19 April 2010

redemption stories are the best kind.

two saturdays past, i experienced two sides of christianity.
shane claiborne came to speak at my alma mater for a conference. ben and i went, not to the conference, but to all three of shane's talks. jewels of reconciliation. jewels of challenge. so many stories of reconciliation it gave me hope in humanity. and also stories of challenge. you know. what if jesus really meant all he said. and what if we, you know, did it.
after hearing shane's last talk, ben took the youth group to a casting crowns concert. i tagged along. the irony is not lost on me. to go from hearing a dreadlocked vegetarian to hearing a top 40 ccm band. to go from a simple man on a simple stage wearing clothes he sewed himself to a bedazzled light and music show complete with world vision intermission. now, i'm sure world vision is a good organization. but when they set up a booth in the merch hallway with a huge background poster of the lead singer (a white man) smiling and surrounded by black children, my stomach twists a bit. as it does when that same lead singer (during the world vision intermission) mispronounces tanzania and cracks a huge joke that he can't pronounce one of the children's names who are available for sponsorship. instead, like all good white imperialists, he gives the youth a suitable english nickname. 'M.K.' who knows what the kid's real name is. i'm sure his parents aren't happy. and i'm not either.
though it comes out later the singer is dyslexic (he admits he has all his lyrics on a monitor in front on him for the whole show, and i appreciate him being frank about this) i still question. but why not have the correct pronunciation of the child's name flashed on that screen as well? why not have another bandmate talk for world vision? or, we could just stay ethnocentric and ignorant, whatever.
my stomach also twists during some songs. sure, i may be a 'flower quickly fading' (a la ecclesiastes) but i agree with my good friend and kindred soul tarisa: if i had just had an abortion, the last thing i need to hear is what a big fat mistake it was. do we need more women bashing? really? (subtle, but it's there. i don't hear any lyrics about 'what if the fathers stayed.') also, do children really need the government to grant them the right to pray in school? or should they pray to be persecuted? and should we really 'sing until the whole world hears' or should we 'love until the whole world become so fascinated they ask us what's up'?
yes, shane had a 'merch' table outside his talks. and yes, he had books and buttons and dvds. but no pretty backgrounds surrounded by children or the prostitute he and the simple way helped. and no artsy shots of him working with mother teresa (because he did). and no shots of him peacemaking in iraq, either.* just books about being an ordinary radical. and buttons made by youth at the simple way that read 'love your enemy' and 'god bless everyone,' complete with a us flag and (former) afghanistan flag.
see, it's the top 40 ccm band's projection of christianity that i have issues with.
i'm sure others have said the same of me.
words are powerful. words are very important. they must be chosen with wisdom. with care. as i grimace at most of casting crowns' choices, i'm fascinated by shane's. and i think that's the point. it points to something bigger. something i am still trying to figure out. something, like shane said in his first talk, i am still recovering from. jesus.
what do you think?
*wow. i just realized while adding the links to this post, if you do visit shane at the simple way, you can see pictures of all this in a video about him at the bottom of the page. interesting.
oh, and i added a new playlist. scroll down to the very very bottom. manchester orchestra and i shook hands yesterday and now 'jimmy, he whispers' has been on repeat city.
edit 20 april 2010: song links fixed.
edit 6 june 2010: songs links fixed. again.


Doug Calsbeek said...

I find myself in the same quandaries when a speaker or a group makes the rounds.
Most of the time, after a speaker or a performance, I want to question, clarify, expand, push, touch base, make a connection.
I'll glean some good stuff but come away with a lot of frustration.
So, I identify.

The Yellow Door Paperie said...

Thank you for taking the time to think through this post. It is intriguing to me why Christians gravitate to sparkling-beaded, loud and offensive however unintentional it may be.

Though speaking as a dyslexic... he should have practiced saying the name of a child. Our names other than our eyes are our most important identifier. It is who we are, ignoring a name ignores the person as a whole being, diluting them to forgettable, or not important.

Thank you, dear one for speaking truth and starting conversation.

this is very important said...

hi doug! thank you for visiting and for your thoughts. yes, you've put it exactly right. i walk away with frustration a lot. my encounter with shane was a (the?) first. no frustration. just peace and excitement.

mary: thank you for your insight as a dyslexic. yes, yes, names are too important! perfectly put!

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