[#] Reply to Comments on the Open Letter to Derek Webb

I got this reply to a previous blog update from a fellow traveller:
graceshaker wrote:may i suggest you grab a copy of the book Walk On by Steve
Stockman. easy read - wont take you a couple days.
I actually have this book at the bookstore (it came with the initial shipment 2 years ago). I have also actually read it -- because Stockman is published by the same folks who publish "RELEVANT" magazine. I had a run-in with Relevant over their article on how to deal with Homosexual marriage in a Christian context at their message boards. (that exchange will have to wait for a future BLOG entry)

At any rate, Stockman's book on U2 is, in the best case, speculative. After reading it, I ran into someone talking about Hillary Clinton's faith who said (in words to this effect), "her faith is so integrated into her personality that you don't even know it's there." That view is exactly the view I'd take of Bono.

Let's think about this for a minute, shall we? Here's a short list of famous people:

George W. Bush
Tony Campolo
Bono
Kirk Cameron
Tim Enloe

OK -- now in that list of people, which one(s) needed someone else to write about their faith in Jesus Christ in order to be identified as a "Christian" of any kind? There's only one on that list, and it's not Tim Enloe. :-)

The point of my open letter to Derek Webb was (and is) that our faith is not something that we sneak into a discussion or our lives under the blanket of pop superstardom (or for us lesser mortals, under the disguise of our career): it is something that is the first part of our approach.

Put another way, Jesus certainly fed the 5000 -- but in what context? It was in the context of preaching the Gospel to them. We can debate in-depth about what kind of Gospel and whether He expected any of the 5000 to accept the Gospel some other time: the point is that when they came back to Him and said, "Sure you just fed us: now show us a sign so that we will believe," Jesus said, "I am the sign, I am what saves." He said that if they put their trust in food that spoils, they were wasting their time. He didn't just set up the Loaves and Fishes Bistro and hand out bread and fishes until Judas got caught with his fingers in the till and Jesus had to take the rap for him. In the context of offering the physical ministry, Jesus presented the Gospel in a way which was intended to set Himself in strict contrast with the world.

Bono does nothing of the sort.

Last note on Stockman's work. Check out his latest "And the Rock Cries Out". In this book, Stockman "explores the music of twelve artists who haven't necessarily professed a Christian faith but whose work is undergirded with issues, questions and insights that are very much biblical." (that's from the amazon.com description of the book) I'm very significantly challenged by someone who says that a person who is "not a professed Christian" can at the same time present, provide or possess "biblical insights".

3 comments:

James Swan said...

Somewhere down in my basement sit about 1000 albums- those big 'ol plastic things that I used to treat as precious and sacred: Don't touch them! You may scratch them! Well anyway, as a pimple faced teenager in the early 1980's, I was onto U2 very early. I became a fan when they released their second album. I have a lot of U2 vinyl, including picture discs, singles with those "rare B sides", extended version mixes, anything by U2 I could get my hands on, circa 1982-83.

I was raised in a conservative church. But, I played a loud guitar. I had three giant Jimmy Page posters on my bedroom wall, and no one could touch Edward Van Halen. The rumor began floating around that this new U2 band were Christians. Now, CCM music at the time (and perhaps still) was simply awful. There weren't really any CCM bands that could motivate me to the same level of idolatry as Led Zep or VH. I mean, Resurrection Band and Phil Keaggy really didn't come close.

But now U2 had great music. I remember thinking, "now here's some music made by Christians I could play for my non-Christian teeny bopper friends!" But why? Well, on reflection, I think it was because the Christian message was (if at all) present in very vague form. It wasn't clear enough to be offensive, kind of like the opposite of what you were saying about Christ feeding the 5000. At a certain point, who Christ was, and what his message was- was explicit, and highly offensive to the ears of sinners.

Such was never the case with those allegedly Christian U2 albums. I remember thinking how incredible it was that they said "claim the victory Jesus won" or watching them sing Psalm 40. But, now upon reflection, the context they said those vaguely Christian things in watered down whatever impact they were supposed to have. In fact, none of my non-Christian friends ever commented to me, "Those U2 guys really say some religious stuff".

Now, 20 years later, I realize that whatever gospel message those early U2 albums had, it probably wasn't a gospel message at all. Their "gospel" message in their lyrics didn't offend anyone I knew (all my druggie-music-band- friends).

Now, i believe in art,and I think it's ok to write music about things other than the gospel. On the other hand, I do wonder about artists whose religious beliefs the world does not find offensive. The gospel, in it's purest form is like the rising sun on a colony of vampires.

Machaira said...

Cent0meter:

Timely blog entry. Not quite comprehensive, but timely and darned precise. Christianity was never meant to be hid under a bushel, or under a bed (Mark 4:21). I've been guilty of that for a long time, primarily because of my timidity. It's time I spoke out in any way I could--even Nicodemus rose to defend Jesus among his peers (John 7:49-51).

God bless,
Mach

centuri0n said...

Mach:

Thanks. I'm a little humbled that people are reading the blog.

TQ:

I owned all their LPs. When I was in grad school, some of the undergrads said I looked like Bono. (they were, of course, high) I saw them live at Red Wings stadium in Rochester NY in '87 or '88. They killed. Bono killed. I was an atheist, and I was very glad that they weren't bothering me but rocking hard. I was moved by the Joshua Tree and its tribute to America (good and bad).

You know this, but I'm saying it for the record: this is not about artistic integrity or art at all. This is about the looney assertion that a person is rightly called a Christian when he can't refer to the person of Jesus Christ without cusring in the same breath.

I think that anyone who wants to criticize CCM or the Christian pop scene has a lot of ground to cover and prolly won't get a lot of flack from me. But when we start turning to people who shun the essentials of the Gospel message and start calling them "heroes of the faith", we have taken our eyes off the prize.