Charlie Peacock - Diffusing the Smart Bombs
- 2000 27 Feb
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While doing research for my book on contemporary Christian music, I came across a number of revealing articles written by music critics and writers with no affiliation with, or sympathy for, the micro-culture of the evangelical Christian music community. Common to most of these articles and reviews, whether they were printed in Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, or Spin, was (and is) a loathing and nasty criticism of Christian music. It is not respected as either popular musical art or the natural outgrowth of Christian spirituality. But it's not only journalists who like to express their distaste for Christian music. Television writers have launched some smart bombs of their own.
The March 19, 1998 episode of Seinfeld, began with Elaine driving off in her boyfriend Putty's car. After pulling into traffic she turned on the radio and began to bop along to the music, suddenly she looked down at the radio with a perplexed look on her face. She'd caught herself bopping to the following lyric: Jesus is one/Jesus is all/Jesus pick me up when I fall.
Elaine quickly chose another preset on the radio, only to find that her boyfriend had programmed every preset to a Christian radio station. Later back at the restaurant Elaine discussed the incident with George.
Elaine: "Here's one. I borrowed Putty's car and all the presets on his radio were Christian rock stations."
George: "I like Christian rock. It's very positive. It's not like those real musicians who think they're so cool and hip."
Ouch! Thanks George, with advocates like you, who needs a publicist?!
How is it that the person of Jesus, his story, and the story of his students/followers/artists gets so easily reduced to trivial footnotes in pop culture history? Is this persecution for professing Christ, his cross and resurrection?
I don't think so. I think that the Christian music community has brought it on themselves and that critics have every right to dish it out the way they do. This does not mean that there isn't simplistic, reductionistic thought and just plain old meanness at play now and again, because there is. Still, it is the musicians and the Christian music business infrastructure that have created a music and a god so small that they can be easily caricatured and dismissed. Christian music is to blame for modeling a version of The Way that is unattractive, uninteresting, and often untruthful. It needn't be this way. There are real, tangible choices that musicians can make to avoid being such easy targets. For example:
1. Live out the implications of the gospel. If it is such good news, and if Jesus really does have the best information on the most important things, why do we live so contrary to what we profess? If we are free, why do we model for the world such a lack of freedom? Why would anyone want to "be saved" if what they are being saved into is a christianized form of bondage? Are you a model of someone who bought "fire insurance" by saying a little prayer, or are you modeling the life of an unceasing spiritual being with good and meaningful work to do in God's great universe? Wrestle with these questions, seek the answers, and pray to live in reality.
2. Live in community with the rest of the world. Don't sequester yourself away in a Christian cocoon doing "christiany" kinds of things only with Christian people. Go out into the highways and byways of life and live with people who are just like you-people who need the breath of God day in and day out. Quit your self-righteous behavior and come to terms with the fact that you still need a savior and always will. Love mercy more than being right. And by all means, love your neighbor the way you want to be loved. Give yourself and your resources away. Show people the real Jesus, not a subculture.
3. Develop musical skill and ability on par with the talents and gifts given you. Invest yourself in your craft and work hard, very hard. Quit living in a world of if-onlys. Quit making christianized versions of already existing music. Get on with the business of being who you are, that is living in the present, doing the work of a student/follower/artist on a day to day basis. Study, dream, invent, practice, learn, pray, imagine, and create. Be thankful. And whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus to the glory of God. Prepare to be the best, not for self-serving purposes, but instead to honor God's imagination and creativity, and to bring beauty, and truth, and goodness into the world.
This is just a beginning, but a good one I think. Start today.