Rock in a Hard Place
The April issue of Seattle Sound Magazine features an article on the unlikely subject of Christian rock in one of America's most secular cities. The article is actually quite good (sorry, no online version available to link to). It touches on what it means (and doesn't) to be a "Christian" musician, why an artist might want to avoid such a label, how Christian rockers and punkers self-identify themselves, and what the state of the Christian rock scene is in Seattle. Overall, an article worth reading!
My one criticism is that Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll (yes, that Mark Driscoll) takes a leading role despite not having much to do at all with Christian rock. I think he's mentioned (repeatedly) because of his association with "contemporary" Christianity and apparently has Christian rock bands perform at his church. By the end of the article, though, I get the idea that his association with Christianity is more of an embarrassment to Christian musicians than an asset.
I'm not sure if the author intended to give this impression, or whether it just naturally arises with actual quotations from Driscoll, but every time I hear him he sounds more and more like a boob. (Please forgive my un-Christian ungraciousness here.) One segment seemed especially precient:
Yuri Riley, of prominent Christian punk band MxPx, appears to agree [with not being pushy about one's faith]. The reason more bands aren't "out" about their religion, he says, "is to distance themselves from people's pre-conceived notions about modern American Christianity."
This reluctance stands in opposition to Driscoll's much more aggressive brand of evangelical faith. "Jesus is a pride fighter," he told Relevant magazine, "with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand, and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo [interpretation of] Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up." (emphasis added)
Holy mis-reading of the Bible, Batman! Jesus as the alpha-male?! Jesus as a line-backer? Jesus as a professional wrestler? Driscoll can't worship a guy he can beat up?! What a weird qualification for a God incarnate in a human body (a body evaluated by its brute strength instead of tenderness or compassion or principles or, excuse me, the presence of God). Driscoll's God loves to injure people - and for pride! Not for salvation, not for redemption, not for repentance or transformation... Driscoll's God is one of fickle violence, picking on anyone weaker so that those few who grow up being successful schoolyard bullies can have a proper role model for their deity.
I'm all for a counter-cultural Jesus, believe me. But making Jesus more violent isn't counter-cultural in a culture that glorifies violence, and isn't "alternative" when the first and most advertised solution to interpersonal and international conflict is overwhelming violence.
How does Driscoll know whom he can and can't beat up? If you live in a hierarchy of beat-up-ability you have to constantly be beating up people (or being beat up on by people) in order to know who is above and below you... including such pesky people as Jesus. Wives and children are not excepted, by the way, in a culture of violence - and we need to know if the lady-folk can qualify for worship of a boxer-king. Lift up your dukes, ladies! A few smacks will put you in the worshiping mood!
What is more frightening than Driscoll saying these things, is that a lot of young people in the Seattle area are listening to him say these things. Driscoll is turning out people prepped for violence, fueled by visions of a bully-god, imagining that the Christ-like thing to do is not feel compassion or be moved by someone but to have the power to beat someone up! There is a whole generation of young adults being trained to believe faith is roughly equivalent to brutishness. And this worries me tremendously.
Of course, I have to recognize that oftentimes when people talk about Jesus, that picture of Jesus ends up looking a lot like themselves. Driscoll from the pictures looks like a big guy (I'm betting he could beat me up). Me? I'm a middle-weight radical, and *surprise* my Jesus looks like a middle-weight radical. I don't think Jesus was especially buff or brutish - he was a carpenter so he probably had some muscle tone, but he was poor, so he probably wasn't that big.
But let's go to the scriptures. Nowhere does Jesus beat someone up, or act like a pride fighter, or have "the commitment to make someone bleed." Jesus' commitment made himself bleed. That's the kind of commitment my Jesus has. The way I read the scriptures, Jesus only has to be strong enough to turn over tables in the Temple. Jesus was not a "hippie," or in a diaper (what does that mean?) - but I think he'd find more in common with hippies than line-backers.
Look at Jesus' values for goodness sakes?! What is Driscoll reading that makes him think Jesus was a pride-fighter? In my Bible, Jesus spends his time upsetting the political and religious systems that oppress and dehumanize people, and starts building a movement of people who worship a God of social and economic justice. Where is the sword in his hand?!
Still, hundreds of young people will come away from his preaching thinking that Jesus is a bully or a show-off or a violent bigot.
No wonder Christian musicians don't want to proclaim themselves upfront as "Christian." One the one hand you have the old hypocritical establishment church, and on the other you have Driscoll's fanatical thug!
The Seattle Sound article was a good one - well-written and it seemed to be intentional about giving a broad look at the community of Christian rock and punk in Seattle. And perhaps the editors were just including Driscoll for contrast and flavor. But it disappoints me that even in an article that tries to introduce a complex and nuanced picture of Christianity, the one single voice that rings loudest is the most base and boob-like one.