While general music sales are in a terrible slump both in the U.S. and abroad (is there an industry—apart from military technology and antibiotics companies—that is doing well?), Christian music is set to sell more albums than ever this year. Thank the terrorists: Christian and gospel music sales grew more than 20 percent in the three weeks following 9/11. Those sales helped raise third-quarter numbers to a 9 percent overall growth. (Frequent Weblog readers will remember that Bible and Christian book sales figures have also risen dramatically since the terrorist attacks, both in the U.S. and around the world).
Christian music got another boost this week: the American Music Awards announced it will include a "contemporary inspirational" category this year. The show will air on ABC January 9, 2002.
But Christian artists may want to be wary of some kinds of recognition. Weblog received a press release yesterday announcing that pop-punk band Relient K received an exclusive partnership deal with retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. "Hopefully, through this, Relient K will be able to begin making their thumbprint on our culture," says Joey Elwood, president of the band's label, Gotee Records. Only one problem: Abercrombie & Fitch is currently corporate enemy #1 for many conservative Christians. The company's racy catalog has been targeted by Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, National Review, even the National Organization for Women. Illinois Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood and the American Decency Association are at the forefront of boycotts. Gotee should expect a pretty hostile response—and readers can expect some interesting damage control from Gotee.
The sure-to-ensue controversy reminds Weblog of a November 1999 piece in Focus on the Family's Plugged In magazine, which criticized Christian bands for allowing their music to appear on "sexually or occultly driven" television shows like Dawson's Creek, Charmed, and MTV's Undressed. Since then, Christian music has only increased as soundtrack potential: witness Superchick's enthusing on its official site: "A lot of neat things have happened, and in case you haven't gotten the full list, we've had songs in the winter X-Games, MTV's real world, WB's Jack and Jill, commercials for the new ABC show Alias, Legally Blonde (soundtrack too!), the movie Glasshouse and more stuff is underway." Maybe the success of Christian music will allow some popular bands not to see it as a belittlement.
British regulator/watchdog to Christian radio station: Don't attack other religions
The Radio Authority, which is like Britain's version of the FCC (but not completely), is threatening Premier Christian Radio with "substantial sanctions" for breaking broadcasting rules. What did Premier do? One broadcast said the Qur'an and other non-Christian scriptures were "full of superstition and absurdities." On another broadcast, Michael Yusef said, "I don't understand the crazy idea that is dished to the folks in the liberal church that a person can be a good Christian and a practicing homosexual." The Radio Authority took this as a violation of the Program Code, which says, "Theological debate and disagreement may occur within religious programs; however, programs and/or follow-up material must not be used to denigrate or attack the beliefs of other people." The Radio Authority dismissed several other complaints (PDF, see pp. 8-11) against the radio station, most of which were brought by the Mysticism and Occultism Federation. But these were absolutely ridiculous:
- a John McArthur broadcast said Jesus was the only way to heaven
- an Adrian Rodgers broadcast contained an oblique reference to "the devil's counterfeits,"
- a Greg Laurie broadcast said that it's "technically true" that "pagans … [will] burn in hell for all eternity" (but said emphasizing this was "the best way to burn a bridge")
- an unnamed speaker said reincarnation "has no place in Christianity, and no place in reality."
Crazy complaints? What's crazier is that the Radio Authority took them seriously. "It seemed to us that [pagan] was used here in … an historical context," the agency said about the Greg Laurie broadcast. "However, we told the complainant we understood their point and would discuss it with Premier Radio." And taken as a whole, the Radio Authority seems to think that Premier has a problem. "Premier has told the Authority about its considerable efforts to remedy and redress matters; however, the Authority will be keeping matters under review," a Radio Authority press release noted. Premier is already in danger of losing its broadcast license. Imagine what might happen to Premier if Britain's anti-religious-hatred legislation gets passed. Imagine what could happen to anyone who dares to "denigrate or attack the beliefs of other people" in such ways.
