Tuesday with Michael Spencer: The Missing Voice of the Christian Counter-Culture

Note from CM: Here is an interesting post by Michael from 2008 (which I have edited to make it more concise). I’m not sure I heard him talk or write much about the things he says here. I wasn’t sure if he went through the same “counter-culture” experiences as I did or what he thought about the 60s and early 70s and the social/cultural upheaval of those times. On the other hand, much of the “Christian life” that I have known was a direct product of those times. I have always seen the spiritual awakening I had as a teenager as of a piece with the idealism and energy I saw in the youth “counter-culture,” the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. This was the narrative of the “Jesus Movement” as a whole, and it energized the early forms of “contemporary Christian music” that we listened to in those days.

In our day, we are seeing a return to some of that idealism and the energy of counter-cultural protest. And again, it’s proving to be messy, chaotic, and sometimes harmful, even deadly. I wonder what our friend Michael would say in 2020?

• • •

Tuesday with Michael Spencer
The Missing Voice of the Christian Counter-Culture (2008, edited)

(For N.T. Wright, Bono, Bob Dylan, Sara Groves, Derek Webb, Steve Earle, Larry Norman, Johnny Cash, Michael Been and Steve Taylor)

Floating somewhere around the web is a picture/mp3 of Anglican bishop and theologian N.T. Wright, complete in lavender shirt and bishop’s collar, playing Bob Dylan’s sixties anthem, Blowin’ In the Wind on an acoustic guitar.

It’s not anything I’d pay money to have on my iPod, and I doubt his audience was blown away. But I don’t think the bish was having a moment of youth minister envy. His admiration for Dylan and the counter-culture voices of the sixties comes from something else.

Wright was singing Dylan because, in his particular take on Christian eschatology, he sees something very admirable and good about those idealistic kids in the sixties. Something in their optimism and idealism resembles his belief that we are called to Kingdom work in every area of human life now. Wright believes that Christians are a Holy Spirit empowered Christian counter-culture movement at work with God in the world’s hopeless places and unsolvable problems. He profoundly believes in resurrection, but not in the despair that has overtaken much of the church — Protestant and Catholic — in these days.

Wright believes the Kingdom of God is at work in the present everywhere that Christians put their audacious resurrection hope into practice: in politics, art, society, education, peacemaking and yes, even the church.

I’m starting to see Wright’s larger point, and why the good bishop is playing that Dylan song.

In some of my classes this semester, I’ve been using protest songs from the classic era of folk music to illustrate points regarding Biblical literature and elements of English literature. And as I was listening to Phil Ochs Outside of a Small Circle of Friends yesterday, a thought occurred to me that’s been rattling around in my head ever since.

Why aren’t more Christians making the sounds of counter-culture protest in their art, their literature and their witness?

I want to be careful at the outset to acknowledge that some Christians ARE making the sound of counter-culture protest, and I want to salute them and promote them.

But what do we hear when we listen to Christian music today?

  • Praise and Worship.
  • The soft sounds of baptized psychology.
  • God-experience in highly personal terms.
  • A tip of the hat in the direction of evangelism.

That’s the vast majority of what Christian artists and voices are bringing to us. Of that collection, the largest pieces of the pie chart go to “praise and worship” music and expressions of fuzzy personal experience with a decidedly “girl-friendy” Jesus.

Now as I’ve said before, I’m encouraged by how many contemporary artists and authors are personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. These are a generation of artists who are busy supporting International Justice Mission and Blood:Water Mission.

But few of them are raising the voice of a true Christian counter-culture; few have the sound of counter-culture protest, lament or outcry. Few are taking on the voice of the prophet. Few are using artistic irony and sharp observation and storytelling to penetrate into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God has a sure and true word for us. Few are articulating the vision of anything approaching a radical kind of Christian discipleship.

I don’t hear the kids of voices that shined the light of God on the darkness of racism, that opposed the Vietnam war with a Christian conscience or that awoke to the realities of poverty and corruption in America. Evangelical art seems to reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where how we feel is the great crisis of our time.

