Good Friday morning ...
Don McLean is back.
He's an old man now ... a year younger than myself ... and his songs are no longer all about youthful angst, poetic phrases and kaleidoscopic references, like they were in the 60's and 70's. Now they are more pastoral, nourished by insights that have come from the passage of time and the wisdom gained from living life for more than a few decades.
If McLean is known for anything, it is his eight-minute-long American Pie recording that swirled a mass of emotions into words about God, Satan, The Beatles, Jimmy Dean, football and Chevy s ... that rang out in the chorus about "the day the music died." It was an epic song that touched generations as few songs ever have. And if you have ever heard it, no doubt, you will remember it.
McLean has released a new album nearly 47 years after American Pie. His song writing is different today, though he makes sure that every song has a tinge of romance to it. He says, "The idea of romance has died [in our songs today], even though a romantic notion of some kind is in the heart of every great song"
His take on the songs of today is telling. "Look at the lyrics that are on the radio. Compare them to the Everly Brothers singing Devoted to You or Elvis Presley singing I Want You, I Need You, I Love You. Now it's 'I want to tie you up and _____ you.'"
I can't help but agree.
The music, he says, has also changed radically. "On that old TV show Name That Tune, people would be able to name a song in four notes. I challenge anybody to name any of these songs I hear on the radio today in four notes. It's usually the same note being repeated."
I can't help but agree with that also.
According to McLean our culture has changed so much we will never see those old-fashioned songs as hits ever again. The reason: "We don't believe in anything anymore. We don't believe in God. We don't believe in religion. We don't believe in our leaders. We don't believe in so many things we believed in in the 50's and 60's."
Again, I can't help but agree.
I am not at all certain where Don McLean fits on the spectrum of faith, so I'm not sure how he has adapted to, conforms to or confronts the culture in which we find ourselves in the year 2018. What I do know, as a follower of Christ, we won’t always fit into the world in which we live. In fact, we’ll often find ourselves going against the flow of popular culture in certain areas of life. Therefore, it is necessary for us to have a solid biblical foundation to stand on in the midst of a rapidly shifting cultural landscape.
We need to know how the eternal Word of God shapes our understanding of current issues and how we can share the gospel compassionately and courageously with the people around us.
There are four possible responses to cultural change.
We can conform. We start compromising what we believe and the way we act in order to appeal to and appease the surrounding culture. We may even genuinely believe that doing so is both loving and strategic, hoping somehow people will be attracted to Jesus through a less offensive form of Christianity. However, we have to realize that our goal isn’t to make following Jesus easier. When we understand the true message of the Gospel we find it is countercultural and even offensive to the human heart.
We can check out. The opposite of conform is to secede from culture, distancing ourselves so completely that we avoid interaction with the world around us. Again, the intent may seem honorable and sincere because we want to remove even an appearance of evil and the temptation of sin. But Jesus specifically prayed that His Father wouldn’t take His followers out of the world but protect them while they were sent into it.
The world around us desperately needs the life-changing power of the Gospel. Forming an isolated, insulated subculture may feel countercultural, but it isn’t an appropriate response.
We can combat. This approach is antagonistic and defensive. While the intent begins moving in the right direction, refusing to give in to or give up on the world around us, it misses the heart of Jesus. This response sees culture as an enemy to be defeated instead of people to be saved. Our desire must not be to prove ourselves right or to force our way on the world around us. Instead, our goal is to show Christ to be true and worthy. Just as wrong as running away from our culture is driving people away from the church. Countering culture doesn’t mean attacking it.
We can counter. Countering culture means engaging culture with conviction and compassion. We stand firmly on the truth of God, empowered by the Spirit, to extend the love of Christ to the world. Our desire isn’t to conquer but to redeem. It matters what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.
The heart of every Christian should burn with desire for God’s glory. So, we can’t sit back and remain silent while God isn’t glorified and people are on a path that ultimately leads to self-destruction. We must ask God to cause His name to be known and loved in our culture and we should desire to live our lives to that end.
A book I have read, and now reread over the past year, is Counter Culture, by David Platt. It is not an easy read, but I highly recommend it as a challenge to become a passionate voice for Christ. It may shake you up a bit, but is well worth the shake. If you take it up, please let me know what you think. Perhaps we could share some thoughts.
In the meantime, have a blessed weekend in the Lord ...