This is your first Christian album in nearly three years. How have you spent the interim period?
Has it been that long? Well, as far as recording goes, I've been busy helping on other people's projects lately. I still work with Larry Norman quite a bit, and he and I have been co-producing a guy from England named Steve Scott. I think Steve's images and poetic sense far surpass what the Christian public has been used to. I'm looking forward to the changes which may come about as a result of projects like Steve's. Also, I have been spending a good bit of my time in Europe, producing in the studios there. One band I've produced in Switzerland is already getting national airplay . I like to call them the Screaming Cheese Band. All their lyrics are written in Swiss-German dialect. There are no Christian radio stations there; the radio is run by the government. But the "secular" society seems somewhat tolerant of projects done by Christians, because the Christians there are clearly interested in being real, and not allowing their Christianity to set them culturally apart from their friends.
I understand you've been playing concerts back and forth across the Atlantic and have released a new album in Europe?
Yes; the overseas concerns and record provide feedback from different cultures. I think it's good for anybody to see how people live and how they think in different places. It helps you see the good and bad aspects of your own culture more clearly. It is quite a challenge to try and help some of these friends avoid mistakes that have been made in Christian music in the last decade in the US.
What do you do when you're at home?
I've been putting together a collection of photographs and notes made during past excursions hoping they may be of use to somebody . I've been doing exotic things like learning to knit. My wife taught me (she spins the yarn from wool). I feel guilty sometimes knowing that somewhere a sheep is running around naked while we say we own his warmth in sweater form. Last but not least, Larry and Little Bobby Emmons and I have been honing our careers as bleacher bums at Dodgers games.
In the past you have mentioned your involvement with L'Abri. Have your recent trips to Europe spawned continued involvement with them?
Yes. I feel closer than ever to the people there. They were of such help to me when I had questions as a skeptic, and as a Christian. Their attitude towards the value of creativity and the Arts and their support of my work has meant quite a lot to me.
You referred earlier to your days as a skeptic. Is skepticism a sin, or does it seem to you a plague of sorts to those so minded?
Skepticism doesn't have to be viewed as a liability . Unfortunately,
most of the time Christians see it that way. I have had hard times in the
past because of that -- my questions were equated with sin by most of the
believers around me, and that caused s
till more questions, like, ''well, shouldn't God's people be concerned enough about me to help me instead of crossing their arms and waiting for me to see things their way?" It bothered me for a long time. When a person has no rational basis for his faith, or feels that he has lost that rational basis, it is quite painful . It's hard to believe with your heart if there is conflicting information in your mind. To ignore the mind and brush off the questions is wrong, and is more an Eastern idea than a Christian one. So finally I figured, ''well, if Christianity can't stand up to questioning, it's not the truth, and if it's not worth scrutiny, it's not worth believing." So my skepticism continued and led me to look deeply into the matters in question. Most of my answers came from quiet study. Skepticism was an asset to me in that it forced the roots of my faith to grow deeper.
Did becoming a Christian change your approach to music at all?
Well, in the late Sixties when Christian music was becoming popular,
it was "in'' in the secular world to inundate your songs with a message.
You know, revolution and all that. So Christian Rock got off on that foot,
and of course most Christians began to
see music as a tool with which young people could be reached evangelistically. I always kinda resented that idea. It is valid to say that music can be used by God, but it's unfair to put a limit on the number of ways in which music can be valuable to a Christian or to someone who isn't. I hate to see music be only a podium on which one stands to voice his convictions. To Christians especially, there is a broad spectrum of human and artistically valuable purposes for making music other than to have some background music for a revival meeting. So much Christian music is missing the human touch. When people who aren't Christians look at the Christian music field as a whole, they probably don't see much honesty. It's hard for me to say that because it may offend somebody; many Christian artists may really be breaking their backs to make an honest presentation of their faith. But sometimes we're so wrapped up as Christians in our own terminology, and our own trends of thought, and our own circle of understanding that we don't venture out and truly relate to a person on the outside so that he might look at us and say, ''Regardless of what I think, and the biases I have, this person has really shown me the truth.'' We need to be concerned about being real, honest people, not haughty and pious; we should begin to avoid writing things that are supposedly "spiritual' and contain all the terminology and inundations of songs that have been written throughout Christian history. We need to move on from where we are and make our faith real in the eyes of the human beings around us, taking off our masks and letting them see that ours are human faces as well. Otherwise, we are slighting those people and fooling ourselves, and not living up to the expectations that God has of us to present the Truth as the TRUTH, and reality as it actually is, including all its real joy, all its real pain, all its complexity and ambiguities, all its wonder.
