The Big Hurt: What would Jesus download?

Who charted? Billboard's Top Christian Songs edition
By DAVID THORPE  |  March 23, 2010

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True, I may be the wrong guy to review the top tracks on the Billboard Christian Songs chart. I’m not religious, so songs about Jesus mean about as much to me as songs about Popeye. Then again, my impartiality could be an asset — if any of these songs manages to save my heathen soul with its gospel message, we’ll know it boasts the awesome power of the Lord. If not, Christian rock has failed, and we can reasonably conclude that there is no God.

Might not have room for the whole Top 10, but I’ll keep writing until I run out of space — or God runs out of songs.

1. KUTLESS, “WHAT FAITH CAN DO” | If you’ve ever wondered why Christian pop is so often critically maligned and marginalized to God-only radio stations, this song should explain it in four nearly unbearable minutes. In fact, you can pick up the basics in about 10 seconds. After some minor-key piano and a comically maudlin opening cliché (“Everybody falls sometimes/Gotta find the strength to rise”), you’ll get the picture. I understand the group’s mission to deliver a message of hope to the hopeless, but even the most desperately downtrodden might have a tough time leaning on a crutch this flimsy.

2. NEWWORLDSON, “THERE IS A WAY” | This one, on the other hand, delivers the Good News in a jaunty and tuneful fashion, free from all the ham-fisted sentiment and teary-eyed hopefulness of the previous idiots. It’s better, but nowhere near good. You might find it bearable if you like Jason Mraz but wish he sucked a little more and had some pamphlets for you.

3. CASTING CROWNS, “UNTIL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS” | This one resembles Nickelback, but way more Jesus-based. If that sounds awesome to you, congratulations: you are my exact opposite. Anyway, whereas the previous two were a tad less explicit about their subject (if they hadn’t been under the Christian banner, I might have assumed they were about Popeye), this one is totally up-front with the Jesus stuff: “Let us shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night /. . . . May the powers of darkness tremble as our praises rise.” You show ’em! “Lord, let your sleeping giant rise/Catch the demons by surprise/Holy nations sanctify/Let this be our battle cry.” Hey, getting a little scary!

4. TOBYMAC, “CITY ON OUR KNEES” | If you thought Auto-Tune was just a secular problem, think again. It’s in your church, America, and your children could be next. But, seriously, if any hip young pastors are reading this and wondering why the youth of today don’t think Christian artists are as “cool” as vulgar rappers and demonic rock stars, consider the following: this dude calls himself tobyMac, Auto-Tunes his God songs, wears a fedora, and used to be in DC Talk. You figure it out.

5. TENTH AVENUE NORTH, “HOLD MY HEART” | This is the kind of faith-in-crisis material that made Creed rich — after all the uplift so far, it’s a little shocking to hear the tortured cry of a soul harboring doubts. “So many questions without answers, Your promises remain/I can’t see but I’ll take my chances to hear You call my name.” What? Unanswered questions, they say? Here I was just about ready to hop in the baptismal font, and these clowns show up with their shaky faith and undo all of tobyMac’s good work!

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