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."
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.