Do you think Evangelism means more than telling the simple gospel message?
We modern Christians live in an age in which Evangelism enjoys a high position on the totem pole of Christian activity or at least theology. But I'm not so sure we know what evangelism is anymore. We have told ourselves what it is thousands and thousands of times, and we have believed ourselves. It has become a creed unto itself, and the rules of if are usually structured to lump the ''unsaved'' together in a general heap, and then to "witness" to them according to a prefabricated plan. Once you're a Christian, it's easy to tell other people that they should be too. It seems so obvious and easy to you that you can forget that it may not seem that way to someone who is not yet a Christian himself. It's too easy to believe that everyone realizes his need for a Savior, but just will not accept Him. I tell you, that's not the case in our society anymore, and it's becoming less and less the case. What does our message mean to these people? Usually nothing. We are not even in their realm of thought. We blame their disbelief on their hard hearts, but we may be causing them to harden more because we do not understand their presupposed notions of what the nature of the universe really is, and that may be, and likely is, quite different from the orthodox Christian view. I'm not saying God can't work in their hearts, but we are responsible as well to reach their minds. So we have to learn to meet people where they are without condescending. If someone doesn't believe God exists, do we have something more to discuss with him than to tell him we'll pray for him and leave him a tract? We have become an ugly sort of non human in our noble efforts to take the message (the one we have told ourselves is the best form of the message) to the people, and we have failed miserably. we must realize that our non-theistically oriented society needs some background, a foundation if they are to ever understand our personalized versions of the Christian message. We must broaden our horizons in order that we may totally understand the thought forms of those around us.
Some have said your songs are too esoteric, not simplistic or straightforward enough for the Christian public. Couldn't one accuse you of doing the same thing you have called unfair, that is writing what you want to write rather than seeking a lower common denominator which more people would respond to? If that's where the people are, Christians in this case, according to yourself, shouldn't you meet them there?
If I placed the highest value on pleasing the largest number of Christian people, that's what I'd do. But I'm not looking for votes, and my music isn't only for Christians. I figure that given the level of consciousness found in most present day media efforts, it's important now not to compromise depth for more widespread acceptance. Most people should be intelligent enough to comprehend something if they want to, so I write what I want to write, hoping they will seek to understand the things I'm saying. You can't depend on the public market to help you decide what to write anyway. The Oral Roberts Press said my last American album was only worth one listen, and then Group magazine picked the same album as album of the year. I don't listen to either side. There'll always be plenty of people on both sides, so there's no point trying to tailor your work to fit someone's expectations.
Do you think Christian records will ever be accepted in the pop field?
It's according to what you mean by Christian records. I don't think
the pop market will ever accept the cultural trappings which so often accompany
contemporary Christian messages. Here's George Gallup running around the
country telling us that well over half of all Americans are "born again''.
Well then, why don't Christian records share well over half the sales figures
with other records? I think there are fewer real Christians than the pollsters
have realized. So then we have the opposite reactions by
those in the Christian market, namely, ''Oh, the Devil owns this wicked world, and therefore, the record business, and so it is no wonder they run and hide from us when we try to bring them the Gospel message!" So then, it's comfortable to pass the buck to Satan and turn your back. I don't think an honest attempt has been made yet by large numbers of Christians with access to the media, to be truthful in their messages, yet without cultural additions from Christian circles. You cannot expect someone who does not know or presently care if God exists to understand what "Hallelujah" means to you and your Bible study group. I think the truth can still be communicated after being stripped of unnecessary cultural overtones.
How can Christians become aware of the "Secular" thought forms around them?
That's a good question. How can you explain your frame of reference to somebody if they will only view it through their frame of reference? How can you try to explain a foreign culture to somebody who will probably never understand another culture, primarily due to the fact that he thinks he understands the other culture already? He has a defined niche for it in his present frame of reference and any new information is simply guided to the proper pigeonholes, right beside other particulars which are thought to be familiar and understood by him. Why is it so hard to surprise someone with reality? One should be at times surprised to see it with objective eyes, or another pair than one's own. How can you explain color to a blind man, especially if he already thinks that he understands the concept of color? How can you give him sight, surprise him, confront him with the way things are outside his world?
