Turn An Enemy Into A Friend? (The Power of Relationships)

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This piece originally appeared at the now disappeared The Global Elite Music Radio Podcast Supershow website, but I thought it was worth re-posting here.


The Global Elite Music Radio Podcast Supershow is dedicated to bringing people together, fighting Xenophobia and promoting empathy. We don't pursue this by pretending that we're all the same but by considering music that's not like our own. By not only accepting but celebrating our differences. 

Yes, we know that this sounds like "pie in the sky" hippy-dippy idealism. And it might very well be. But wouldn't life be better if we didn't give in to fear? Wouldn't it be nice if we not only just thought the best of each other but treated other that way? 

We're always on the hunt for people and projects that seem to share these ideals. 

Recently we had a movie screening at the Fake Offices where we watched filmmaker Deeyah Khan's documentary White Right: Meeting The EnemyThe film's website frames the film's concept:

With a US president propagating anti-Muslim propaganda, the far-right gaining ground in German elections, hate crime rising in the UK, and divisive populist rhetoric infecting political and public discourse across western democracies, Deeyah Khan’s WHITE RIGHT: MEETING THE ENEMY asks why.

Khan travels the country to meet and talk with White Nationalists/White Supremacists face-to-face. She asks pointed questions and many of the interactions are uncomfortable but we can not applaud this film enough. Khan's courage continually displays the humble confidence of empathy and it's so encouraging to see her efforts have some impact. 

Watching the film, we couldn't help but be reminded of the 2016 film Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America. Daryl Davis has been a professional musician but it's his other work which prompted this documentary. Over the years, Davis, a Black man, has intentionally befriended members of the Ku Klux Klan. 

Of course we might initially think this is crazy. Who wants to befriend someone who hates you? Who wants to love their enemy? But believe it or not, Davis has shown that the power of relationship, the power of understanding can change minds. Khan's movie demonstrates the same thing. It's easy to fear (hate) what we don't know. 

Khan and Davis have shown us the power of empathy in action. Rather than distancing themselves from their (perceived) enemies, they moved in closer. They wanted to understand and they ended up being heard. And seen. And they have shown us that change can happen. 

This is exactly the type of work we can and will get behind. 

Of course all of this is easier said than done. But what might change in the world if we each sought out at least one way to live out these principles? 

If you haven't seen them, we recommend watching both of these movies. We'd love to hear your thoughts once you've done so. 

  • Visit Deeyah Khan's official website

  • Follow Deeyah Khan on Facebook

  • Visit the official website for the White Right: Meeting The Enemy

  • Visit Accidental Courtesy's official website

  • Purchase Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America on Amazon

Watch the trailer for White Right: Meeting The Enemy

Watch the trailer for Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America

Why "Christian" Music Is Often So Bad

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If you know me at all, or even if you’ve just barely browsed this site, you know that I love music. Music of all kinds. Music from all places. Music for all faces.

And I am a Christian.

But, generally speaking, I do not love “Christian” music. I do not even like most “Christian” music. First of all, “Christian” is not a genre. Slapping a religious moniker in front of any word does not make the content any more religious, any more meaningful, or necessarily mean that it’s good.

Flip through the radio stations in just about any city in the US and you can immediately spot the “Christian” station even before the lyrics. You know it as soon as the music comes on. There’s just something about the sheen. It all seems to be produced in the same shiny music factory. But I’m already digressing and I’ve barely just begun.

But, many well-intentioned Christians just don’t seem to be too concerned with the quality of the music that bears their name. Or maybe they think it’s actually good. After all, they have their own awards shows, right? Who would give an award to something that’s not good, right?! But again I digress.

We could talk about the protectionism embedded in much of American Christianity. We are taught to fear the surrounding culture and withdraw by replacing things with their “Christian” equivalent. But, I think there are a couple of more immediate reasons why so I am disappointed by so much of what claims to be “Christian” music.

Point Of Purchase Discernment

One of the biggest reasons that so much “Christian” music is not that good is that many Christians are not good at discernment. By and large, in most American churches, we have not been trained in how to apply biblical wisdom to our own lives so that we become transformed by God’s grace. Much less do people feel comfortable examining an artist’s lyrics in detail to discern a worldview, because we’re not all that sure we can clarify ours other than believing people need to get saved. In short, many “American Christians” are simply not good at discernment.

As a result, the entire “discernment” process of supporting an art like music becomes outsourced. It becomes a “point of purchase” decision. Many people simply believe that if you buy something at a “Christian” store, that means that it’s good for your Christianity. For many, it doesn’t even matter if it is good or not, just that it’s “Christian.” That way, we know it supports our faith. And it’s a much easier approach than trying to process the worldview of a musician we don’t know. Why go through all that trouble when I can just go to the “Christian” store and buy something safe.

We just want to protect our kids from the evils of the “Secular World,” and we can’t listen to everything they do and analyze it and talk about it with them to help them develop their own discernment. It’s just safer (and easier) to buy them music approved by the “Christian” bookstore gatekeepers.

I’m not going to spend time debunking this point. If you don’t see the problem, then the rest of this post probably isn’t for you anyway.

Pragmatic/Utilitarian Understanding of Art

In addition, many American Christians have inadvertently adopted a Pragmatic/Utilitarian Understanding of Art in which something music is meant to serve a purpose. It’s not enough that something exist as art for art’s sake. It’s not enough that a musician wrote a moving piece of music because they themselves had been moved. What purpose does that serve? How does that accomplish the salvation of souls or the glorification of God?

Many well-intentioned Christians have come to believe that music exists for one of two primary purposes: to be evangelistic or praise and worship. Art, including music, is meant to serve one of these two purposes.

If evangelism is the primary driving consideration, then it’s the message that matters most, which is the lyrics, and then we have to find out the best way to get our message out, so let’s find out what the “other kids” are listening to, and then mimic the music, replace the lyrics and make sure they get our message?! In other words, we look to the “secular culture” to see what music is popular, we recreate it without the sincerity, replace the lyrics and then try to feed it back to the culture and can’t understand why no one likes our music. It must be persecution. And then there’s “praise and worship” music is fine since it’s already accepted our evangelism.

So, “Christian” bookstores stock themselves with bands that sound like popular bands but with a better message, or music already meant only for Christian use as praise and worship. Of course there are other factors here beyond a utilitarian understanding of art in general and music in particular. For example, many Christians believe that the “salvation of souls” trumps everything else, which only feeds the utilitarian approach. And, for some odd reason many well-intentioned Christians often believe that seeking pleasure for pleasure’s sake is somehow sinful. So of course art can’t exist just for art’s sake. Tie all of this in with corporations that exploit well-intentioned Christians for profit and here we find ourselves.

Believe it or not, there was once a time when Christians were at the vanguard of the arts. It’s time to regain that perspective and practice and demand more. Demand more not just of our artists but of ourselves. The breadth and depth of human experience is sure worth more than a comparison chart. Shouldn’t we be encouraging the greatest art because we have the least to lose?