Those artists that do find a prophetic voice stand out immediately from the bland majority.

Christian radio will not play these voices. They will not be leading the bouncing worship songs at your next youth event. They are not entertaining the sheep into a state of altered- and largely insensitive- consciousness.

You will find them at Square Peg Alliance and Paste Music. You’ll hear them cited as “indy folk” more than Christian. You’ll have to endure the question “But is that really Christian music?”

Evangelicals have now produced a massive consumeristic niche ready to buy, wear and applaud whatever fits in its pre-described mold of entertainment oriented discipleship and warm, fuzzy, evangelical experience.

It’s personal miracles, not social transformation that has the attention of evangelicals. It’s the culture war’s short list of approved issues, not the prophetic agenda of justice and compassion that inspires most music, conferences and major events today. It’s the sounds of “We want more of you Jesus,” not the cry for justice for the hungry, the oppressed and the displaced that inspire evangelical art.

When I expose my students to the protesting voices of the sixties, their reaction is varied. Some are more interested in the iPod than the song. Some are completely clueless as to what I’m referring to. Others are drawn toward the knowledge that young people were once, as a generation, animated in causes greater than acquiring expensive shoes.

When I preach, I preach N.T. Wright’s vision of Gospel application in the empire. I preach MLK’s application of the Gospel in a way that challenges evil with sacrificial love. I preach examples of personal engagement with causes greater than the expansion of church facilities and more sales of the latest praise and worship ditty. I constantly urge my students to see Jesus as a radical and to see following him as a radical exercise extending into economics, racial reconciliation, compassion, the arts, politics, justice for the excluded, the creation of community and the renewal of the local church along new covenant priorities.

But I feel that my voice is one voice; one voice largely overwhelmed by the current vision of Christianity as an extension of the American dream of personal affluence and evangelical cultural triumph.

My students will hear a hundred voices telling them to march against gays for every one they hear saying they should befriend the oppressed and the rejected. (One friend told me that when his church volunteered to help with a fund raiser for the local AIDS hospice, the directors were so stunned that they thought it was a joke.)

My students will hear that Martin Luther King, Jr was an adulterer 25 times for every time I point to his model of sacrificial non-violence. Few of them will ever read any of his sermons, but many will be told of his moral failings. (And the same is true for many activist Christians. Some evangelicals make it a point to morally impugn anyone who pursues that they label as the “social” Gospel.)

My students will be offered a hundred “Christian” things to buy for every one time they are challenged to give anything away or to use their money to dig a well. Thank God for the thousands of Christians who generously give time, talent and money to help the suffering, but they do so in the midst of an evangelicalism that has found a way to bless every excess of the American materialistic lifestyle.

My students will hear hundreds of moralistic, pietistic and privatistic applications of the Gospel for every time they see or hear the Gospel lived out in Jesus shaped ways. If evangelical sermons and publishing is our measurement, then economic, missional, socially redemptive discipleship is far less interesting than end times scenarios and diets.

My students will be encouraged to accept the evils of society as the unfolding of the end times plan a dozen times for every time anyone tells them to go out and personally do something to make a difference in that world. After abortion and homosexual activism, the average evangelical’s engagement with social issues goes off the radar.

My students will be told that church should be fun, entertaining, cool and better than a mall a thousand times for every time they see a church embodying the suffering, justice, poverty, prophetic truth and radical love of Jesus for the poor and the sinful.

My students will hear the siren songs of evangelicalism endless times for every time they hear about a truly prophetic, counter-cultural, compassion-passionate Jesus shaped spirituality.

I’m waiting for the birth of truly counter-cultural Christian voices; voices as arresting in these times as Guthrie, Dylan, Ochs and Seeger were in theirs. Christian voices that don’t require us to go to non-believers to hear the authentic message of the compassion and present power of the teachings of scripture on justice and mercy.

I’m waiting. And while I have a voice left and anyone to hear me, I’m using my voice as best I can. I won’t be singing Blowin’ In The Wind at my next Bible study, but I understand what the Bishop was trying to say. We have an answer more sure than those who mounted the counter-culture critique of the sixties, but our voices are strangely silent.

