Sunday, October 29, 2017

In the Eye of the Radio Edit

I enjoy music. I'm not like a super-informed, audiophile, but I appreciate a wide range of genres. When I was a kid, I despised country music in its entirety, Elvis, and Simon & Garfunkel. I don't think I'd ever heard contemporary Christian music or that would have been on the list too.

Age has brought greater musical appreciation and I've got a whole lot of Christian artists on my playlist along with those previously hated genres and musicians. Tupac, Linkin Park, Sheryl Crow, Jimi Hendrix, Plumb and Hillsong United are all able to occupy their appropriate place in my collection.

About 50 songs have made the cut for what I've labeled "The Best Playlist Ever." Among those tracks from a wide variety of artists, is my current favorite "In the Eye of the Storm" by Ryan Stevenson.

I like the message. I like the way it sounds. I like that it has some really tough stuff in it and the point is that God is in control.

Even though I heard this song for the first time on K-LOVE, I never really paid attention to the lyrics until I listened to an iTunes download a few times. Singing along daily, I learned it by heart.

And then I heard it again on the radio.

Expecting to hear "When I realize I've been sold out by my friends and my family," I was surprised that the radio changed the line to "let down." He's just been "let down" by his family. That's not as powerful.

It got worse though...

iTunes says:

When the test comes in and the doctor says
I've only got a few months left
It's like a bitter pill I'm swallowing
I can barely take a breath
And when addiction steals my baby girl
And there's nothing I can do
My only hope is to trust You
I trust You, Lord

And the radio changes it to:

When they let me go and I just don't know
How I'm gonna make ends meet
I did my best
Now I'm scared to death
That we might lose everything

And when a sickness takes my child away
And there's nothing I can do
My only hope is to trust You
I trust You LORD

As a teenager, I used to buy CDs from Walmart. I  was irritated to learn that the radio edited versions of the Wyclef songs didn't have the same colorful language I was used to hearing on the recordings my friends had. But at least that made sense. Walmart was trying to be a family-friendly establishment. They weren't selling your kid full force gansta rap with a parental warning.

I can get behind that policy, but this is a Christian song with a good message. It's meant to give reassurance that God is with you even in the toughest times. The radio edit became the version sold to praise bands for live church performances and so now we're singing on Sunday morning about how God helps us when we've got a hangnail and even when the hockey game is blacked out in Pittsburgh.

It's rather infuriating.

Here's this beautiful song that's able to approach tough issues, terminal illness, and drug addiction, and the radio (which is only K-LOVE) changes it to losing a job and terminal child illness. Now the kid died. Is that really more comfortable to sing about than drugs?

I'm not privy to the inner workings of the Christian music scene, so I don't have any idea why the radio station or the artist would do this. It makes me a bit sad for our faith. It's a red flag of sorts. God is big enough to handle any issue, but church*? It seems church* just wants to stay in its familiar wheelhouse.

*Church is used here in the big picture context of organized Christian religious organizations. My own church has never shied away from tough subjects and continues to give sermons on the opioid crisis, domestic violence, and other regionall/global problems.