There's often a perception that Christian variations are watered-down imitations of popular genres, typically with low production values, and sometimes bands just shoehorn Christianity into the lyrics to get played on gospel stations. The reality is quite different. As with any genre, production values and talent vary greatly between bands, but they're on average no more derivative than any group playing on mainstream radio. Additionally, Christian Rock is less The Moral Substitute than is popularly believed. Most often, it is simply a chosen way for its performers to entertain, enjoy themselves, and/or express their faith. People who are liable to condemn rock music simply because of its genre (without regards to its lyrical content) often don't listen to Christian rock, either. Some church groups (and Jack Chick) believe that all rock music, including Christian rock, is something to be avoided. Also, with the popularity of various Christian Rock/Metal acts such as Skillet, Underoath, and As I Lay Dying outside of the core CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) audience, the "Christian Rock as a Poor Man's Substitute" version of this trope may be becoming at least partially discredited. At very least, though, there is often a degree of Lyrical Dissonance, as many of the harder rock genres aren't normally associated with the positive and hopeful aspects of Christianity.
It should be noted that this genre can be as diverse as the secular form of rock music. Just as diverse. Everything from soft rock to the various forms of Heavy Mithril will be covered. And it's erroneous to assume what the viewpoint/theology of any Christian band or its members is, because Christian rock's theologies are as diverse and unpredictable as the entire population of Christians, which is pretty diverse. And compare and contrast Gospel Music, as the two genres are constantly influencing one another.
Concerts often differ somewhat from regular rock or metal concerts. Because a band is Christian, parents will often allow younger children to go to their concerts. As a result, some concerts will be held at a lower decibel level (though there are still a great many that will send you home with ringing ears). Mosh pits are rare, and usually at smaller, late night concerts if at all.
For further reading on the history of the genre, John J. Thompson's book Raised By Wolves: The Story of Christian Rock & Roll provides a detailed overview, and also focuses on a few key figures - including Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, the acclaimed guitarist Phil Keaggy and the new wave band Daniel Amos - in depth. Also recommended is the Tumblr blog An Athiest's Guide to Christian Rock, a blog on Christian Alternative Rock written by music critic J. Edward Keyes, a former Christian who still has fondness for the music he grew up with (Sadly, the blog has been on hiatus since Keyes became the editorial director for Bandcamp's music journalism vertical).
Compare Not Christian Rock (when music seems as though it could be Christian Rock, but isn't), and God-Is-Love Songs (in which the Christian elements are understated). The opposite is Religion Rant Song, for music that takes a negative view of faith.
It should also be remembered that an artist's personal religious affiliation can have absolutely nothing to do with what genre they sing in. Christian rock refers exclusively to music that is about Christianity. Christians may (and often do) sing in other genres as well. Conversely, many Jews and Buddhists have similarly been incorporating overt religious themes into pop-music acts over the past decade; Islamic pop groups, although not unheard of, are quite rare, largely because the strictest sects of Islam forbid all music. Quite a few rappers, however, are Muslims.
Genres and acts
- Bible Rap, or as its aficionados call it, "Holy Hip-Hop":
The Bible is the holy bookSo let's open it up and take a lookYou got Genesis/Exodus/Leviticus/Deuteronomy...
- Bible Rap may be the most theologically-focused genre of Christian music. Witness Flame's "Who Can Pluck Us," a rap song about predestination, of all things: "For all those the Father chose in eternity past/ To be redeemed that simply means to be bought back".
- Many people, on hearing Shai Linne for the first time, say that they got more solid doctrine from one album than an entire year of Sunday School.
- On the other hand, some "Christian rappers" are basically the early days of Will Smith, remixed, with an occasional positive Christian vibe just because of their personal background. So basically if you like Will Smith you'll think these guys are OK and if you don't then you won't.
- Gospel group Mary Mary is known for creating gospel songs that are different from the usual (a full choir with a preacher leading a la Kirk Franklin) and that are more like R&B songs with Christian lyrics, that actually are played on non-gospel R&B stations.
- Gospel rap would be considered not a form of christian rock, but Gospel Music, a genre unto itself.
