One of the more raging debate points these days within conservative new media is what exactly needs to be done as far as influencing popular culture. There is a general consensus that the right has abandoned the culture influencers — entertainment media, news media (insert obligatory “there’s a difference?” snark here) — in favor of either continuing to consume whatever is thrown its way by the aforementioned entities, regardless of how much it is slanted against they believe, or retreating behind a wall to create its own entertainment.
In both cases, it reinforces my belief that conservative new media is in the exact same position the contemporary Christian music industry was twenty to thirty years ago. You have a few heavy hitters who love to throw their weight around and lord over their phone booth-sized kingdoms, a goodly amount of people desperately vying for the high rollers’ attention in hopes of getting a better seat at the echo chamber banquet, some very good people content to be moderately in the business while refusing to be of it, and a handful of folk actively pursuing engagement with the outside world, their reward consisting of at best being tolerated and at worse openly opposed by the selfsame individuals who trumpet loud and long the need to… uh, engage the outside world.
One of my main goals with Cephas Hour is to open communication lines by playing music from artists who first blazed a trail into the previously unknown world of fitting in both with the Christian music world and the regular entertainment industry. Their reward for blazing said trail was more often than not having to dodge fires set in their path by those ostensibly on their side yet grievously offended by the artists’ efforts to bridge the gap. Little has changed in the decades since. The music remains alive and vital, the message remains clear and the reception remains decidedly mixed for those daring to be in the world but not of it.
Cephas Hour isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about now; a call to re-energize and revitalize what has lain dormant in so many hearts. It is an effort to get the music out there to two distinct groups. For the first, the hundreds of thousands who listened to these artists back in the day, it is a wake-up call for any among them who have let the years obscure this fundamental truth: while musical styles change, even as we change over time, Jesus remains the same and we can still know the joy that overwhelmed us when we first believed. The second group is those who should have heard the music when it was brand new but didn’t because they were denied the opportunity courtesy of radio stations who refused to play it, records stores who either reluctantly sold it or didn’t sell it at all and concert promoters who refused to let “those” people anywhere near their venues. These people don’t know what they missed. Well, up until now anyway.
If you reinvigorate someone at the deepest level, it becomes far easier to do so at all other levels. Intellectual appeals are a good thing, but ofttimes God speaks through His language, namely music, with far greater effect. Music engages heart and soul. The mind has no choice but to follow.
Speaking the common language of music opens doors no conservative blog, podcast or what have you can ever hope to reach. Cephas Hour isn’t part of the silliness that says let’s take popular songs and somehow extrapolate from them life lessons. It is music that both asks questions and provides answers. It is the open hand that says come, let us reason together; from there providing guidance toward common sense thinking, grounded in the faith, that leads to a radical shift toward normalcy. Certainly there are fans who are liberals. That’s okay. You’ve opened a dialog based in a common interest. That is the idea, isn’t it? Speaking to those who disagree with you and let what happens as a result happen?
Setting aside Cephas Hour so as to take this from the personal into the general, there are conservatives doing their best to address the public through different channels — music, film, etc. These efforts ought to be rewarded, or at the least supported. Yet, what is taking place is that when one or more of these artists does work that is overtly political and conservative, the praise flows like a river. Should they step out of that into doing something of an outreach nature, the crickets come to call. Without a Buddy Holly in sight.
Why is this?
Refer back to the comment about those desperately vying for a higher spot on the conservative new media totem pole. It generates energy within this circle to promote what others are promoting, making sure you stay true to the message and/or meme 24/7. It doesn’t pay nearly as well to talk about art that isn’t throwing raw meat to the audience, something that requires more than a knee-jerk reaction. Apparently many believe that introspection and meditation do not mesh well with blogging or Twitter. As a result, we get cartoon character heroes and villains, bathed in urgency’s tyranny; an endless cycle of the same faces and voices saying the same thing time and again for an audience that believes all this repetition will this time through somehow lead to a different result. No, it won’t.
Stretch out. Reach out. Embrace the more challenging way. Divest yourself of the comfort zone, or to put it in a more crude yet not inaccurate way the circle jerk. Actively support conservative arts not just when they’re toeing the line, but when they blur the division line between themselves, their beliefs, and the people outside your conversation zone. Yes, doing so may well cost you brownie points among the sheep. It will also provide you the satisfaction of knowing you’re not merely paying lip service to engaging the world.
You’re doing it.