people of faith

 

The Sound of Divine Inspiration
By Maria Vitale

From a distance, they look like your typical teenage concert-goers, in t-shirts, jeans, and athletic shoes, hanging out with fellow music-lovers. But take a closer look, and you'll find many of their t-shirts bear decidedly Christian viewpoints, like the blunt affirmation, "Abortion is homicide." And the songs they're listening to are markedly different from the sex-and- drugs theme popular at many concert venues. These are the fans that have made Christian music a nearly billion dollar industry, one of the fastest-growing musical genres.

While hard-core rock fans have mega-tours such as Lollapalooza and Ozzfest, Christian music fans have Festival Con Dios, the first Christian alternative-rock tour. The 30-city extravaganza features Pillar, a rap-rock band; the OC Supertones, which specialize in the Jamaican form of music known as ska; the rapper T-Bone and the Newsboys. The concerts are definitely parent-pleasers; their drug-free, alcohol-free atmosphere make them certifiable family fare. All told, Christian recording stars posted 747 million dollars in record sales last year, representing seven percent of all music industry sales. That works out to double the rate of U.S. Latin music sales, or more sales than jazz, Classical, and New Age artists combined.

Christian music mega-stars include Amy Grant, whose adult contemporary style makes her the best-selling performer; Steven Curtis Chapman, a pop contemporary star; CeCe Winans, whose Gospel works have placed her among the top performers; Carman, an evangelical artist, and P.O.D., a rap-rock group that's appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

This is not your father's Christian music. Soulful ballads are supplemented with heavy metal tunes and rap manifestos. But, unlike many mainstream songs, these works are often directed to God or stress religious values. And their message appears to be gaining in popularity. Music giants such as Sony and Universal are grabbing independent gospel-based labels; major publishers such as Warner Brothers have added Christian book divisions. The rise in the popularity of Christian music comes at a time when the number of evangelical Christians has jumped dramatically and may now represent the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. religious population.

Whether it's a poignant ballad from the trio ZOEgirl or a barn-burner from the Temper Tantrums, the first all-girl Christian punk band, Christian music has become a powerful soundtrack to the lives of members of Generation Z. For some, the music is actually leading them to a closer relationship with Jesus and with their brothers and sisters in Christ. The musical bridge becomes a bridge to heaven, the soulful chords amplified by the message of the Gospel. It truly is a musical experience that's out of this world.

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