I love music. I can find something to love in almost any genre (modern country is a rare exception), and I take pride in building cohesive playlists that bridge them all. I love how a song can instantly transport you back to the moment when you first heard it, what you saw, what you felt, and who you were with. I love the history of music, and how every major musical revolution is intrinsically connected with cultural revolutions.
I didn't always feel this way. I was taught to fear music. I grew up in churches where music was firmly divided into "Christian" and "Secular" music. The former was any music that was written "to glorify god." This ranged from old-timey hymns to contemporary Christian "pop." This contemporary Christian music was mostly a bizarre assemblage of carefully crafted substitutes for growing secular trends. An angsty Christian kid shouldn't listen to Nirvana; that's what Skillet is for.
Even as a teenager, I picked up on the cognitive dissonance of CCM. In attempting to fill the same void as all of the "ungodly" music out there, Christian artists tended to miss the point in even having an alternative. A Christian rock show looked very much like a regular rock show. Smoke machines, light shows, and mind-numbing bass all served to make the artists larger than life. They were stars, idols. They might sing about giving God all of the glory, but they seemed to be directing an awful lot of glory their own way. Nobody blames Dave Matthews for naming his band after himself, but the David Crowder Band somehow thought that they were building a cult of personality for Jesus, and NOT for David Crowder.
It didn't help that so much of it sounded the same. It almost seems supernatural how I can hear the first few bars of a song while surfing the radio and know immediately that I've accidentally tuned in to K-Love, a national Christian radio station. Half of the albums released had at least a few covers of old hymns and a few more of the work of some other CCM artist. It's a musical circle jerk. Even the "original" tracks tended to have the same refrains of "Holy, holy, holy," "Lord God Almighty," "Savior, Father," etc.
As a teenager, I was able to find a few gems in all of the garbage. A select few artists that were actually deserving of the title. These artists created sounds unique to themselves, with novel lyrics that actually communicated spiritual and emotional depth. I can't really bring myself to listen to any of them anymore, though. They speak to an aspect of my life that I'm all to eager to forget. Remember how I said music has the ability to transport us back to a time or place? I'm not so fond of how a song by the Newsboys can bring me back to a place where I was sobbing in a dark room, begging God to hear my pointless prayers. Songs that used to make me feel more alive and in tune with my faith now leave me feeling hollow and burdened, back under the thumb of oppressive ideologies.
Fortunately, there's more than enough "secular" music out there to fill the void.