Thursday, July 05, 2007

Co-dependency is the new black

After a several month sabbatical, I have been giving Christian radio another shot. This time I've found Air1, which is "alternative" K-Love, basically. It has better songs and no Jon and Sherry, which is very important. So anyway, while I like approximately 65% of the music they play, some of the songs they play the most just make me cringe or want to throw myself into traffic. Since when did emo take over Christian music?! Here are some lyrics to the top song on Air1:

You come to me with your scars on your wrist
You tell me this will be the last night feeling like this
I just came to say goodbye
I didn't want you to see me cry,
I'm fine
But I know it's a lie

This is the last night you'll spend alone
Look me in the eyes so I know you know
I'm everywhere you want me to be
The last night you'll spend alone I'll wrap you in my arms and I won't let go
I'm everything you need me to be

--Skillet, "The Last Night"
What on earth?! What are we teaching people here? Granted, Air1 is not an exclusively Christian station, they play more of the broad feel good songs, but this is twisted! Uh, can we say codependency issues?! Ugh, MOREOVER the lyrics in purple are sung by a girl. What is this saying to young girls, who compose this band's target demographic?! Here, use negative drama to make a boy love you and stay by you forever. The damsel in distress freaking cuts herself in the song! Uuuuuuuuuugh. Beyond that, it makes no reference to salvation beyond a friend (and I think the implication here is boyfriend, although I will grant that is not necessarily the case). Principle remains! Christ is going to save us! Friends, community, lovers are all wonderful and important, but aren't where our ultimate value comes from.

So yes, you can see this song has become my soapbox. Then tonight I hear this little diddy:

Tell me where it's hurting
Are you burning?
Running just to catch your breath
And going nowhere
It's getting old when you feel like you got nothing left
Well it ain't over 'til it's over
I told you since the day we met
So let me be the voice through all the noise
Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you

Whatever you need from me
To see you through
Everyone of us has stumbled
Everybody's humbled
We hit the ground and our lives crumble

Whatever I gotta be
I'll be for you
I'm for you
If you never knew
I'm for you
You know it's true

-- Toby Mac, "I'm For You"

Okay, basically the same story here, without the self mutilation. I'm sure there's some vaguely implied reference to Paul's "all things to all people" line, but really, what is the message of this song? "I'll save you. Hang on to me, I'll be the one to bring you through it." And I'm not trying to read into this where there is nothing, but in the great tradition of Christian music being little more than replacing "baby"s and "lover"s with "God"s and "Lord"s, I think it sounds it has some romantic implication.

Last but not least, a song I am actually quite tempted to like upon a superficial hearing. Let's look.

She loves her mama's lemonade
And hates the sound that goodbyes make
She prays one day she'll find someone to need her

She swears that there's no difference
Between the lies and compliments
It's all the same if everybody leaves her

And every magazine tells her she's not good enough
The pictures that she sees make her cry

She would change everything, everything, just ask her
Caught in the in-between a beautiful disaster
She just needs someone to take her home

She's given boys what they want
And tries to act nonchalant
Afraid they'll see that she's lost her direction

She never stays the same for long
Assuming that she'll get it wrong
Perfect only in her imperfection

She's not a drama queen
She doesn't want to feel this way
Only 17 but tired

She's just the way she is but no one's told her that's okay

She would change everything, for happy ever after
Caught in the in-between a beautiful disaster
She just needs someone to take her home

--John McLaughlin, "Beautiful Disaster"
Now that I actually see the words in writing, I am scowling. Every line is about how this girl is self hating and needs someone "to need her" and "take her home." And she's only stinking 17!!! And hello, the title!? Beautiful disaster? Oh dear.

So these are three of the most played songs on Christian radio right now. What message is this sending? To young women, especially? If you want a boy to love you, or if you want attention of any kind, you need to be be depressant, think little of yourself, and place all your hope and joy on the shoulders of your (boy)friend.

Sorry, this has been a soapbox post. It just reminds me how much we have to fight even Christian pop culture (not to mention doctrine) to remind women young and old of their inherent value and from where it comes.


crittermer said...

Yeah, although there's always been a handful of Christian artists who have been faithful to keep their lyrics based around the themes of Christ, grace, (substantive) hope, etc, I'm always shocked at what passes for "Christian" music. I think there are a lot of producers out there who think that anything that's not immoral is "Christian." I heard an interview with a popular "Christian" band recently in which they basically said "Our main goal is to let kids know that we're here for them and we understand what they're going through." Not bad, but there are plenty of non-Christian groups out there who can offer that to kids.

ann said...

