Does anyone else get depressed when they go into the Christian bookstore? My wife gives me that “tsk tsk” sound and the slow side to side head rotation everytime I screw up my courage and walk back to the music section in the Christian book store. The reason is that I almost always walk out disappointed. Why does it effect me that way? Because I’ve literally heard most of this before–on Top 40 radio. Yes, yes. the lyrics are uplifting. The choruses are distinctly Christian in a repeat-the-same-five-words-twenty times kind of way. But the artistic creativity is straight from billboard’s top forty. Just as an example: I drove to work this morning and the three songs I heard as I made my way to my office praised Jesus, glorified God, and did it all with the vocal stylings of Coldplay. All three had the same emo feel and that distinctive vocal sound that is a cross between a castrati opera singer and a 15 year old girl.
Can’t we just be orginal? Why does our offerings to culture have to be so derivative? There is a difference between derivative and inspirational. Its been said before, by the late Francis Schaffer especially, that there was a time when Christians led rather than followed in the artistic realm. Now that might be because we lived in a Christian culture during the so-called dark ages where sunlight was the medium and stained glass was the canvas. However, I refuse to believe that our artistic creativity has to be reactive rather than revolutionary.
I remember walking into a Christian bookstore once where there was a book extolling the virtues of contemporary Christian music and inside I found a chart comparing well-known secular artists with their Christian counterparts complete with a “sounds like” header. At the time I thought that was cool. Here I could match my heathen tastes to Christian lyrics. Of course I was 13 and on the brink of buying my first KISS album. Is there a good reason why mainstream radio has effectively ignored Contemporary Christian Music (or Christian rock for you aficianados)? Why is it the kiss of death to be labeled a Christian friendly band as Creed and Evanescence once were? Mainstream record labels deny that moniker with the passion of a John Edwards denying his love child.
When is the last time you remember an openly Christian artist being praised for their creativity and innovation not just their uplifting lyrics or singable and prayable choruses? Yeah me too. Modern Christendom suffers from a ghetto problem. We have our own music. Our own books. Our own t-shirts. All cleverly disguised as their secular counterparts until you get up close. But we are capable of so much more. We have the greatest source of creativity and inspiration anywhere. You know how I know? Consider this:
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Think about that. Psalm 16:11 indicates that at God’s right hand are infinite pleasures. No boredom. God has the capacity to be infinitely creative–enough to keep us satisfied for eternity. Is it too much to think that some of that creativity can be imparted to us by the Holy Spirit? Must we be derivative when we can be inspired? Both “inspiration” and “enthusiasm” share a common idea of the divine moving through us.
Usually I would go on ranting for close to 1,000 words. But instead I’ll open it up for our readers. Comment please. What bright spots of orignality do you see coming from the Christian community? Read a Christian novel lately that could really hold its own in terms of creativity and craft with any book on NY times best-seller list? Heard Christian music that glorified God and you couldn’t quite put your finger on who they sound like when your friends ask for a secular counterpart? Give me some hope that the people of God can be inspired rather than merely derivative. Give me hope that creative excellence doesn’t have to be sacrificed in the name of getting the message out.
This week marks the 30th anniversary of the tragedy which occurred at Jonestown, Guyana. Time magazine did an interview with Tim Reiterman titled, Q&A: A Jonestown Survivor Remembers. They included an overview of other groups they called Cults That Went Wacko. MSNBC posted 10 video clips . In fact, most media around the country, print, radio, television and internet, is addressing this in one way or another. Department of Religious Studies at San Diego State University posted their Alternate Consideration of Jonestown & People’s Temple. Tom Kinsolving outlined the cast of public figures who aided Jim Jones in his rise to power in CNN’s “Escape from Jonestown” – Powerful But Still Incomplete Reporting On The Eve Of A Terrible Anniversary. Kinsolving’s view of this tragedy can be summed up:
Thus, a cornucopia of local celebrities……all of them did their part to make the truly avoidable massacre……unavoidable.
I am not altogether sure if it was unavoidable. Michael Sneed, Chicago Sun-Times columnist who covered the event at the time it occurred, in the opening paragraphs of her Tuesday, November 18, 2008column wrote:
What led to more than 900 people lining up to drink death in the middle of a steamy jungle?
It still is the kind of story that can stop you suddenly in the middle of writing a grocery list.
This question plagues a great many people. How could Jim Jones’ followers Continue reading …
Mel Gibson’s 1997 film Conspiracy Theory has him cast as a cab driver, Jerry Fletcher, who sees conspiracies in everything. He spends a great deal of time laying out complex conspiratorial scenarios, talks about them in the cab and sends his newsletter to 5 other people. The film went on to demonstrate Joseph Heller’s (Catch-22) maxim, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you” when it turned out that he was being conspired against. Conspiracies are fun. Like riding roller coasters, they allow us to be a little afraid with no real danger. On the other hand, sometimes they turn out to be true. The outcome of this election is a case in point. I have received a number of emails asking if Barack Obama is the anti-Christ or the false prophet of the book of Revelation. Along with the question are links to video such as Militant Obama youth march to ‘Alpha, Omega’ chant or Obama’s July 2 speech in Colorado Springs, CO where he talked about starting a “civilian national security force.” This concern is not just coming from Evangelical and Fundamental Christians but Georgia Congressman Paul Broun suggested that Obama’s proposal is:
“exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did.”
At the same time we hear UK’s Brown: Now is the time to build global society and Gorbachev calls on Obama to carry out ‘perestroika’ in the U.S..
Obama has been clear that he is a globalist during his election campaign so moves in that direction would not be surprising. We know that Obama supports murdering geographically challenged humans (inside the womb vs. outside the womb) for any reason but does he support infanticide as seems to be the case in his opposition to Born Alive Legislation?
Are the claims Continue reading …
As I write this, people are voting. Every major news organization seems to have the good sense to avoid equating exit polling with delegate predictions. Barring a nightmare like 2000, when you read this, we will have a new president-elect. I don’t know who it will be. I dumped my tea leaves in the trash along with my enormous pile of election mail. I’ve already voted. And like a lot of people I didn’t like my choices. I however did not vote for the lesser of two evils. Somehow I’m just not sure that’s what Jesus would do. I also don’t think this election is any more spiritually important than the last election. They are all spiritually important.
What I do find interesting is the political landscape for Christians in the 21st century looks remarkably like the political landscape of first century Jews. I’ve been reading a cutting-edge commentary on Church and State . . . from 1956. Oscar Cullman writes about Jesus’ navigation of the political landscape of the 1st century in The State and the New Testament.
Cullman vividly describes the political landscape Jesus Continue reading …