Christian Music, Christian Bookstores, and the Christian Sub-Culture

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by ScottEmerson, May 28, 2003.

  1. ScottEmerson

    ScottEmerson
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Messages:
    3,417
    Likes Received:
    0
    An interesting perspective on things, plus questions for thought, from Dan Kimball.

    -----------
    I had a rather shocking experience a few years ago when I tried to buy a book for a non-Christian friend to help him learn about Christianity in a way that he could understand. I love Christian bookstores and I frequent them often. This time I was shopping with my friend in mind and had an incredible eye-opening experience. I walked into the store and I immediately noticed the wide arrange of Christian T-shirts on display. Many of them had cute and clever slogans on them, but as I tried to picture what my friend would think, I felt uneasy. The wording on the shirts was supposed to be evangelistic, but I ended up feeling many of them would actually be offensive or just plain silly to my friend.

    I then turned to the CD’s and music section, which featured a whole array of celebrity musicians, all of whom would be completely unknown to my friend. The music styles and the look of the musicians seemed to distinctly mimic certain secular bands down to the hair, dress and even facial expressions as they posed. Christian punk music, Christian heavy metal, Christian country and western, they were all there. Looking around me I saw numerous other products for sale--Christian sweatbands with Christian slogans, Christian tea-bags with verses, Christian candy, even (I am not exaggerating here) Christian golf balls and tees. As I continued to peruse the aisle I found Christian dolls, Christian baseball hats, Christian jewelry and (to me) some pretty ugly Christian art.

    Then I looked at the Bible table and again pictured my friend becoming confused. I spotted Bibles for leaders, Bibles for women, the “Jesus Bible,” the End Times Bible, the Athlete’s Bible, the African-American Bible, Bibles endorsed by various celebrity preachers and literally dozens of Bibles sub-categorized in niches. I was almost surprised not to see a Bible for left-handed people or for people with red hair. I know these Bible are produced to help people, but something about the fact that we have niche-marketed the Bible to this degree made me feel uneasy. Especially as I thought of trying to explain to my friend why, even with all of these Bibles, most Christians today are still biblically illiterate.

    In my flustered state, I actually bumped into a life-size cardboard promo cut-out of a famous Christian radio preacher promoting his new book. At this point I was just too “weirded out” by the whole experience so I left the store without purchasing anything at all. I sat in my car in silence for what must have been twenty minutes trying to comprehend what I had just experienced.

    -- Dan Kimball
    --------------

    We filmed a video on the University of California Santa Cruz campus to show at our worship service. We asked each person we interviewed these same two questions:

    - What comes to your mind when you hear the name “Jesus”?

    - What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Christian”?

    The answers to these questions brought me both joy and optimism, but also extreme sadness. Why? Because at the first question we saw students’ faces light up in smiles. “Jesus was beautiful.” “I want to be like Jesus”. “Jesus was a liberator of women.” “I’m all about Jesus.” “I want to be a follower of Jesus.” “Jesus was enlightened and had higher truth.” What encouraging answers! Here we were on a very post-Christian campus and we were finding students eager to talk about Jesus. I realized they probably weren’t familiar with the whole of Jesus’ teachings, but they held an incredibly high perception of Christ as a positive figure in history.

    Yet, when the very same students were asked the second question their expressions changed dramatically. Eyes looked downward, smiles turned to frowns and even painful expressions. “Christians have taken the teachings of Jesus and really messed them up.” “I would want to be a Christian, but I have never met one.” “Christians are dogmatic and close-minded.” “Christians are supposed to be loving, but I never met any that are.” “Christians should be taken outside and shot.”

    We video-interviewed 16 people on the campus, and their answers to the second question were both frightening and extremely heartbreaking. The most discouraging fact of all was that only one person even claimed to actually know a Christian personally. Their conclusions were based on general observations and hearsay. What they knew of Jesus, they liked--but what they knew of Christians, they definitely didn’t.


