My two younger sons and I drove over 3300 miles in the past two weeks. During that time, we listened to all kinds of music, some comedy, and an audio book. In listening to all of this music, we mined both my sons’ musical preferences (modern show tunes for the elder; nails-scratching-a-chalkboard pop for the younger), as well as my old iPod which houses everything from Indian flute music to Kanye West to Gregorian chant to James Taylor to Michael Card.
It is this last musician as well as his contemporary, Rich Mullins, who gave me pause as we were barreling across Nebraska. Here is a sampling of their lyrics:
“Come to the table and savor the sight: the wine and the bread that was broken, and all have been welcomed to come if they might. . .” (Michael Card)
“…with these our hells and our heavens so few inches apart, we must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are.” (Rich Mullins)
“There is a joy in the journey . . . there is a wonder and wildness in life. . .” (Michael Card)
Wait, what? Christian music that extols happiness and joy? Christian music that invites and welcomes all? Where was the finger pointing and condemnation? Where was the over-politicized message that real Christians must believe certain ways in order to be with God? Absent. Not there. Regardless of one’s personal spiritual beliefs, in this music, one can hear an understated joy in being a seeker of Jesus.
As I drove and rode, I wondered why have we allowed “Christian” leaders and politicians to boil faith down to a set of prescribed political and cultural beliefs? Why are “Christians” focused so much on hollering at people about politics instead of finding the “. . . rhythm and rhyme, the free verse of the poem of life” and living it. (Michael Card) How many would-be seekers of Jesus have turned tail and run when confronted with politicized sermons and prayers at the people instead of for the people?
I used to stun my high school girls by revealing that I was in a sorority. Even more to the point, I nearly caused them to faint when I told them I was president of my house. In talking with adults now, I can usually cause about a 22 second pause in the conversation if I reveal that I was a mission-school trained missionary for a short period. I can extend that pause by revealing that I also taught in Christian school for four years. Want a full minute pause? I can create that by telling the story of when my eldest son was told that if he didn’t tuck in his shirt, he would go to hell or the time that I was told by my Christian school colleague that I would go to hell for having my ears double pierced.
Organized Christianity has both inspired me and disgusted me – more of the latter in recent years. However, hearing the lyrics from Michael Card and Rich Mullins reminded me of the core message of God: I love you.
So, I wonder: regardless of our political stances and spiritual beliefs, how many of us might benefit by revisiting that core message and extending it to people – all people.
I love you.