Listening In – Part II
- Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Last month, we debuted our new “Listening In” feature, letting readers “sit in” on a conversation between an artist and another influential person in, or of interest to, the Christian community. We unveiled the first part of recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman’s and author Philip Yancey’s conversation, where they shared, discussed and sometimes rambled about everything from the way they create their individual art to God-honoring sexuality (Believe it.).
This month, we eavesdrop again for the conclusion of this discussion as these two thinkers tackle whether or not there should even be a Christian industry in addition to the mainstream; and, for all of you fans of U2, Philip offers a little insider story about his friends. So sit back, relax and see what these two have to say!
Steven: One of the things we struggle with in the church at large is this constant tug of war that goes on of, “Are we just preaching to the choir? Are we really reaching the world; are we really impacting the culture if we’re just speaking to other Christians?”
There’s an Eric Little quote in "Chariots of Fire" when his father says, “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand in wonder.” You do what you do, you do it for the glory of God, and you know the motivation. And it’s going to look different for every artist. Every artist is going to have a different stroke with his or her brush, a different stroke with his or her pen, a different way of approaching it. There are going to be those who communicate musically to the culture at large. MercyMe is finding itself in the middle of this huge explosion of a song called “I Can Only Imagine.” That is as Christian a song as has ever been written, and it’s been a smash hit on pop radio. So, you just do what you do, and God brings those opportunities.
Philip: I think it’s OK to tell this story. U2 came to New Orleans and played in the Superdome. Brennan Manning ["The Ragamuffin Gospel", "Signature of Jesus"] was in New Orleans, so they looked him up because they had read his books. Edge [guitarist] said, “OK, Brennan, I have two questions for you.” I forget the first one. The second one was: “Can I glorify God by being the best rock guitarist I can be?” And Brennan said, “Absolutely you can. If that’s your calling, you can.”
In a lot of ways Edge is a more thoughtful, content-oriented guy than Bono. But he’s aware that Bono’s the front guy. [He’s probably thinking:] “Bono is the media-savvy [one]. He can handle the crowds, and that’s not my goal, and that’s not my calling. I probably wouldn’t be very good at it. But I can be God’s guitarist!”
Steven: Wow, that’s incredible.
Philip: Bono is an interesting example here because [U2] tried intentionally not to be a “Christian rock band,” even though some of the guys are strong Christians. Yet he came to a point where he said in USA Today, “We live in this crazy celebrity culture. Like an athlete, I’ve got the attention of the world; so what matters most? To me what matters most is the continent of Africa, AIDS and the debt and the poverty these people live under.” It’s actually the most Christian continent in a lot of ways. So I’m going to use this crazy platform I have because I play music and use it for things I believe in.”
He wasn’t doing that 10 to 15 years ago, and all these Christians were wondering, “Are they still Christians?” But he’s very strategic. He waited until his credentials were secure. He can walk into George Bush’s office as he does because he didn’t get pigeon-holed as a Christian rock musician. But now he’s matured, and he’s saying, “How am I a steward of this crazy celebrity culture?”
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