I don't mind if they don't overtly mention Christ, God, faith, etc... I'm all for positive music (which is really all the station claims), but to me this is the antithesis of that. This is destructive! But very good points, Mer. I knew I could count on you to comment! :)

Anonymous said...

Hello, I'm Amanda Pierce's brother. I could write a response as long as your post but I will try to keep it shorter. I believe that you've misunderstood these artists intentions and the songs themselves. I encourage you to take a look at the rest of these artists songs. You'll find they aren't just positive but as a whole their catalog of music will fit nicely into your idea of what a Christian artist should be. In specific, none of the songs you have noted in anyway are promoting the negative images presented in them but rather are painting a picture of the state the girl in the narrative already is in. The first is sung by a husband and wife duet and is not intended to say that negative drama is a way for girls to attract guys. Instead the male singer wants to be show love to this female who has found no other way to deal with her pain than through cutting. I will admit there isn't anything in the songs lyrics to help you see that it might be Christ's love but coming from a Christian artist that is the assumption Air1 is making. "I'm For You" by Tobymac I always thought was intended to be sung from the perspective of Christ to us. But I may be wrong. In any case I don’t think he is intended to say that any human is all you need apart from the love of God. Based on his other songs I know he wouldn't want that to be the message sent by this song. I own the cds which each of these first songs is found, I don't know as much about John McLaughlin. However, I don't really think he's doing anything more than Skillet in simply describing the state that this girl is in. Upon hearing this song for the first time my interpretation was that "She just needs someone to take her home" wasn't a reference to a male sleeping with her at his house but rather some loving Christian needs to show her Christ and take her home to meet a loving church family. Again I know little about this artist and could be incorrect. Overall I applaud artists who are willing to sing of the darker side of life which affects the lives of Christians as well as non-Christians and with which many Christian teens struggle. Cutting in particular is a huge problem among teen girls and it's good to have artist who aren't just writing about the wonderful Christian life filled with God's love and grace, because these teens aren't feeling loved or wonderful. That's my take. Thanks for reading.

ann said...

Hi Nathan,

Disagreements as always welcome here, especially when they're kept respectful and doubly especially when they're not anonymous, so I really thank you for yours. I was hard on the groups, yes, and I do want to clarify that I don't think their *intentions* are to come across as I interpreted, but I do think my interpretations are valid (to some degree at least... I am certainly not the beginning and end for all lyrical interpretation :) ).

I totally agree with what you said about the importance of bringing the "dark sides" of life into Christian conversation and music. We need to lament as well as rejoice, and admit hurts and weakness to seek healing in community. But I stand my comment that I think these songs encourage codependent relationships. And again, I believe their target demographic is probably teens to early twenties, and those are the ages where I think people (especially women) already struggle with codependency, either within themselves or enabling it in their relationships.

I appreciate your comments, Nathan, and thank you for coming by my blog. Feel free to comment anytime!

Pamela said...

I agree with Nathan. My interpretation was that these were references of Christ's love for us not of the love of a guy for a girl.

Amanda said...

I agree and disagree with the way you have interpreted the songs. I don't really see that they are encouraging girls to be depressed in order to attract guys, however I can see how it might seem that they imply that your boyfriend/husband is the answer to your problems. That is what I think you are saying about the co-dependent relationships. If they are in fact referring to Christ's love, that would obviously be a different story. However, it isn't obvious who's love they are referring to and therefore it could be interpreted that the boy will be all you need.

As hard as it is to accept by us girls who have been "emotionally brainwashed," your man will not complete you, fix you, or even always be there for you. Humans are just not that powerful. Ultimately we need to have personal strength, through a relationship with God, to be able to face what comes in life. Only then can we truly enjoy the relationships we have with others.

We do have to watch what we are putting in our brains (and later as parents what goes into our children's brains). And of course not everything that is labeled "Christian" is going to be truly biblical (including some hymns we sing at church...). I believe we have to take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt and hash it out for ourselves using the word of God. He will reveal to us the truth. Sometimes music can be a catalyst for that, but even Christian artists are human and should be evaluated based on the Word of God.

As an aside, maybe you should write a letter to these guys and see what they say. Perhaps they don't even realize that their music is coming across this way...