Kitschiest Christian Songs Ever!

I’ve been pretty hard on contemporary Christian music on this blog, but let me just say this: it’s much better today than it was, say, ten or fifteen years ago. But who knows, maybe we’ll say the same thing about today’s music ten years from now. In any event, I thought it would be fun (in a self-flagellating sort of way) to revisit some of the kitschy horrors of Christian music’s past. These are the songs that dominated the “special music” circuit at evangelical churches everywhere back in the 90s. They are the ones we wish to forget, but also have a semi-fondness for (ironically, of course!). Here are my picks for the top ten kitschiest Christian songs of all time, with visual aids where available!

10) TIE: “This Means War!” and “Get on Your Knees and Fight Like a Man” – I couldn’t decide which cheesy Petra song to include, so I just picked these two (which might be the cheesiest). These songs may not be familiar to many, but as examples of deliciously awful 80s Christian metal, these gems more than represent. Thank you John Schlitt, for being the big-haired bad boy of CCM. You gotta love hellfire-and-brimstone lyrics like this: “Now it’s all over down to the wire / Counting the days to your own lake of fire.”

9) “El Shaddai” – This 1982 classic, penned by Amy Grant and Michael Card, is as vintage CCM kitsch as you can get. The desperately somber, uber-melodic song features multi-lingual lyrics that lend it its patented sense of gravitas. This song also works very well when performed in sign language (preferably by a church’s “signers ministry”).

8) “Household of Faith” – There was a time in the 90s when this harmony-heavy Steve Green song was performed at every Baptist wedding within a six state area. But apparently people are still (remarkably) choosing this as a wedding song, as recently as 2007. And it looks like it’s still a favorite for Sunday night special music as well!

7) “Who’s In the House? (Kickin’ it for Christ)” – Ne’er was there a more disastrous attempt at white guy Christian rap than in this Carmen catastrophe from 1993. And the scary thing is there are still Christians getting jiggy to this song. See this horrifying clip from Jesus Camp. Oh, and for more painful laughs, here’s the official music video.

6) “Via Dolorosa” – Anyone who grew up in a Baptist church no doubt saw this Spanglish tearjerker performed by some unfortunate wannabe soprano once or twice as a “special music.” Special props to the “first diva” of Christian music, Sandi “the Voice” Patty, for her dramatic arm movements in this vintage performance:

5) “Behold the Lamb” – Subtlety is a rarity on this list, but it is absolutely nowhere to be found in this overblown wonder. Check out the video of David Phelps singing it. If there was a Christian version of American Idol, this would be performed every season.

4) “In the Presence of Jehovah” – This song is a great example of the popular “white church ladies trying to sing black” church music genre. Tons of opps for runs and trills, crazy vibrato and hand flailing. It’s also a great one for making the old ladies cry, and sometimes works well with a wind machine!

3) “People Need the Lord” – The most epic of all Steve Green songs! This tear-inducing evangelistic anthem is oft-used as background music during missionary montage videos. It also makes for a good duet, though be warned: his one is excruciating to watch!

2) “Thank You For Giving to the Lord” – This 1988 Ray Boltz weepie is the quintessential offertory anthem. Put some dynamo tenor in a suit up on stage and poof, the money will pour into the offering plates. This one definitely warrants a youtube viewing. Get those Kleenex ready!

1) “Love in Any Language” – This song beats them all. Just watch this fantastic video of (who else?) Sandi Patty leading a multi-ethnic chorus in a “we are the world”-type performance at some Gaither family event. I mean… what can be said?

BONUS! – “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb”: I simply can’t resist mentioning this song—another Ray Boltz classic. Mainly because it has the best video ever. EVER.

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21 responses to “Kitschiest Christian Songs Ever!

  1. this just undid years of therapy

  2. Wow. Nicely done. I’m in complete agreement with the list. I’m also in complete agreement with the previous post that I now need therapy.
    (And I’m also more than a bit thankful that no songs from the band I used to tour with made the list…although I could nominate one or two at least…)

  3. “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” is the most mind-blowingly melodramatic thing I’ve ever seen. WOW.

  4. Oh man… bringing back the memories… I have so cleverly eschewed CCM since escaping the parents (and Non-Denom churches – thank you liturgy and exclusive psalmody!). And yet I can still sting every lyric of Love in Any Language… I’m surprised you didn’t give us any visuals of Children’s choirs joining in on those songs…

    Although, do you reckon that some of those in the middle of the list aren’t just a little TOO earnest to be defined as kitsch? Carman, yes, Petra, oh definitely, Sandi Patti…well, she’s a spokeswoman for WeightWatchers now, so that automatically allows for kitsch-points, but Steve Green? I mean, he’s come full-circle, and is back into hipster-cred Xian circles. Admittedly, not overly-sappy covers at church… Hmmm.

    I think I’ll need to ponder this list a bit more…

  5. The problem here is that your list was WAY to short. You can’t spell CCM without cheese. Well done, well done indeed.

  6. Wow…

    I’m shocked that I’m not familiar with more of those songs!… I grew up in the kitchiest of all charismatic settings, but it wasn’t baptist!