I think if is desirable to be able to see things in more than one way, from more than one vantage point. That is the purpose I think education should be capable of fulfilling, but how do you break down walls gently and properly? You can't tell someone that the world they see is not the real world, after they've believed it is for many years. How do you strive to take somebody's mind on a trip so real that they see their own bubble from the outside, and others' thoughts from the inside? It takes a lot of creativity to do that, but that is what must be done if whole people are to be the products of the educational process, and I don't just mean in the school system; our education comes as much from those around us as it does from books and teachers.
You've spoken a good bit about contemporary media influence on the popular level in society. Do you think the death of Marshall McLuhan will have any significant effect on thought forms in media circles?
Probably not, on the popular level. McLuhan was more of an observer than a consultant anyway, and any effect he had on the media themselves was probably rather indirect. Of course his most famous observation, "the medium is the message" has turned out to be relatively true, I think, but with exceptions. By that he meant that the effect of the nature of the media themselves is more significant than the effect of any content which the media have been used to convey. Anything you put on television, for example, loses much of its impact by the fact that it's just something else on television. A newspaper is always the same number of pages whether there's any news or not. I think Christians have been prey to this phenomenon in broadcasting Christian shows that look like every other show. The message can become just one more of the myriad of opinions thrown at us by the electronic toys we've surrounded ourselves with, with filler to make it standard broadcast length.
You make phonograph records. In considering media as environments, according to McLuhan, couldn't phonograph records also be viewed as prisons for the content they are wished to convey?
Yes; I think, however, the question of whether the content of any medium
is eligible for parole to the thinker is still a valid one. One might also
say that since familiarity breeds contempt, the cumulative effect of the
content of a recording is lost by
its repeated playback. That is a very real danger, but to the willing, content can still be gotten, even from well-worn discs. The same is true of oft-repeated phrases, and the battle is not entirely new.
How do you think media influences people?
I agree with McLuhan that those of us born in the latter half of this century are influenced to a higher degree than we may realize by the media bombardment we have grown so accustomed to. Man made the media, and now they are making him, telling him what he is. Media can destroy a culture by encouraging popular or expected feedback patterns instead of true and heartfelt ones. The real us can be lost in the us media have given us. I read a book by an anthropologist recently, and the author noted the demise of Eskimo art in Northern Canada. It seems some art dealers discovered the genuine Eskimo art pieces and saw them as marketable. But in the meantime, they encouraged the Eskimos to modify the art, so it would be more like most people's preconceived notions of Eskimo art. The product the Eskimos ended up turning out had little resemblance to their original folk-art, but the public never knew that. The next generation of Eskimo artists had never seen the original art, and each artist producing works to the specifications of the art dealers thought he was making genuine original Eskimo art. So, they had been told who they were, and they had believed it. Something irreplaceable was lost in the process.
Likewise, media would encourage a saleable culture to dominate a real
one, and the next generation's self-identity would be molded in part by
it. If you tell people what they are long enough, pretty soon they will
start to believe it. Their children will
grow up never knowing they are not what they would have been without the outside influence. This is what media have done in answer to the question, "what is man?" We're only now starting to realize its effects on ourselves. And however noble the original intentions, this is exactly what has happened as well with Christian media. We have told ourselves popular and sale-able ideas about what Christians are, and we have believed what we told ourselves. Now, many people are financially involved, so it is harder and harder to break away and seek out what we really are. But I think it is time more of us were concerned with reality, and not let the nature of media and public opinion manipulate us any longer. But we have to keep our eyes open. We have to find out what manner of creature we are, and ignore popular ideas and the things we've told ourselves about ourselves over the years. We have to fight to keep the sociological dominoes from sweeping us into their falling pattern, whether the pressure is from secular society or Christian society. We have to learn to think for ourselves.
Do you think hype can occur in the promotion of "Christian" products?
