This is the one hundred and twenty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a music video of the song ‘Rockin’ with Jesus, sung by Joyce Shaffer. Shaffer describes her music this way:
My music is God inspired and I give the praise to HIM! I’m a Christian patriot and sing songs to encourage folks to put God first in their lives and let Him do the worrying for us. He has sustained me through many losses and heartaches and know He is still in control. My music is about true to life experience or people who have influenced my life, giving the praise to the One who loves us most! “American Country Gospel” is my cup of tea in music and I hope you will enjoy listening! I wear the colors of our Nation and “on my knees I stand behind the Cross”….. when Christians are serious about taking a stand, we will begin on our knees!!!! Want some changes in your life or in our Nation?? Duck and let God do it!
I am sure someone will object to the title of this post and say, Christian music is not a business, it is a ministry, it’s ALL ABOUT J-E-S-U-S! It’s a ministry when the musician is willing to go anywhere for a love offering. It is a business when they have contracts, riders, and demand a certain amount of money. For the most part, the Christian music business stopped being about Jesus a long time ago.
Years ago, I contacted the booking agent for the contemporary Christian group FFH about holding a concert at our church. I had checked their calendar and noticed that they had a few off days and would be near our church in West Unity, so I thought I would see if they were willing to come and sing at our church.
Not a chance. The booking agent told me that they had a $5,000 minimum. I was astounded by this. I thought, if I promoted the concert right we would likely take in about $2,000. Surely this would be enough money for FFH, especially since it was on a weekday. The booking agent proceeded to lecture me on the Christian music business, about how groups like FFH only have a limited window of opportunity to make their money. He then asked me how would I like to preach for just a love offering. I then got to school him about how I had spent my entire life preaching with no monetary expectation in return.
All told, I preached for 33 years. Not one time did I say to a church or to someone who wanted me to hold a meeting, I must have X amount of dollars. I never said no, and I preached more than one meeting over the years where it cost me more to drive back and forth to the meeting than I received in the love offering. This was never a problem for me, and according to some of my friends and family, I SHOULD have made money more of an issue.
I asked the booking agent for FFH to take my request to the group. He told me that he would not do this. Why? Because, he said, they would likely say Yes! If I let them, they would sing for free.
Over the years, I booked many musicians to come sing at the church I was pastoring at the time. As a result, I learned a lot about the “business” side of Christian music. I met a lot of wonderful people who were willing to come and sing for little more than a promise. As a small church pastor, I did my best to promote the concerts and the church usually supplemented the love offering to make sure the musician (s) were given a decent offering.
In the late 1990’s, I decided to use concerts as a way to promote the church. I thought if outside people attended a concert that they might be interested in our church and start attending. While the concerts did draw large crowds, not one person ever became a part of our church as a result of attending a concert.
I put on a concert at Hilltop High School in West Unity, Ohio featuring the group contemporary Christian group Sierra. I decided to sell tickets for the event, advertised it heavily, and sold 400 tickets, at 8.00 a piece. Sierra charged us $4,000 plus expenses to come sing for us. All told, the church lost $2,000.00 on the concert.
Another time, I put on a Southern Gospel concert at Hilltop Middle School, featuring The Sojourners Quartet from Kentucky and a local group called The Overcomer’s. This concert was well attended by what I call the blue-hair crowd. They loved the concert so much that their love worked out to about $2.00 a head when the $400 love offering was counted. Again, the church lost a substantial amount of money. I quickly learned that elderly people were of the ‘not a bad show for a buck’ giving mindset.
I pastored Grace Baptist Church, renamed Our Father’s House, in West Unity for seven years. In addition to the above concerts, the following Christian groups came to our church to sing:
The Mast Brothers, a southern gospel group, were the easiest to work with and Annie Herring, by far, was the hardest. When Herring came to our church, it was quite evident that she was put out at having to sing at such a small venue, even though there were more than a hundred people crowded into our little storefront church. David Meece? Eclectic, strange, and he borrowed a Bible of mine and permanently highlighted and underlined verses in it. He didn’t ask me if he could do this, and had he asked me I would have said no. As a result, I had to buy a new Bible.
