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6/30/2006

OUTSIDE EYES

Mark Driscoll's giving his approval of a new book by SPIN writer Andrew Beaujon called "Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside The Phenomenon of Christian Rock" via his blog. Fascinating since I know from Mark's latest book that he thinks kids who listen to Christian music have been "forced to ride the cultural short bus." Does this mean the book is kind or unkind to Christian music? I wondered. Luckily Mark linked to a fluxblog interview with the author where my wondering found some answers...sort of.

I'll read this book, if for no other reasons than to benefit from - and be humbled by I'm sure - an outsider's view of what I do for a living. God knows I have my criticisms about "Christian rock", even my own. May be helpful to see things from the outside looking in.

Here's a taste of that interview from fluxblog.org:


Matthew Perpetua [fluxblog]: As an outsider to the world of Christian music, how did you come to write a book about it?

Andrew Beaujon: Well, it started with a conversation. My friend Jim Coe had just graduated from seminary in Richmond, and we were talking over dinner about his Christian-rock past. I talked to more friends about it, and I found out it was a really common experience for a lot of them - getting really into Jesus as a teenager, attending a festival or two, and then usually getting out of it during college. Jim mentioned that the Cornerstone Festival was a big one, so I pitched a story to the Washington Post about it, and they liked the idea. And that's really how it started. While I was prepping for the article, I couldn't find anything written about Christian rock that wasn't by Christians who loved Christian rock or Christians who loathed it. And being the enterprising sort....

MP: Was there much written about Christian music by non-Christians?

AB: Nothing I could find. The odd sneering article taking that "Planet America" tone, you know what I mean?

MP: Reading the book, I kept running into mentions of acts that I had no idea were Christian. I did not realize how many of the promos I've been sent over the past two years of so had been Christian bands. I've definitely written about a fair few bands without knowing that was part of their past. It's become amazingly mainstream in the last five years, was that part of the interest?

AB: Definitely. I had a similar experience when I was doing a piece on P.O.D. for Spin. I guess I knew they were Christians, but I'd never really given it much thought. But when you look at the numbers of Evangelicals in America, it's really striking how many people have this cultural background.

MP: Was Pedro The Lion at that first Cornerstone Festival you attended?

AB: Yeah. Bazan was drunk as a skunk.

MP: Were you familiar with Pedro before that show?

AB: Not really. I think the beard kept me away! You know, you're sorting through promos, you see facial hair...

MP: I don't have any idea what David Bazan looks like, actually. I just remember Pedro The Lion being on some decidedly secular mixtapes that I got from a friend back around 1999.

AB: He's interesting, because he does what a lot of Christian artists wish they could. He supports himself on the secular scene; he only does a couple Christian events a year, and I think he does them to mess with people. Not in a mean way -- I think he genuinely wants to shake the foundations of Christian kids' faith, to get them away from the literal take on the Bible.

MP: Do you think he would be able to work so freely outside of the Christian scene if he didn't have so many philosophical differences with the Evangelical movement? Or maybe not able so much as eager and willing.

AB: I dunno. I mean, it doesn't seem to hurt mainstream alternative acts, but on an indie level? I think those kids like their religion ironic.

MP: How much involvement have the Danielson Famile or Sufjan Stevens had in the Christian scene relative to Bazan?

AB: Danielson has played Cornerstone. Dunno about Stevens. I saw both at a conference about faith and music. I think Stevens is pretty uncomfortable with that whole scene, but he went to a Christian college, and I'll bet he knows a lot about it. Bazan is like an alien.

MP: How so?

AB: In that he has almost no grounding in pop culture, and you don't have to have grown up Evangelical to like his music. One time we were walking through a parking lot, and someone's car alarm was going off, and I mentioned to him that it sounded like the start of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom." He'd never heard the song.

MP: Is there any particular song by Bazan that you find especially interesting or moving?

AB: I really like "Foregone Conclusions.”

MP: If I recall, that's the song with swearing that the Cornerstone people had been freaking out about?

AB: Yeah, that's the one.

MP: What's going on in that song lyrically?