Yes, I do. What is hype? It's just finding out what you think the most
people want and then saying it in an exciting way that you have something
that meets all those criteria. In the secular fields, you can do it with
sex, sales figures, anything. In the
Christian field, you can do it that way too, or even worse, you can do it with conformity and orthodoxy. You can do it with promises of spirituality. It can be so unreal, but people will go for it. It sickens me at times. I don't want the next generation
thinking this is normal. We hear so much hype, and not enough truth any more. This is another sad side effect of the media on our Christian endeavors. Is it possible to inform a public of a product using the truth and not hype, or will the nature of promo
tion itself, having been established by secular media, reduce even a truthful statement about a "product" to a form of hype? We have all been told to play Wizard of Oz for so long, that pretty soon, no one will know how to look behind the curtain.
What advice would you give to someone who writes songs and is thinking of getting involved in Christian music?
Well, you know there's always the problem of pinpointing just where you fit in. Do you feel that you are to be a minister, and the music is secondary to you, or are you primarily a musician who is a Christian? The spectrum for involvement seems to he broadening, and I'm glad to see it because it's wrong to force someone who could be of value on one level to be committed on another level. So there's that whole struggle. Then too, there is and has always been a struggle between creative art and popular art.
Most creative Artists wish to be popular, or accepted in their
field, and most popular artists make some kind of a stab at being creative,
or at least at remaining popular. But how does an artist become popular?
Perhaps by doing something unheard of and
new; this novelty, in time, could he interpreted in terms of creative genius, or it may pass and seem rather dated in the near future. Or, the artist could become popular by doing himself what is already accepted as popular. Rock and Roll propagates Rock and Roll, New Wave propagates New Wave; if something is popular, that popularity is imputed to anything else that resembles that something. Do what the people like and the people will like you. There's an obvious fallacy here, though: It is wrong to mistake acceptance for success or for art. Popularity only means you're doing what the people want. So that artist is in actuality being manipulated by the public. On the other hand, if an artist tries and fails to gain recognition or acceptance, it could mean one of two things: 1) maybe his work isn't that good (the public has to he given at least some credit for distinguishing between good and bad, or 2) maybe his work will not fit the popular trends. Fail to do what the people want and the people do not want you. So someone who can't get a niche for himself in the hearts of the people is wrong to despair, as is the "successful" artist wrong to revel in his mass acceptance. Both attitudes are wrong. One minute, you might despair because of rejection, and the next minute you're overwhelmed with complacency because of success. All that happened was somebody pushed the button. And it can work in reverse - the flash in the pan syndrome. So one shouldn't seek acceptance. The best idea seems to try to get better and better at what you do and what you like, with as conscientious an attitude towards the validity of art for the Christian as you can. If people should decide to accept you en masse at some future date, or if God decides to use what you do, then, okay.
Remember though, it is simply the nature of fame that attracts gawkers,
not qualities in the gawkee. As Christians, I think we are to be concerned
with the quality of our lives, regardless of and in spite of public acceptance
or rejection, including that
from the Christian public. Don't ever let anyone tell you what God wants to do with your life. That's for you and God to decide. We have no way of knowing what God will use and what He will not use. I think a lot of people may get surprised one day in that matter.
Do you think that there is any value in secular artistic endeavors for the Christian from either the aspect of the artist or the listener?
Yes, because God made man in His image, and that image includes creativity.
So I think any truly creative act has value, intrinsic value, because God
put it there. It is a shame for Christians to reject art done by non-Christians
(though it's also a shame that these creators don't know the origin of
their creativity). When I look around today at the art that is being done,
looking past the hype, I'd have to say that the "secular" art does exhibit
a higher quality than does the corresponding "Christian" art. It hasn't
always been that way -Christians in the Renaissance period were the ones
setting the trends which everyone else was following, the opposite of what
is happening today. I think it's time we started really listening to what
some of these "secular" artists have to say; they are the true spokesmen
for the society of which they are parts and prophets. It is they who are
defining the ramifications of problems of society as they relate to the
individual. It is they who are defining life and love and
man himself to the world; we'd better listen to who they say we are before we try to tell them who God says we are, so that we don't insult them by our ignorance of their emotions and thoughts. These artists are often unhappy and their songs are their tears. Why do we sometimes treat them as if it is wrong to cry in a fallen world? More often our songs should he our tears as well. If you are crying and all you see are others laughing, it gets to you. Where is our sympathy? Why do their tears fall so unfelt at our very feet? Why do we not cry more ourselves? We live in reality too.