- Bible Rap may be the most theologically-focused genre of Christian music. Witness Flame's "Who Can Pluck Us," a rap song about predestination, of all things: "For all those the Father chose in eternity past/ To be redeemed that simply means to be bought back".
- Christian Metal.
'Could it be you're afraid of what your friends might say if they knew you believe in God above? They should realize before they criticize that God is the only way to love.'
- Christian Death Metal.
- For a straight Death Metal/Deathcore example, check out Impending Doom and their self-proclaimed "Gorship" style of worship to God through their music. If you look back in their discography, their first EP ("The Sin and Doom of Godless Men") is almost Noise.
- Christian Black Metal. But since Satanic themes are practically part of the definition of the genre, this is called Unblack Metal. Black Metal fans are less than pleased with this, even when these bands otherwise have the same sound.
- It doesn't help that the musical tone of black metal makes it pretty much impossible to talk about anything and not portray it in a completely twisted and evil light.
- Really most Unblack Metal is mostly about what will happen to you in Hell if you aren't a good Christian. Basically a Logic Bomb for Jack Chick
- Although Antestor manages to pull it off rather well. Having just as many songs about despair, helplessness and suicide as they do about Jesus and God helps. And musically, they're regarded by many secular BM fans as one of the best Black Metal bands out there (by many of those who aren't part of the church-burning Serious Business portion of BM fandom, anyway). Funny enough, the drummer on their 2012 album Omen is from, of all bands, Mayhem (yes, that Mayhem).
- Hardly surprising. Hellhammer (of "yes, that Mayhem") is about as prolific a drummer as you're likely to find anywhere. Wheel him in behind a kit and he'll keep hitting the thing until you make him stop. Seriously, go look up how many albums the guy's actually played on.
- Rackets and Drapes, called the Christian version of Marilyn Manson, they definitely live up to that title. Also, the lead singer Kandy Kane admits to being a cross-dresser.
- In a strange twist, the metal band Vengeance Rising started as a Christian band, but the frontman and remaining member, Roger Martinez, later renounced Christianity and now seeks to make anti-Christian music. The other members have since reunited under the name Once Dead.
- Industrial metal band Circle of Dust is an interesting example. While they became easily one of the most successful bands in the Christian metal scene, they usually received some flak from more conservative Christian listeners for their "music first, faith later" approach. One of the members, Scott Albert (later known as Klayton), expressed dissatisfaction with said criticism and left the Christian metal scene entirely to form Celldweller. He bought the rights to all the Circle of Dust releases in 2015, and released a new album under its name, Machines of Our Disgrace, in 2016, this time with all the traces of Christian metal being wiped out entirely.
- Theocracy is a Christian Progressive Power Metal band.
- Black Sabbath. No, really, just listen to the lyrics for their classic "After Forever":
- Christian Death Metal.
- Skillet started out with songs that were not at all subtle about worshiping Jesus, but eventually turned their sound more mainstream, switching to lyrics that were kind of about Jesus. Lead singer John Cooper has stated in interviews that it is the band's desire to be relevant to Christians and non-Christians alike, but they're still very much a Christian band. Given that they still (as of 2009, at least) read from the Bible during concerts, that seems to indeed be the case and John does preach too.
- Andy Hunter and his contribution to the Need for Speed: Underground soundtrack, "The Wonders Of You". It is, in fact, Christian Techno.
- And his contributions to the Matrix Reloaded trailer, and Alias, and Burnout Revenge, and The Italian Job... the list goes on.
- In a similar vein Demon Hunter, an unapologetically Christian Metal band has several tracks on the Killing Floor 2 soundtrack, including This I Know: A song that's pretty explicitly about a righteous badass laying waste to hell and references God as the "one name above all".
- Long-lived performer Cliff Richard has managed a bit of this with some of his specifically Christian-themed music.
- Stryper was a Christian hair metal band that hit near mainstream success in the 80s with their single "Honestly".
- Occasionally used by hairband fans as proof that theirs is the Greatest Genre EVER because Stryper is Christian rock, but are comparable in quality to most bands in the genre. The argument being, "Even Christian hairband is good, because we're just that awesome."
