You could say the same thing about books. “Christian books are so cheesy,” says the guy holding the Amish romance. But what about Walt Wangerin? Marilynne Robinson? Frederick Buechner? Eugene Peterson? Leif Enger? Wendell Berry?
The problem, you see, isn’t that Christian artists lack honesty. It’s that the masses seem to prefer something else, and that something else casts a long shadow. There have always been, and will always be, followers of Jesus working away in the shadow of what’s popular, using their gifts to season their communities with honest and beautiful art. And I will always harbor a crazy hope that some of it will break into the mainstream so that even the most cynical listener might encounter the honesty that Bono’s talking about. If nothing else, I hope that this conversation prompts some people to seek out the artists that aren’t played on the radio every five minutes. Part of the reason I started the Rabbit Room website years ago was to draw attention to good, true, and beautiful works of art that were more or less ignored by the mainstream.
So in one sense, Bono’s exactly right. I hope that his conversation leads those with influence in popular Christian music to consider the Psalms, to acknowledge the responsibility that comes with their massive cultural impact. That means putting songs into the world that the audience might need to hear, songs that might reflect not what’s hip and safe but what’s beautiful and true and honest.
And on the other hand, I want Bono to listen to some of my friends. I’d love to see him draw attention to the many who are too explicitly Christian in content for the mainstream yet don’t stand a chance on Christian radio because they don’t reflect the sonic homogeny of the decade. Let’s talk about the artists who are baring their souls, troubadours and prophets with beautifully imperfect voices and stunning rhymes, songs about divorce and heartbreak and doubt, just like the Psalms—but also like the Psalms, songs about God’s steadfast kindness, his tender mercy, our desperate need for rescue.
They’re out there, Bono, doing exactly what you and Eugene described. How can we draw more attention to what’s working than to what’s broken?
If you want to discover some of the songwriters, authors, and visual artists I mentioned in this piece, visit the store at www.RabbitRoom.com.
About Andrew Peterson | Andrew Peterson is a singer/songwriter of more than ten albums and is the author of the award-winning fantasy series The Wingfeather Saga, as well as the founder of a creative community called the Rabbit Room. He lives with his wife and three children in Nashville, Tennessee. www.andrew-peterson.com