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Worldview Responses to the 2014 Grammys

A Symposium



grammyEntertainment award shows aren't known as wellsprings of class and restraint, but after this year's particularly distasteful Grammys, we've assembled a crack team of worldview thinkers to offer perspective on what this means for our culture, and suggest ways families and churches can process the award show millions will be talking about for weeks to come. Our thoughts below.

Dr. William Brown, Chancellor at Cedarville University:

After all that has been written about the 2014 Grammys, I find myself thinking about God’s presence at the event. Of course, He was there. He never misses a show. Music is His gift to creation. But the gift can be used or abused. The Grammys displayed a lot of both.

This is an obvious overstatement, but it is true more often than not: "Music is a matter of taste; lyrics are a matter of truth."

There were few shoutouts for God from the artists, the oddest being from Sean Carter (Jay-Z): "I want to thank God, I mean a little bit, for this award, but mostly for all the universe for conspiring and putting that beautiful light of a young lady in my life" (looking at Beyoncé).

The most talked-about portion of the show was the mass wedding ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah set to the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis pro-gay rap song, "Same Love."

As the 34 couples -- some straight, some gay -- exchanged rings, the rappers intoned:

And God loves all his children it's somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written 3,500 hundred years ago . . .

Whatever God you believe in
We come from the same one

The program ended with Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) blasting out "My God Is the Sun" by Queens of the Stone Age. He was cut off by the closing credits and later blasted CBS on Twitter for their disrespect.

In spite of such glib references to God, the reality of God’s presence cannot be underestimated. Many are giving the hope in Christ to those in the music industry. A number of musicians have come to Christ over the years: Dave Mustaine of Megadeath, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Head Welch of Korn, Lou Gramm of Foreigner . . . the list is long. No one is beyond His grace.

One of the most interesting 2014 awards (presented earlier) was for the Best Metal Performance that went to Black Sabbath for "God is Dead?" The song leaves the reality of God’s presence open. Ozzy still cannot bring himself to say there is no God. In fact, Ozzy wrote these words in "After Forever" from the 1971 "Master of Reality album."

Perhaps you'll think before you say
that God is dead and gone
Open your eyes just realize that he is the One
The only One Who can save you now from all this sin & hate.

You may not like the music but you’ve gotta love the lyrics.

Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research:

The cultural highlight of the Grammys would certainly be Queen Latifah overseeing a mass marriage ceremony.

It was not solely a gay marriage ceremony, but the ceremony was during the gay marriage anthem "Same Love," so the intent and focus was clear. There were outward differences among the couples on the floor -- different races, different gender combinations, etc. -- but the central message of the moment was that the "sameness" is in the love -- hence the song "Same Love."

Now, the Grammy Awards presentation is not the show you watch for highbrow cultural commentary or family-friendly entertainment. News reports indicate that many parents were shocked by Beyoncé (among others). I honestly have to wonder if these parents have heard of Beyoncé before now, and why were they expecting the Grammys to be family-friendly? (J. Lo's dress from 2000 is easy to recall from the dark recess of our memories.)

So, the Grammys are not representative of our culture, but in some ways they are indicative of its shifts. And, the Grammy moment is a good moment to remind ourselves of a few things.

First, culture has changed and is changing.

Views that were sidelined ten years ago (remember, Presidents Clinton and Obama were once opposed to gay marriage) are not just accepted, they are celebrated. And those who hold to a biblical standard of marriage are "paraphrasing a 3500 year old book" (a phrase taken from "Same Love," which many would say was the key song of the night).

Yet, it was not just a shift in views about gay marriage. We continued to see the objectification of women, communicating that talent mattered less than appearance. (And, Pepsi, thanks for making it clear how you value women in the commercials.) The coarsening of language and more were all on display.

Times are a-changing.

Second, Christians will be increasingly uncomfortable in this world and will struggle to express that with grace.

As Natalie Grant (a twice Grammy-nominated performer at the show) tweeted, "We left the Grammys early. I've many thoughts, most of which are probably better left inside my head." I understand and appreciate her and her comment. Yet, we will not always have the same option. Furthermore, it’s a frightening place to be if people of faith cannot live and speak about what their faith teaches and values.