- Their version of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is one that has made even detractors of Christian rock step back and say "That was actually pretty good". Some hymns were just made for heavy rock.
- Cezare Bonizzi is a Capuchin monk, with long flowing beard and vows of poverty and all that... and he's also the lead singer of an Italian heavy metal band and is known as Brother Metal. He's appeared with such metal giants as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Slayer.
- Amy Grant started out making explicitly Christian pop music — her catalog spanning from her self titled album, My Father's Eyes, Never Alone, In Concert Vol. 1 and 2, Age to Age, Straight Ahead, Unguarded. At the end of The '80s and the beginning of The '90s, she left that genre for mainstream music. Lead Me On and Heart in Motion were the transitional albums with Heart in Motion containing the pop smash "Baby, Baby". She hasn't renounced the Christian music, but she's no longer specifically in that genre.
- Whether Grant could be honestly said to have left Christian music is debatable. It's true that in the early part of The '90s, she began downplaying her typical Christian subject matter in favor of songs with more universal themes, but she never quite abandoned it altogether; even Heart in Motion has two explicitly Christian songs, "Ask Me" and "Hope Set High". And at any rate, Grant has drifted back toward religious music in recent years; two of her last three albums have been collections of religious songs. And even at the height of her mainstream success, her albums were carried in both Christian and mainstream record stores.
- Grant's leaving Christian music in search of mainstream success coincided with her divorce from husband Gary Chapman so that she could marry Vince Gill after the two had a long-time affair (some people call the affair one of the worst kept secrets in Nashville). In an interview with Contemporary Christian Magazine, Grant infamously justified her divorce by claiming that God had "released" her from her marriage. In fairness to Grant, her marriage to Chapman was very volatile and meeting Gill was how she discovered how toxic her marriage to Chapman was.
- Switchfoot is somewhat on the fence, as most of their music does not explicitly reference Christianity, but some of it makes no sense until a Christian perspective is taken on the lyrics. "Dare You To Move" from The Beautiful Letdown is a good example. Jon Foreman (the group's lead singer and usual writer) is a Christian and his work does tend to reflect that fact.
- Switchfoot was a little more obviously Christian with their first few albums; "The Beautiful Letdown" actually wasn't their first release, it was their fourth. Granted, their success since going mainstream would seem to prove that the "Christian rock" label narrows down your audience by a huge degree.
- It's worth noting that the band rejects the label specifically because they feel that it excludes people who aren't Christians but would still enjoy the music. Their official stance is "The band members are Christians, it is reflected in the music, but the music is not written to be explicitly Christian in nature. We want to make music that everyone can relate to."
- Similarly, it's debatable whether Creed is Christian rock or simply Post-Grunge. If they're the former, then they're by far the most successful band the genre has ever seen.
- dctalk definitely count as they popularized Christian Rock in TheNineties.
- P.O.D. has probably had the most mainstream success of any Christian rock band (unless you count Creed within the genre). If anybody doubts that they're Christian rock, then listen to the lyrics of their hit "Alive", and get back to me. They were popular enough that, when frontman Sonny Sandoval named his daughter Nevaeh ("heaven" spelled backwards), that name quickly shot up from being unheard of to being one of the most popular baby names in the country. It's even on the page for The Red Stapler.
- Their beliefs were considerably more overt in their initial period as an indie band, then they toned it down when they first signed to a major label. Over time, they became disillusioned with the Christian music industry (especially Sonny, who even walked away from music entirely for a time) and in present times, they still certainly make their faith known, but Sonny has stated in at least one interview that they're good with Christ himself, but hate the concept of religion.
- Evanescence is a subversion. They were initially referred to as a Christian rock band, but they have publicly rejected the label, even asking for Christian music stores to stop selling their albums. Commercially, it was a smart move on their part — Christian rock bands usually don't go on to sell over fifteen million records internationally. Amy Lee was quoted on the other wiki as stating the Christian labeling was Ben Moody's thing. He left the group shortly after.
- Mutemath is a similar example. Their first EP was released under a Christian sub-label, so the band found a different company to sign with. They've since seen much more exposure, but their albums can still be found in Christian music stores. (Don't think they qualify as Christian rock? Go listen to "Peculiar People", read Isaiah 40:31 and get back to me.)
