According to press releases from the Gospel Music Association (GMA), Christian music has been experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years. But a closer look at the top-sellers of 2001 show that the strongest "Christian music" draws are Mannheim Steamroller, the soundtrack for O Brother Where Art Thou, and P.O.D. All have become Christian records courtesy of Soundscan, the company originally created to clear up confusing and misleading statistics in the music industry.

Here's how it apparently works: Once Christian bookstores decide to carry an album like Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas Extraordinaire, it is then declared a "Christian record." Then every Christmas Extraordinaire sale, no matter where it occurs, is credited as another sale of "Christian music." Those numbers are then used to show how much growth has taken place in "Christian music."

The same goes for P.O.D. If the rock/rap act sells 1 million records in mainstream outlets and 100,000 in Christian bookstores, the Christian music industry is credited with 1,100,000 sales—without an asterisk or footnote.

But P.O.D. doesn't consider itself a "Christian band" making "Christian music." Instead, P.O.D.'s members see themselves as Christians making music about their lives, including their love for God, in the center of popular culture. By signing directly with Atlantic Records in New York, they hoped to avoid being saddled with marginalizing terms that ultimately keep their music away from non-Christians.

Lead singer Sonny Sandoval believes that the band's interested listeners sometimes don't buy its CDs when they are stocked by mainstream chains in the same bin as Sandi Patty and George Beverly Shea.

"You go into Sam Goody's and you have these kids that just came ...

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