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Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music. By Mark Allan Powell. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002. 1088 pp. + CD-ROM. $29.95 paper.

Contemporary Christian music polarizes congregations, dominates the sound of Christian radio, and fuels an enormous industry. The music, its artists, and its impact are an understudied but undeniably vital part of modern American Christianity. Mark Allan Powell's Encyclopedia is a handbook brimming with information about the shapers of this flourishing Christian subculture. Its 1,900 entries (all written by Powell) detail the individuals and groups that reflect and influence the musical tastes of millions of Christians, Protestant and Catholic. Allan places secular artists who acknowledge the influence of their Christian faith on their careers side-by-side with the divas of Christian music. His working definition of contemporary Christian music is broad: it encompasses whatever fans think of as Christian, so the Christian connection may reside in the professed faith of the artist or in the content of the lyrics. The resulting compendium is an indispensable tool for anyone who proposes to study modern American Christianity. It offers valuable insights into the networks and contours of a remarkable Christian music empire that is also a secular force.

Powell, a self-described outsider to the traditions he places at the heart of the Christian music scene, is Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary. From his perspective, the book is a contribution to church history, though it clearly serves multiple constituencies. Allan locates the roots of contemporary Christian music within fundamentalism, and, more specifically, within conservative denominations that originated in the United States. Scholars are likely to wish for a longer introduction and a framework expanding on the religious roots of contemporary Christian music and its tie-ins to secular music styles and 1960s popular culture. Powell tantalizes readers with suggestions on these subjects, but his principal contribution is a stunning compilation of trivia and interpretation that offers access to an understudied phenomenon. Those uninitiated in the jargon specific to the genre will find the glossary helpful in navigating the text; web addresses and a CD-ROM with searchable text and links to artists' websites and music clips enhance the book's appeal.

Edith Blumhofer

Wheaton College
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Author:Blumhofer, Edith
Publication:Church History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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