How can one combat the mass-mindedness of society especially as it relates to Christian endeavors?
I don't know exactly, but it takes a human touch. You know the Waltons TV show lasted so long because people liked the folkiness of it, the human touches, if you will. Now that was hyped up to an unnatural state, but it survived. But how to bring Humanness to all things, I don't know. I can just tell you some of the things I've done recently. Instead of buying pieces of furniture, I've just made some. I made my desk from antique pine lumber which had been a structural part of my reat-grandfather's country house in South Georgia. My parents salvaged the lumber when the house was torn down. That way, the desk means something to me. I work on my songs there, and it's much more than just a piece of furniture. My personal stationery is also homemade. I made a photographic design from a butterfly I had in my insect collection as a kid - I think I caught him in Florida. My wife and I print them up at home with a silkscreen process. So when I send somebody a letter, there's some thought and work represented in the stationery.
As far as public efforts, my recently released European album was a joint effort towards encapsulating humanness, made by myself and the European company, King's Records. We tried a lot of things to make the record a very personal vestige and not just another package of supposedly personal things. On the front cover, I put a blowup of my right index fingerprint, as a statement against the impersonality that generally accompanies record releases. For the same reason, I don't make myself smile for photographs unless I just happen to be smiling and the photographer snaps it spontaneously. I don't think we should try to make people think that being a Christian means we smile all the time. That's ugly and not real. So I guess if we start making a stand for humanness in small ways, maybe some of the impersonal trappings of media efforts will loosen their strangleholds on our lives. I hope so.
Aren't some of the ills you've pointed out just a manifestation of man's sinful nature? Shouldn't the worsening of the world's condition only serve to remind us of Christ's imminent return?
Christians sometimes seem to me to have a warped enjoyment in attesting to the fallenness of the world, so much so that sometimes they go to great lengths in books to correlate all the horrible things that happen daily with Biblical prophecy. They get so excited about it, as if it were wonderful that people are going to Hell under our very noses. Now surely recognition of sin and evil in the world is proper, but I think we are bombarded by it so much that some Christians have begun to think of the earth itself as evil. (That thought is not originally from God's mind at all.) Life is sometimes seen by them as a negative thing, and eschatology can become an escape valve. The prospect of being taken from the earth without pain or death is certainly popular.
But living only for fulfillment of one's eschatological views can rob
one of the fullness of life still possible. The world is fallen but not
ruined for the believer. The garden still exists because of our redemption
through Christ. We shouldn't squander
our lives and our live's effects on those around us away, while looking for Christ to return. We in so doing defeat our whole purpose. Paul had some strong words to some first century Christians concerning the same problem in Thessalonica. We must never allow ourselves to lose sight of the present. Often I wonder why Christian leaders do not realize what is happening around us as the meetings go on, hoping to draw new believers out of the world like a rescue operation on a sinking ship. Is there any hope to help make the world slow down in its demise? Some are so sure of Christ's imminent return that society around them goes to the dogs as they continue in their emergency salvage operations. Is it not time to ask the question, "what hope will our children have in a worse world if Christ does not return in thirty years?" It scares me to think what kind of world this will he in thirty years if we continue to be separatists and refuse action against the atrocities of our society. How selfish of us. Pessimism about the future, even if based on eschatological theology, is no reason to refuse to accept responsibility for what the future turns out to be. I imagine that, if Christians during World War II had seen the war as Armageddon (and I'm sure some did), responsibilities would have been shirked, seemingly justifiably. But the world is still here today. Now that we are faced with the potential of having the world as we know it blown right out from under our noses, it is again easy to shirk the responsibility we have to make the world a more godly place, and let events run their courses, not realizing that in doing nothing, we are contributing to that course. If we Christians do not progress in our thinking, our children will be at the mercy of whatever happens. We live in a post-Christian era, regardless of what George Gallup has said with his polls. Naturalism, not Theism, long ago became the basis for thought in nearly every field of endeavor, and if we fail to recognize that, we are fools. Christians may have trouble seeing that because few of us rub elbows with people in the "secular" world any more. We operate on the assumption of Theism, and the world does not, plain and simple. We have failed to give substantial criticisms to the non-Theist system, preferring to avoid hard questions, and we have cut ourselves off from them and live in separatism. If our faith doesn't visibly and honestly address the basis of that split, then our children will be without the basis of a faith that is anything more than mysticism. Their questions and dilemmas will he real, and our old separatist answers will he insufficient. So they will lose their faith without answers or they will have a meaningless and inadequate faith, with our simplistic solutions. Their problems will be more complex than we know. Naturalistic thought is busy working its way out in society, and just as it eventually affected the philosophers a century and two centuries ago, so it is now affecting the thought patterns of the man on the street. Non-Theistic ethics are here already, and any other ethic will soon he forgotten entirely, as it is now in some circles, being without sufficient rational basis to them because of our past hiding. I'm afraid we maybe too late to stop it now. Most Christians are not really aware that the problem exists; those that do realize it seldom recognize it as a conceptual problem, and they treat each manifestation of it symptomatically. There must be education for today's Christians. We are already so ineffective in formulating thought that our role as mystics can't be far behind. If we are to suffer later for that role, part of the blame will be ours for not taking the opportunity sooner to speak rationally concerning the basis of truth and ethics.