In case you didn't hear me the first time …
Some columnists have favorite topics they keep returning to. Here in Chicago, John Kass loves making connections between the mob and city officials. Peggy Noonan is still beating up on Bill Clinton in The Wall Street Journal—even though the man has been out of the White House for more than 10 months. But Kass and Noonan manage to come up with fresh angles. Not so with The Washington Post's Colbert I. King. Of the five King columns posted on the Post's site, two are almost completely identical—Pat Robertson is a bad, bad man. Both articles, which ran less than a month apart, start with a rehashing of those infamous remarks made on The 700 Club by Jerry Falwell—remarks which Falwell apologized for and Robertson duplicitously claimed he misunderstood. Both columns then move quickly to discussing Robertson's gold-mining deal with Liberian president Charles Taylor, one of the worst human rights violators in world leadership today. "The U.S.-educated but Libya- trained Taylor is a menace to all that's decent," Colbert wrote in his September 22 column.
Ironically, it was Christmas Eve 1989 (get that Mr. Robertson) when warlord Taylor and his band of rebels launched their bloody invasion of Liberia. They took on a despot in then-president and former sergeant Samuel Doe. But Taylor's crowd turned out to be no better. Twelve years later, with tens of thousands of Liberians slain, hundreds of thousands displaced throughout West Africa, a generation of young Liberian boys ruined by their conversion to child soldiers, women raped and mutilated, his country is in absolute ruins and is ostracized by the world community—except for hustlers, mercenaries and the preacher/entrepreneur from Virginia Beach.
Colbert's October 20 column gets more detailed, focusing on five nuns murdered in October 1992, "when then-warlord Taylor and his rebels launched their surprise attack on Monrovia."
In summary: Businessmen/clergymen like Robertson shouldn't partner with despotic warlords. Businessmen/clergymen like Robertson shouldn't partner with despotic warlords.
Responding to terrorism:
- Religious heads critique terror bill | Muslims and Christians say legislation would victimize immigrants and stifle legitimate dissent (Associated Press)
- Australia's Anglican bishops question U.S. action | But Sydney's Jensen lends support (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- What comes after 9-11? Two. | Singles without soul mates are seeking them. Parents without wills are writing them. Couples with conflicts are resolving them. (The Washington Post)
- Some 9/11 donors say they'll give less elsewhere | More than one-quarter of those who donated to relief efforts say they won't give as much to other charities (Chicago Tribune)
- Photograph brings unwanted attention | More than 10,000 have e-mailed photographer who shot "devil in the smoke" image (Dave Lieber, Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
Islam and Christianity:
- Is the father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? | Reflections on the Trinity and Christian distinctives (Timothy George, Breakpoint)
- Easy-going ecumenism | Is the father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? (Charles Colson, Breakpoint)
Politics & Law:
- Nothing like that good old state religion | Too bad Texas's gubernatorial candidates don't know students can already pray in schools (Freedom Forum)
- Missionary zeal, political savvy | Jay Katzen's values rile foes, spark loyalty in Virginia's lieutenant governor race (The Washington Post)
- Faith, hope and chastity | Across the US, teenagers are being taught an old lesson: that saying no to sex is the way to go and waiting until your wedding day is a good thing. And it's a message that falls all too neatly into George Bush's new rightwing Christian agenda. (The Guardian, London)
- Gay or straight, donations should go to all those in need | There's something terribly small in the idea that, in this time of communal unity, we should make our compassion contingent upon sexual orientation. (Leonard Pitts, syndicated columnist)
- Out lesbian minister ordained in PCUSA | Katie Morrison is denomination's first openly gay minister ordained since 1978 ban (More Light Presbyterians, a gay lobby within the PCUSA)
- United Methodists to debate homosexuality cases | Judicial Council will examine cases of three clergy denied appointment because they are practicing homosexuals (The Tennessean)
- Church to spend £2m on sex and lies advert | Ethical questions campaign hopes to draw people to church (The Daily Telegraph)
- Street cred for the Gospel | How can the Church reach the indifferent and the lapsed? Hard-hitting messages through advertising is one method being tried. Its promoters are confident they are on the right track, but others have other ideas. (The Tablet, via RelapsedCatholic.com)
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