    ----------
    1) If you were to go out to your local university and ask the questions “What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus?” and then “What comes to your mind when you hear the name Christian?” what do you think you would hear? Why in your local community would they say that? You may want to actually conduct these interviews and then show the video to your church for its teaching impact.

    2) What are some other ways the culture is teaching people in your church or community about theology, or who God is?

    3) Did you understand the writer’s observations who attended the “Christapalooza” event? Did you ever view something like this through those eyes? Any comments or further thoughts?


    4) From the eyes of a post-Christian, how would they view your church? Your logos, your mission statements, the wording in your bulletins etc.? Is there anything that you can change that will carry the same meaning, but done in an appropriate way?
     
  2. Baptist Believer

    Baptist Believer
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    6,659
    Likes Received:
    190
    Excellent post! [​IMG]

    Too many Christians live like the world in a Christian sub-culture, yet won't live Christianly in the world.

    I've given up on the Christian sub-culture as characterized by "Christian" book stores, "Christian" music, and "Christian" television. Instead, I purchase quality "Christian" books and music from "secular" book and music stores and avoid purchasing from a "Christian" book store unless the item is not available anywhere else.

    Purchasing and special ordering quality Christian-oriented books and music gives me opportunities to talk to people about Christ who no longer see Christians in "secular" stores. Furthermore, I can recommend good Christian-oriented materials to those who may want to explore Christianity without initially talking to a bunch of Christians who are out to get another evangelistic "notch" on their belt.
     
  3. Eric B

    Eric B
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2001
    Messages:
    4,806
    Likes Received:
    2
    All of this is a shame, and shows a confused church. As Michael Horton has said in Beyond Culture Wars "The evangelical world is in a state of confusion. Theologically, nobody seems to know anymore what holds us together [as in these divisions over the most ridiculous issues, such as music styles]; ethically, we are scandal-ridden and worldly from head to toe [these types of conflicts are just as scandalous as the weelknown moral and financial failings of well known Christians, as is the behavior of certain KJV advocates and anti-gay activists]; socially, we are confused as to what our relationship to the world ought to be [how much we "separate" as well as how much we join in]" (p.167,8, annotation added). (This whole modern Christian bookstore subculture he calls the "Christian Ghetto".)

    On one hand, we were known as being so unloving and judgmental in the past, yet many of us have gone to the total opposite extreme of copying lock, stock & barrel every detail of pop-culture, only removing the filthiness or other sinful aspects. Many still have the old images of Christianiy burned in their minds, and are not impressed with the contemporization, or at best only see it as a feeble attempt by some to try and make Christianity more pleasant to woo them in. Then those who are still set in the old ways (seeing the world as a lost cause) now begin to fight the modern Christians, and they often have the strongest (or at least loudest and most persistent) arguments, further confirming that the old time ways are the "real" Christianity, which of course, they want no part of.

    I think both sides are just trying to do things their own way, using human reasoning, and for a task like this, we really need to go to God more, to receive His wisdom. (e.g. Matt.17:21). That has to be the only solution to this modern confusion regarding our relation to the world.
     
  4. ScottEmerson

    ScottEmerson
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Messages:
    3,417
    Likes Received:
    0
    Which is what it all boils down to, huh? We separate ourselves to the point where we have become irrelevant to a lost and dying world.

    I was looked at funny when I mentioned to another church member that I bought a church leadership book (Courageous Leadership, by Bill Hybels) at Barnes and Nobles. "I bet you that Gabriel's has the same book. You should be helping them make a profit!" someone said. It was an interesting statement, I thought, and for two reasons. Of course, I will let others draw their own conclusions about that response!

    I agree wholeheartedly. Scandal is wrecking the church, but even more damaging is the apathetic Christian.

