Big Daddy Weave, Christian music, and my judgmental heart

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.)

things I dig right at this moment

Every so often (okay, pretty often) my brain is too scattered to produce a unified blog post, but I can still manage to make a list of disunified things I’m thinking about.  Here is one such list: Things I Dig Right at This Moment.

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs I showed this to my children’s lit students this morning, and I was reminded once again of how much sense this makes.  (Maslow’s basic argument is that the bottom levels of the hierarchy are necessary in order to achieve the higher levels.)  It applies to so many situations: the difficulty abused and neglected kids have in school, the poor work output of people who aren’t getting enough sleep, the writer’s block I get when I’m worried about other things (hey, didn’t I just mention that?).  It even explains the phenomenon of being hangry.  Sure, there are amazing stories about people who aren’t getting their foundational needs fulfilled (such as concentration camp victims) who nevertheless achieve the highest level of the pyramid by creating beautiful works of art or performing heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but what makes those stories so amazing is their rarity.  They are the exception that proves the rule.
  2. The emoji with no mouth. You’ve seen it: It’s a smiley face, minus the smile.  And yet it’s so eloquent.  I use it to mean “There are no words”–a phrase which, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, applies to so many situations.
  3. To Kill a MockingbirdI finished rereading this classic yesterday, and I was confirmed in my opinion that Scout Finch is one of the greatest narrators, and Atticus one of the greatest dads, of all time.  Very few books juxtapose humor and danger (recall that Scout is wearing a ham costume throughout the climactic scene), wisdom and innocence (Atticus’s words interpreted through the child Scout’s limited understanding and recalled from the adult Scout’s perspective) in such an effective way.  And the evocative descriptions—the humid warmth of a summer evening, the cracks in a sidewalk that has a tree root pushing through it—take me back to my own childhood, even though mine wasn’t spent in Alabama.
  4. The Grey Havens. My friend told me about this band Saturday morning, I impulse-bought their album Ghost of a King for $10 on iTunes without sampling it first, and I ended up listening to it over and over while driving that day.  Although their style is a little inconsistent (fluctuating from the folksy and dramatic sound of Mumford and Sons to a poppier but still substantial sound that reminds me of Imagine Dragons), I don’t mind that because I like both kinds of music, and their themes are consistent.  This is Christian music that doesn’t advertise itself as such.  On Ghost of a King, without using the names “God” or “Jesus,” they pretty much outline the whole history of the Bible, hitting the major points of creation, fall, and redemption.  My favorite song on that album is “Diamonds and Gold,” definitely on the pop/electronic end and very fun to dance to in the car (and probably out of the car, too).
  5. using flavored cream cheese as a dip for pretzels. Last night I used the Philadelphia brand roasted vegetable cream cheese as a comparatively “healthy” Super Bowl “dip.”  (Oh, my gosh.  Philadelphia.  I just made the connection.  I am the reason they won.)  Today, I polished off the rest of a tub of honey pecan cream cheese (also Philadelphia) as a lunch snack at work.  Seriously, this is good.  You should try it.

What are you digging right now?  Let me know in the comments.