Saturday, May 19, 2007

CCM Gripes and Grievances, etc.

I was planning on starting my work binge at the Pharmacy on Thursday of this week, but go unexpectedly called in on Monday for four hours. That was fine with me because I wasn't really doing anything. The Pharmacy is like usual: a bit slow at times with a dusting of mean, irate, mental people. The customer I fear the most (the one that has called me a "jackass" in times past) came in this morning and my heart started beating faster than it has in a very long time. This guy is so mean and inconsiderate than when he comes in, my hands start shaking. It was nerve racking and he had an explosion or two this morning. It's all over now, though. Until next time at least.

A nice aspect of working at the Pharmacy is that I know it is run by people who are Christians and desire to have an honest business that is pleasing to Christ. The only stipulation to this is that we play Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) all the time. Those of you who know me know my loathing for most CCM. It's boring, thoughtless, uncreative, and repetitive. Most modern pop music shares these adjectives as well, but I'm not going to cover that right now. My main gripe over the past week at work has been with the group Selah and their shameless covers of a few popular secular songs.

In the last two years, Selah has covered "Bless the Broken Road" by the Rascall Flatts and "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban. In both of these shameful arrangements, Selah has changed the focus of the song from a person (both Groban and the RFs are singing to people) to God. You might say, "Oh, this is nice. Selah is redeeming popular songs by singing them to God." I say that this is something you just CAN NOT do and it goes against everything I have ever been taught or read about the concept of authorial intent.

When someone writes or creates something, it has a specific meaning. There is one meaning that can not and should not be changed. People do this with the Bible all the time and it does terrible things to the faith. It's kind of a spiritual postmodernism ... this is what Selah is guilty of. It's not just doing a nice thing for God ... it's disrespecting Him by taking advantage of someone elses creativity and thrusting it upon Him. For the love of God (literally), WRITE SOMETHING CREATIVE!

We have a history as Christians when it comes to art and creativity. Michaelangelo created some of the most influential paintings and sculptures of all time. Flash to the 20th century and we see J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis creating whole worlds through literature (literature that is still respected today) ... all to the glory of God. Even Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) found ways to reflect God's beauty and truth through some of his music. Check out The Lost Chord, for example.

It's pretty sad that I can't really praise much of anything written of produced by Christians for its artistic merit AND profundity. You're lucky to find anything worth talking about in a Christian bookstore amid all the second-rate novels and "Holy trinkets." Christians need a call to arms when it comes to engaging the culture WITH our message. Outside of preaching the message (which we are most definitely called to do), we need to find creative ways to express the hope that we have been given and the truth that we possess without coming across as a bunch of ignorant hacks that know nothing about craft and artistry. End of griping session.

Lost was extremely well-written this week ... possibly one of the top five Lost scripts in the show's history. Lost has an amazing episode formula with the flashbacks and all and when they hit the nail on the head by making the flashbacks inform the island story narratively AND emotionally ... it's just grand. This week, they did and the result was a very good episode with lots of literary references, great acting, and depth of character. This show just keeps getting better and better. BTW, if anyone else caught the symbolic meaning of the screen-cap above, please comment!

A bunch of my friends are going to Hersheypark on Thursday, but I have to work. It's probably a good thing I'm not going because I don't have the money. I have been selling some stuff online to make some extra cash. I'll get a nice check from the Pharmacy on Thursday, too. I still need to save, though. Such is the life of a college student.


Nate said...

As a kind of experiment, I've begun to sample local Christian radio stations, which is something I haven't done since my youth group days. I can only seem to stay for a few songs at a time, after which I go running back to the bosom of my beloved classical station, K-Mozart. So much of it is banal, but I keep hoping for an epiphany. Your call to arms is kindly taken!

Sorry to hear about the irate customers. :(

Phillip said...

Banal. That's the word for it. I can only handle so much of it sometimes.

And yes, I'm always running back to my classical collection as well. They took the classical station away here where I live for a while. It's back now, but they are in the middle of a seemingly endless pledge drive that gets really annoying. Public radio personalities is an oxymoron.

raymond said...

You work in a pharmacy? So do I! I am sure every form of customer service has their anal customers, but we get the anal psychotic customers, a completely different species of jerks. Never get in between an addict and their Vicodin!

And yet, as difficult as they may be, I have a hard time not laughing when I see them come in. I used to tremble and shake when our special few would waltz in the door loaded for bear, but not anymore. Most of what they say is so ridiculous and over the top its almost worthy of being written down, logged, and published. But no. I just sit, smile and treat them nicely in my gentle angelic way, which only makes them more upset, which in turn only makes me want to laugh more...and laughing at customers isn't usually the best thing. Anyway, don't let them get you down. Pretend you are in a newspaper comic or something and they are wearing a tu-tu and dancing to Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Always makes me smile...

And ya, I can't listen to our KFSH "The Fish" Christian radio station out here. Its annoyingly repetitive and mostly void of any sort of meaning. Or it was the last time I listened to it two years ago.

I am particularly fond of our rock station, KROQ. Although the DJs can be a bit...worldly at times, there music is always diverse and rarely cheesy. K-Mozart is good as well, as Nate said. We used to have two classical radio stations, but several months ago one of ours was infected by the country music virus. Bah!

I have to somewhat disagree with you on the single meaning part. I think its possible for an artist to create something that might have a different meaning for someone else. Songs should never be intentionally recreated or changed to fit into a box we want it to fit into. But I always think of God when I listen to Groban's "You Raise Me Up", no matter who he meant it for.

I think we agree, though, for the most part. Chopping and slicing is bad. That's why I always buy the widescreen version of films. I hate full screen.

Nate said...

That was horrid news about KMZT. The signal is so weak, I can only listen to it when passing through downtown L.A.


Phillip said...

I got between an addict and her Oxycontin once and ended up being called a bitch. The woman was 30 (looked like she was 60), very emaciated, didn't have her dentures in, and was wearing bright red lipstick. When she pulled away from our drive-through, she ran over the curb because she was so mad. Enough said.

I usually treat people in a "gentle angelic way" as well, and its definitely hilarious to see them lash out even more at times. The customer I described in my post is the only one that still makes my heart pound out of my chest.


"I think its possible for an artist to create something that might have a different meaning for someone else."

Sometimes this is possible at times, but I don't think that we, as Christians, have the right to try to "redeem" secular songs by singing them to God. IMO, its a bit like when I sit in Bible Studies and people say, "This is what this verse means TO ME" when there really is only a singular meaning to any verse.


I wish I lived in California.