I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in SE Ohio for 11 years. During this time, a number of southern gospel groups came to the church and sang. One group, The Songsmen Quartet, a local group from the Lancaster area, was a church favorite, holding at least one concert a year for many years. The group broke up (and may have later started up with different people) after two of the group members got friendly with each other and committed adultery.
My favorite concert while at Somerset Baptist Church took place in the mid-1980’s when Robbie Hiner came to sing for us. At the time, Hiner worked for Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hiner was a regular on Falwell’s nationwide TV program, The Old Time Gospel Hour.
Several hundred people from all over SE Ohio, came to hear Hiner sing. The building was packed. Hiner made no demands or requests, sat down at our old, beat up church piano, and just started singing. In between songs, he shared funny stories, and from start to finish, this was the best Christian concert I ever attended. After the concert, Hiner hopped into his car, I believe it was an old, high mile Mercedes, and drove on down the road.
There is a certain group of Christians I call diesel sniffers. These kind of people don’t support a local church, and they travel from church to church listening to their favorite Christian singing groups. They throw a few dollars in the plate and walk out the door of the church blessed! They subscribe to the Singing News so they can find out when their favorite groups with be near where they live. These kind of people wouldn’t walk across the street to share their faith, but they would drive two hours to hear their favorite quartet sing.
There is a lot of fakery in the Christian music business. I suppose this inevitable due to the fact that they travel from church to church, venue to venue. They develop a routine, a shtick. Where they get into trouble is when their routine or shtick extends to their spirituality or their emotional responses. Years ago, I went with a church member to hear The McKamey’s sing. There was one song where one of the female singers kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. I thought, God just touched her heart. A week later, the church member and I heard The McKamey’s again at a huge gospel sing. Same song, and at the exact same point in the song, the female singer kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. The woman wasn’t being “blessed.” Her display was rehearsed and meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience. Reason? Stirred emotions lead to open wallets. I saw this kind of rehearsed, fake, insincere, emotional manipulation countless times at southern gospel, contemporary Christian, and Christian rock concerts. They used the same tactics and manipulations that I did as a pastor. Sincere? Perhaps, but it is still emotional manipulation and it often results in people doing things they wouldn’t normally do, things like giving large sums of money, running the aisles. going to the altar, etc.
Over the years, I talked to several people who were Christian music industry insiders. One man traveled for a time with The Kingsmen Quartet. He told me that I would be shocked if I knew what really went on behind the scenes at southern gospel concerts; from musicians getting liquored up before taking the stage, to Christian groupies willing to bed their favorite gospel singer. These concerts are so man-centered, hey look at me, I am singing for Jesus, that it should come as no surprise that people got caught up in all kinds of illicit behavior. In other words, they were human.
Late into my time as a pastor and as a Christian, I realized that Christian concerts were entertainment. As much as the musicians tried to sell me on their music being a ministry, I realized it was just religious oriented entertainment, no different from the Darius Rucker concert Polly and I attended last year. Once I came to this conclusion, I was free to just sit back and enjoy!
Someone is going to ask who my favorite Christian groups were/are. Here is my Top Eleven List:
and Steve Camp before he turned into a first-rate, blowhard, asshole Calvinist.
This list, BTW, is a great way to view my path through Christianity, from fundamentalism to the questions and doubts of musicians like Derrick Webb. I still listen to Christian music from time to time. I don’t believe a word of it, but I do enjoy it, a relic from my past. Polly? Won’t touch the stuff…hates it! I usually wait until she is at work to play it.
Evangelical Christianity teaches that the true followers of Jesus® are to be IN the world but not OF the world. The writer of the book of 1 John wrote:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Notice what is being taught here:
Christians are not to love the world
Christians are not to love the things of the world
If any professing Christian loves the world the love of God the Father is not in them (they are not a Christian)
All that is in world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, does not come from God the Father but is from the world
The world and its lusts will someday pass away, but those (Christians) who do the will of God (not loving the world or the things of the world) will abide (live with God) for ever.
Many Evangelical Christians I know live in constant turmoil concerning the world. They know the Bible commands them to not love the world or the things that are in the world, but dammit they just so happen to LIVE in the world they are not to love.