The fact is the Grammys don’t mirror the values of America. They are an ostentatious display that reflects (and impacts) the culture in a distorted way -- yet perhaps increasingly in a way that people of faith do not.

As we find ourselves in a new world, we must remember to speak love and truth, always using words filled with God’s grace.

Third, there is great opportunity to show the difference Christ makes.

Philippians 2:14-15 calls us to "be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world." That’s been our call for 2000 years. It’s still our call today.

We can complain about how everything has changed, but people have been doing that for a long time. Perhaps instead we might unashamedly hold to the truth we know and the hope we have.

To paraphrase a 2000-year-old book, we show and share the love of Jesus. Again.

Where from here?

Back to Natalie Grant. She tweeted seconds after her aforementioned statement, "I've never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I've never been more sure of the path I've chosen."

Agreed.

As the culture shifts and finds new paths, let’s not shout, "Get off of our proverbial moral lawn!" Let’s speak with grace and love, shine like light in a changing culture, and point people to the gospel that shows that better path, again.

John Stonestreet, Co-Host of BreakPoint Radio, Host of The Point and BreakPoint This Week:

It’s a real shame when art is drowned out in a sea of sound and fury. A few years back at the Grammys, I was very encouraged when the vocal talent of Adele and the Civil Wars overshadowed even Nicki Manaj’s bizarre on-stage exorcism. Last night, the pendulum seemed to shift back towards sensationalism and away from art. As a believer in common grace, I also believe in the Romans 1-type suppression of that grace. The image of God in us allows humans to be almost endlessly innovative, but art is killed by the avant-garde impulse in most of its forms. There was a lot more worship of creation than Creator last night, even more than usual.

And, of course, there was the wedding-like commitment ceremony presided over by Queen Latifah. The setting resembled a church, rings were exchanged, the choir sang liturgically, a sermon was preached, and couples both heterosexual and homosexual were "wed." I find it highly ironic that an industry that celebrated the sexually abusive lyrics of "Blurred Lines" all year claims to know what constitutes real love. Perhaps the religious fundamentalists and conservatives that Macklemore blasts in his song have gotten love wrong in various ways, but one wonders why members of the music fraternity think they are without sin and can cast stones. But last night, another bully pulpit was used once again to proclaim moral judgment on this issue that divides this country. I imagine we’ll get this sort of proclamation back-to-back with another bully pulpit, used at the State of the Union. We’ll see.

The Grammy Awards ceremony should call from us more than just a critique of culture. It should call us to create. When musicians who are nothing more than a Vanilla Ice reinvention capture the culture’s imagination, it’s a sign of artistic famine. It’s also a sign of opportunity.

Gregory Alan Thornbury, Ph.D, President of The King’s College:

If you heard the sound of yawning around America this morning, it wasn't because the country stayed up too late watching the Grammys, it's because we've gotten bored with them. The Grammys once mattered because pop music mattered. Once upon a time, J. Edgar Hoover monitored the movement of rock stars like John Lennon because he was a perceived political threat, because he was anti-establishment. Nowadays, our rock stars are the establishment, and that's not very, well, rock and roll.

A generation ago, popular musicians served as the voice of their generation. In the '60s, for example, millions of people hung on Bob Dylan's or the Beatles' every word. In 1967, after Mick Jagger was discharged for possession of drugs, he appeared at an outdoor press conference with key figures in the cultural establishment: William Rees Mogg, editor of The Times; John Robinson, Bishop of Woolrich; Fr. Thomas Corbishley, S.J.; and Lord Stowe Hill, the erstwhile Home Secretary. The interview was earnest: What does Jagger want from us? What are his views? How may we appease him? Even as late as the 1980s, young people learned about the war in Ireland from U2, and the plight of the American farmer from Willie Nelson and Farm Aid.

One cannot imagine anyone on the Grammys last night sparking a national conversation about anything of significance beyond Katy Perry's pyrotechnics, Lorde's fingernails, and whether Daft Punk might deliver their acceptance speech(es) in hexadecimal code. In fact, the greatest moment of concern would have been for Taylor Swift's chiropractor, had he watched her head-banging stage performance.