- Funnily enough, "Peculiar People" was co-written with Jon Foreman of Switchfoot. Lead singer Paul Meany and drummer Darren King also used to be in the Christian rock/rap/reggae/funk/electronic band Earthsuit.
- Katy Perry used to be a Christian pop singer before switching to mainstream pop songs. She's still a professing Christian, though.
- Jessica Simpson, before she achieved mainstream success.
- Apologetix is a Christian parody band, a la "Weird Al" Yankovic. Al's drummer even played on one of their albums.
- Their song "We're in a Parody Band" labels themselves as part Weird Al and part Billy Graham.
- Relient K is a Christian punk-pop band with a penchant for quirky lyrics and, early on especially, pop culture references. They've become a bit more vague, but they are still in the genre.
- The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are another group which is on the fence; their first album, Don't You Fake It, emphasizes the general theme of being a good person (see their breakout single and anti-abuse song "Face Down"), but Lonely Road and Am I The Enemy? have more heavily Christian themes in the lyrics. For example, "Believe," from Lonely Road,talks about needing "a little help from above" to change the world. "Wake Me Up," from Am I The Enemy?, more straightforwardly discusses Christian redemption:
Wake me up, I don't want to live without your love.Life me up - take me to a place not far above.
- One of the pioneers of the genre was Petra, founded in 1974. Their name is Greek for "rock", and that's pretty much the only descriptor of their style that's vague enough to remain accurate throughout their history (in the '80s alone, they went from sounding like Kansas to being a heavy metal band), with synthesizer-fueled pop-rock somewhere in the middle. They got a lot of flak early on for daring to play rock music (which many Christians at the time were still uneasy about), and levered a couple Take Thats to their accusers in response.
- Considered by many to be the pioneers of Christian Rock... they were the first band inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Not to mention their 4 Grammys and 11 nominations.
- Speaking of Petra, the three founding members of King's X were all fans of the group and started their own band then called The Edge in 1980. In 1987 they changed their name and sound but stayed true to Christian and other spiritual topics, getting quite some recognition from the Christian Rock scene although they never openly aligned themselves to it. Their association with the genre got subverted when lead singer/bassist Doug Pinnick publically declared his loss of faith (as well as coming out as gay) and sang about it on the band's albums "Dogman" and "Ear Candy" among others.
- Another pioneering group was 2nd Chapter of Acts. Brother/sisters trio Annie Herring, Nelly Ward, and Matthew Ward released their first singles in 1972 and their first album 2 years later. Known for their amazing vocal harmonies, they are probably the originators of the Christian concept album with The Roar of Love, based on C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe .
- KJ-52 is a comedy rapper as much as he is a Christian rapper.
- The band Red is a Christian rock band (although if you don't pay attention to their lyrics you wouldn't know). If you don't believe it, listen to "Already Over".
- Christian pop musician Carman (not Cartman, though he and his friends dabbled in this trope as well... sort of). He is probably one of the biggest stars that the Christian music scene has ever produced, having sold over ten million albums and holding the records for the largest Christian concerts in history.
- Special mention needs to go to the band Mortification. They're an Australian death metal band (it's covered above, but these guys need to be mentioned), probably most famous for doing the song "Livin' Like a Zombie" — the song that plays during the shock video BME Pain Olympics. They're legends within both the Christian Metal and Death Metal scenes — probably for being a very, very good Christian rock band.
- Former American Idol contestant Colton Dixon has taken this direction after Idol ended, and is currently touring with Christian rock band Third Day. However, he has been criticized for his lyrics "not being religious enough". Figure that one out.
- Neal Morse of the Prog Rock groups Spock's Beard and Transatlantic. After converting to Christianity, Morse produced the Christian themed concept album, Snow, with Spock's Beard, after which he focused on a solo career focused on his new found faith, often deviating from his prog rock roots, though he has produced several prog rock Christian concept albums, including ? about the tabernacle and Sola Scriptur about Martin Luther.