Jesus Ween is a Popular Evangelical Replacement for Halloween
What’s an Evangelical to do? They don’t want to be Amish or withdraw into a cult like Jonestown or Waco so they try to make peace with the world by practicing what I call the replacement doctrine.
The Christian church has practiced the replacement doctrine for at least 1,700 years. The Roman Catholic Church appropriated heathen holidays and replaced them with a Christian version; Christmas and Easter, both pagan in origin, were replaced by a Christian version of Christmas and Easter. Throughout history, Christians have been quite willing to take what the world has to offer, repackage it, and call it their own.
Left Behind, the movie
In the 21st century, Evangelicals are quite adept at practicing the replacement doctrine. There is a Christian version of everything;
Anything the world has Christians have a replacement for it. The only problem is this, most of the Christian replacements suck. Anyone want to argue that Christian music, TV, radio, or movies are of better quality than what the world puts out? I know I sure don’t. Is Fireproof better quality than A Thief in the Night? Sure, but both movies are little more than evangelistic tools meant to win the lost and encourage the faithful. As their Redbox account or Netflix queue delightfully shows, Evangelicals love the world’s movies. They may watch Courageous, God’s Not Dead, or Facing the Giants, but they secretly and guiltily love Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Nurse Jackie.
Instead of being counter-cultural and realizing that being NOT of the world means NOT indulging in the things of the world, Christians are heaven-bent on having their cake and eating it too. If a person is going to be a Bible-believing, Jesus-worshiping Evangelical Christian, then it means doing without what the world has to offer. If they are unwilling to practice what the Bible preaches, then perhaps it is time for them to stop saying “I am a Christian.” Remember, the Christian road is a straight and narrow way and few be there that find it.
Zsuzsanna Anderson designed christian bathing suit
Let’s face it, the world is fun. The things the world has to offer are far beyond anything the Christian church can offer and Evangelicals need to realize their attempt to replace the world with Christianized versions is embarrassing and silly. Nothing worse than watching Christians try to act hip and cool all the while saying they love Jesus. Get in or get out…
As a card-carrying atheist, I love the world and the things that are in the world. Yes, the world is dangerous and its allurements can hurt and destroy. World-walkers must be vigilant and tread carefully. That said, I have no desire to go back to the cheap illusions of Evangelical Christianity. Why would I ever want to go back to the cheap imitations that Christians use to replace the things of the world? No thanks.
I realize this puts me at odds with Jesus, and whoever the person is who wrote the gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John Jesus was wrong about the world. The world in and of itself is not the problem. Yes, the world is a wild, wooly place. I get it, play with fire and you might get burnt. However, avoidance and replacement is not the answer.
Discernment and maturity are well suited and necessary for the world-walker. Instead of a book that plots out the way a person must walk, giving them a long list of thou shalt not’s, the world-walker must investigate and judge every thing and experience encountered while on the path of life. Rational, careful, reasoned thinking is required every step of the way.
It is far easier to be an Evangelical Christian; the Bible is clear, do this and thou shalt live. No need for judgment and discernment, the Bible covers everything and everyone in the world. Isn’t that great? No need to think, just do what Jesus the pastor/evangelist/elder/bishop/more mature Christian than you says and all will be well.
Many Evangelicals, because of the teaching of the Bible, attempt to avoid the common bond they have with every other human. We are ALL world-walkers, people of the dust. Instead of trying to avoid the world or replace the world with cheap imitations, the Evangelical church would be better served if they truly and completely embraced the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. Instead of a US vs.THEM way of thinking, how much better would the world be if we were all one, a oneness that would make a universalist shout?
Come on in Christian friend. The worldly end of the pool is warm and the company is grand. (though you might be bothered a bit by the skimpy bathing suits) Once you try the deep of the pool you will never want to go back to the kiddie end of the pool. Really, who wants to listen to Christian rock when you can listen to the real thing? What would Jesus Do? How about what YOU want to do?
I am aware some “Christian” companies are actually owned by secular corporations who are savvy marketers targeting Evangelicals, an easy mark for anything labeled Christian.