Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I saw a sign in the sky

"Song by song, Mr. Stevens's compositions are fragments of autobiography, history, folklore, geography and anecdote sewn under an umbrella of Christian devotion (not evangelical, I hasten to add, but benign, all-inclusive and nonjudgmental)."

I don't understand why Stephen Holden somehow feels a need to qualify Sufjan Steven's professed faith with the above statement, which obviously equates being evangelical with being malign, exclusionary and judgmental. It's simply a shame that the evangelical movement in America has been painted by the media as a religion for rednecks who Bible-thump their way through every ethical debate.

Perhaps the Evangelicals in their K Street mutation are like that, but I truly believe that real Christianity at its core is an intellectual religion, grounded in common sense and day-to-day wisdom of how to deal with the realities of life, as Tim Keller says about Proverbs. Yet it also requires a sort of supernatural kind of leap of faith in order to accept the very crux of the faith, which many people can't accept and simply see as overly mystical.

I believe that God celebrates creativity as much as he celebrates quiet, individual worship. I agree that I don't think evangelism should involve in-your-face, fervent proselytizing that borders on the accusatory, but it should still be an outward expression of your faith that touches other people--evangelism simply radiates outward from the way a Christian lives his/her life.

Some Sufjan Stevens fans are turned off by his devotional album Seven Swans because of its blatantly Christian imagery and theologically-based lyrics. But I think it's his best album precisely because of those reasons. And the fact that he performs these songs routinely in his concerts is testament to his devotion and the source of his inspiration. These are the lyrics to some one of my favorite songs ever, Abraham. Although Sufjan doesn't talk about faith or market himself as a Christian artist per se, he simply lets his music do the talking. That's what I mean about real evangelism.

Addendum 1/24: here's a great piece from all Indie Rockers' online Bible Pitchfork Media on the Christian message in Indie Rock. I agree with the writer on most of his points and obviously appreciate the angle he takes.

Now Playing: Cat Power--The Greatest


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