Sunday, January 08, 2006

Caught in a Webb and Liking It

While I don't customarily offer musical commentary here, Derek Webb's new CD Mockingbird has prompted some reflections.

In short, Webb is something of a prophetic voice within evangelical Christianity, and I'd like to offer several comments.

1. In a way, he puts Mark Noll's Scandal of the Evangelical Mind to music in "A New Law." About the wider evangelical world in the United States and its attendant subculture Webb sings:

"...don’t teach me about politics and government, just tell me who to vote for; don’t teach me about truth and beauty, just label my music; don’t teach me how to live like a free man, just give me a new law i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy, so just bring it down from the mountain to me..."

2. In "A King and a Kingdom" and "Rich Young Ruler" Webb roundly condemns the contradictory politics of many conservative evangelicals, and offers his own take on the matter:


my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom

there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

"Rich Young Ruler"
poverty is so hard to see, when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town;
where we’re all living so good, that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood;
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good, from going through our trash;
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me....

because what you do to the least of these
my brother’s [sic], you have done it to me
because i want the things you just can’t give me

3. Finally, Webb weighs in on U.S. foreign policy and seems to take aim at George W. Bush in "My Enemies Are Men Like Me":

how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

Interestingly enough, toward the end of this song Martin Luther King's voice emerges, and Webb includes clips from King's 1964 Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "nonviolence is the answer to the moral and poitical questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence."

4. Webb's Mockingbird is not sophisticated musically, though it is pleasantly simple; it has a rich yet pedestrian quality about it, and possesses the edginess of Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz; it displays the social consciousness of a Sojourners, and offers a social commentary akin to a Stanley Hauerwas or Brian McLaren (who, by the way, endorse the CD).

Listen, and listen often.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Forthcoming Book to Read, 2

From Princeton University Press:
It is sometimes said that the most segregated time of the week in the United States is Sunday morning. Even as workplaces and public institutions such as the military have become racially integrated, racial separation in Christian religious congregations is the norm. And yet some congregations remain stubbornly, racially mixed.

People of the Dream is the most complete study of this phenomenon ever undertaken. Author Michael Emerson explores such questions as: how do racially mixed congregations come together? How are they sustained? Who attends them, how did they get there, and what are their experiences? Engagingly written, the book enters the worlds of these congregations through national surveys and in-depth studies of those attending racially mixed churches. Data for the book was collected over seven years by the author and his research team. It includes more than 2,500 telephone interviews, hundreds of written surveys, and extensive visits to mixed-race congregations throughout the United States.

People of the Dream argues that multiracial congregations are bridge organizations that gather and facilitate cross-racial friendships, disproportionately housing people who have substantially more racially diverse social networks than do other Americans. The book concludes that multiracial congregations and the people in them may be harbingers of racial change to come in the United States.

Forthcoming Book to Read, 1

From InterVarsity Press:
Christians have struggled with racial issues for centuries, and often inadvertently contribute to the problem. Many proposed solutions have been helpful, but these only take us so far. Adding to this complex situation is the reality that Christians of different races see the issues differently.

Sociologist George Yancey surveys a range of approaches to racial healing that Christians have used and offers a new model for moving forward. The first part of the book analyzes four secular models regarding race used by Christians (colorblindness, Anglo-conformity, multiculturalism and white responsibility) and shows how each has its own advantages and limitations. Part two offers a new "mutual responsibility" model, which acknowledges that both majority and minority cultures have their own challenges, tendencies, and sins to repent of, and that people of different races approach racial reconciliation and justice in differing but complementary ways.

Yancey's vision offers hope that people of all races can walk together on a shared path--not as adversaries, but as partners.

Monday, January 02, 2006

My Favorite Books of 2005

Click here to read "Thinking Back to 2005 in 2006: Reflections of a Historian."