- The Newsboys: absurdly popular among Christians, unheard-of elsewhere. Which is too bad, 'cause their music is really catchy. (One example: "Shine")
- The Ur-Example: Larry Norman's 1972 album Only Visiting This Planet. Norman is generally viewed as the godfather of Christian rock, and Visiting is widely considered to be one of the best Christian records ever made, even earning a spot in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. A song from the album, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", was on the soundtrack for the Christian film A Thief in the Night, which is basically a Seventies version of Left Behind.
- Later on, Norman would grow disenchanted with the Christian music scene, claiming that it had become about "sloppy thinking, dishonest metaphors, and bad poetry," and joking that you could write a Christian pop song by taking a secular love song and replacing "baby" with "Jesus".
- In 1969, Norman released his debut album Upon This Rock for Capitol Records. It's now widely considered to be the first Christian rock album, but at the time, it was something of a flop. Secular audiences and critics were bemused by its content and didn't really know what to do with it. Christian leaders lambasted it and Norman was denounced on air by the era's top televangelists. To wit, they believed Upon This Rock was even more harmful to Christian youth because it lured them into listening to that evil rock & roll through a Christian message. By the time the CCM market was in full force, Norman was widely considered a legend within it, but he kept the industry at an arm's length. He also took every opportunity he could to play for secular audiences, believing that only performing to Christian audiences that only listen to Christian music was limiting to him as an artist and was basically preaching to the choir.
- Older Than They Think: Ricky Nelson was doing this as early as 1960 with his hit single "Glory Train."
- Five Iron Frenzy were a Christian ska band that gained a following in the mid-90's with secular audiences.
- They also eased back on the explicitly Christian references and titled one of their albums Cheeses of Nazareth. At least one of the members has publicly stated that he is now an atheist.
- Joy Electric and Starflyer 59, led by brothers Ronnie and Jason Martin, respectively, are funny cases in that their lyrics sound like Not Christian Rock bands, but when asked whether or not they're Christian bands, they always reply in the affirmative. Joy Electric eventually released an album in 1999 titled CHRISTIANsongs so everyone would stop asking him. Jason Martin, on the other hand, has explained that he's usually reluctant to write songs about God because he's afraid that name-dropping Jesus in a song that turns out crappy would just be disrespectful.
- Jars of Clay are easily one of the biggest bands in Christian Rock, and they also had some crossover success in the 90's with their first few albums. Initially they played acoustic rock (and even had a music video, "Flood," from their first album become quite popular on MTV); since then, they've been bouncing between rock and folk, re-tweaking their sound every other album or so.
- Keith Green should get a mention, since he (along with 2nd Chapter of Acts) practically invented Christian rock back in the 70s. And he really could play the piano...
- Family Force 5 deserves mention. "It's better than drugs/in fact it's sent from above" (from Love Addict") is a reference to God, if indirect/vague; they've played at Christian concerts, and they even mention God directly in "Peachy".
- They also did a cover of the song "In My Minds Eye," originally done by DCTalk, mentioned above.
- Demon Hunter is an example of a relatively well known Christian Metalcore band. However, even listening to their lyrics, it's hard to tell.
- Michael W. Smith is one of the most popular artists in the history of Contemporary Christian music. He had some brief success on the pop charts in the early '90s with "Place in This World" and "I Will Be Here For You", but with his 1995 album I'll Lead You Home, he returned to overtly religious music and hasn't looked back since.
- Steven Curtis Chapman is almost as popular.
- "Christcore", a Christian subgenre mixing Hardcore Punk with Metalcore, got huge in the late 00s/early 10s. Bands often included in it, officially or unofficially, include The Devil Wears Prada, August Burns Red, Mychildren Mybride, As I Lay Dying, Oh Sleeper, Underoath, Zao, Norma Jean, Attack Attack!, and Haste the Day, among others. They appealed to religious and non-religious listeners and became popular to the point that Norma Jean played at Mayhem 2010 with, for example, the decidedly non-Christian Lamb of God and many of these bands are fixtures on festivals like the Vans Warped Tour. Its fans are still just as likely to try to break your face in the pit as any other hardcore fans, though.