70 thoughts on “Tuesday with Michael Spencer: The Missing Voice of the Christian Counter-Culture

  1. CM,

    I don’t recall those specifically, but yeah Chris Tomlin was an easy target! Too bad the Bee drank the Kool-Aid.

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  2. CCM nowadays panders to 30 and 40-something white, suburbanite, stay-at-home moms who are out and about going to the gym, Target, and Trader Joe’s. She is not “Karen”, she is “Becky” – a target demographic with a face on it. CCM today is a pacifier.

    I don’t listen to CCM anymore, but instead listen to mainly secular music and older (think Vineyard and Maranatha! Praise music). The only CCM I can stomach is Rich Mullins and a few others.

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  3. That’s “nonpartisan”, not “apolitical”.

    Many classifications of non-profits are technically required to be nonpartisan – they cannot endorse candidates [*1] – but essentially no non-profit is apolitical. They remain free to take positions on issues [and they do] even to endorsing ballot referendums [which are non-partisan],

    [*1] not that this requirement necessarily stops them, it is all too easy to tacitly endorse candidates… something churches do all the time.

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  4. Glad you replied but she is totally gender not approprite Do you haves problem with women Sounds like gender racism to me

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  5. I’ve mentioned this at this site before on “Bruce Cockburn” posts, but for some reason I’m a long-time Christian with “eclectic” tastes who somehow missed connecting with his music and voice (not out of dislike, more out of “just plain didn’t ever give it a real listen).

    But Bono and Simon… Yes, indeed.

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  6. –> “But what do we hear when we listen to Christian music today?
    (First bullet) Praise and Worship.”

    To me, that shouldn’t be said pejoratively and should be stricken off the list of things “wrong” with current Christian music. It’s Christian music that ISN’T praise and worship that should be criticized. Or you should qualify it as praise and worship that really isn’t focused on God and Jesus.

    –> “(Today’s title) The Missing Voice of the Christian Counter-Culture”

    Y’all shouldn’t sell this site short even though Michael Spencer is no longer with us. If I were to post some of iMonk’s articles over the past year on my FB page, I guarantee you some of my evangelical friends’ heads would explode. So… the voice of Christian Counter-Culture might not be as strong here as it once was, but it’s hardly silent or missing.

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  7. A couple of true things about Hal Lindsey:

    1. He has gone through more editions of The Late Great Planet Earth than he has ex-wives. (Hal is currently on future ex-wive #4).

    2. He is 90 years old, but his mustache is only 40.

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  8. Usually when I think of someone being apolitical, I think of someone who doesn’t push for any political party. I think that is probably what is meant here.

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  9. My track was more orthogonal to the Left-Right (or TEAM BLUE – TEAM RED) one dimensional political axis (HT: Nolan Chart). I was never a pure party guy anyways. The biggest problem I think was the infection of populism into both political parties. Sanders and Trump are in many ways 2 sides of the populist coin.

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  10. Finn,

    Contact with civic authorities, sure; not campaigning as an organization.

    I understand there are lots of people who want to move local governments to help more; I’m glad you’re in a position to see them. And there are a lot of people who don’t think that they themselves helping the poor is a Good. Some are of the mindset that “the government” or someone else will see to it. Some Christians have forgotten or not paid attention to Scripture and Christian teaching and are either ignorant or operate from a scarcity mentality.

    Dana

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  11. Burro (Mule),

    That is a good sign. I suspect there are lots of similar causes like that. For starters, I think people know that this type of giving is very efficient (almost no overhead), highly targeted, and focuses on the immediate surrounding community / population by someone who is highly knowledgeable on what and when stuff is needed at any given time.

    Not to say that large organizations do not have their purposes and advantages for certain things, but during this COVID pandemic, every community (or neighborhood for that matter) will be impacted differently in some ways.

    Thinking cap off now….

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  12. Development of “artistic expression” and Maintaining Control do not tend to run on the same track.

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  13. Bruce Cockburn, prophetic voice…….

