***Warning: Discernment Required Ahead***
For all you aging hipsters out there who are weary of drowning your holiday cheer in Sufjan Stevens and Brighteyes Christmas music… an energetic alternative has emerged from an unlikely source. That’s right… Bad Religion has released a Christmas CD. Gasp!
* * * * *
Here is the track listing:
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- O Come All Ye Faithful
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- White Christmas
- Little Drummer Boy
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- What Child Is This?
- Angels We Have Heard On High
- American Jesus (Andy Wallace Mix)
Shocking? Yes. Let’s start with the obvious. Bad Religion has been an outspokenly anti-Christian band since 1979. For as long as I can remember, their logo has looked like this:
Glance at that track listing again. Why would this band choose these Christmas songs? All but two (White Christmas and American Jesus) are hymnal Christmas classics. This CD contains no snowmen, silver bells, hot cocoa, or Santa Claus. But it is replete with lyrics like…
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, and free thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save and give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
The songs on this CD do not merely mention baby Jesus as a nativity centerpiece. These are Christocentric, Gospel-saturated Christmas songs! And Bad Religion remains true to the message without changing a word. So what gives? Either these guys have grown weary of suppressing the truth of God written on their hearts (Romans 1:18-20), or they believe the funniest way to offend Christians this year is to release a seasonal worship album with their name on it.
Interestingly enough, they recently shared a third reason for choosing these songs during an 8 minute interview on NPR. The audio and transcript can be found here. At one point, the interviewer observes:
And these are not secular songs, we should point out though. You could’ve done, you know, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” These are religious Christmas hymns.
To which, guitarist and songwriter Brett Gurewitz, responded:
I would disagree. I think that all of these songs are secular. Even though they have their roots in the pulpit or in the church setting, virtually everyone who celebrates Christmas has heard these songs. And so, it’s not Bad Religion that has made them ironic. It’s kind of a secular society that’s made Christmas ironic.
That sounds brilliant! My knee-jerk reaction to such an articulate paradigm shift is one of silent consideration. Does Brett Religion have a point? Are songs like “Angels We Have Heard On High” no longer powerful declarations of Christ’s deity because everyone has heard them? Has the fallen world’s popularization of what they lack in understanding truly made Christmas ironic? Let’s think about that for a moment.
Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). In other words, He authorized the eternal nature of His divine truth… not us. Gospel truth is tempered and timeless. It will be just as true two thousand years from now, as it was two thousand years ago… regardless of what we think about it. Words that convey His truth will always pack a wallop as the Holy Spirit uses them to soften or harden the hearts of those who hear them. God’s Word will never return to Him empty, but will always accomplish whatever He intends for it to do (Isaiah 55:11).
The guys in Bad Religion are lying to themselves if they truly believe the divine message is lost in these songs. Words matter. In fact, they matter more than the band’s intention behind singing them. Laughing at truth does not make it false. I agree with Brett that there is irony to be found here. It is truly ironic that God’s transforming truth of the Gospel would be proclaimed through such an unlikely source to one of the world’s most outspokenly rebellious people groups. Ironic and awesome. Many hearts will be hardened by this unintentional proclamation of Gospel truth. Let’s pray that a few are softened as well.
For the few of you out there who love Jesus, nineties style punk, and Christmas music… the million dollar question is this: should I purchase this record? Honestly, I can’t tell you what to do. However, I will strongly urge you to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading with regards to your own conscience.
The content is solid, but the delivery is certainly not for everyone. Many people will find the style of music itself to be vulgar because of its speed. That’s fine. Bing Crosby has a number of good Christmas renditions that ignite the senses at a slower pace.
The musicianship and vocal harmonies are excellent. As previously stated, the lyrics are Christocentric and Gospel-saturated songs of worship. There is no such thing as a “demon of atheism” or mystical quality that disintegrates everything Bad Religion touches. And for a band that has been around longer than I have walked the earth, I am not too worried about a six dollar download through eMusic sending a statement. If you acquire this CD and delete the last song, you will have the punk rock Christmas record you have always dreamed of. But if your conscience is unsettled in any way… do yourself a favor and obey the Spirit. His sanctifying work trumps all musical recommendations. There are plenty of good Christmas CDs out there.
So there you have it. Bad Religion has inadvertently released a seasonal worship album.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! And Merry Christmas!