- Bob Dylan embraced the genre in the late '70s and early '80s, with his albums Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love. These three records aren't well liked by secular Dylan fans, but Slow Train Coming received some retroactive acclaim, and Bono has named Shot of Love as one of his favorite Dylan albums.
- During that period, Dylan was good friends with Christian musician Keith Green and played a harmonica solo on Green's 1980 album So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt.
- dctalk was one of, if not the most popular Christian Rock in the mid-90's. They actually got their start in Christian rap and slowly evolved into pop-rock with a little hip-hop mixed in. They broke up in 2000 for what was supposed to be simply an 'intermission,' but they haven't even toured together since 2002. Well, so much for that.
- And they recorded an absolutely fantastic grunge song that just happened to be overtly Christian. Its name? "Jesus Freak".
- The main reason for their never getting back together is because they got involved in other things. Toby Mac launched a very successful career as a Christian Rapper and studio head (Gotee Records), while Michael Tait started his own band Tait and later became the new frontman for Newsboys. Which then did a cover of "Jesus Freak". The third member, Kevin Max, spent several years creating songs independently as well as starting work on writing a graphic novel set in the angelic realms before joining returning band Audio Adrenaline as lead singer (the former lead singer having developed vocal problems).
- Another seminal figure in Christian Rock is guitarist Phil Keaggy, who is widely admired by secular guitar aficionados for his virtuosity. There's a popular incorrect urban legend about an interviewer asking Jimi Hendrix how it felt to be the world's greatest guitar player. He responded by saying, "I don't know, you'll have to ask Phil Keaggy." Incorrect because Keaggy was still unknown by the time Hendrix died. The real story is possibly more fantastic: Hendrix actually praised Billy Gibbons, then a member of The Moving Sidewalks.
- Day of Fire is a repeatedly stated Christian Rock band, whose songs are so rock that it's hard to notice the christian references, unless they directly throw it in there, and even then it's hard to notice sometimes (Rain Song comes to mind). Having a guitarist tour previously in a non-christian rock band certainly helps with the sound. Unfortunately, they recently went on hiatus.
- During the 1990s punk resurgence, one of the bigger marquee names was a band called Mx Px. They were on MTV's 120Minutes and everything. What hardly anyone in the secular world knew was that they were a Christian punk band. Yet they managed to fit in just fine in the same genre as Rancid and The Offspring.
- Sixpence None the Richer started as a Christian Rock band before finding mainstream success in the late '90s.
- Barlow Girl. Their single, "I Need You To Love Me," is to date the longest number one hit in CCM radio history.
- In 2000, right smack in the middle of the Boy Band craze, Christian teenage girls got Plus One. They zoomed to the top of the CCM charts, and had one or two mainstream hits. It didn't hurt that they fulfilled the number-one boy-band priority: being ridiculously good looking.
- Just because the OC Supertones are overtly Christian, it doesn't mean that they can't have an awesome surfer infused ska music.
- Brian Welch, former guitarist of Korn, left the band when he became a Christian and started a solo career. You can find his records in Christian stores.
- Thousand Foot Krutch is a band that many people don't realize that they are Christian rock. Granted their song style is either rap, alternative rock, or metal (or some combination of the three) so not exactly what most people think Christian rock is. They tend to be more subtle than most bands as well.
"I'm an alien/ cause I'm not of this world/I had a name/but I've been changed/and now I can't stay the same"
- Although their song Look Away specifically mentions Jesus and songs like Breathe You In, Already Home, Falls Apart, Inhuman, and Watching Over Me can easily be thought of as Christian songs.
- For anyone familiar with Christian theology, the meaning of The End is Where We Begin is pretty obvious.
- Aly & A.J. are mainly a mainstream pop duo, but have had success on Christian music charts as well.
- Mercy Me, which wrote crossover hit "I Can Only Imagine" and is still tremendously popular in Christian rock/pop circles.
- Doom Metal band Trouble were once marketed as "white metal" due to their Bible-influenced lyrics and their admitted Catholic-upbringing. The musically similar Pentagram also deal with Christian themes, with frontman Bobby Liebling claiming he wanted to put the fear of God into people.