    Bono, probably influenced more for truth (carefully worded) than any other evangelist.

    Paul SImon, wow, where to start

    The premise is valid, the current worship playlist is short of a lot of biblical themes, like lament……

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  14. Yes. But the rest of us need not play along. And yes, while we who know the code understand what is being said, the unwary quite reasonably take “Christian” to refer to Christian churches of any flavor. The Evangelical usage smears the rest of us.

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  15. The guy was definitely “Eccentric”, which was how he was portrayed in the media coverage of the time.

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  16. Sounds like the attitude I encountered during my time in-country in the Age of Hal Lindsay:
    ARMAGEDDON AS THE ULTIMATE SPECTATOR SPORT, WITH A RESERVED BOX SEAT ON THE 50-YARD LINE.

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  17. One of the pastors to whom I write a check every month to support his work among homeless men is in constant contact with the city, and they with him. He’d be a fool not to be.

    BTW for what its worth, that pastor reports private giving being sharply up since about May.

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  18. Which is actually rather funny since the current crop of Christian leaders seem to veer toward hyper masculinity and decry the so-called feminisation of the Church

    One of these Christian Manhood Leaders actually coined the term “Sacred Testosterone” (i.e. Precious Bodily Fluids) to brag about it. Even claimed that Christ defeated Satan through the power of Sacred Testosterone.

    But what do I know? I’m just an Omega Cuck, not a Manly Alpha Male like them.

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  19. Yeah, I do know better, but habit is stronger than love. The status quo ante was pretty good for me, and I’m not all that optimistic any of the emerging alternatives will benefit anybody, except the kinds of people I describe below:

    I’ve heard disturbing rumors about how the kinds of sociopaths who are always attracted to Okhrana/Stasi-like positions are positioning their butts over the chairs to be ready when the music stops, but the sources have too many dogs in the fight for me to be certain. There are some people who just want to watch the world burn, and there are others who want the marshmallows-and-weiners concessions.

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  20. A generation or two ago, White American Evangelical Protestant Christians redefined “Christian” without any adjectives to mean themselves and themselves alone. Whenever you hear of a church or business or movement or bookstores or media that calls itself “Christian” without any modifiers, WHAT TYPE OF CHRISTIAN IS IT? ALWAYS?

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  21. > Michael was right on the money with this.

    Yep.

    > I had the same sorts of thoughts, in fact,…

    Same

    > back in the ’90s.

    I didn’t imagine how far the leashes would stretch. 😦

    > Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, … None of these groups is political;

    I think we disagree on the meaning of “political”. The Catholic church, the Salvation Army, et al, are twig-to-root political institutions. I guarantee you they are in near constant communication and exchange with civic and municipal constructs.

    > Our society, and most Christians within it, doesn’t even entertain that idea as a Good anymore

    I strongly disagree. Very large sections of our society do far more than entertain that idea – otherwise the Catholic Church and Salvation Army would evaporate into history.

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  22. > They’re parasitic on an assumed cultural religious and ethical concensus that no longer exists

    Yep.

    > We need more people who are interested in critiquing sinful structures

    Yet it seems now well demonstrated that Religion, on the whole, lacks the discipline and courage to do so.

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  23. There was a dude in the late 60s early 70s, Arthur Blessitt I believe his name was, who literally took up his cross and followed Jesus. All over the world, he carried an eighty pound cross and preached Jesus. He was a Baptist-y Jesus-Freak-y Four Spiritual Laws-kind of guy. Turns out he’s still around, still doing the same thing. He preaches the kind of Gospel you’d expect a Jesus Freak to preach; simple, personal, decisional – no condemnation for communal participation in sinful structures, no principalities and powers, no anti-racism, no Orange Man Bad. It was like a wind from another world.

    My initial reaction is that that “gospel” is what Paul referred to as “heteron euangelion”. I’ve heard too much of that supposed good news to know that it doesn’t deserve a second listen. Be off and go chase yerselfs.

