The following is an excerpt from Impolite Questions for a Generous God by Jeremy Armstrong. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
As a one-time Christian music journalist, critic, and editor of a magazine focused on worship and the arts, I still get asked by family, acquaintances, and even co-workers a very similar question. It goes something like this: “So tell me from your perspective as an insider to the industry, why does Christian music suck?” And I know where they are coming from. Believe me, I do. I also fairly well get what they’re trying to get me to say. But still, to a blanket question such as that one, my answer tends to be, “What do you mean?”
I know. Not very helpful. But their question is a big one. And it’s a flawed one.
This is going to seem a little out of left field, but as we begin to unpack the strained or unstrained quality of Christian art let’s take a quick look at Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It will make sense in the end. (But I’m not going to hold your hand to get there; you are going to have to make the connection.) Typically, when people mention fictional dystopian societies (that aren’t in the Young Adult category of books), they bring up another novel: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four with the psychologically chilling “Big Brother” watching our every move. We see Big Brother everywhere—monitoring us and limiting our information, controlling us with fear and pain into submission. Terror, thoughtcrimes, constant war—this allegory feels very real to us. However, this is not the way the world ends in Brave New World. In Huxley’s fictional reality, humans are not controlled by fear. It’s the opposite. They give up their independence willingly. Their control is not taken; it is offered—traded for pleasure and comfort. They are lulled into loving their oppression. They crave the very devices—technologies, drugs, ideals—that are their captors. And they stop thinking. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Brave New World is so chilling because one wonders if this fictional prophecy ever came to fruition, would we recognize it?
Christian music has a problem: It needs some new friends. It needs friends who believe in it. Who see its potential and are willing to stand up for it. Who won’t turn their backs on it and who will stick around to see the ups and feel the downs. These friends, though, they have to be real. They can’t be picking the math nerd for the kickball game because mom told them to. They have to buy into this relationship, able to defend what they say. Most of all, they have to believe. They have to know deep in their deepest bones that there is something potentially beautiful available here. That the most powerful connection between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the mysterious overwhelming power revealed by three chords and the truth is not just possible, it is promised, and it will change the world in some important ways. A new relationship needs to be formed, and I believe this can happen.
Praise for Impolite Questions for a Generous God
“I found Jeremy’s book to be a naked truth of how we tend to over simply the the events/culture of our lives. God is not a cliche and to make him/her as such is to not appreciate the true beauty. Well written, I laughed and cried, I changed.”
—An Amazon Reviewer
“Profound, easy-to-read, honest and generous. These essays hold together well and share the stories of a man just as defined by his loves as he is by his losses. Mr. Armstrong, write more!”
—An Amazon Reviewer
About the Author
Jeremy Armstrong has spent time living in Cambodia as a missionary, starting a church in San Diego’s inner city, and running youth programs for people with disabilities. He has also spent over a decade in the Christian music industry as managing editor, writer, and music critic for Worship Leader magazine where he has interviewed and written stories on some of today’s most influential Christian artists such as David Crowder, Joel Houston (Hillsong United), Amy Grant, Michael W Smith, Darlene Zschech, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and many more.