This morning we found a burned cd in our office. We had no idea how it got there, but I popped it into my lappy to see what it was. It turned out to be “The Cream of Clapton”, which was a delightful surprise to me. My boss told me that I could keep it if I wanted, but that we shouldn’t give it to the students. I must have crinkled my forehead because he started in on the reason why. His position basically that because Clapton has been a drug user and writes songs about drug use and that our students have or do struggle with substance abuse and addiction issues, we shouldn’t let them listen to music made by a man with a past drug use.
I can follow his line of reasoning. Also, we have a Christian music only policy because we are a ministry and some parents are concerned about the music that we allow students to listen to, which obviously is a very good thing. Being concerned about the media input into our student’s lives is a very good thing. Yet, I am very hesitant about throwing Clapton out so easily.
Where this line is broken for me is what we call “Christian”.
(Pause for a minute. At this point I simply agreed to follow the direction he was giving, but have been thinking about this topic today. The dialogue between my boss and me is representative of some tensions in the daily lives of sincere believers, and that is why I want to explore it here (actually, I am just going to present the side I believe to be most correct in order to get you to agree with me). I will continue to follow his direction for the program. )
Where is the line between what is Christian and “not”? Obviously there are expressly Christian artists, musicians, magazines, etc. What is it about them that makes their art Christian art? I submit that we must claim truth as truth without regard to the person expressing it, and that logically if you believe in a Christian worldview, then all truth is proper to God. What that means is that it cannot be true unless it belongs to God. Therefore, if it contains truth, that truth is “Christian”.
So how is Clapton’s music “Christian music”? (The italics below are an accident that I can’t seem to fix – please ignore)1) Clapton has an almost indisputable ability to create beautiful things (there is subjectivity here, but many if not most people experience a level of connection to his music). People who study philosophy at a level much higher than I could explain this in more meaningful terms, but a leading thought in aesthetics(commonly known as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values) is that the beauty of something is directly proportional to the truth it contains. Clapton’s art is beautiful, therefore it must contain truth. If it contains truth, it can be called “Christian”. 2) Christ’s call on our lives is to participate in a new humanity. Part of this call to a new humanity is a call to excellence, even perfection. Humans benefit from models of excellence and can be inspired to more fully participate in the New Humanity in Christ through examples of excellent artists, athletes, scholars, teachers, parents, life-livers, etc EVEN if they are not expressly Christian. 3) Clapton’s life may not be perfect, but his example of music as a creative and or cathartic outlet for pain is a great example of how to handle life’s hardships. Clapton’s life is marked by identity issues and also with terribly tragedies during some parts of his life. “Tears in Heaven” (the first single and tape I ever owned) is admittedly written in response to the tragic death of Eric’s 4 year old son and of his good friend and tour-mate Stevie Ray Vaughan within a year of each other. This song contains a blatant and obvious reference to heaven, which could be biblically supported. While heaven is part of our western culture mythology, one should note the aspirations and hope found in heaven by a grieving father and artist seriously. May the Lord’s will be done, CWillZ