Perhaps the stars don't stand for anything because they know of their audience's advanced stage of ennui. Then again, that would be giving the rest of us too much credit.

Gina Dalfonzo, Editor of BreakPoint.org:

Advocates for same-sex marriage have relied heavily on the power of imagery to make their case. As R. J. Snell pointed out in his article about Macklemore’s "Same Love" music video, "50 million views of "Same Love" and roughly 10 million 'Modern Family' viewers a week on the one side, and absolutely nothing of a similar mode of discourse on the other side." The same-sex wedding ceremonies at the Grammys -- while that very song was being played -- are just more proof of this, if any were needed."

And yet, imagery can go too far. Millions of viewers became a captive audience, so to speak, as the entertainment they were watching suddenly became heavily politicized and polarizing. In the minds of many in the entertainment industry, who cannot fathom any sane person disagreeing with them about anything, this will inevitably lead to greater acceptance. And of course, many people have bought the lie that one ought to turn off one’s mind when one turns on the television, so there’s a chance that the strategy will work. On the other hand, it just might spark a backlash. You can only keep shoving something in people’s faces for so long before they finally say, "Enough."

Anne Morse, author, BreakPoint writer, frequent contributor to National Review Online:

I know a lot of people are probably angry about this; I just feel sad. Still, a couple of points: Contrary to what GLAAD spokesperson Sarah Kate Ellis claims, the publicity stunt is not a sign that America celebrates and accepts so-called "gay marriage." It's just a publicity stunt. Second, we have to keep telling our kids what authentic, biblical marriage is: not just happy feelings and sexual attraction, but the ability to engage in reproductive-type behavior -- which can only happen between one man and one woman. It's also about lifelong fidelity and commitment and usually, children. Anything less than this is merely a contract.

Sad to say, I doubt that even the straight couples married on the Grammys last night fully accept the "lifelong fidelity and commitment" part of the marriage package; a marriage ceremony that takes place as part of a televised publicity stunt hints at a lack of seriousness about marriage itself. In fact, I'd be willing to bet serious money that at least half of these 33 couples trash their vows within five years. But I doubt Grammy planners will make note of this.

Shane Morris, Assistant Editor/Web Producer, BreakPoint:

Let me be frank. I didn't watch the Grammys, and I hear there was a lot of disgusting exhibitionism. And no, Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z's performance wasn't the most appropriate thing for a married couple to be doing ("forsaking all others" isn’t typically thought of as including strip-teases in front of millions, not even with your spouse).

However (and here’s my main point), in a piece at ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg argues that "At the Grammys, Beynce and Jay-Z Made the Case for Marriage that Conservatives Can’t." And you know what? She’s got a point:

"'Drunk In Love" is raunchy, fun and even silly. . . . It’s a song about flirting, about going out and partying, about having fantastic, adventuresome, totally enthralling sex–with your spouse. That’s a far, far better argument for marriage than the pseudo-scientific case for holding onto your oxytocin by not having sex before you say your vows. . . . This may not be the vision of marriage conservatives intended to try to promote. And it’s absolutely a more aspirational, exciting good than the idea that marriage will discipline wayward men or provide support for women who can’t manage economically on their own. But if conservatives want to sell Americans on marriage, maybe they have to talk more about the bliss half of wedded bliss, to think about the desire part of making marriage desirable."

We spend too much time making marriage sound painfully boring and unsexy (both false), or else tremendously harder than it actually is (I can already hear the chorus of "just you wait, young man"s as I type this). STOP. If your marriage has been disappointing, I'm sorry about that. Maybe you should get counseling. But we have GOT to remind people that married sex is the real deal of which every perversion is ultimately a cheap imitation. Marriage rocks (I'm not even going to add the obligatory "yes, it's hard work" disclaimer in here, because everyone already knows that and I'm tired of hearing it). Stop letting godless pagan couples show us up with their temple rituals.

Here's a good place to start: Read Leland Ryken's "Worldly Saints: The Puritans as they Really Were" for a picture of how Christians ought to treat sex.

Image copyright Grammy.


Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BreakPoint. Outside links are for informational purposes and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.

