A Liberation Front That Has Nothing To Do With Politics

In the early to mid 1970s, commercials for Mennen Skin Bracer aftershave were a staple of network television, especially sports programming. The tag line was simple: after the announcer deeply intoned how Skin Bracer’s skin tightner and chin chillers wake you up like a cold slap in the face, a man would slap some on – always twice – and end the commercial with, “Thanks – I needed that.” While minister, teacher, musician, and author Kemper Crabb’s aftershave preference is known but to himself and immediate family, he has taken Skin Bracer’s message to heart. His book Liberation Front: Resurrecting the Church is a Scriptural muscle-guided slap in the face to both individual believers and the church as a whole calling them, and it, back to the Biblically-ordained role and power the church has been divinely ordained to uphold in earth and in heaven.

Crabb is a Renaissance man, not only in how his music over the years has often referenced said era and earlier both musically and lyrically, but in his thorough knowledge of both Scripture and history. He makes his case both straight from the Bible and early church teachers/teachings that church membership is vital to every believer, alongside this outlining and then carefully detailing what Crabb labels the church’s seven modes (Romance, Family, Body, Temple, Pillar and Ground of Truth, Weapon, Liberating Army). Throughout the text Crabb exhorts, challenges, and confronts the reader to discard what he perceives as an emasculated view of the church’s role in society on all levels, instead embracing the Scriptural mandates and promised empowerment to be an effective force in first the lives of believers and from there the lives of others.

The book is not a mere recitation of the Riot Act to Christians equally afraid of their own shadow and determined to go it alone. Crabb points out that the way to genuine peace in Christ comes through embracing His divine empowerment, and its corresponding ramifications, in both the present day heavenly places and here on Earth. In his view, the church is painfully shortchanging itself, and its members painfully shortchanging themselves, by failing to embrace and live out the nearly unimaginable strengths available for the asking once the entirety of Biblical guidelines and promises are accepted, with tremendous emphasis on the neglected if not outright rejected supernatural portions of true life in Christ.

Liberation Front is not an easy read on multiple fronts. Crabb refuses to dumb down his writing, and as noted the book is void of warm spiritual-sounding fuzzies designed to make the reader feel good about him or herself regardless of where they are in life. But for the believer seeking adherence to, and clarification of, his or her true place in the church, the church’s true place in the world, and what God has in mind for His Bridegroom the Church, Liberation Front is as vital and mind/heart/soul-expanding as it gets in today’s world.

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Genuine

What does it mean to be genuine?

On the surface, that might seem like a rather odd, and obvious, question. Being genuine means being real. It entails authenticity. It incorporates truthful thoughts and emotions, working together with heart, soul, and spirit to be who we actually are, not who we think we are or wish to be. Or at least it ought to. Simple enough.

That said, being genuine does not always imply positives. If someone is an open-faced jerk, liar, abuser, or what have you, they are to their infinitesimally minute credit at least making no pretense regarding their character, or to be more precise lack thereof. Being genuine is hardly automatic eligibility for receiving time off due to good behavior.

Very few are genuine about what tears at them from within or without. The abuse victim carefully disguises her bruises with makeup and her emotional/mental scars with rationalizations they are somehow just punishment for her sins. The addict hides the bottle or weed or pills or syringe or powder or crystals from all save fellow addicts, to everyone else denying there is any problem while insisting they are complete masters of their preferred poison. The person being chewed up and spit out by the depression monster puts on the happiest of faces as they publicly trip the light fantastic and privately desperately try to not trip over their lying mind’s monotrack insistence there is no relief and no hope. We dream of peace and love. Far too many among us find neither.

Far too many of us also do what we can to avoid the genuine, for the genuine bears truth and truth can be most unkind to our aforementioned beliefs regarding who we are as compared to, well, truth. Many seek diversion via what athletes refer to as false hustle. False hustle makes a great show of demonstrating determination and grit. In fact, it is empty showboating, an attempt to window dress affecting that which is already determined. An example of this is a baseball player ferociously chasing down a foul pop up that everyone in the ballpark knows will land ten rows back in the seats. Outside of sports, false hustle commonly manifests itself as purporting oneself to be providing a great service by doing a great work when in Realville it is so much bell ringing within an echo chamber.

