Andy Whitman’s music blog is one of my favorites, and today’s entry is especially interesting. (Opus, I see, has noticed it as well.) It’s a commentary on Contemporary Christian Music written 16 years ago. And it’s still oh so relevant (if you’ll permit me the use of that much-abused word.)

It’s worth noting that 16 years ago, Leslie Phillips had recently changed her name to Sam Phillips, jumped off the CCM ship, and reinvented herself as Sam Phillips, with the album The Indescribable Wow introducing her to the open waters of “secular music.” It was her courageous transition, along with the exemplary work done by U2 in that period, that convinced me once and for all that art was about freedom and revelation, not packaging messages and airbrushing personalities. I wish I’d known Andy back then. We could have ranted together.

But we’ve come a long way, baby. Along with Phillips and U2, we have Over the Rhine, The Innocence Mission, Sufjan Stevens, and so many more demonstrating honesty, innovation, and excellence that must make those bands bound by the expectations of the CCM industry feel rather jealous. Not to say that there aren’t artists of integrity within the CCM corral, and no, I’m not making a blanket condemnation of all Christians recording on Christian labels (we’ve had that argument here enough). But it’s interesting to see how so many of these problems persist, in spite of the fact that artists like those I listed above are having such a significant impact being “in, but not of the world.”

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