In case you missed my barrage of tweets, Facebook statuses, blogs, and other forms of shameless self-promotion, I recently published a book. I’ve been working on getting the word out while trying to stick to a strict marketing budget of zero dollars ever.
Okay, I dropped twenty bucks on a Goodreads ad program, but for the most part, my marketing plan has consisted of begging bloggers to talk about me and my book.
One blogger agreed not only to review my book, but also to do a brief interview with me. I was thrilled just to know a complete stranger would give me the time of day, but even more so when I saw the questions she had for me. One in particular caught my eye:
Other than the violence Alpha is a pretty clean book. I’m surprised, although pleased, that you left out any religious messages. Was that a difficult choice to make?
I’d mentioned in the required biography section of my request to be reviewed and interviewed that I was a DJ at a Christian rock station, so she knew where I stood on spiritual matters. I thought it was so interesting that, knowing I was a Christian, one of the first questions she had for me was basically, “You’re a Christian. Why isn’t your book more Christian?”
I’m pretty out of the loop when it comes to the Christian fiction industry, but as a Christian radio guy, I can tell you very similar questions get asked of Christian musicians. When Relient K writes a bitter breakup song, or when Family Force 5 writes a song about a new dance move they invented, or when some popular mainstream artist claims to be Christian but never mentions Jesus in a song, there’s inevitably going to be a few people asking, “Why isn’t your music more Christian?”
This isn’t anything new. The more entrenched a band is in the Christian music industry, the greater the pressure is for them to write songs about what Derek Webb has called “the most spiritual two percent of life” – moments of transcendent worship, the afterlife, and other things that are obviously “Christian things.” People want Christian bands to write songs with the kinds of lyrics that you’d see projected on a screen behind a worship band on Sunday morning, because Christians need to write music that glorifies God, don’t they?
But there’s a new pressure coming up. If it’s not new, then I’ve just starting noticing it the past few years. There are people who say this kind of super-spiritual songwriting tends to “ghettoize” the music it’s attached to. Songs that deal so strongly with such spiritual concepts end up alienating anyone who can’t ignore the heavy-handed lyrics. Christianity is a faith that deals with more than just heaven and miracles and Sunday morning services. Christianity influences the way we handle relationships, politics, and everything else in our lives. For Christians to really glorify God, they need to address these issues in their songs from a Christian point of view without being so over the top with the Christianese.
Both of these arguments basically read, “You shouldn’t write songs with that content, because you need to be writing songs with this content.” And that’s where they fall apart. At their hearts, they assume that everyone needs to be writing the same kind of music.
But that’s not what the Church is about. The Church is one body accomplishing one goal by using a ton of different parts to do a ton of different things.
Here’s the deal. We need art by Christians specifically created for Christians. But we also need art by Christians that deals with life in general from a Christian perspective – art that can be enjoyed by anyone. It’s really hard for one band to do all of that.
Fortunately, one band doesn’t have to do all of that.
Part of being in the Body of Christ means occasionally you’ll see a need that you don’t have to meet. You do what you’re called to do, and trust that someone else will be called to meet that other need.
This is something that I’m still processing. If you have a different perspective on this, I’d love to hear from you. I can’t promise you’ll change my mind, just like I don’t expect to change yours. But good points do have a way of sticking in my head and getting digested over time.