But why all this concern with society? Isn't someone who preaches social concern just preaching a "social gospel" instead of a spiritual one?
Isn't it nice that we have terms like that, and pigeon holes too, so we can classify things and rob them of their depth and complexity? When Jesus healed the blind man, or when He drove the money changers from the temple, or when He shed tears for Lazarus, was He preaching the "social gospel?" Do not misunderstand; if our faith does not affect our thought patterns, and if it does not interrupt our "business as usual" approach to life, and if other human beings' lives are ignored by us while we cling to theological affirmations, be assured that we are not whole people. The "social gospel" is irrelevant only to someone who thinks human lives are irrelevant. Christians can be so busy playing doctor that they forget to use their stethoscopes. Pretty soon we may find ourselves being sued for malpractice.
I'd like to ask you to give me a brief summary of your perceptions of some of the songs on your album, Stop the Dominoes. First, "I'm In Chains."
This song was an attempt to draw a satirical picture of the philosophy so often espoused, sometimes unconsciously, by modern Christians in their attempts to separate spirituality from the rest of human existence. Activities get labelled as spiritual or non-spiritual and it seems a hierarchy comes about concerning which activities are the most spiritual. Our humanness often gets pushed aside. (After all, Paul urged us to set our minds on the things Above, didn't he?) Truly we should he careful about our lives becoming entangled in themselves. But I think Christians sometimes go too far in "denying the self." We can lose the humanness that God created us with. We can miss a large portion of life if we aren't careful. In Eastern philosophy it is of great value to lose the consciousness of day-to-day existence in favor of "higher truths." Life becomes merely an illusion, a shadow of the real. To be human becomes undesirable; transcendence is sought after and deemed superior. But in the end, no one can live explaining everything about his life away. As C.S. Lewis said, "You will find that you have explained explanation itself away..." Any system of thought which allows no value to human thought will destroy its own efforts. Life for the Christian is not an illusion, nor was it intended to be. It's all too real, and we are not to try to escape its reality as the existentialists have done. Nor is humanness evil in itself. Sometimes it seems Christians confuse their human nature with their sinful nature. But they are different. The former we were created with, the latter we chose. It does us no good to try and escape the humanness and in so doing think we are escaping the sin. Our lives are important, and we are responsible before God for how we live them. That's what I'm trying to say in this song, and much of my other work also reflects that view.
In your song, "One of the Dominoes" you portray people as hapless victims of their own collective popular opinions, especially in regards to the methods by which truth is established. Comments?
And that's just the problem. Nowadays it's popular in society for each
individual to decide what truth is for himself, aided of course by the
propaganda thrown at him from virtually every angle in each field of endeavor.