Comments:

Confusing pimping one's wife for marital bliss
God help us if we confuse Beyonce' and Jay-Z's exhibition as demonstrating any form of marital bliss.

Let there be no mistake. Her husband pimped her out and she let him. His role is to be her protector not her exploiter. This is NOT what marital bliss looks like nor should we even remotely condone it as such. It was just another attack on marriage.
Sad, but encouraged
I'm just a guy with a guitar who is involved in worship at his church. I'm also 61 years old, and the first song I ever learned to play was "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley" by the Kingston Trio, back in Old Testament times (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dooley_(song)). I've witnessed (and played) just about every genre of popular music up until I gave my life to Christ on January 23, 1994. It was after that when I got involved in leading worship, and that is pretty much exclusively what I do musically today.

Yes, there is a vast difference between the worlds of secular and worship music, and yes, within the context of worship music, some of the songwriting is very immature. But generally, I am both saddened AND encouraged as I have watched the coarsening of the culture over the past 20 years that I've been a believer; saddened, because I find it harder and harder to recognize the world I grew up in; and encouraged because I see it as the fulfilling of prophecy, God be praised.

It would be easy to look at today's culture and conclude that the end times are right around the corner, but ours would be far from the first generations who have speculated in that direction. I'm not a person who spends much time "looking for signs" in some kind of end of times exercise. I believe that if I spend my time that way, then I will miss out on the life Jesus wants for his followers: a life of richness and beauty, in the midst of a fallen world. The more fallen the world seems to be, the richer and more beautiful in contrast it is to me to be part of his church, and to live my life amongst his people. This richness and beauty fortifies me to be able to "walk in" but not "be of" this world.

In the end, and despite being frankly repulsed by what I saw (I did not watch it first hand, but only looked at the commentary and pictures of it afterward), I was less angry against those people in "entertainment" than I was sorry for them. How pitiful would it be to go to the grave, and then before the Mercy Seat, to have to explain one's self to the Judge of All Things, without the advocacy of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to intercede for them? That is really, really sad.

Beyoncé's early education was in a Catholic school in Fredricksburg, Texas, and she was a church soloist for two years (St. John's United Methodist Church), before she gained fame with Destiny's Child. It is easy enough to believe that she made at least a superficial profession of faith at some point in her life, before she began soloing in her church.

She co-starred, alongside Cuba Gooding, Jr., in a movie called The Fighting Temptations. (Cuba Gooding, Jr., says he became a born-again Christian at the age of 13.) The movie is a story of a struggling church in small-town Georgia, its gospel choir, choir competition, legalism and grace, etc. It's a very funny and entertaining movie, but, it is very LONG on grace, very SHORT on spiritual discipline, and a little too preoccupied with bawdy humor.

Queen Latifah was raised in a Baptist home, and attended Catholic school. She is sometimes referred to as a gospel singer. Her musical credits include performing with Andre Crouch and his Choir, and the L.A. Mass Choir.

Katy Perry's career began as a gospel singer. Her parents were Pentecostal pastors. She continued to be cataloged as a gospel singer until she launched into the country genre. During that time, she was part of her parents' ministry: Keith Hudson Ministries.

All four of these are viewed by the culture at large as "Christian". It is not my place to judge the salvation of another human being, but Scripture does give us guidance in this. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells us:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (ESV)

In their Grammy performances, what fruit did these three women display to the world? The fruit of a life lived in Christ, or the fruit of a life given over to the world? Did they do anything other than eviscerate the meaning of the gospel? That we are ALL fallen and failed sinners, and that the blood of the Lamb is the only thing that washes us clean, but it also requires of us a subsequently lived life which at least TRIES to honor God. Was God honored, or blasphemed, if these performances were done in His name?

Scripture also gives another picture of strong and righteous womanhood in Proverbs 31:10-31......

The Woman Who Fears the Lord
10 [d] An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself[e] with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.[f]
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

Did Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, and Katy Perry show themselves to be women who fear (and revere) the Lord by their actions on stage at the Grammy Awards?

Conversely, while Natalie Grant can be nit-picked for choosing not to openly speak her mind in a 140 character tweet, did she not ALSO proclaim her reason for singing, and praising her Lord?

