CCM and Brio Magazine: Christian media’s impersonation of secular pop culture

Meghan O’ Ghieblyn’s article at GUERNICA about Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) is a wry retrospective that limns the Catch-22 of Christian pop culture: by imitating secular culture–and, at the same time, disparaging worldliness–Christian media can’t help but look derivative, naive, and inauthentic.*

On this odd trap:

This trend spreads beyond CCM into many areas of evangelical culture. The church is becoming increasingly consumer-friendly. Jacob Hill, director of “worship arts” at New Walk Church, describes the Sunday service music as “exciting, loud, powerful, and relevant,” and boasts that “a lot of people say they feel like they’ve just been at a rock concert.” Over the past ten years, I’ve visited churches that have Starbucks kiosks in the foyer and youth wings decked out with air hockey tables. I’ve witnessed a preacher stop his sermon to play a five-minute clip fromBilly Madison. I’ve walked into a sanctuary that was blasting the Black Eyed Peas’s “Let’s Get it Started” to get the congregation pumped for the morning’s message, which was on joy. I have heard a pastor say, from a pulpit, “Hey, I’m not here to preach at anyone.” And yet, in spite of these efforts, churches are retaining only 4 percent of the young people raised in their congregations.

She also name-checks a familiar culprit: Brio Magazine.

brio magazine

As my cousins enjoyed the magazine and said it would be age-appropriate (I was 11), my mom gave me a subscription to Brio Magazine. We were unaware that it was a Focus on the Family production; had we been, Mom would not have considered it and I , back in 2001, would have been unaware of the political and theological implications I object to now.

Brio had a pretty regular editorial calendar: the article about the CCM band du jour, the decent serialized fiction story, the fashion article that emphasized modesty, the article about boys/dating/ABSTINENCEYAY!, and the plug for their annual mission trip.

Editor Susie Shellenberg had an advice column that, even at 11, sounded strange to me: Break off relationships with non-Christian friends–especially boys!, protest the teaching of evolution at your public school, and do not pursue boys you have a crush on. EVER. This was the prime propaganda from Focus on the Family.

In the editors’ defense,there was a pretty cool article about house churches in China once.

In the Brio world, feminism never happened, but girl power did. You were supposed to know better than to have an adolescence–no mercy for those who slipped up.

Youthful mistake. I knew what I was reading was weird, but I wouldn’t have been into Seventeen. We stopped the subscription because I got bored with it and found it irrelevant.

I tossed the magazines years ago, but after Focus on the Family shuttered its teen media, Shellenberg started her own magazine called SUSIE!

Modest, right?

SUSIE! is Brio reincarnated; I’m pretty sure I read that heinous article on emotional purity before.


See also, Apologetix. This is not a joke.

We didn’t set out to be the Christian Parody Band. We’re all life-long musicians of varying tastes who have written our fair share of original music. We all have that “artist” side of us, but we’ve seen God use our songs in so many lives. We’ve learned that apparently God wants us to do two things in particular with our music.

First we’ve noticed that ApologetiX CDs are more easily handed to non-churched friends to check out (as “sound-tracts”!), so we reach some folks that other Christian music doesn’t.


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