Listening For The Voice Of God

by Dish Staff

In an interview about his new book, A Mess of Help: From the Crucified Soul of Rock’n’Roll, David Zahl notices that many of the artists he profiles – who range from ABBA to Morrissey to Axl Rose – “point to some sense of strength being found in weakness, of inspiration being bound up with suffering rather than apart from it.” Still, he’s wary of the didactic approach Christians too often bring to their cultural commentary:

That phrase “Christian approach” often implies that religious people should approach things with trepidation and/or suspicion, and measure them against the standard of our religion. There seems to be an agenda, sometimes an unspoken or unconscious one, that culture is valuable only insofar as we can harness it in some way. But I’m convinced that, to quote someone I admire, “any goodness, beauty, truthfulness, or enlivening candor we have the wit to discern is something for which we have God to thank.” That is, that it’s already been harnessed. So this isn’t a Christian “take” on secular music, at least as I see it. The artists I wrote about are the ones that have spoken and continue to speak to me rather than vice versa; I talk more about what I’ve learned from them than how their work filters through a religious framework. I gave myself plenty of room to explore, though, so who knows (“preacher brain” is not the easiest thing to shut off). Again from the introduction:

“It wasn’t that I set out to write about the intersection of Christianity and culture; it was simply that music was the most honest language available to me—the lingua franca of my inner life, my immediate vocabulary for understanding what was happening to me. In fact, so immersed in it was I, that to avoid pop culture would have been to embrace precisely the kind of phoniness that permeates so much religious ‘engagement’ with it these days.”