- Charlie Daniels (from the eponymous band, whose songs included "Long-Haired Country Boy" and "Uneasy Rider" ... as well as "Devil Went Down to Georgia", which, while certainly anti-Devil, wasn't exactly "Christian" either) released an album in the 1990s entitled Steel Witness, on which the songs, while some of them were rather catchy, were about as subtle as you'd expect from an album with cover featuring a riveted cross approximately the size of South America.
- In case you think that Neal Morse is the only example of Christian prog rock, you'd be wrong- there's also Ajalon, who take their name from Joshua 10:12 in The Bible. Rick Wakeman has collaborated with them before. (Wakeman is himself a professing Christian, and has released some Christian stuff, but it's not most of his output.)
- Sufjan Stevens may be the best known exponent of Christian indie rock. Christian themes in his work are sometimes subtle and sometimes fairly obvious ("Get Real Get Right" for example) but always pretty complex.
- Ed Kowalczyk, former lead-singer of Live, plays a lot of straight-forward Christian songs these days. Still doesn't stop him from dropping one and other Cluster F-Bomb in older songs like "Waitress".
- In the 1980s, the Christian Alternative Rock genre largely grew out of a network of hippie-founded Southern California churches with liberal leanings. The four main acts of this genre were:
- Daniel Amos: The most famous of the quartet. Originally a country rock band before a series of Genre Shifts left them as a new wave group similar in style to XTC or Talking Heads. Recorded several acclaimed records that critiqued modern, organized religion and televangelism, and made them highly controversial as a result.
- The Choir: This band seemed to be the most accessible to secular audiences of the four, owing to their jangle pop-rooted sound and less overtly religious lyrics. They typically didn't write songs that revolved around God or Jesus, instead focusing on humorous Flannery O'Connor-influenced Southern Gothic narratives or lyrics about ghosts and spirits. Basically, think of them as a Christian version of R.E.M.. Were poised to break out of Christian rock entirely with their heavily promoted 1989 album Wild Eyed Wonder, but it underperformed nationally and they went back to their cult following.
- Adam Again: A funk-influenced art rock band who were probably the closest Christian rock got to its own Oingo Boingo. The band broke up after leader Gene Eugene died in 2000.
- The Seventy Sevens: Another new wave-influenced band who were poised to break out of Christian music altogether in the late-80s. They actually wound up getting a deal with major label Island Records, but unfortunately, their 1987 self-titled third album got lost in the label's promotional shuffle for U2's The Joshua Tree and underperformed. Their followup album, 1990's Sticks and Stones, is widely considered to be one of the best Christian rock albums ever recorded.
- The lead singers for all four of these bands (plus The Choir's drummer/main songwriter) formed a supergroup together called The Lost Dogs, which is more folk-influenced than any of their main groups. The Lost Dogs recorded three albums before Gene Eugene's death, and decided to kept going as a quartet. They recorded five more albums after that.
- The only Christian alternative band to really break into the mainstream during the late 80s and early 90s was The Ocean Blue, and they did so in such a way that their secular fanbase would have never guessed that they were ever anything other than another college rock band. The band got signed to Sire Records, then still one of the top alternative labels in the country, and were fairly popular in the pre-Nirvana days of alternative radio.
- Patti Smith can't easily be called a Christian artiste, but she has explored explicitly Christian themes, most notably in Easter and in her take on the 23rd Psalm (Privilege - Set Me Free'), which uses the psalm to throw down a challenge to God - to make Himself worthy of her worship. Dancin' Barefoot can also be read as a take on the Hail Mary devotional prayer - rewritten the Patti Smith way but still with a certain reverence.
- Eddie DeGarmo and Bob Farrell: !HERO: The Rock Opera (2003)note .
- Christian Electronic Music has become increasingly popular with the general rise of the genre in The New '10s, with producers and DJs holding festivals and raves for a more spiritual audience that eschews certain themes prevalent in the more mainstream EDM scene (especially its drug association).
- Prefab Sprout: while songwriter Paddy McAloon had often flirted with religious themes before (in particular the closing sequence of Jordan: The Comeback, which among other things includes a Villain Song written from the point of view of Satan), he'd never quite gone into actual Christian Rock... until the release of Let's Change The World With Music on which several songs are unambiguously advocating for Christianity.
