Friday, December 30, 2005Allow me a few words about Sufjan Stevens and why I find him to be so important. His most recent album, Illinoise, is NPR's favorite album. Paste Magazine cited the record as it's number one. Pitckfork Media, the biggest hipster site on the internet, again hands out top honor to Illinoise. Rolling Stone has the album placed in its top ten.
Sufjan Stevens is an apologetic Christian. No concerns about universalism. No talk about "I believe on a personal, intimate level but as for the rest of the world..." He believes in the incarnation and the resurrection. He makes no bones about it.
And yet this guy is critically acclaimed in all corners, by all types of people. He doesn't bother playing churches and Christian rock festivals. He operates outside the bounds of the Christian culture that was invented thirty years ago. He operates almost entirely inside the bounds of the "secular" world. And he is promulgating a Gospel of truth, sin, grace, redemption, conviction and repentance. All through creative instrumentation and wildly imaginative lyricism. Stevens' music is not Contemporary Christian Music. It is not written for youth groups. It is not designed to be safe. Like Flanner O'Connor and J.R.R. Tolkien before him, Stevens grasps that the creative endeavor must be dedicated to God and then become a natural outgrowth of artistic progression. And while Stevens is bold in his faith in Christ, there is no preachiness. No posturing here. And a cynical world is willing to hear his message. This is more important than most any CCM artist. I mean no offense to all the bands in Nashville, but on some level, are they doing anything more than rallying the troops? There's nothing wrong with that. It's neccessary. I've noted my (very strong) political disagreements with Derek Webb, but I think God that he is here to shock our Christian consciousness. And yet who is truly going into the world and walking and eating and living about a nonbelieving world, shining the light of Christ? Artists like Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion, Damien Jurado, the Innocence Mission, Over the Rhine, Sam Philips. Making music that is truly artistic, an understood reflection of the creative nature of their Creator and Savior. This is salt and light. Let us cherish it and celebrate it, doing what we can to quietly and firmly support its growth and development.