    And what the Church is finding is that God's people must have an "ancient-future" focus. We must realize that 2,000 years ago, a body of believers was founded because of the sacrifice of a Galilean carpenter who was God in the flesh. This body went about attempting to revolutionize the world that they were in - and they succeeded, only by meeting the people where they were, speaking their language, listening to them, and preaching the good news of the True Christian Culture - one of love, peace, joy, and a life of more abundance. And this they did, in spite of intense and deadly persecution. In the midst of a dungeon, Paul and Silas clapped hands and sang hymns to the amazement of fellow prisoners and the wardens. That is the Christian who has his or her life completely commited to God - those are the people that God is seaching the land "to and fro" to find!

    Absolutely, Eric. Great points, both of you! Thanks for taking the time to respond!
     
  5. Mike McK

    Mike McK
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2001
    Messages:
    6,630
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks for bringing up two of my big pet peeves about the Christian ghetto.

    First, regarding the music, I understand that CCM is a business and designed to sell records.

    On the one hand, as a free market conservative, I have no problem with that. On the other, as a Christian and a music lover, I hate it. If it didn't work in the mainstream, why should we think it would work for us? More importantly, why are we copying the mainstream? Why are we not being the trendsetters? The innovators?

    I understand being part of a culture and being shaped by that culture and I'm all for expressing a Christian worldview within that culture. But there has to come a time when you say, to quote Sammy Davis, Jr, "I gotta be me". When did we as a society (more importantly, as the church) decide tha we were going to sell out creativity and individuality for the sake of the almighty dollar? When did we go from Paul's example of being "all things to all people" to trying so hard to blend in that we've completely forgotten who we are?

    Christians who do express their Christianity creatively are damned if they do and damned if they don't. On the one hand, you have the vast, Nashville conspiracy that has them blacklisted and relegated to playing on street corners or, God forbid, playing for mainstream audiences who will actually listen to them. On the other, you have the luddites who say, "this is new. This is uncomfortable to me. Therefore, it's bad."

    I have serious problems with trying to make God hip. I have serious problems with Christian pop-culture making Jesus no more than a pop icon like Spuds Mackenzie.

    I've said it before and I think it bears repeating: either the Gospel stands on it's own or it doesn't. If it does, then praise the Lord. If it doesn't, then no amount of hair gel or focus group research is going to make it acceptable without perverting it beyond recognition. If anyone doubts this, just take a gander at the Word of Faith Movement.

    As for the merchandising of the Gospel, I think to attach Jesus' name to trinkets such as coin banks shaped like a cross that say "Jesus Saves" (I actually saw this once) is no less an affront to God than the merchants in the temple. Jesus didn't really see the humor in what they were doing and I can't imagine that He would approve of the vast "Jesus junk" marjet out there.

    I have no problem with the "niche marketed" Bibles on moral grounds but, really, do they really serve a purpose other than dividing us and lining Zondervan's pockets?

    Let me guess: Chuck Swindoll in his now famous "Sermonator" picture atop the Harley?

    Too true. That's how the world sees us and, sadly, they're right.

    We have "taken the teachings of Jesus and really messed them up".

    We give the Gospel but forget the grace. We tell people what awful sinners they are, but we forget that the Gospel is good news.

    We have becom the pharisees whom Jesus told, "Look, you want people to be religious, and then, when they try to be, you put so many rules on them that they suffocate" (loosely paraphrased).

    We tell people to come to the cross to reconcile with God but that they won't really be righteous until they cut their hair, listen to a certain kind of music, do this, do that...

    If Jesus were to walk into our churches, what would He say? Would He say, "Oh you foolish Baptists. Who has bewitched you?" Would He compare us to the pharisees? Would He say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"?

    I think it's sad but there is a complete misunderstanding of grace in the church today. Grace is either taught as something that you get only after you complete a checklist of man made rules or it's taught so lightly that it becomes almost antinomian.

    Can you really blame them for believing that there's no joy in Christianity? Just look here on Baptistboard. Nearly everything you see here is negative and condemning.

    Can you really blame them for believing that there's no grace in Christianity? Just look at the way many here condemn those who don't fit their comfort zones.

     

Share This Page

Loading...