- Before many of these examples were the Bible-themed rock musicals of the early seventies, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. The albums of music from these shows (and later from the movie versions of each) showed many record executives that there really was a market for Christian Rock/Pop.
- In the Good Omens fic All The Best Tunes? by A.A. Pessimal, the demon Crowley and the angel Azaraphile have a go at pop and rock music promotion. On a visit to CBGB's in New York, circa 1974, they witness a young Patti Smith. Angel and Demon both find much to appreciate in her lyrics. Azaraphile realises the anger and the intensity of her performance of the 23rd Psalm (''Set Me Free!") is one of the most heartfelt, intense, prayers he has heard in a long time. He approves. It causes Crowley to flee and vomit in the bathroom, for exactly the same reason. Elsewhere, both claim the credit for Christian rock music as it can be claimed to advance the causes of both Heaven - and Hell.
- Red Dwarf: Krytie TV: In an attempt to ruin Kochanski's date with ex-boyfriend Tim, Kryten helps Lister trash Tim's quarters. Kryten gives Lister a number of Rimmer's possessions to place around Tim's quarters. Apparently the pièces de résistance are some Christian rock music CD's, given "if they don't scare her off, nothing will!". One of the CD's is titled "Frank Assisi and the Apostles - Hymns in Rock".
- An episode of The Simpsons had the Hair Metal band Quiet Riot become the Christian metal band "Pious Riot".
"Christian rock's just like regular rock; you just replace the word "Jesus" with "baby"."
- Larry Norman made a similar joke in the early '90s. "I mean, replace 'baby' with 'Jesus'..."
- Allegedly, Ray Charles once said something similar about the blues and gospel — one's about God, the other's about women.
- Played with in another episode when Ned expressed his happiness with scoring tickets to a Christian Rock concert. When he shows the tickets to Homer, we see that they are actually for a Chris Rock concert.
"Well sir, I've never heard a preacher use the MF word so many times!"
- There's also Ned's love of the Christian AC/DC tribute band AD/BC with their hit song "Kindly Deeds (Done For Free)".
- Oh this exchange as Reverend Lovejoy reads the church bulletin:
Lovejoy: This Saturday you'll have a chance to 'party down' in the church basement to the Jesus rock stylings of Testament.Bart: [Dismissively] Everyone already knows all the best bands are affiliated with Satan.
- Or when the Sunday service had musical guests in the form of the fictional band Covenant:
"Hey, isn't that the drummer from Satanica?""You know, I think it is."
- And when Bart replaced the sheet music for the service with "In the Garden of Eden" by "I. Ron Butterfly".
Homer: Hey Marge, remember when we used to make out to this hymn?
- Larry Norman made a similar joke in the early '90s. "I mean, replace 'baby' with 'Jesus'..."
- The South Park episode, "Christian Rock Hard", took this concept to the next level. In the episode, Cartman decides to form a Christian Rock band to win a bet with Kyle. But to avoid doing any actual song writing, he resorts to mostly copying off lyrics from pop love ballads and changing certain words, like "baby" to "Jesus", and because he didn't change anything else, most of his band's songs ends up being about wanting to have sex with Jesus.
- The "having sex with Jesus" nature was likely due to the tendency in some Christian rock to use metaphors that sound very sexually-loaded to some non-fans - e.g. repeatedly saying that one wants to "touch," "feel," or "hold" Jesus.
- In one episode of King of the Hill, Hank tries to get his son interested in Christianity again. He is horrified when Bobby becomes an aficionado of Christian Rock and starts hanging around with a group of "Christian Skaters" (played by guest stars Sum41); the horror is partly due to their appalling fashion sense and musical taste, but mostly because Hank doesn't want Bobby to treat Christianity just like another youthful fad.
Hank: You're not making Christianity better, you're making rock-and-roll worse!
- In Metalocalypse, Murderface attempts to find what religion is right for him; one of his first attempts takes him to a Christian rock concert, where he tries to groove with the horribly lame music with a pained look on his face.
- Moral Orel had pious heavy metal band Multiple Godgasm.
- The Onion has run a few articles regarding this musical genre: