Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item contains excerpts from a Religious News Service press release dated December 18th, 2003, with the headline “Music of Faith and Morals,” dateline: New York—Top talent and contemporary Christian music ring in New Year’s Day with Disney’s ‘Night of Joy,’ a celebration of contemporary Christian music broadcast for the first time ever as a television special. Two-time Grammy award winning Michael W. Smith and Grammy award winner Rebecca St. James co-host and perform in the two-hour concert recorded live before a sold-out audience at Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida. Also on the bill is music sensation and first-time Grammy nominee Stacey Orrico.
“This year’s program boasts the biggest line up of talent in twenty-one years of Night of Joy history and showcases an exciting array of musical styles, from contemporary sounds to Latin rhythms to hip-hop to traditional gospel, and features behind-the-scenes interviews with the stars. Joining St. James and Orrico on the marquee are three-time Grammy-award-winning Jars of Clay, Kirk Franklin, Point of Grace, Yolanda Adams, and Salvador, with appearances by four-time Grammy award winning Petra, Nicole C. Mullen, Rachel Lampa, and ZOEgirl.
“ ‘Contemporary Christian music has emerged as a powerful cultural force over the past decade, providing a hugely popular vehicle for expressing faith and spirituality,’ stated Edward J. Murray, President and CEO of Faith and Values Media. Faith and Values Media is the nation’s largest coalition of Jewish and Christian faith groups dedicated to media production, distribution, and promotion. Its member association is made up of denominations, organizations, and individuals who encompass most of the recognized Jewish and Christian faith groups in the United States. Together, these faith groups have more than 200,000 congregations with 120,000,000 congregants.”
Tom: Dave, I know it’s a sure thing. These names that Gary rattled off—you don’t know any of them, or maybe one or two, possibly.
Dave: Never heard of them.
Tom: Your CD rack at home isn’t filled with these things because you don’t have a CD rack.
Tom: Okay? So why would I pick something like this? Well, I think the last two items: “Christian contemporary music has emerged as a powerful cultural force.” And also, “Faith and Values Media is the nation’s largest coalition of Jewish and Christian faith groups.” These are things that concern me. Now, with regard to all of these names…
Dave: Tom, that’s an ecumenism I never heard of. I wasn’t aware of this.
Tom: Right. The names—now look, I appreciate music. Some of these names, I’ve listened to their music, and so on, and I happen to have an appreciation for them. They are artists. They are terrific singers, and so on. But my concern from an ecumenical standpoint is I can pick out some of these names—they’ve been at the Catholic World Youth rallies. They go and play in places where even—they claim to be evangelical, representing the gospel, but there are big time problems here, Dave.
Dave: Well, Tom you’ll have to explain this because I never was aware that Disney had a “Night of Joy.” Apparently, I wouldn’t think this is only Christians.
Dave: It would be secular, it’s all intermingled…
Dave: …and the whole idea is not to exalt Jesus, but I think to exalt these people.
Tom: Well this is performance Dave, and I don’t—you don’t have any problems with performing artists. Some of your friends are absolutely fantastic on the fiddle, okay? And they put on performances that are terrific. Right?
Dave: That’s fine.
Tom: So there’s no problem with that, but when you try and make it a worship deal, a concert for worship, forget it!
Dave: Yeah, somehow contemporary Christian music—I have serious problems with it. It has come out of the world really, or they’re trying to be as much like the world. They’re trying to be popular with the world, and you could of sort of facetiously say, “Wow, just think how popular Jesus could have been if He’d had a group like this or some of these people singing for
Him. I mean, He could have been so popular He might not have even been crucified! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Then there would be no salvation. Jesus said, “If you are of the world, the world will love it’s own….” I’ve quoted this many times on this program. “…But because you are not of the world, I’ve chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. And now, suddenly, we somehow are going to make Christianity popular. I don’t think it is the true Christianity, and I don’t think—Tom, one criteria that I use, and I see some things in some churches where I speak [that] I don’t think are glorifying to the Lord. And the criteria I use is: Could you put this performance on before the throne of God? Would God be impressed? Would he be happy with this? And I don’t think God is happy with this Disney’s “Night of Joy” and all these people joined together. It’s a performance. It’s probably fabulously done, but I don’t think it’s going to draw people to the Christ who was crucified naked on the Cross for our sins.
Tom: And when it pretends to do that, Dave, that’s the problem I have. For example, as Gary quoted, “Contemporary Christian music has emerged as a powerful cultural force over the past decade, providing a hugely popular vehicle for expressing faith and spirituality.” What does that mean? I mean there’s all kinds of faith out there. Let’s have a little bit of Hinduism, let’s have a little bit this and that and so on. Ravi Shankar, you know, let’s go through all of it. What does it mean?
Dave: Well, it’s a Jewish and Christian coalition of so-called faith groups. But I guarantee you, the Jewish people—are these Messianic Jews? I don’t think so.
Tom: No, no.
Dave: So they are Jews who do not believe in Jesus, and yet they are joined by Christians, who supposedly believe in Jesus, and somehow, we’re singing, performing, to the glory of God. It doesn’t fit Tom.
Tom: Well, this is ecumenism. This is the thing that we’ve been talking about that happens in the last days. This is preparation for the one world religion, bringing them all together through music. It’s become a vehicle. And my exhortation, you know, to any of these names, if you are an evangelical Christian, let’s stand for the truth. Let’s stand for God’s Word. You know, certainly God has gifted people to perform, but let’s put it—if you’re going to lead worship, let’s do it in a place that worship can be presented to God.
Dave: I can understand the temptation, Tom. Look what a big audience we could get. “Wow! Well, think how many people we’re bringing to Christ—or at least we’re sort of inoculating them about Jesus, or at least we got the name ‘Jesus’ in there somehow, or God, or whatever. Or a spirituality. I mean, isn’t that a step in the right direction?”
I think it is a step in the wrong direction, because you are contributing to confusion. What “Jesus” is this that you’re presenting? What “God” is this that you’re praising? It’s a tragedy, but this is this world that we live in today.