Thursday, February 15, 2024

"We would have hated each other in middle school"

From Russell Moore on "Us and Them and CCM" (Contemporary Christian Music) responding to a new book:
A friend and I were talking once about the first concerts we ever attended. His was Van Halen; mine was Amy Grant.

"Okay, second concert?" he asked.

Him: Mötley Crüe. Me: Petra.

After a minute or two of silence, he said, "You realize we would have hated each other in middle school, don’t you?"

One of us was part of a sheltered subculture quickly passing away. The other listened to music that was a gateway drug to what some say led to riots and rebellion. Turns out, my musical taste, not his, was the dangerous one. ....

Should conservative Protestant teenagers and college students be rightly equipped for the fact that they will be out of step with their peers in modern American culture? Yes.

The problem, though, is that Augustine’s City of God would not sell very well in a 20th- or 21st-century American Christian market. The nuanced truth that "You will be made to feel strange at times for following Christ, but you’re not under persecution (and, by the way, you’re not nearly strange enough in the ways Jesus actually called you to be)" isn’t nearly as exciting as, "This is the terminal generation. The elites are out to destroy you, and you are the only thing standing between Christian America and the New World Order."

"God wants what you want (for you to be happy and healthy and flush with cash)" sells. So does "You’re the real America and everybody else wants to kill you." Messages of actual cross-bearing and a cruciform life, however, do not sell well at all. ....

To some degree, that’s to be expected. The music business is, after all, a business. But, as Payne points out, some reformers (including my now CT colleague Charlie Peacock) warned of ways the business model could be at cross purposes with the teaching power of music—and many artists (such as the late Rich Mullins and Michael Card) charted a different, more theologically grounded and biblically holistic course.

When the consensus determines what’s acceptable as a Christian and what’s not, one cannot help but end up with what The Guardian identified as a "market-driven approach to truth," in which a group ends up "finding most hateful to God the sins that least tempt its members, while those sins that are most popular become redefined and even sanctified." ....

Contemporary Christian music, flawed as any human endeavor is, was a positive force in my life. The music of Amy Grant and Rich Mullins went with me through an adolescent spiritual crisis and are probably part of the reason I came out of it more Christian than I went in. I’m amazed by how much of my incipient theology—convictions I teach to this day—was taught to me by Petra lyrics. I have never, not once in 30 years of ministry, preached Romans 6 without hearing their "Dead Reckoning" song in my mind.

I learned how to read biblical narrative Christologically, how to understand parable and poetry and paradox, from the lyrics of Michael Card. I might be embarrassed to tell you how often, in the middle of dark times, what strengthens me are words like "Where there is faith / There is a voice calling, keep walking / You’re not alone in this world" or "I’ll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough" or "God is in control / We will choose to remember and never be shaken." None of that may be rock-and-roll, but I will die believing that God gave that to me. .... (more)

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