So maybe in the end he doesn't actually decide, he just thinks he did,
but society has made the decision for him. It may he a simple case of mass
ignorance like, "Truth is either A, B, or C," society not realizing that
D is also an alternative. Today it is really more like, "Truth is sort
of like A,'' and people pick up their values in this way unconsciously. We are victims of our own trends. This can lead to serious consequences. Take ethics, for example. The Bible is not society's basis for ethics anymore. When it was the basis, something was right or wrong because God had revealed that it was, and it was not open to discussion. But when the Bible was rejected by society, and this happened a longer time ago than most Christians may realize, then the basis for ethics became what the largest number of people believed to be right and wrong. Well, while a lot of people who initially derived their ethics from the Bible were around, the system still looked like a fairly Bible-believing society. But today some of the changes are becoming rather obvious. Today, whether something is considered right or wrong by society is not inherent in the act, but is determined by the consequences of it. On the popular level that translates to "I'll do whatever I want as long as I don't hurt anybody." On the intellectual, academic, legislative or judicial level it translates, "It is legal (and therefore right) to perform this abortion, because due to Down's syndrome, this child would have been a misfit in society anyway." So you see, the criteria can slowly change. Today it may he okay to kill because of fetal-genetic imperfection, tomorrow it may graduate, if you can call it that, to be okay to kill (or terminate) because of genetic imperfection at age ten, or sociological imperfection at age forty. So you see, we've left the mandate "Thou shall not kill." The new rules are made by society, and whatever society decides is best for society is the ethical basis. It's a horrible thing when you realize what that means. We who are Christians should certainly recognize that, and should not allow the dominoes to sweep us over in their flow; rather we should seek to try to stop the chain reaction, and even reverse it. But it will be a long hard process. Society doesn't accept the Bible as the ethical basis anymore, and any appeals we make on Its behalf will not do much good. We must first help establish that the Bible is indeed credible, the only certain final moral authority, being revealed by God Himself as our guideline for ascertaining right and wrong. How to
patiently do this in the face of an overwhelmingly non-Theist society will perhaps be our biggest problem to deal with as Christians in the coming years, but we must try. We must affirm the true value of each and every human being in the eyes of God. We must affirm that truth is different from mass opinion, and we must look to God, not society, not Christian leaders, for final authority ourselves.
Do you think it is possible for Christians to collectively make mistakes or bad decisions which affect society in an adverse way?
What in your opinion is the worst such mistake made by Christians in the last twenty years?
I think it would have to he the syndrome of trying to make the truth desirable and needed in people's eyes in efforts to sell it. You know, saying the reason one should become a Christian is for one's own ultimate happiness. "You should become a Christian because it will give you real peace." Now that statement is true in some respects, but there are a lot of things which will make you happy, and they are all being hawked too. You could make a pitch for Christianity, and a group from India could make a pitch for Krishna, and Proctor & Gamble could make a pitch for dishwashing detergent, and if you put them side by side, the only differences would be of the fill-in-the-blank type. Of course, we cannot demonstrate that Christ is the only way if we do it in a fashion which puts us in the same boat with other people trying to work the same persuasion with a different product. How utterly absurd.
We do not become followers of Christ in order to feel good or to have peace. We become followers of Christ because His message is the Truth, regardless of how we may ever feel. We bow to the Truth because it is the Truth, and we bow to God because He is God. Our faith is not a method for our satisfaction - it is obedience to the Creator regardless of the consequences.
What caused you to include "One Night Stand" on this album?
Well, it's just an expose of sorts on the impersonality of the times
in which we live. As a twentieth century songwriter, I don't walk to the
next village to sing my songs. I fly thousands of miles through the air
on a big wad of factory produced metal from Pennsylvania and plastic from
Long Beach and glass made in New York from African sands; eat a piece of
conveyor-belt grown chicken from North Carolina as I pass over Albuquerque
and wash it down with water put on board in Chicago, which fell as rain
heaven knows where or when. For dessert there's a delicious combination
of chemicals from all over the country, chemicals people have fought wars
over, all made into a cake somewhere in Ohio. I'm unaware of some radio
signals coming to a guy I can't see, nevertheless who holds my life in
his hands, and soon we exchange the cloudless blue for a rain some people
have been experiencing all day. I go to claim my baggage, and a sign reminds
me that it looks like everybody else's baggage, because they all come from
the same factory in Detroit. I go to a motel that looks like every other
motel, a concert hall that looks like every other concert hall, stand in
front of two Shure sm-58 microphones, that look like the same ones from
the night before, and I try to be an individual human being, a unique creature
of God, for an audience that has become accustomed to everybody being like
everybody else they've heard, so they come up afterwards to tell me who
else I sound like. It's just the times in which we live. How I long for
mass production and mass-mindedness to lose their grips on us. How I long
to see more creativity on the individual level. You can't build your own
747, but after all you only need one in the first place because somebody
told you it is better to fly a thousand miles than to walk to the next