Thursday, July 9, 2009

I just liked it...

For those of you who don't really know me my favorite radio station is WAY FM in South Florida.

Mainly because of this guy.

He writes really really well and he's really really smart. And the happiest thing of all is--he really really really gets it.

The radio station will routinely play music that isn't by a "Christian" band and you know how we freak out about that kinda stuff sometimes--well this was his response to that. Thought provoking, encouraging and just cool.


Please Don't Kill Me: Some Thoughts on The Fray and "You Found Me"

Brant Hansen


I"m not sure we've played a song on the show that's prompted more comment than "You Found Me". That feedback is not universally negative -- not by a long shot -- but there's been a lot of it.

A striking feature of the complaints: They're about a variety of things. But here they are, as I've heard them:

1) The Fray is not a "Christian band"
2) The song has a negative tone
3) God is depicted smoking a cigarette, and God actually does not, in fact, smoke cigarettes, so we shouldn't say that He does
4) Saying "You've got a lot of nerve" to God is just too disrespectful.
5) The song doesn't end happily

Here are a few brief responses:

1) The Fray is not a "Christian band"

They are artists who are professed believers, and have not hidden this.

On a wider note, I'm always taken aback by the certainty many have about who is "in", and who is "out". Paul himself writes that only God knows the motives of our hearts -- we don't even know our own! -- so don't act like you know what you don't. Check out I Corinthians 4:3-5:

"I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God."

Sounds -- to me, anyway -- like we should be very careful in thinkng we really know what others' motivations are. In fact, we shouldn't think we know what others' motivations are at all, or how God views what is hidden from us. That goes for The Fray, Mercy Me, Steven Curtis Chapman, and, yes, even Billy Graham.

To say that these men -- The Fray -- simply "aren't a Christian band", when they are thoughtfully-spoken, professed believers -- takes some moxie. The wrong kind.

Yes, they are played widely in the mainstream market. I think that's wonderful. So is Mercy Me.

(Interestingly, many tell me U2 just isn't a "Christian band", either, and I shouldn't plug them on the air. Okay. Meanwhile, we should warn Mercy Me, as well, who will play their songs in concert. And Chris Tomlin, who does a great recorded version of "Where the Streets Have No Name", too. And Sanctus Real covers them. And Toby Mac covers them...and Tait, and so on. They're all under the impression that "Christian" isn't pre-packaged and labeled quite so cleanly.)

By the way -- a Biblical aside: Ever see "Christian" used as an adjective in the Bible?

For my part, and I'm just one guy, "The Fray is not a Christian band" isn't a coherent statement. I literally don't understand what's meant. Perhaps it's time we mature as believers to the point that we can look for truth, beauty, and goodness wherever it lay.

I can tell you, giving up the I-have-to-label-everyone-just-so impulse is a very, very freeing thing. I'm not totally over it, but man, it's refreshing.

2) The song has a negative tone

Yep. Yes, it does. Like many (most?) Psalms. "Where are you, God?" is hardly foreign to the Bible, which is one reason I'm a Christian: The Bible is not a sing-songy children's book, full of just-so stories. It isn't a math textbook, with an answer key in back. It's a love story, and a grueling, beautifully messy struggle, start-to-finish. Kind of like reality.

Ironically, this song is VERY encouraging to many people: Those of us who have felt this way before. We've wondered "Why didn't God stick to MY timetable? Where WERE YOU?"

I see characters in the Bible honestly struggling (even physically wrestling!) with God -- and not being struck by lightning. No -- they're rewarded for it.

I don't close the Bible when I read these stories, and say, "How unChristian." I say, "Thank God. My experience is not unique. I'm not a freak. God wants all of me, including my honesty."

What He does not want is our silence, in the service of a narrow definition of what constitutes "encouraging."

God is revealed in our weakness, in our heart cries, and in our humanness. He made us this way. And He loves us -- the honest us. What He doesn't want, and what He can't stand, is a religious charade.

3) God is depicted smoking a cigarette, but God does not smoke cigarettes

Well, it's poetry.

Interestingly: Most people with this complaint understand this, but "fear for others who might not understand." And that is...understandable...but,

so you know, I haven't talked to anyone yet who actually thinks they're claiming God literally smokes. So everyone seems to get it, but suspects few others do.

There's more meaning to this, of course, in how God uses people to represent Him, possibly even us fallen-types, and one of us might, poetically, hang out at the corner of First and Amistad.

There are those who say Jesus-types don't "get" poetry, can't handle it, and have to be strictly literal and representational. That's patently untrue, of course. But, on the other hand, I can see why they might want to say that.

4) Saying "you've got a lot of nerve" is just disrespectful

Just my opinion, again: I don't think so. But maybe I've got a lot of nerve.

But I'm not even sure, here, of the real objection:

-- Are we saying we shouldn't ever FEEL this way?

-- Or are we saying we shouldn't ever SAY it, even though we feel it?

-- Or, lastly, are we saying, perhaps, that while believers, and Biblical characters, feel it and say it, that Christian radio shouldn't acknowledge that?

Honestly: Which is it?

Or, hypothetically: What if they wrote a song about "Where are you? You've abandoned me." and then ended it with "Darkness is my only friend." And that's the end. Period.

Would that be out of bounds? If you think so, you've just banished the song that is Psalm 88. Should the Bible contain something, but a Christian radio station never "go there", even in a tamer sense?

Amazingly, even Jesus felt abandoned. Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani? -- He cried from the cross. God, where are you? Why have you forsaken me?

I'm so glad even that scandal is in the Bible. God is mysterious. He is good, but you don't have Him all figured out, either. He is mysterious. And he honors our pursuit of Him -- our honest pursuit of Him. Maybe He can handle more than you think.

5) The song doesn't end happily

Well...yeah, there's that. Very true.

No bow-tie ending, no on-time Brady Bunch wrap-up. Just someone calling out to God, continuing to converse with Him, wondering, without all the answers.

Sounds like my life. Maybe it sounds like yours. Not everything is resolved yet.

Maybe there are millions of people who previously never "got" Christian media because it didn't quite seem to ring true, like real life. In real life, there are few storybook resolutions. We are in the midst of it, the awkward tween period, and we still see through a glass darkly.

If you've felt that way, like your own actual life is too messy, too -- horrors! -- unresolved; or maybe you've felt like God didn't always do things the way YOU wanted...well, you're welcome here, too.

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