AB: Well, it starts out "I don't want to believe that all of the above is true.” It's about confronting absolute certainty. Christians are obsessed with absolute truth.

MP: How did you come to discover Larry Norman?

AB: It was just part of the research. He's such a big part of Christian music history.

MP: As of right now, I've only heard "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," which is a pretty amazing song. Is that representative of his catalog?

AB: Kiiiinda. Some of the stuff is great. A lot of it is really average rock music, but there's always his crazy voice and the hectoring lyrics. It's sort of like hearing Pat Buchanan front an acid-rock band.

MP: He's become something of an outsider over time, is that right?

AB: Yeah, as I understand it he's pretty difficult to work with. He really dislikes the Christian music industry, and I get the impression the feeling is mutual. A couple people told me off the record that he's somewhat shunned.

Read the rest here.

6 Comments:

Anonymous jwise said...

Shaun,

I followed, somewhat, right up until this point:

"I think he genuinely wants to shake the foundations of Christian kids' faith, to get them away from the literal take on the Bible."

Is this a good thing? I would go so far as to say that kids need to be shaken from the sunday school answers they've grown up with -- asking Jesus into their heart and all -- but not AWAY from a literal take of the Bible, but TOWARD a literal take on the Bible.

I see two trains going against modern "Christian" music. One train says, "This stuff is flowery and dilluted. We need to return to obedience and true worship." The other group says, "The whole of Christianity, which produced this flowery dilluted music, is bunk. Let's get people away from it all and come up with our own definitions and ideas." Then there's the group who rants and raves about how good they feel when listening to warm, fuzzy, Christian music.

Can you tell me if there are other groups? I'm sure some people just don't know or just don't care.

BTW, my exposure to "secular" music is somewhat limited, which may skew my opinions. My exposure to Scripture is much much better, so I aim to build my opinion of Christian music from what I know of Scripture. It seems like a lot of people go the other way and build their ideas about Scripture from what they hear on the radio waves.

I ramble...

6/30/2006  
Blogger Rachel said...

Shaun...

I've actually been reading that book (a friend lent me an advanced copy a while back.) So far it seems he is quite impressed with the depth and talent inside the "Christian" music industry. He interviewed a ton of people like Jon Foreman, Doug Van Pelt, Jay Swartzendruber (editor of CCM), and many more.

He's trying to shed light on the situation, so it seems. We'll see where he goes with all this. :) I look forward to seeing what you think about the book!

*Rachel*

6/30/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

It's important I think to remember that what was said about Pedro The Lion's view of biblical literalism was the journalist's interpretation and not the words of PTL himself.

PTL admits at shows to being a believer in Jesus Christ but says he is not a Christian as defined by the behavior and viewpoints of most Evangelicals in America. I get that.

But this too is second hand from a friend who saw him perform in Austin a couple years ago.

6/30/2006  
Blogger euphrony said...

I've been thinking about picking up a copy of this book since I read a review of it on Christianity Today (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/124/42.0.html). It is interesting to see how an "outsider" views what is going on, the motivations and movements and results. One of the obvious results that Beaujon seems to be drawing is that this is a big, but largely ignored by most sectors, business. Another might be that Beaujon is discovering that there really is more to Christian music than the music/artists. The comment from the above review that Beaujon took several minutes to notice that the artist had left the stage because the crowd was still worshiping is telling. I think I will have to pick it up soon.

6/30/2006  
Blogger Brody Harper said...

I can't respect a book named after a cheesy Christian t-shirt idea. I'm sorry. It's probably a decent book, but speaking of short bus riding.

And on a side note... there are few "Christian" artists that are as honest as PTL.

I like it and I'm not even cool.

7/01/2006  
Blogger MikeknaJ said...

I'm almost finished with the book. It's an excellent read that really confronts a lot of the contradictions and problems so prevelant in the industry. But in a fair-minded way - especially surprising considering that it's written by a non-Christian. He doesn't have an axe to grind. He's just going where the story takes him, and I appreciate that.

Thumbs up from me.

7/01/2006  

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