In one of the Festival of Faith & Music’s most insightful discussions, author Andrew Beaujon (managing editor of The Washington City Paper and SPIN contributor) tackled criticism on the enduring gap between the Christian and pop worlds under the headline “Ironic Mind Meets Literal Mind: Does Pop Culture Owe Christian Culture Anything?” “Until Christians come to grips with the idea that they’ve got as much at stake in pop culture as they do in political culture,” he argued, “there will always be a barrier.” Penning perhaps the most comprehensive and candid commentary on the Christian music community with his 2006 book Body Piercing Saved My Life (Da Capo), Beaujon extended his own “outsider’s view” that Christian culture is “purely an American invention,” and that most modern Christian music “evinces adolescent theology at best . . . [and] doesn’t seem to fit into many adults’ lives.”

Hosting a workshop bearing his magazine’s cover tagline, “Signs of Life in Music, Film & Culture,” PASTE co-founder Josh Jackson contributed to the conversation, remarking that “the idea of a whole generation of Christian artists told that their creation has to follow a prescribed Christian structure for a limited Christian audience is devastating. We copy the same styles of our culture, but we sanitize it.”

Keynote speakers David Dark (author of Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons and other Pop Culture Icons and The Gospel According to America) and Lauren Winner (who penned Girl Meets God and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity) gave larger perspectives, discussing art and its place, as a whole.

In her address, “Embodying the Incarnation: Christianity and the Arts,” Winner asked attendees to consider if it is “particularly Christian to create art that doesn’t tell the truth.” Arguing her love of pricey decorative art has as much to do with her personal expression of glorifying God as giving to world hunger, Winner explained balance between the practical and the fanciful. “Christians need not, because of our God of abundance, always be concerned about the evident utility of everything that we do. We are called to worship a God who is interested in whimsy and not just utility. Cultivating art is one of the ways we do that.”

Dark offered up his own summary, as he explained, “If it’s truthful, it’s gospel. Meaning if it’s truthful, it’s good news.”

Wrapping up the festivities, the weekend’s performing headliner, Emmylou Harris, mingled spirituality into seemingly every lyric. “Music is like my church,” she revealed at one point. “It infuses me with a reality that I cannot explain. I’m just grateful to be a part of that very mysterious process.”

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