Which of these four women—Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, Katy Perry, and Natalie Grant—appears...at least on the surface....to be building their treasure in heaven rather than putting popularity and persona recognition above all else? Which of these four women are living out, in public, a life dedicated to their King? Or, more appropriately maybe, which King do they each serve?

We ALL go before the Mercy Seat. Those who are saved have an advocate before the Judge in the person of Jesus Christ. I am not going to say that Beyoncé, Latifah, and Perry are either not saved, or beyond salvation, but I AM saying that they will be known by their fruits in THIS life when they go before the Mercy Seat, and it is entirely possible that when they turn to their Advocate, he will respond: "“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)"

If that turns out to be their fate, are they not to be pitied rather than condemned?
pkiler,
It seems that something in what I wrote was a trigger for some strong feelings you have. A quick read makes it obvious that no one was advocating throwing out the arts. On the contrary, I suggested that the cultural degradation of art was the opportunity for Christians to lead in that space. I wouldn't say you are being hypersensitive. I would say that you read into my particular contribution what clearly isn't there.
2014 Grammys
This show is intended to be and is pure entertainment and a good deal of it could hardly be characterised as uplifting.
I am astounded at the strained arguments that God was present simply because it was art and art is a gift.That is spurious reasoning. Sure there were references to God but these were gratuitous or known to find favour with those looking for a hook to hang the "christian " tag on.The show did not honour God. It did not deserve the appreciative comments posted by many of the academic and media personalities.
These are the lyrics of the Gospel song that won the Grammy for best Gospel song....no further comment is needed....

"f He Did It Before (Same God)"

Hey, if he did it before, he can do it again
Hey, if he did it before, he can do it again
1,2, 1,2, 1,2,3, go

I won't give in, no I'm not gonn turn around, yeah
I know I'll win, if i don't give up now
I am waiting, for my change to come in I know
He will come through, this is how I'm so sure

If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then
If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then

I've got power, I know I will overcome
Greater is in me, the fight ain't fair cause I've already won
and yes i may fall,and get knocked down to the ground
I know I'll rise up, this is how I'm so sure

If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then
If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then

Please be, encouraged, this is not the first storm you've been through
You've been through worse, you didn't come this far just to lose
He knows your needs, so take no thoughts on what you lost
God will restore, and this is how I'm sure

If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then
If he did it before, he can do it again
Same god right now, same god back then.

He is same God right now
He is, He is same God right now
He is, same God right now

Same God right now
Same God back then
If He did it before,
He can do it again
The Avant Garde in Art
As an artist, the statement, "...but art is killed by the avant-garde impulse in most of its forms.", I must take issue with this.

"Avant Garde" as a concept is not well defined for one. Secondly, this is a blanket statment, that seems to be prejudiced against the Arts, in some ways. And even if it is not in the mind of the Author, paints that notion in the readers mind, to me. The Protestant Church has waged a 500 year war of Iconoclastic terrorism against the Arts, and driven Artists out of their churches, not making them feel welcomed, or just brought in to be used and tossed aside when it's not to their liking anymore.

The Avant Garde in the Arts IS a tool for the Glory of God. ALL THINGS are a tool for the Glory of God, if allowed to be.

The Altar of Witness in Joshua 22:34 was certainly avant garde, and it brought Israel to prepare for war, over a piece of Art!

PLease don't advocate throwing out the art (baby) with the trashy art (bath water).

You may think I'm being hypersensitive here. Yes to a point, to make a point. I don't mean to overdramatize it, but draw attention to support of the Arts in the Christian Faith, which it needs sorely,, and the comment disparaging Avant Garde Art in another venue.

If you don't understand Art in some way that you see, and it's not blasphemous, then maybe you need to look and learn more. Art is a Language to learn. How long and how much work did it take for you to learn the last language you learned?

Quickly dismissing ART because you don't understand it is an immature reaction that needs to grow up.
I've always loved the arts, so I used to mark the seasons by the awards shows. Now I barely even know when they're airing.

After hearing about the Grammys, I am glad I didn't even know it was on. What a disgraceful, appalling display.