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  24. The stereotype is of people moving to the right as they age. There is a lot of truth to this, but it is hardly universal. I grew up in a Republican family. My first vote was to reelect Ronald Reagan. Then in the 90s I found this increasingly unsupportable and flipped to the Democrats. I didn’t discuss it with my family until years later, when it turned out that most of us had made the same transition.

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  25. Michael was right on the money with this. I had the same sorts of thoughts, in fact, back in the ’90s. At that time, I was hopeful that the “worship evangelism” trend might spawn something like that in the musical expression of Evangelical Christians. If it happened, I missed it. Same for the attention that began to be given by some Evangelicals to artistic expression in general.

    Say all you want about Francis Schaeffer’s failings, but he certainly did predict rightly that it would not be long after he was writing that the culture in general would care more about personal peace and affluence than anything else. There are certainly plenty of individuals who buck this trend, but not enough of them to have an impact. On his blog lately, Richard Beck has been discussing the sentimentality of the faith of contemporary American Christians – quite interesting, and germane to Michael’s post here.

    In the larger area around where I live, the best work is being done by Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, and one “gospel mission” that isn’t too insistent about having to attend preaching meetings to get help. None of these groups is political; they and their supporters/volunteers simply do the daily, often grinding, work it takes to enable the people they serve to find sobriety, and a measure of economic stability in a part of the country where housing costs are astronomical. They do what they can for the people who come to them. I would like to be able to do that on a personal level as well. Our society, and most Christians within it, doesn’t even entertain that idea as a Good anymore.

    Dana

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  26. He was a political conservative in the early days of writing; if you haven’t already, read some of his post-9/11 blogs. You’ll be surprised.

    What do imonkers think he’d make of Trump-BLM-Antifa-trump fans etc, and the whole current situation?

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  27. I was neither condemning nor eulogizing Mr. Blessitt, merely displaying him as a relic from an older, simpler time. As far as goes with cultural, religious, and ethical consensuses (consensi? consensus?), they serve a purpose in that they offer a foundation for civic peace and tranquility, which the Church has always upheld as being more conducive to our salvation than upheaval and unrest.

    Fortunately, there are vast wells of resources as to how to live a Godly life in difficult circumstances. I, at least, will be needing them.

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  28. “He preaches the kind of Gospel you’d expect a Jesus Freak to preach; simple, personal, decisional – no condemnation for communal participation in sinful structures, no principalities and powers, no anti-racism, no Orange Man Bad. It was like a wind from another world.”

    Because it *is* – the world of classic 20th century individualized turn-or-burn (rvangelic/fumdament)alism. Street preachers like that were relics even back when I joined the church in the early 90s – all the moreso now. They’re parasitic on an assumed cultural religious and ethical concensus that no longer exists – and overall I think it’s for the better. We need more people who are interested in critiquing sinful structures, not fewer – and it’s even more biblical to look at things that way.

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  29. If Michael was saying things like this in 2008… Well, these are palpably darker times.
    We don’t need a prophet. We need an exorcist.
    We don’t need another Woody Guthrie or Phil Ochs. We need something like a shaman, someone who can do battle with evil spirits.

    There was a dude in the late 60s early 70s, Arthur Blessitt I believe his name was, who literally took up his cross and followed Jesus. All over the world, he carried an eighty pound cross and preached Jesus. He was a Baptist-y Jesus-Freak-y Four Spiritual Laws-kind of guy. Turns out he’s still around, still doing the same thing. He preaches the kind of Gospel you’d expect a Jesus Freak to preach; simple, personal, decisional – no condemnation for communal participation in sinful structures, no principalities and powers, no anti-racism, no Orange Man Bad. It was like a wind from another world.

    For some reason I find this poem very compelling. By Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn

    “When I was a young man and very well thought of,
    I couldn’t ask aught that the ladies denied.
    I nibbled their hearts like a handful of raisins,
    And I never spoke love but I knew that I lied.

    But I said to myself, ‘Ah, they none of them know
    The secret I shelter and savor and save
    I wait for the one who will see through my seeming,
    And I’ll know when I love by the way I behave.’

