We often say people’s iPods reveal their personalities. And it’s sort of true. On my phone, you’ll find lots of folk, singer-songwriter, Christian, pop, oldies, hip-hop, contemporary, instrumental, country, rock, soundtrack, alternative—pretty much everything. My iPod reveals that I’m not very competitive when it comes to music. I’m not someone who’s out to find the next best artist before anyone else. I’m too lazy for that. I just like what I like and love hearing new stuff when people recommend it.
So what can we learn about the world by looking at its iPod: the radio? What do our stations reveal about our values?
This is what I’ve noticed: there’s a lot of pop. A lot of rap. A lot of talk radio. Some indie music, depending on where you live, as well as country here in the South. And one more major genre—religious music. But not just religious. To be more specific, it’s Christian.
I find that so fascinating. Out of all the artists who want to be heard, out of all the stations that try to make it on the air, Christian music stands out loud and clear. And I’m not just talking about America exclusively. I’ve done a little research and have yet to find significant radio stations in other countries that play non-Christian religious music. In fact, this link here shows just how many more religious stations the U.S. has than any other country. I think this says two major things about humanity:
1. We desperately seek peace that comes from above.
If no one listened to Christian radio stations, they wouldn’t stay on the air. The fact that they’re all over the radio means people are searching for and finding comfort in Someone higher than themselves.
And it’s not just stations and DJs but the actual songs that people love. I’m well-aware that Christian songs are often not the most artistic or original. (Let’s be honest, sometimes they’re just flat-out cheesy). But not all of them. One of the most popular Christian songs right now is “Oceans” by Hillsong United. It was released in 2013 and currently has 8,849,046 plays on Spotify, while the 87th song on the Billboard Top 100 Songs of 2013, “U.O.N.E.O,” by Rocko, has only 6,782,354 plays. People are running to this contemporary Christian stuff, whether cheesy or not, and not just a few people—millions. Somehow, some way, it’s impacting people.
2. The truth of Christianity goes deeper than we can imagine.
Many religions incorporate music into their faith. However, most songs can be called “inspirational” at best. Many are entitled “mantra,” “meditation,” or “devotional song,” rather than “worship.”
And that’s a big difference.
Though we Christians often enjoy the singing portion of church and find it comforting, that’s not its purpose. Hopefully most of us recognize that. The point of our praise and worship time is just that—for worshipping God. We’re not focusing on making ourselves feel better but simply declaring who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done for us. It’s all about Him.
And our musical worship is not just bound to Sunday mornings. While other religions may sing devotional songs in their gatherings to bring about inner peace, they don’t listen to them while they run or raise hands to them while they drive (hopefully only one hand at a time…). To me this seems to be one of the boldest pieces of evidence for the reality of the Christian faith—that it spreads into our day-to-day lives.
So here’s the bottom line: something about music touches the human soul, and Christians’ deep love of worship music (going all the way back to the songs of Miriam and David) shows that our faith touches our soul too. We’re so moved by Jesus that we write new songs about Him all the time. And we teach these worship songs to others, and they catch on, and soon millions of people are playing them by their pillow as they fall asleep and crying to them in church and strumming them on guitars around campfires. Our music, just like our faith, is embedded into every aspect of our lives. It’s not just a motion to move through or a hoop to jump through. It’s authentic and passionate and pure. As Matthew 12:34 says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”