For over a month, I had been going to my chiropractor three times a week and seeing a poster for an upcoming Big Daddy Weave concert every time I hung up my coat. Although I’ve never been a particular fan of BDW, I would sometimes look at the poster and think, “I should go to that.” After all, I’ve been running a streak of attending good concerts ever since last October–basically, since I moved to the Grand Rapids area. Also, the poster said there would be a guest violinist and a guest cellist, and I like classy string music as much as the next person. I have also been slightly intrigued by Big Daddy Weave ever since I read a guest column in the World Vision magazine a few years ago by lead singer Mike Weaver. He wrote about preparing to visit his sponsored child in the boy’s home country and feeling apprehensive about the visit because as an obese person, he thought his presence might be awkward or inappropriate in a severely food-insecure area–and then having his apprehensions made mostly irrelevant when he and his sponsored child immediately connected. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of this piece and have had it in the back of my mind ever since then.
So I listened to Big Daddy Weave’s top tracks on Pandora and discovered, upon hearing them all at once, that these were some of the most memorable best-written songs I’d heard on Christian radio over the past few years. See, I have this thing about Christian radio–I listen to it while mentally distancing myself from it. After all, life is not always “positive and encouraging,” a favorite slogan of Christian radio stations. But as I studied BDW’s discography (still trying to decide if I should buy a ticket to the concert), I realized that while they do have a number of celebratory anthems about victory in Jesus (“The Lion and the Lamb” is a really good one), they also have a number of songs about shame, discouragement, and other non-positive experiences. Yet they always do point to Jesus somewhere in their songs. I’ve been telling my students that we need more Christian artists who do this, instead of jumping straight to the victory part.
So I decided to buy a ticket. But I felt like I had to deprecate myself about this. “I’m going to see Big Daddy Weave on Friday night,” I said to two of my music-savvy college students. “And you can make fun of me; I know that’s, like, soccer-mom music.” Their response surprised me. “Oh, we love them! So jealous you get to go to that” was essentially what they said. So I felt a little better about myself.
But when I got to the church where the concert was taking place, and I was standing in line waiting to get in, I saw a lot of soccer moms and soccer dads, and I started silently judging everything I told myself I hated about suburban middle-American Christianity. Honestly, I think this was a coping mechanism because I was really feeling lonely and awkward about attending the concert about myself.
I sat near the back of the sanctuary, which allowed me to do some people-watching, and I ended up being surprised by the diversity of the crowd. Throughout the concert, which was really more of a worship service, I sincerely enjoyed watching the people around me respond to the music. In the row in front of me, there was a group of intellectually disabled adults who were really getting into it. In the row in front of them, there was a group of teenagers who I would have guessed would’ve preferred newer and hipper bands, yet seemed to love the music. (Incidentally, there was a lot of hugging going on in both of those rows, especially toward the end of the concert.) In the row in front of them, there was a row of women who did indeed appear to be soccer moms, but one of them was African-American (one of the few non-white people in attendance–okay, so the crowd wasn’t diverse in every respect), and she wasn’t turning up her nose at the whiteboy music either; in fact, she and one of her friends a few seats down were on their feet almost the entire concert.
By the end of the concert, I felt convicted. What’s so bad about soccer moms anyway? Who am I, in my arrogance, to judge my fellow believers for the music they like or the way they dress or the minivans they drive? Or the way they worship? I felt convicted, but not guilty (another favorite song topic of BDW is how we don’t have to bear the guilt of our sin anymore, so that was good to hear)–I felt blessed that these people didn’t have a problem with worshiping next to a lone concert attendee wearing a weird bandanna and, by the end of it all, a goofy smile. (In case you’re wondering, that was me.)
I feel this on many levels.
I remember when I was in 8th grade and I first discovered contemporary Christian music (honestly, that was when I started really listening to music of any kind). I was young and easy to please, and (based on the handful of songs and bands I knew from the radio), I also for a brief time considered Big Daddy Weave to be one of my favorites. (“In Christ” is a good song, if I recall.)
But I totally get what you mean about wanting to distance yourself from Christian music. About a year later, I discovered the “cool” Christian music station (contemporary rock and rap and all that), and was embarrassed that I had once liked the softer stuff. In college and beyond, of course, I began feeling the same way even about the “cool” Christian music that no longer seemed quite as hip or edgy.
There are plenty of valid criticisms a lot of us could make about Christian music (and/or Christian culture in general), but I’m beginning to realize that mentally labeling those things as trite or corny or cliche, etc. can have a detrimental effect on us too. We can’t affirm the truth we believe on one hand and then just shy away from those who proclaim it too loudly or boldly or un-ironically for our tastes and think we’ll be unaffected. Thanks for the helpful reminder.
Incidentally: if I could recommend another good Christian band with soft-ish music but substantial lyrics that do deal with the realities of non-positive experiences in life, then it would be Casting Crowns.
Thanks, Sam. It’s funny you should mention Casting Crowns, by the way, because I was telling my mom yesterday that I don’t really like their music because their tunes always sound “dire” to me. I don’t know enough about music theory to explain it properly, but their songs always feel like they’re in a minor key to me, even when they’re not. But, as you pointed out, maybe that’s appropriate to the subject matter. I probably need to give them a more serious listen. I do really appreciate one of the first songs of theirs I remember hearing, “Who Am I (I Am Yours).”
P.S. Although I haven’t commented, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog lately!
I have always loved the song “Redeemed.” It is so powerful.
One of my favorite Christian artists is Jason Gray. I have always enjoyed the message in his music, but I really became a fan of his when my family and I saw him in concert this past summer. He is so down-to-earth. He is honest about his own struggles. When he told the story of how the first time he felt God was when he heard the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and, so, he has a Jewish atheist to thank for his relationship with Christ now, I was hooked. He even wrote and performed a song about that experience. He also shared about how he was raised in bars because his mom was a bar singer and took him with her, and how having a little boy to play with helped truckers who came in when they were away from their families. He shared about his speech problems and how those have always made him feel out of place. He even did a little tribute to Prince in one of his songs.
We met him after the concert. He took the time to talk to everyone, pose for photos, and sign autographs. He signed everything with the statement, “(Insert the name of the person wanting the autograph) Is Beloved.” He may be someone you would also be interested in listening to.
Thanks, Kandy. Yes, “Redeemed” is one of my favorite Big Daddy Weave songs too.
I’ve heard of Jason Gray, but I’m not sure if I could name any of his songs. He sounds like a really personable guy, and I love that his testimony involves Simon and Garfunkel! I will have to look him up.