Friday, March 6, 2015

Theft #7 - Submerging the Emergent Musician

This may take the form of a "rant" of sorts, but hang in there with it.  Just be glad I don't take any shots at Gungor, (even though they are still due for some).
In a nutshell, I'm fed up with musicians who are Christians, but seem to feel they need to be as vague or "tolerant" about their faith as possible. This is one of the traits of the current Emergent (or Emerging) Church movement, but it has been a problem among Christian musicians (or "musicians who happen to be Christians," or "Christians who happen to be musicians," or "{ get it, right?....}") for a long time. 

Now, I'm not posting to rant on the Emergent Church, but I have argued for years that our best Christian musicians are the last true prophets the evangelical Church has left. My prime examples--for non-crossover artists--have always been--Larry Norman, Daniel Amos, 77s, The Choir, Adam Again, early Steve Camp, Keith Green, et al. Of the "secular" and/or crossover Christian musicians, my examples have been (painfully obvious) U2, Bruce Cockburn, POD, DC Talk/Kevin Max, The Call, Vigilantes of Love, Bob Dylan (don't start!), T-Bone Burnett, and so on.

So, if I'm right about Christian musicians being the "last prophets," it could be true that their musical/lyrical vision has always given a glimpse of the theological direction of the evangelical Church. 

This can be solid or iffy: 

  • Solid = true Biblical criticism of modern and post-modern culture, plus warnings about those cultures' influence on the Church. Best current examples are Daniel Amos, Larry Norman and Steve Taylor. These folks are no-compromise, Biblically conservative Christians who have always been on the prophetic cutting edge musically and lyrically, and work from "within" the Church. >>>I would also add U2 to this list even though they work from "outside" the church.
  • Iffy = Criticism of the Church and culture from a primarily political (rather than Biblical) perspective. Examples are Bruce Cockburn, T-Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan (I included him with hesitation), Vigilantes of Love(maybe), and now Zao (if you even know who they are). The folks--I think--truly believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but their political motivation too often overrides clear Biblical truth. They identify themselves with political liberal causes and positions, and have an implicit (or sometimes explicit) aversion to being identified as a Christian musician. >>>Again, I would add U2 in this list (to a degree) even though Paul Hewson (Bono) has--in the last 5 years--proven that his very active Christian compassion overrides any attachment to liberal or conservative politics.
  • ***NOTE: By using the labels "solid" and "iffy" I am not saying that I am ready to fully accept one group and reject the other. Because of the prophetic stance inherent in the work of both groups, I believe we need them both. I have been challenged to think differently about evangelism by those in the "iffy" category, and--frankly--I really like their music. It is their blindly liberal politics that drives me batty. On the other hand, some musicians in the "solid" group can tend to be too insular or sheltered regarding the harsh reality of a world without Christ. However, their willingness to 1) take the Bible seriously, and 2) express their faith openly more than makes up for any cultural blind spots. Plus--as re the iffy group--I really like their music.

What triggered this whole post was my purchase of the newest CD by Over the Rhine--The Trumpet Child, and my subsequent exploration of their website. Now OTR is not a band I would describe as "prophetic," but they are "musicians who happen to be Christians," and they exhibit a vagueness about what that means. However, the core trigger was reading comments from their "fans" on their website's forum. 

These fans--almost uniformly--are either not Christian at all, or they are what I have called Emergent Christians. That is, they show little interest in Biblical truth, practical holiness, or evangelism. There is a section of the forum devoted to prayer requests, but--again--the type of "prayers" being offered are so generic and vague as to be either only quasi-Christian, or even explicitly non-Christian. Neither the band nor their "Christian" fans exhibit any interest at all in getting their numerous non-Christian fans interested in Biblical truth about Christ. This drives me up the wall. I can deal with the expected anti-Bush rhetoric, but I can't deal with the utter disinterest in telling people the truth about sin, judgment, and salvation in Christ.
So, having said all that, what is there to "steal back" from these "iffy" Christian musicians? It's just this: I will keep listening and learning from them, but I will be more vocal and interactive with them and their fans about the need to "submerge" themselves back in the Bible, rather to "Emerge" away from 2000 years of orthodox (small "o") Christianity. This post is the beginning.

Bear with me, as always,
The Thief

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