Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Agnostic, the Monk, and Sovereignty of God

Maybe you know about my general distaste for Christian popular music, a.k.a. "contemporary Christian music". In college, I made quite a name for myself, vehemently objecting to the numerous Christian concerts at the Christian liberal arts school I attended. I was outnumbered, and let's face it, in the wrong environment to be decrying the play or performance of Christian rock, as it were; after all, it was the eighties. Notwithstanding my disdain, I did discover artists like Pat Terry, Mark Heard, and Bob Bennett, all wonderful tunesmiths who were musically gifted, and, had I ignored the landscape completely, I ne'er would have learned of these men. As you will see, there is a pattern.
I had posters of Dylan, Hendrix, and a half naked James Taylor photo from the cover of the Rolling Stone on my dorm room wall. My roommates had the ever-popular Argus posters on which were printed pithy Christian sayings, 11x 17 photographs of handsome David Meece, or a worshipping Keith Green. I was a fish out of water. If it were not for the tender mercy of God who ordained hall-mates with similar musical tastes to mine, and a suite-mate who introduced me to opera, I might well have punted God altogether. I was, and remain a stubborn soul. God has dealt mercifully with me, and with us all.

Years, decades later, I still maintain that much of contemporary Christian music is lacking in artistry, passion and excellence. About four years ago, I had privilege of meeting some insiders in the business of Christian music. They too bemoaned the 'image' their music sells as one of purity and uprightness, yet the marketing of their 'merch' is strictly secular in its execution; thematic colors are the paint of seductive photography and provocative presentation. No wonder that the 'world' of the lost does not know what to make of the mixed message inherent in the media of Christian product sales. In that same stretch of time, four years ago, I confronted critical mass- a crossroads if you will. My soul was divided- I was in a battle already won by Jesus the Christ, but I was sorely tempted to give up that which he had purchased with his own blood.
Now to the crux of this post: an old friend in the legal profession called me in the midst of the terrible flesh and spirit battle. She was completely ignorant of what was transpiring in the center of my heart. What's more, she's the endearing agnostic in this story. She knows and knew then of my faith in Christ. She called to ask me if I'd like to go to the local Nazarene University and hear a friend of hers- a former desert monk turned Christian singer perform. The phrase you could have knocked me over with a feather is about as accurate as it has ever been. I hedged. I stalled. I thought to myself, what are the odds? Here I am, about to turn my back on the only truth that ever mattered, and give it up for paltry lust, and who calls me out of the blue? A card-carrying member of the ACLU, who flatly refuses to accept that God is who he says he is, but who acknowledges and respects persons of faith, is ordained unwittingly to curtail my fast ride to the pit of despair.
We went to the Nazarene school, not once, but twice in one year to listen to this gifted tunesmith who just happens to be a Christian, and just happens to be a friend of my agnostic friend, whose time as an agnostic is short, because many of you are praying she relent and submit to the staggering truth of the Gospel.
What makes this narrative so compelling to me is my agnostic friend's faith. Yes, her faith in the faith that is a gift received by the monk turned singer and me- she is acutely aware that our relationship with God is meaningful, else she would not have invited me to hear him sing, or been drawn to him in the first place. I believe the same God who wooed me back to life through the strange vehicle of contemporary Christian music can and will pursue the heart of my agnostic friend til she surrenders. I wait, assured, and amused down to the well of my bones at the lengths to which our good God will go to get my (and your) attention.

Soli Deo gloria

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