Humility, image, and state of CCM

Below is a question posed to Bob on an open forum on Prodigy. The italics are the other person's question and comments to Bob. Bob's response follows.

Dear Bob,

My opinion is that you are one of the few artists in CCM that really matters in addressing the real honesty and heart of humankind. I guess that the absolute truth does not seem to matter even to the heads of the so-called "major labels".

The fluff that seems to eminate from the Christian Industry is very self-serving, contrived, and narrowly focused. Some of the music is faddish and follows the trends of hip-hop, alternative, and rap. Many of these trends will not be around in the future as they are just that, trends. The music that seems to last in this industry is honest, from the heart, and intricately woven.

Please don't let me put a pre-mortem on your work. I believe that you have contributed much to the industry. I enjoy your songwriting immensely. I wish I could only find "Matters of the Heart", your 1982 project, on CD. Please don't stop writing, performing, and producing good material. It would be a crying shame. Thanks! Greetings from the great state of Maine!

Sincerely, Chris Angeline

Dear Chris:

Thanks for your kind thoughts. I'm less concerned about the musical trends or styles...I think that's part of using the cultural language of our day. I don't mean to "canonize" one particular style over another. I'm more concerned about what I see as an unwillingness (or God help us, an inability) to be humble and vulnerable in the songs we sing and the image we present. Of course, there's performance involved and when we perform (in or out of church) there is surely a part of us that is agreebale to all the attention. But, having said that, it's quite another thing to really start "believing your own press" with regard to ministry in general, and music in particular. I believe one of the fatal flaws we have as modern-day, American-type Christians is that we build our own subculture and then vastly overestimate our impact on the world-at-large. The image that I've always employed is that if we're to be salt, it's our responsibility to sprinkle out over the world we live in. No one would try to season an entire plate of food by cramming it into the teensy-weensy holes of the salt shaker. But, that is precisely what we act like we intend when so much of our evangelism is actually geared for the already- converted. Jesus was falsely accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. That accusation could only have been made if He was spotted in close proximity to unbelievers. It breaks my heart when we castigate our brethren for taking a different path. When I hear people get down on Amy Grant or Jars Of Clay or anyone else that is truly seeking to affect the REAL WORLD out beyond CCM, it makes me nuts!

Unbelievers are not the cartoonish, cardboard characters that we often make them out to be. And though they may be without an active relationship with Jesus, they are not totally unaware that Someone is probably there. Anyway, as I have probably commented elsewhere...I am very drawn to music that is, as David Wilcox describes it: "vulnerable and brave".

In CCM, I think we often undervalue the effectiveness of subtlety and creativity. I hope those who read this will understand my next statement. I believe that an artist's (or writer's or actor's or dancer's) FIRST job is to communicate truthfully and honestly. IF that happens, then the "ministry" will follow. If you put the "ministry" cart before the "true communication" horse, you might create something that covers all the bases (like nutritionally adequate laboratory food), but it probably won't taste real. We live in such a consumer-oriented time (with advertising bombarding us during every waking moment...if our Faith comes off as just another sales pitch, people instinctively seem to know it. Thanks again for writing.

-- Bob Bennett

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