29 August 2006

First contact with Carlos

Well, I'm back on the pony, harrassing people from the internet.

Mr. Carlos:

I got to your website through the Scott Hodge site when you were having your Scott Hodge thing. I actually got to the Scott Hodge website when I was having a David Crowder thing: I had written him a kind of angry letter about the tepidity of Christian music and somehow found Hodge's website while I was looking for information about Crowder. Anyway, none of that is important. I subscribed to your podcast and because my i-pod keeps downloading it and I like to have something to listen to on the treadmill, well, I guess I'm sort of a listener now.

I'm an English teacher in Niigata City Japan, who is also studying linguistics through a the University of Birmingham in the UK. I originally came to Japan as a missionary, actually, but after about a year, sort of felt like I had a lot less to say then I thought I did. I don't really like when people ask me about my religious beliefs as I guess I'm not really that sure anymore myself and always avoid the question by asking the questioner a question. This usually works and allows me to listen more, which I like much more than talking, when it comes to things like the Buddha or Jesus.

Also, I saw that you were adopting a baby from Korea, and I wanted to give you and your family a high-five for that. Korea is a really fabulous place that I really love a lot and am happy to hear that you too have a kind of heart for the Korean people.

Okay, so this is why I called. I'm really interested in words (being an aspiring linguist), and especially interested in words that Evangelical Christians use. My letter to Crowder was actually about words, how Christians use words that we don't have an experiential or intellectual attachment to, but rather understand emotionally. Words like *holy* and *king* are good examples. A worship leader can shout out *Jesus is holy, amen?!* at the crowd at most large Evangelical churches, and most everyone will shout back *Amen!* But really, when we think about the words, *Jesus is holy, amen?!* none of these words are words we intellectually engage or experience. Holy means what exactly. We can define it, maybe, but we can't really wrap our minds around it. If you dig into it, for most people, it isn't so much a intellectual concept, but a word that gets them to feel a certain way. That deserves a paragraph break and re-stating.

Words in worship experiences are triggers for *worshipful* feelings, I think. *Jesus is the King* doesn't mean anything, but it does get me to feel a certain, *worshipful* way.

Basically, I think this is really weird, and if I was more religious, I would say that it's dangerous. Because all these super-convicted Christians are in these darkened churches all over the country (or world) saying things that they make them feel good without thinking about why they are saying them. This has a way of being used in all sorts of evil ways, and could be argued (although I don't want to argue it) to be playing a strong role in our current conflict with Saddam and the Iraqis or the whole Middle East in general.

I was thinking about this when you were talking about Amena Brown. Why, I wondered, is this good? It's basically everything I have heard from Christian artists, only spoken, so it gets some attention. But really, it's fundamentally the same tired, over-used symbols that people don't engage so much as feel. The key to this is that it can't cross-over, right? If a non-Christian can't engage it or can't value it artistically, then it can't be good, can it?

Now, let me say, I don't think just feeling music is bad. Of course, sometimes we just feel music. But in my opinion, good music is when you can feel it and experience something intellectually fulfilling from it. I just saw the Bob Dylan documentary that came out a couple of years ago and was really caught by that in Dylan's music. Everybody in that generation could feel it, but when people went into the lyrics and started thinking about it, it was even richer. And you weren't required to hold a very narrow spiritual or political view to enjoy it. It appealed broadly.

Okay, what does this have to do with you? I'm not really sure, actually. But I thought today as I was running and thinking, that maybe you might have some thoughts on all this.

Thanks for your time. This letter is too long. I apologize for that. Thanks for the podcasting. As long as my ipod keeps downloading, I will keep listening.

Stephen
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