    The years drifted over like clouds in the heavens;
    The ladies went by me like snow on the wind.
    I charmed and I cheated, deceived and dissembled,
    And I sinned, and I sinned, and I sinned, and I sinned.

    But I said to myself, ‘Ah, they none of them see
    There’s part of me pure as the whisk of a wave.
    My lady is late but she’ll find I’ve been faithful,
    And I’ll know when I love by the way I behave.’

    At last came a lady both knowing and tender,
    Saying, ‘you’re not at all what they take you to be.’
    I betrayed her before she had quite finished speaking,
    And she swallowed cold poison and jumped in the sea.

    And I say to myself when there’s time for a word,
    As I gracefully grow more debauched and depraved,
    ‘Ah, love may be strong, but habit is stronger
    And I knew when I loved by the way I behaved.”

    Buen provecho, cabrones

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  30. When I was in my mid-20s, I started the process of deconstructing and then very slowly reconstructing my faith – I started to read the New Testament in the Message translation by Eugene Peterson. As someone who was raised overly familiar with the Bible, the down-to-earth, easy to read translation really helped me. It was one of the first times I actually enjoyed reading Scripture. And because it was so easy to read, I would read entire books in one sitting, and my perspective on things began to change. One thing that really surprised me was how much the Bible dealt with care for the poor and giving. This wasn’t emphasized AT ALL in my upbringing. I was raised fundamentalist and my version of Christianity basically centered around moralism. It was sad to me that I could be raised in the church and not have a major theme of Scripture brought to my attention. For my part, I started sponsoring Compassion kids. I don’t say this so congratulate myself or to say that I shouldn’t do more- just that I think many people never bother to read the Bible for themselves, so their perspectives are unfortunately almost exclusively centered around the praise and worship music they hear on the radio, or whatever they are learning at the local mega-church.

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  31. From the wikipedia: “””In the Christian marketplace, music consumption has risen by as much as 30% since 2005, but overall album sales have dropped to about half of their 1999 levels””” [not to put too much trust in the pedia, yet this statement seems straight-forward].

    I suppose changes in the CM scene and share are likely buried in larger system changes in the media market(s) overall.

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  32. QUESTION: does anyone know the current scale of the Christian Music scene? Like in $$ revenue/year? Is it up or down? When was its zenith? [I’m guessing the late 90s/early 00s; but I really don’t know anything]

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  33. “…the largest pieces of the pie chart go to “praise and worship” music and expressions of fuzzy personal experience with a decidedly “girl-friendy” Jesus.”

    Which is actually rather funny since the current crop of Christian leaders seem to veer toward hyper masculinity and decry the so-called feminisation of the Church. (Think Jordan Peterson, Mark Driscoll, Promise Keepers, Men’s Fraterity, etc.) which the church culture may have itself created. There is a recent book by Kristen du Mez (https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-John-Wayne-Evangelicals-Corrupted/dp/1631495739) that chronicles the backlash to the “girl-friendly Jesus.”

    American evangelical Christianity, especially, although it bleeds into many mainline denominations as well, seems to be a boat with no rudder, careening wildly down a river full of rapids, veering from one solution to another to right the boat, each proponent of his or her solution fully unaware of the problems that these solutions will cause down farther down river.
    And then they wonder why passengers in the boat ultimately lose hope, grab a life jacket, jump out, and attempt to reach the shore themselves.

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  34. anti-abortion and anti-homosexual activism, as this is what Evangelical are known for.

    And today’s corollary: “Trump Is LOOOOOORD!”
    Christians are the most Fanatical of Trump Fanatics.

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  35. CM , glad to know you keep track of what other blogs people are posting on.Since you use the word frequent can we assume you read the fanboys blog ? I’m not sure what Michael would say to that but at least he would do it with class.

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  36. I’m afraid the Christian church in America is so compromised at this point that any true “counter-culture” worthy of its name is bound to be anti-Christian. The irony is that Christian evangelicals like to self-identify as “countercultural”, betraying a remarkable cluelessness.

