Stifling Katy Perry’s Creative Freedom

Katy Perry performing at Clutch Cargo's and Mi...

Image via Wikipedia

I LOVE music.

I’ve been writing songs since I was ten years old.  My Dad was in a rock band in the seventies called “Pyramid”.  They had a keyboardist named Gary Jones, a white guy with a huge afro who used to put Christmas lights in his hair during shows.  One time there was a short in the electrical circuit during a Pyramid show, and Jones’s afro caught on fire!  The band Pyramid lasted for probably about 6 or 7 years, most of which my Dad probably did not remember very much.  My Dad violently quit the rock n’ roll scene, slamming his guitar on the ground right in the middle of a gig in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.  He then worked as a roofer, laying down roof shanks on hot days all over Cleveland, keeping himself going with hardcore seventies stimulants (some of you could guess what I’m talking about…) and butter pecan ice cream.  Some years later, he ran into my Mom on Coventry Road in Cleveland, a place where all the hippies used to hang out, and any of them left still do.  He asked her on a date, and she gave him a bunk phone number.  Still, he chased her down eventually, and they got hitched in a wild seventies way (non-traditional), and years later in 1981, they had me.

So by 1991 I was ten years old, and my Dad was trying to convince me to play guitar.  It wasn’t hard for him to convince me, because I loved Aerosmith, AC/DC, the Doors and Led Zeppelin at the time.  So I got one for Christmas, and immediately, my Dad started to teach me songs to play.  He even helped me write my first song, “Misty Windows”, about a crush I had on a girl in elementary school.  Looking back, I realize how silly that song was, but it was the beginning of a long line of songs I’d write.

Writing music helped me get through puberty.  It somewhat led me into the party scene because so many of my favorite artists were drug-heads.  Later on, it eventually pushed me out of the party scene when I realized that a lot of my favorite artists had died by choking on their own vomit!  It helped me deal with break-ups in the romantic whirlwind of High-School.  Ultimately it was a medium that the Creator of the Universe was using all along to speak core truths into my life to lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ.  I had no idea that God was speaking to me all along through my expression in music, but He was.  When I listen back to some of my old pre-Jesus recordings, I even realize that God was speaking to me through many of the lyrics that I had written.

Do we listen for lyrics that are crying out for God’s help on “secular” radio, or do we just think that all music that isn’t worship music is obviously inspired by the devil?

I just read a bio on Katy Perry at Wikipedia, and it says that She grew up listening to gospel music and was not allowed to listen to what her mother called “secular music”.  Perry also attended Christian schools and camps.  There’s nothing wrong with Christian music, schools and camps.  But it’s interesting when parents’ feel they have to immerse their kids in Christian subculture as an act of “protecting them from the world”.  Really, parents should be protecting their kids from the messages that they’re being bombarded with daily.  This would mean that parents would have to do the tough job of teaching their kids to discern the truth, and analyze the song lyrics, TV shows and magazines that are popular today.  I’ll use Katy Perry as an example, she was merely a Christian because it’s all that she knew growing up.  Her parents were in ministry and it seems that they wanted to protect her from the world outside of the church.  We look at where she’s at now and see that as soon as she tasted the world outside of Christian culture, she just threw herself in head first.  I’m not saying that she would have done anything else if given the chance.  It seems that she was over-sheltered and never given the chance to discern God’s truth in a wild world.  I also know this is the case with many of our youth growing up in the church today.  Parents’ are doing their kids a disservice by not teaching them to interact with their culture biblically.  One can never know if their kids will grow up to be faithful followers of Jesus, but parents can do all they can to help them in a world where it’s tough.

I think that people are crying out to God in all kinds of music, as well as other mediums in our culture.  It shows the spiritual state of where people are at with Him.  I know that because I’ve experienced it myself.  I was certainly caught up in a lot of garbage that came out in artistic expression.  But at times it’s as if God was revealing that one day he would call me to Himself.  We should listen to the radio, watch TV, watch movies, and listen for moments where people are searching for God.  We should also have a firmly grounded foundation in scripture that gives us the strength to process things that could potentially confuse our faith.



15 thoughts on “Stifling Katy Perry’s Creative Freedom

  1. great thoughts, ben. i have said for some time that “christian” makes a lousy adjective – and “christian music” is the most obvious example. i understand the motivation, but it is a shame that american evangelicals have created such a vast and exhaustive sub-culture.

    or as my favorite lyricist said:
    You’ll be keeping all your money
    In the kingdom now
    And you’ll only drink milk
    From a Christian cow

    • Thanks Lon. And unfortunately it’s true. I suppose the only reason I’m forced to use terms like “Christian Music” is because they’re vastly understood by the church. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when the church actually had cultural innovation? Actually- I’ve heard that’s happening with a certain type of dance music in an African Country- which one I’m not sure.