    PS. How many of you ever got dragged to a Steve Green concert and got to go up on stage to sing “Keep your Tongue From Evil?”

    PPS My step-father often talked about trying to get his own son to go to a Steve Green concert. He said he offered to go to a Metallica concert if they could also go to see Steve Green…….i’m about 100% sure my step-father had no clue about what might happen at a Metallica concert…..

  7. hey, where’s “Friends” by MWSmith? didn’t every baptist camp close out the week with this one?
    if this were a PostSecret blog I would say, “I once toured the Eastern seaboard with the kitciest of all highschool music groups. And, yes, we sang “Friends”!

  8. For me, including Petra totally makes up for dissing Michael. I was so into Petra it wasn’t even funny. I remember trying to convince a classmate that they were better to listen to than Aerosmith…

    Man I was so un-coool

  9. This list is too big to confine it to 10. Notable omissions:

    Boycott Hell (Degarmo & Key)

    I Luv Rap Music (DC Talk)

    You can add the entire Carman catalogue to this list.

    Friends (MWS) (I think someone above already added)

    Friends (Petra) (I have only myself to blame for getting this falsetto in my head)

  10. It’s amazing….I physically cannot listen to one of those songs in its entirety. It’s not possible. Yet sadly, I owned one of those Carman tapes back in 5th grade. I’d almost forgotten about that; thanks for dredging THAT back up!

  11. timothy allen brown

    i can’t stomach “pop churchianity”. it literally sickens me. makes me very appreciative of not being raised in it. i’m pretty sure ALL ccm is pure kitsch, and the vast majority of “worship” songs as well. i hate the label “christian” music. what makes it (or makes it not) christian? it’s all about the record label the artist is on. ridiculous. if i need spiritual inspiration i find it in all types of music, bono once said that he knew God existed when he heard miles davis. and even if bob marley is singing about the assasinated emperor of ethiopia, i still find so much spiritual truth there. johnny cash, sufjan stevens, david bazan/pedro the lion (before his de-conversion), bono – i don’t find a need to label them “christian”. i think music is not the appropriate arena to cause further divides.

  12. What, no “Champion” or “Witch’s Invitation”?!? jmj is right, you could add fill up a list like this with just Carman songs, God bless him.

  13. Best post ever. EVER. :)

  14. yeah, I can agree with this list, but you show yourself a youngster time and time again. You claim that CCM is better now than it was 15 years ago, but I would submit that the CCM machine is just better at marketing bands that hipsters like you might find cool. Sorry dude, it’s a difference in perspective.

    But in agreement with your list and other commenters, a couple of the songs triggered a gag reflex. I’m starting to feel the same way about most rock n’ roll I hear in church, though.

  15. My friends and I were just talking about ‘Sunday night special music’! Our favourite was Ray Bolz’s ‘Watch The Lamb’. Egads…

  16. I watched a South Park episode where Eric Cartman created a Christian Rock Band called Faith+1, and had lyrics that exaggerated how most Christian music just sounds like cheap, syrupy love songs with “Jesus” in place of “lover” or “girl” or “honey.” I was laughing during the entire episode simply because of how spot-on their parody was.

    And though I do think Christian music has improved over the years, it’s still in a very sad state. I was reading CCM Magazine and it had album “reviews.” I put the reviews in quotes because it didn’t give any album less than two and a half stars out of five, and most of them it gave at least four, saying little more than “these guys praise Jesus, they’re awesome!” Even the two and a half star one didn’t say anything bad about the band, because of course Jesus would never dream of honestly critiquing anybody.

  17. Just want you to know that I have sung 8 of the songs on that list in church – accompaniment track and all! Good, good times. (Ray Boltz is from the town where I grew up, so we tended to sing his songs whenever possible. This means you can add many, many more kitschy songs to the list of the ones I sang…)
    Were you around for the Christian Rock All-Stars concert at Wheaton? Now THAT really was a good time.

  18. oh MAN! I will just *have* to go through these videos.

    I’d switch your #1 and #2…”Thank you for giving to the Lord” being a song I’ve *tried* to appreciate but just can’t in good conscience get behind.

    A big CONGRATULATIONS on your master’s degree! Are you staying in L.A. now? What’s the next step? Sorry it’s been SO long since I’ve even seen you!

  19. Oh, man . . . I’m an MK, and my parents run an orphanage in Guatemala. One summer many years ago my dad used “Thank You for Giving to the Lord” as the song behind the slide show we showed at churches and whatnot (I begged him not to). Everytime the line about the missionary played (at about 1:55 on the clip above) I wanted to melt right through the floor of whatever church we were sitting in. It made me want to cry, all right . . .

  20. Ummm, Bonnie Keen (song #3) looks like she is about to vomit.

    Watching these was the best entertainment you could ask for.

  21. Pingback: Best of the Blog’s First Year: Part Two « The Search

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