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  37. Michael Spenser would have some choices words for that other pastor and his blog you frequent.

    And I am sure that other pastor would call Michael a bully and complain about derogatory comments as well, and that pastor’s fanboys would clap like trained seals.

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  38. And God forbid you should ally with those SJW types to feed the homeless or provide them clothing….

    Instead, they join Patriot Prayer and other nationalist groups to wrap the flag around the cross.

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  39. As an artist becomes more successful their critiques become less pointed, more vague.
    Eventually every successful musician writes a “Can’t we all just get along” song.

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  40. +1

    And it is still true; sorta. They’re grumpy non-participation in every other issue still has an impact.

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  41. > And some folks claim IMonk wasn’t “political” back in the good

    I’ve been here for a l-o-n-g time, iMonk was never apolitical.

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  42. In fact, while it’s hard for me to imagine Michael Spencer, if he were alive today, as anything but opposed to Donald Trump, I can easily imagine Bob Dylan as a Trump supporter.

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  43. Wow, EEYORE,

    I also focused in right away on “I’m waiting for the birth of truly counter-cultural Christian voices; voices as arresting in these times as Guthrie, Dylan, Ochs and Seeger were in theirs. Christian voices that don’t require us to go to non-believers to hear the authentic message of the compassion and present power of the teachings of scripture on justice and mercy.”

    And, as many times before, I too wondered how Michael would have felt about the present time. I know he would have responded and probably done it with the great gift he had for expressing his thoughts in ways that made us sit up and take notice and really think more deeply about issues, sure;
    but always the wonder of what he might have actually said is there now for me also . . . .

    am so very grateful to Chaplain Mike and to Michael Bell and the others who have kept this site going in ways that honor Michael’s memory. . . .

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  44. I don’t really see Dylan as a voice of counterculture. In the beginning, he took up that voice, but I’m not convinced it was his voice so much as a persona with which he entered the public consciousness. By the late 1960s he had started developing a new persona that, although at times it sang songs like the earlier persona, had completely changed by the end of the next decade. I think he hated being labeled a voice of the counterculture, especially where it came to politics; by the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the early 80s many of the things he expressed in his songs could easily be heard as expressions of a voice on the political right — as examples, listen to the belligerently Zionist “Neighborhood Bully” as well as some of the nativist things he had to say about the state of affairs in America in songs like “Slow Train Coming” from that era. That is also the time, perhaps not incidentally, when he became involved in a very evangelical form of Christian faith. And he has remained evasive since that time both about faith and politics, rarely if ever making direct reference to current social or political events in America or the world either in song or rare interviews.

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  45. The usual expression is “drops off the Radar”: what he means is that other than campaigning against legal abortion and homosexuality, the average evangelical has no engagement with social issues whatsoever.

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  46. I didn’t start reading iMonk until after Spencer’s death, but based on what he wrote with regard to the disastrous intersection of American Christian religious culture and politics during his time as iMonk, I have little doubt, really no doubt, about the position he would take if he were alive today. In fact, I think he would have been speaking in far more politically charged ways than is currently the case under CM’s supervision — which I do say as a criticism of CM, but in recognition of the fact that Spencer had more than a little of the firebrand in him, and these are times that would’ve stoked the firebrand.

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  47. “But I feel that my voice is one voice; one voice largely overwhelmed by the current vision of Christianity as an extension of the American dream of personal affluence and evangelical cultural triumph…

    I’m waiting for the birth of truly counter-cultural Christian voices; voices as arresting in these times as Guthrie, Dylan, Ochs and Seeger were in theirs. Christian voices that don’t require us to go to non-believers to hear the authentic message of the compassion and present power of the teachings of scripture on justice and mercy.

    I’m waiting.”

    He said all this back then. Lord knows what he’d say now. And some folks claim IMonk wasn’t “political” back in the good old days…

    Like

  48. After abortion and homosexual activism, the average evangelical’s engagement with social issues goes off the radar.

    I think he meant the opposite of what he said there. I.E. anti-abortion and anti-homosexual activism, as this is what Evangelical are known for.

    Like

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