because music is essential in my life...it's a pretty big part of my relationship with God... so the fact that a song does or doesn't connect me to Him is an important factor in adding music to my collection. However, there are so many different kinds of music, for so many different purposes, and what connects me to God, could get someone a nice nap. If someone claims that he or she has found God or felt something spiritual while listening to this band, isn't that great? Doesn't God use the most unexpected ways to talk to us? and so what if in one particular song they didn't reach the expectations of many christians? so what if they are just trying to get their music sold in christian circles, by stating they're christians? Those things are not very relevant if God chooses to let one their songs to draw attention to Him by someone who doesn't know Him. Other bands do a lot more damage than these guys apparently do. I think that even if The Fray are not a "Christian band" if through their music hearts are touched, that's a lot more than most of us are doing right now.

Anonymous said...

The memebers of The Fray are not saying anything bad in "You Found Me". Has anyone heard Isaac Slade (the lead singer of The Fray) talk about this song or seen the music video?

This is from Wikipedia:

In an interview, Isaac Slade expressed his meaning behind the lyrics of the song:

"You Found Me" It's about the disappointment, the heart ache, the let down that comes with life. Sometimes you’re let down, sometimes you’re the one who lets someone else down. It gets hard to know who you can trust, who you can count on. This song came out of a tough time, and I’m still right in the thick of it. There’s some difficult circumstances my family and friends have been going through over the past year or so and can be overwhelming. It wears on me. It demands so much of my faith to keep believing, keep hoping in the unseen. Sometimes the tunnel has a light at the end, but usually they just look black as night. This song is about that feeling, and the hope that I still have, buried deep in my chest.

In another interview Isaac Slade declared that:

"I kept getting these phone calls from home - tragedy after tragedy... If there is some kind of person in charge of this planet - are they sleeping? Smoking? Where are they? I just imagined running into God standing on a street corner like Bruce Springsteen, smoking a cigarette, and I'd have it out with him."

Furthermore, in a Reuters article about the album, Slade says that the lyrics for "You Found Me" were written two and a half years ago, and that the song asks about the problem of evil, why bad things happen to good people, after some of their friends and family went through very tough times."


It's just asking the question everyone asks God. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Who hasn't questioned God about why something bad was happening?

And just because they don't go around telling everyone they meet that they're Christians doesn't mean they are turning their back on God.

Anonymous said...

I just listened to the song, and it really has different meanings in different contexts, but I really am against the idea of lukewarmness. the message should have been clearer. But all the same, God should never be disrespected in any manner, be it words, thoughts or deeds. "all alone, smoking his last cigarette" is clearly disrespect, or a show of immaturity in the faith. we need more defined christian artists in this world.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how as soon as a public figure confesses to have a faith in god, the Christian culture all of a sudden gets out their microscopes and lays out their judgement. Far out they are ignorant! The fray are musicians doing what they love and have had great success. Any normal person would applaude such achievement. Why can't Christians focus on their own lives instead of those who are living theirs?

David Edmisten, President, justopenthebook.com said...

I love that you point out in your post our duty as Christians to be the light to the world. I think that excellence in your work and in your relationships is often a great way to point someone to God. I think our duty is to always be ready with answer for non-believers for the hope that we have.

For this band, I think their mission of reaching to the lost is admirable. I hope they have the answer for their hope at the tip of their tongues when it is necessary.