We weren’t able to include much of our quick email Q&A with Charlie Peacock in our July/August cover story, “Is Christian Music Dying?” If you’ve read that story, you know that Peacock’s essay in the final print issue of CCM signaled doom for the Christian music industry—a prediction that many within the industry take issue with. For your edification, here are the verbatim responses we got from Peacock about his essay and the industry’s reaction to it:
COLLIDE: Were you surprised CCM was willing to print your predictions about the future of Christian music?
Charlie Peacock: No, the founder John Styll requested that I write them. I wasn’t given any direction other than to "tell us what you’re thinking." Many bright and good people have passed through the offices of CCM as workers intent on finding a way to contribute good to a less than good situation. Anyone who has studied CCM knows that it’s front-loaded with a very specious strategy — that is, the creation of a youth-oriented music to counteract the undesirable youth-oriented music of the culture at large. Probably looked righteous in the beginning but proved very flawed.
COLLIDE: What kind of response have you gotten from your predictions?
Peacock: Anyone who has been willing to talk to me has been appreciative and mostly in agreement. I have not been approached by anyone who disagrees with the assessment out right. In fairness to what was written, you have to remember that I had a word-count boundary and wasn’t able to chase any nuances at all. My desire was that it would be provocative enough to inspire substantive conversations where people could hear each other out, polish arguments, and have their hearts and minds pointed toward Christ.
COLLIDE: You mentioned that true worship music will survive because it “serves the legitimate needs of the church.” Is that one of the main problems with Christian music in general, that it doesn’t serve a legitimate need?
Peacock: Yes, I would put the emphasis on the word "needs." It may reach a few needs and wants but nothing comprehensive, nothing compared to what musicians and lyricists of the church could be about in a healthy climate. The whole world, it’s glory and shame, could and should be the subject matter of lyrical songs — all of this can and should live among those songs that are more typically known as "Christian" songs, music associated with the legitimate needs of the church, especially the worship of God.
COLLIDE: How can maturity and literacy, as they relate to recognizing the significance/value of “worldview” lyrics, be cultivated among Christians?
Peacock: It’s a deeply troubling irony that the people of the word, or people of the story, are so illiterate with respect to narrative communication. I probably sound like I’m coming from the 19th century or something, but reading is really the key. Doesn’t have to be books, it could be the internet. Next we need pastors/teachers/priests who can help draw the connections between the film narratives people easily respond to and the worldview lyric narratives they don’t understand, and consequently don’t respond to. Christian people need their freedom back to love and appreciate stories and narrative that tackle a multitude of subjects. Finally, it would be wonderful if Christians could understand their stewardship role in the world, namely being a student and caretaker of everything. Hopefully the day will come when Christians understand the calling to go and be everywhere and in everything. When they do, they are sure to be more charitable to the sixteen year old musician who just wrote a song about running away, changing his mind, then skateboarding home along the Pacific Coast Highway in a summer rainstorm only to be intercepted first by his loving and worried father. Maybe they won’t ask him: What’s Christian about it? Or, How is God supposed to be glorified by a song like that?