Saturday, January 20, 2007

Tomlin's Labyrinth

Saw Pan's Labyrinth tonight. Terrific movie. A tad high on the holy-crap-that-was-violent-and-didn't-see-that-coming scale, but it was cool nonetheless. I think he (the director) should have spent a little more time in the fantasy world. She (the little girl... watch the preview) basically showed up, ate a couple of grapes and got chased by what looked like an old man, skinned and eyeball-less. For some reason I just craved more from that world. Not the naked old skinnless man but more of the fantasy stuff. Oh well. All in all, the film was exceptional.

The film aside, I saw and heard something tonight that bothered me. I have been trying to figure out why it bothered me since. There was this preview to the film about an up-and-coming film around the story behind the hymn, Amazing Grace. In the beginning of the trailer we are greeted with none other than the one and only Chris Tomlin singing Amazing Grace.

I can't help but tell you that for some reason, I felt violated. I squirmed in my seat. It was the last thing I thought I would hear that night and to be honest, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. Nothing against Tomlin, it’s just... I can't seem to get away from the guy. I realized that I don't go to the movies anymore so much to escape my woes, but to escape pop-culture-Christianity. Then I realized that I am a small part of that. It just irritated the snot outta me and I can't seem to get over it.

Help me out here.


Anonymous said...

Permit me, but maybe it's not so much Tomlin himself as the slavish devotion he inspires among people whose theology and music tastes are membrane thin. I really don't mean to sound mean or snobbish, because in truth I'm neither, and I realize that his fans aren't his fault. But his music and its uses in Christian culture do seem to lend themselves to people who are looking to be seen doing the right things.

As a personal view, his music isn't that rangy or complex and his theology is mostly gospel platitudes. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with either of those things necessarily. But if that's as deep as you ever go with either subject, you're in trouble. And I suspect you may be as perturbed as I am by how long so many Christians are willing to play in the shallow end.

Too harsh?

Seth Ward said...

I don't think I could say it better if I tried.

jeanette said...

Just happend upon your blog, and your post intrigued me...

God has been showing me things in so many people's lives lately, that even just in my seeing that person, I start to feel a certain uncomfortableness, like you were descibing,and I kept wondering why someone's life and walk would make me soo uncomfortable... then He began to show me why.... Becasuse the light of God shining through those people, exposes my own weakness and darkness, and the uncomfortablnes bceomes even stronger when it's something that I don't want to even think about, let alone admit that I have an issue with.

And as a side-note with chris in particular... what strikes me is the realization of the hugeness of God... to see in real form God taking a no-one from small town Texas and giving him a platform so huge that God can literally personally touch the world through the words, music, and life of a very small person.. but whose heart is determined to live his life to bring Him glory... and God saying back to me... "I can do this with you too... if you'll only seek after me and abandon your own will and plans for your life...."

Which then takes me back to the "impossibleness" of so many things that God DID in the Bible... starting with the formation of a child who was both man and God in the womb of a teenage-girl who had never had sexual relations.... the I start to think about the "impossibility" of Sarah and Abraham ever having a child at their age... and yet God gave them Issac... and my heart is humbled once again to think that My Father, My Daddy, desires to use me to display the "impossible" to the rest of the world.

Father, thank you for your promises over us, both spoken and un-spoken. Give a heart Oh God, to seek whole-heartedly after Your face and Your face alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Seth Ward said...


Thanks for your thoughtful response. First let me say that I agree with you about seeing God move in someones life and how it can affect someone who is struggling. Although that has been me at times, with others, in different circumstances, I am not disturbed, angry, or uncomfortable about Chris's life and walk. I think his ministry is great, and I am sure his heart is great. And you are right, it is indeed awesome how God can move in someone's life and do marvelous things.

My main complaint or feeling of uncomfortableness has its roots in something beyond Tomlin... more about being on the side of CCM where the business is done. Unfortunately, you get a taste of it and it doesn't taste like sweet living water as much as it does koolaid, jim jones style.

Also, I spend most of my time surronded by the Protestant Christian subculture. I work in a church and we sing Tomlin songs in Church, other people sing Tomlin songs, every church Cantata has a Tomlin song interwoven into its fabric. And the same Tomlin songs no less. The fact is that Tomlin sells. I get in the car and instead of an occasional Keith Greene or Rich song, Chris's music saturates the airwaves. So my reaction came from the feeling of ... saturation.

Hmmm. You know those times when... you just want to get away from the frustrations of work, and read a book, watch a movie, walk in the park, have a few laugh with friends, without being reminded of your work and what frustrates you about your work for while?

When Chris's voice came piping through the theater speakers it wasn't his walk or his heart for God that bugged me or made me feel uncomfortable, it was really a feeling of "I can't seem to escape Chris Tomlin saturation i.e. a totally sales driven Christian Subcultural Market, where Joel Olsteen and Rich Warren duke it out to dominate Christian thought and booksales, and Chris Tomlin rules and reigns as King of the Radio waves and worship material" It is just about saturation really.

And why did they decide to put Chris's arrangement in there instead of Mahalia Jackson's? or Aretha Franklin's? Or Johnny Cash's? All of which came from the same kind of nothing that Tomlin arose...

Because this is a movie about Amazing Grace, lots of Christians are going to come to this movie and lots are going to buy the soundtrack with C. T.'s recording on it.

In the end, Maybe it is a bit like a Doctor going to play golf, and when he gets ready for the first swing, looks at his caddy, asks for a 3 wood, the caddy hands him a Scalpel. Being a doctor and using a Scalpel isn't bad, it helps people and saves their life in fact, but at that point and at that moment, it might just do harm to the physician.

Anyway, drop by anytime.


Anonymous said...

Does Chris really have a platform "so huge that God can literally personally touch the world through the words, music, and life of a very small person?" As best as I can tell, he's only singing to and for other Christians. Not necessarily a bad thing, but pretty useless for evangelism.

Also, does God need a platform?

And though Chris sings a good deal about the greatness, bigness, and glory of God, his music doesn't show any of that to me. It does the opposite rather. I don't find God's greatness, bigness, and glory in shallow music, platitudes, and crowds of white southerners.

Again, I'm not saying God can't show up there, I just don't think it's fair to make objective statements about the power of his music. It is not powerful to me. In truth, I find it counterproductive these days. Are we really serving the body of Christ well to keep them coated in sugar and sated just enough so that they don't feel the need to seek more?

Again... too harsh?