What are the two things you are supposed to avoid in polite conversation? Politics and religion. However, Derek Webb—singer/songwriter and former member of Caedmon’s Call—is simply not satisfied restricting his comments to the weather.
“We’re scared to death of engaging with real human emotion, to talk about anger, to talk about sexuality, to talk about politics. We’re scared to death; when in truth, Scripture gives us a framework to deal with those issues,” Webb said.
Before giving a concert for the University of Florida Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Webb took a break from tuning his guitar and discussed his views on the church, culture, the arts and politics. Webb believes that people waste so much time learning how to say things in a uniquely Christian way that they forget that it is not about the jargon, but about a way of life.
“What difference do the words make if I don’t know how to love people?” Webb asks. “The church should spend the firstfruits of its money, its time and its resources to love people. I think that’s the bottom line. The church should not be directing its spending toward new programs, gyms or stereo systems. We need to learn how to put shelters over people’s heads, food in people’s mouths and clothes on people who are naked. Scripture talks so much about the poor and the needy and the weak and the least.”
In addition, Webb finds Christian subculture completely inappropriate. “Nowhere in Scripture are we called to be subcultural in any way. Christianity is not subcultural; it’s countercultural.”
Webb feels that Christians have been lulled into a false sense of security by subcultural marketing techniques. “Christians have this really nasty habit of only engaging with art and culture that has a Christian label on it. You have to learn how to find truth, you have to learn how to find beauty, you have to learn how to discern those things rather than how to discern the category of the band you just bought. Labeling something Christian does not suddenly make it beautiful and true. And labeling something non-Christian doesn’t make it untrue and ugly. Those terms don’t mean anything.”
In addition, Webb feels Christians are not the only people capable of speaking truth or creating beauty. “Christians do not have the market corner on that. There’s something to be said about the fact that all of the arts labeled ‘Christian,’ most of it is substandard. It’s not very good.”
In the end, Webb believes it is “better to find art that is both beautiful and true than to find art that is Christian. We are to live in a way that is informed by a transformed mind. The way we look at politics, the way we look at art, the way we look at sexuality, the way we look at social injustice should not be subcultural, but should be countercultural. They [the church] would rather me talk only about overt, kind of spiritual issues, but all that communicates to culture is that my worldview—that this Christianity thing—only deals with these overt spiritual aspects of my life and it does not deal with how I view the arts, how I view the government, how I view social need and injustices.”
Webb feels that Scripture contains the framework to encompass all of those issues. “It’s just that we as Christians don’t know it or we are just fearful to talk about it. We should be speaking about sexuality. We should be speaking about politics. We should be talking about anything we see in creation. And we have the liberty to do it. As far as Jesus is Lord, whatever Jesus is Lord over is fair game for us as artists … It was Bono who said, ‘Are we as Christians going to let the pornographers have the last word on sexuality?’ Or are we going to write songs about sexuality that are beautiful and true because that’s what he does.”
Webb is considering exploring politics, a hot button issue with American Christians, in his next album. “As a Christian if you are not pro-rich, pro-war then you’re just not a Christian. And I think that we’ve got to blow all that apart, we’ve got to break all that, we’ve got to open that up and find out what the hell is going on. None of that makes any sense. It’s not even a consistent Christian worldview. There’s a lot of work to do in the way Christians think about politics and issues of social justice in this country and internationally. I think we’ve got to be people who know what’s happening in the world, who can apply Scripture to all of it.”[Elizabeth Hillaker is a freshman journalism student at the University of Florida. She enjoys reading, writing, eating vegetarian food, working out and sleeping.]
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