An Introduction and “P-Dubs”

A friend of mine went to Franciscan University (Catholic Harvard). She once told me that they refer to “praise and worship” as “P-Dubs” up there. I thought that was hilarious. I shared the term with my band mates, who also thought it was hilarious, and now that’s what we call Christian music that we don’t like. It’s a dumb name for a dumb genre.

It is well known that I pretty much hate “Christian Music.” This blog post is not about that. People much smarter than I have already written great stuff on the topic. (Here for example) I’m trying to be positive on the web. There’s enough negativity out there. So this post is about Christian music that I don’t mind.

A Clarification

Look. I don’t mind “Christian music.” I absolutely prefer more substantive forms of artistic/musical expression. Yet, I’ve had beautiful experiences with this type of music. Even dumb songs can get to me every now and then. So don’t think I look down on you if you do like this crap. I kind of get it.

A List

Here are five p-dubs that I actually like. Presented in no particular order. Except for number one. It is actually my number one.

#5: Your Grace is Enough – Matt Maher

Matt Maher is the Catholic Bruce Springsteen.

He’s the only guy we’ve got in the mainstream Christian music world. That all started with this song. I came across Matt as a teenager when I got involved with the youth ministry at our parish. We adopted Life Teen which, of course, entails lots of Matt Maher music. Your Grace is Enough was his most well known song at the time so we played it a lot at our events. I read a blurb Matt put out about the inspiration for the song where he said, in so many words, that the chorus was more a prayer for what he wanted to believe than it was a declaration of where he was in life. That became my prayer too. For a young man trying to put together the foundations for a Christian life, something as simple as that meant a lot. When I hear the studio version of this song from the Empty and Beautiful album, it takes me right back to those days.

#4: O Praise Him – David Crowder*Band

If I could, I’d just include everything the David Crowder Band has ever released here. But that would make for a very long post, so this song will just have to represent the entirety of their work.

David Crowder is one of my biggest musical influences. He’s probably the only Christian music artist who I can say that about. I’ve thought a lot about why I love him and his music so much when it is kind of the same thing that every other p-dub artist does. The best I can come up with is that his presence on stage, in his voice, in his writing, and in his public life is just authentic. David Crowder isn’t trying to do a Chris Tomlin or Hillsong impression with his music. He’s just a dude from Texarkana, Texas who writes songs about Love.

I’ve played O Praise Him probably 7,200 times as a musician in youth and young adult ministry, and I never get tired of it. It’s just a Christian song in G (Capo III, of course), but something about it hits me right in the heart.

If you haven’t already, check out his new band (The David Crowder*Band split up in 2011), Crowder. Also check out The Digital Age, a band made up of some of the members of the David Crowder*Band.

#3: All the Poor and Powerless – All Sons and Daughters

I remember the first time I heard this song. I was at a Life Teen training event and the musicians for the day played this song for us. Even then, as a teenager, I was not the kind of person to participate in or care about praise and worship sessions. When they played this song I felt power coming into the room and a shivered as I proclaimed the chorus with everyone in the room. It would be a few more months before I found out the name of the song and the artists who wrote it, but since that day I never forgot this one. When I play this, I’m a mega church worship leader about it. I can (and have) play it on repeat with people singing and praying the words over and over again. Man. It gets me every time.

#2: Beautiful Things – Gungor

This one was kind of tough for me to put in here. I don’t consider Gungor to be a “Christian music” group. They don’t fit in with any of the tropes that I associate with that sort of artist. Michael Gungor is a legitimate guitar player (he studied guitar at North Texas, people!) Together with Lisa he writes really meaningful music. BUT, at the time that Beautiful Things came out, I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for. That’s definitely what I was going for when I first got the album.

Beautiful Things is a worship song. When you play it near a crowd of a certain kind of people, they snap to attention to sing and praise along with you. That’s why I put it in the p-dub category. It is definitely a cut above the rest of the p-dub world. I play this song a lot for personal prayer and for p-dub gigs. Maybe more importantly, it introduced me to Gungor: one of my favorite bands.

#1: How He Loves – John Mark McMillan

Like you didn’t know this was coming…

I don’t know if I can say anything about this song that isn’t perfectly said in the video above. It was written as a response to one of the worst heartaches there is in this life. It is born from anger and confusion and hurt, and it is a response of messy, unfiltered love and faithfulness. My faith life operates more with and through pain and frustration than anything else. John Mark taught me to praise The Lord even in that frustration. It isn’t a superficial praise. It isn’t something I say to myself hoping I believe it eventually. It isn’t a goal. When I strip away the world and bare my heart bare before The Lord I end up just screaming “He loves us.” He is jealous for me. His grace is an ocean and we are all sinking. Heaven meets earth in a sloppy wet kiss. These aren’t polished thoughts. These aren’t clear thoughts. These thoughts are the best response we have to an honest, passionate, messy, powerful Love. This song is so much about who I am and who I want to be as a Catholic man. It gets me every. Single. Time.