      Who wrote those lyrics?

  2. the lyricist was Steve Taylor. You should immediately buy everything he ever released.

    i remember going to a amy grant concert at blossom. along the way we encountered “protesters” handing out fliers about how she sold out because she did a secular song. at the time i thought – so what? can a carpenter only build churches, or houses for christians.? why the double-standard for musicians.

    I know of of a medium sized megachurch (is that an oxymoron?) across the street from section 8 housing where they play jazz as background music in their gathering space. when asked why they do not play “christian-music” the pastor in charge of the music in that room asks “what makes music christian?”

    if the answer is “lyrics” – then he responds jazz has no lyrics.
    if the answer is “written by a christian” – then he responds with a question about how they know the spiritual state of the composer.
    if the answer is “music that glorifies god” – the he responds that it is christian then…

    usually those asking the question go away unsatisfied.

    • Ha- yeah I had the privilege of receiving a double album of greatest hits done by Steve Taylor as a free gift from the Coulters. They told me the same thing 🙂 I think they saw that I could relate to his cynicism 🙂

      Ha ha- it is an oxymoron, and a term coined by a bit of a moron named benwhite29.

      That’s a great response bro. It’s hilarious how we in America are always trying to hyper-spiritualize ourselves (me included). We’re always looking for a way to make it seem like we’re champions for “gospel causes” that are really outside of the gospel.

    • Good ol’ days…

      I was thinking the days of Bach- but those days were wrought with different problems I suppose.

  3. Lon! Steve Taylor??? You rock!!
    (Ben…Lon’s right, buy anything you can from Steve Taylor! You will love “whatever happened to sin”)
    Liked the interchange of ideas here–thanks guys…

  4. I am so glad that Christians are starting to be sensible about the relationship between God, themselves, and the rest of life. I think much of these problems are holdovers from a time when a compartmentalized life was much easier. And from the history of the Christian religion being the major moral guide for the society. It used to be so much easier for Christians to live compartmentalized, presumptive lives because they held the philosophic power. That changed in the 60’s, but the religious powers sulked for twenty years, until they finally were overtaken by a new generation. Now that generation is giving way to the latest generation. I can only imagine that God finds a certain frustration in giving humanity the role of ambassadors, acting as we do like such…humans.

    I was, thanks to my very cool youth pastor, raised on Christian bands operating at the fringe of CCM: The 77s, Adam Again, The Choir, Daniel Amos, Mike Knott, VoL, OtR.

    As a Rich Mullins fan(?) you should check out Mark Heard — probably the best lyricist to ever go unnoticed…crippled by awful 80’s production… I’ve been stunned by every song of his I’ve heard covered.

  5. I would also like to comment further that what happened in the 60’s was a philosophic argument in which the Christians lost, rightly so, because their philosophic framework was so poor. They have tried to respond to this loss for years. The latest generation seems unaware of this petty squabble, which is good; they might actually get somewhere. The rest of society has now claimed itself the Holder of Truth, just like the Christian religious moralists used to. They are just as wrong, in my mind, because Truth cannot be described by doctrine or philosophy (which I think is shown by the statement, “The only truly accurate map would have a ratio of 1:1). The Truth has been claimed to be a person, a claim that I believe is reliable, which means you won’t find it in a religion or philosophy, though it might point you toward that person.

    But I think I’m thoroughly off-topic now…

    • That is thoroughly and articulately well-put Mike. I really do think Christians have failed by trying to somehow “own” culture. Instead, we’re called to be “in” culture- and simply be an influence for Jesus. I heard it put simply once by my good friend Tate Newland that God doesn’t ask us to be his lawyers, but his witnesses. To be a witness is to simply state what He has done- in the past (which is documented) and for us (our story). I’ve actually seen that many that the religious whackos would call “skeptics” are totally open to dialogue about stuff like this. I love the fact that God is the One that moves people towards Him, and all we have to do is be who we are. I also love that we can’t sway or force anyone to believe anything- but we CAN LOVE & live in the TRUTH and have FREEDOM! Heck yeah…

  6. Interesting topic Ben! This is where I say I am a recovering Baptist because we had to burn all the secular music we had. It took me a long time to not feel guilty about listening to secular music. I think my 12 year old has a more balanced approach of music as we discuss the meaning of songs and how they affect us, or why do you think the writer is saying what he/she is saying. I really like the jazz illustration above. (I love jazz music!)

    • Dig it Lisa. Wouldn’t expect anything else from you because I know you care about people and want to leave the dialogue about the gospel open. I don’t doubt your kids will be the same!

  7. Pingback: 2010 in review « benwhite29

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