So what to do? The master of both shimmering pop and soul stripped bare blues says it best:

Seize the moment now
There’s so little time before it’s gone
Redemption is at hand
No matter what chemical you’ve taken on
And if you use another plan
It’s got to be the Genuine

The One Great Genuine is Christ, crucified and risen. Yet there are other elements of genuine. The kind word, the listening ear, the lifting up of a fellow ragtag soldier as each helps carry the other through this world’s minefields; these, too, are genuine. Such things are often drowned out in a world that mistakes drawing attention as validation. Yet they, not the noisemakers, are genuine.

Seek the genuine.

As Mercury Is Close To The Bering Sea

Twenty-two years ago, popular music was drenched in and defined by alternative rock. Although grunge was reeling from Kurt Cobain’s suicide the previous year, artists spanning the alt world – Live, Alanis Morrisette, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains – all had number one albums. Even as mainstream artists such as Hootie and the Blowfish burned brightly and then quickly faded away, it was alt rock that commanded the lion’s share of media attention and acclaim.

One would think given its lifelong penchant for aping the regular music world, in 1995 the Christian music industry would have been pumping out anything in flannel with a fuzztone as it attempted to cash in … er, reach the world by promoting artists attuned to the latest style in tunes. There were a few efforts, but to a one they made scarcely a dent in the regular music world’s conscious, let alone among the music-buying public (yes, kids, there was a time when people had to buy the music they wanted to hear instead of turning on Spotify and variations thereof to get it all for free or near-free). This left the handful of artists who played Christian alternative rock tucked into a cul-de-sac well off popular music’s main road. They were cherished by the faithful few who managed to find out said artists existed despite the profound absence of promotion and airplay within Christian music. Sadly, they were completely passed over by the mainstream audience that couldn’t get enough of artists and bands mining the same tuneful veins who ofttimes were the artistic inferiors of Christian artists, yet received all glory and praise while others languished in near total obscurity for the primary reason of those responsible for promoting these deserving artists being either unable to, or unwilling to, get the word out. One such band we today acknowledge, namely The Prayer Chain. Having recently put its 1995 and final studio album Mercury on its Bandcamp page provides the perfectly opportunity for unveiling this unknown slice of brilliance.

Rooted in Southern California, The Prayer Chain was on a record label owned by the management team that had made Amy Grant into a pop star. Yet even with this, it had not the slightest idea how to get the word out about this ferociously creative band. Apparently they were too busy blackballing me from the Christian music journalism world to undertake such an effort. But, that is a tale told elsewhere; back to Mercury.

The Prayer Chain was at its inception a fairly straightforward Christian rock band, albeit one with its sound firmly rooted in alternative rock’s aggressive guitar persona. The first hint this was not going to be a band prone to invitation at your local youth praise and worship session was 1993’s Shawl, when, on its first song, over a background chorus resembling an American Indian ghost dance chant fueled by peyote vocalist Tim Taber intoned ‘Shine is dead.’ For the record, “Shine” was the title of the band’s most upbeat Christianese song from its 1992 debut EP. From there, Shawl repeatedly bared its fangs, mixing songs such as one about a father abandoning his young son amid rich, florid without being pretentious Christian imagery. As superb as Shawl was, it only hinted at what was to come.

Mercury was originally presented to the record label in 1994 under the title Humb, an effort that so freaked out the powers that be they demanded some songs be removed altogether, other shuffled in play order, many remixed and reworked, and would you boys kindly record something new for the album we can actually release in the Christian marketplace. By this time in its brief lifespan the band was already falling apart, but it managed to put together the requested new track (“Sky High”). Yet even with this, The Prayer Chain maintained a fair amount of the anarchistic spirit that permeated the work; “Sky High” clocked in at a totally radio friendly exactly nine minutes.

Even in its slightly muted form as compared to the original, Mercury isn’t so much an album as a collection of cohesive chaos. A thick layer of effect-laden guitar sometimes drones and sometimes screams – quite regularly both simultaneously – as it swirls in and around slithery, frequently distorted bass lines, with drums more akin to an acidic percussionist than standard timekeeping completing the foundation for vocals from midnight in the garden where good and evil do battle. Had any of its standout tracks – “Waterdogs,” “Creole,” “Grylliade,” the list goes on – would have turned the mainstream alt rock world on its ear had they ever been brought to the attention of said ear. Which they weren’t. And so Mercury, and The Prayer Chain, regrettably slid out of view.

If you have any taste for raw, real music, don’t let past mistakes prevent you from seizing on this dark masterpiece. Get thee to the band’s Bandcamp site and buy Mercury today. It will shake you up for all the right reasons.