I tell this story because that experience reminded me of one essential, fundamental truth about Western religion, something I’ve tried to keep before me in the years since: Christians can often be the very least reason to consider Christianity.
The church often seems cram-packed full of disproportionately more broken, hypocritical, deceitful, loud-mouthed, ignorant, combative, hateful, and just plain ugly-minded people than one might encounter in almost any other sphere.
And this should come as no surprise. The church attracts the people that know they’re screwed up. People who think they have their crap together find little reason to turn to God. Thus, it might be considered a legitimate complaint for people to say of the church, “Why do I want any part in that? Those people are a mess.”
If you want to know what intimidation feels like, try walking into a studio where there are platinum Coldplay records on the wall. Where the walls themselves wreak of music history and legends. Where you run into big stars in the hallways. A place where movies have been filmed, and the best of the best have recorded. Again we felt in over our heads. All of this money spent on us. Could we deliver? Were our songs actually that good? They say art is found in the overlap of complete narcissism and crippling self doubt. Well, both of those emotions hit us hard that week.
When DC Talk finished back in 2000 or 2001, two things were true. First of all, they were easily the most popular Christian band of all time. Their last album wasn’t quite as outstanding as their 1995 hit Jesus Freak, but it was a solid album with ear pleasing pop tunes and slightly different influences shown within the album. When Jesus Freak came out in 1995, it is safe to say that the Christian world had been overtaken with some of the greatest music it had ever produced up to that point. DC Talk created an album for us to hold on to as “the best” Christian album most of us ever heard. Rock, alternative, rap and soul combined, I listened to it over and over and over, just being wowed with its content. Every play-through on my CD player created a concert like experience in my living room in Tucson, AZ.
The second thing that was true when DC Talk retired was the Christian music world was changing. Recording labels started to choose safe bets in regards to their music and “safe bets” meant worship music, including Hillsong United and Sonicflood, controlling the airwaves. Newer innovative bands like Switchfoot made a case for excellent “redeeming” music on a popular stage, choosing to avoid the Christian subculture of CCM and over time, the innovation that DC Talk, the Newsboys, and a handful of other bands ushered in crept away while the pop worship tunes of Chris Tomlin and such dominated the new Christian music industry, which had become a shell of its 90’s domination.
A few weeks ago a friend wrote me and thanked me for being a “voice in the wilderness”. He said that many feel like that, and that included those like himself who attend church regularly. “Honest discussions in the church are hard to come by in my experience”, he said.
First of all, here is a brief explanation of mammon for those who don’t understand the term. Both in Matthew and Luke, the writers quote Jesus as using the phrase (in the KJV) when he said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Most modern translations replace the term for money. For instance the NIV says, “You cannot serve both God and money” and the NLT uses a slight variant when Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
Let’s start from the beginning. This Tennessee pastor from ASBC, an “independent, fundamental, King James Only, Soul-winning church” – where when you attend you shouldn’t “expect anything liberal, watered down, or contemporary” – preaches a message against homosexuality, and then Mr. (I’ll not call him pastor from here on out) Grayson Fritts loses his mind and calls for the arrest and execution of those in the LGBTQIA community.
The holman report is growing and we’d love to have you take a step with us and subscribe to our email list. When you subscribe, you receive a monthly email with special articles not posted on the holman report, and you will get one question a year (subject to change as more subscribe) answered on…
One Sunday morning I sat on a red padded pew with bright stained glass all around me, and I worshipped. I worshipped when the horrible hymn droned on for every freaking verse. I worshipped when the children’s message focused on an age group that did not exist in the present group of people. I worshipped during the liturgical prayers that asked God to forgive the church corporately for their selfishness and pride. And I worshipped as the pastor spoke from the book of John on a passage I’d heard a million times before.
If you were to open N.T. Wright’s first book from his magnum opus series, “The New Testament and the People of God”, you would find the first 300 pages or so an instruction manual on how he reads and studies the scripture in 3 parts. He explains in great academic detail that he reads the Bible as Theology, History, and Literature. Ignoring any of these disciplines as one studies leaves the student with an incomplete picture of God’s word and the context in which it was written.
With this in mind, the reader of Wright’s biography on one of the most important and influential followers of Jesus is in for a deep and intense look at not only what Paul wrote to the churches, but why he wrote and acted as he did, and by those actions and writings, why his work spread throughout the Roman empire and beyond, effectively changing the world and it’s direction. The book is a drink of water to anyone tired of normal modern understandings of the Apostle focused more on proving an enlightenment based systematic theology It is an ode detailing the kinds of problems, solutions, and teachings, the great evangelist and church planter communicated to those small groups of believers he introduced to Jesus. “I believe that in our diligent searching of the scriptures we were looking for correct biblical answers to medieval questions.” Wright says as he gets down to the business of sharing the life of Paul with his readers.
As long as I live I’ll never forget the feeling of holding our record advance in my hand. There were two checks, one from WB, and one from CFA, totaling roughly 120K. We felt so important. We were also lucky to have Jon in our ear, constantly reminding us “you haven’t done crap yet so don’t get too ahead of yourselves.” We each got to keep around $10k, and the rest was spent on lawyers and record production. I banked my money and didn’t quit my day job.