April 09, 2012

Middle Ground.

Alright, as you are well aware, I greatly enjoy Jars of Clay. Their music, their message, everything. Dan Haseltine is their lead singer and if you've read my blog you would have heard me mention him before. In his latest blog post he discusses why the band tours and one of the key things he keeps bringing up is "middle ground." Bear with me on this; I am actually going somewhere.

First, a little background. I've known Jars of Clay pretty much since they started in one form or another; as Dan mentions that's 18 years. I've probably been aware of them for sixteen or seventeen of those year. It was nine years ago that I really became a fan. I think one of the reasons I still really appreciate the band is that they maintain their musical integrity while doing different things. Does that make sense? If you know Jars of Clay you'll probably know what I'm talking about. Who We Are Instead is vastly different from Good Monsters but I love them both. Much Afraid is my least favourite recording of their's but it still has its gems and the beauty of it all is that at varying times over the last nine years I've appreciated certain songs more than others.

I'll try not to carry on about why they are my favourite band and why you should give them a listen and will instead try to stick to what I came here to say.

Dan discusses the middle space and how Jars of Clay wants to fit in there as neither a Christian or a secular group. You're not necessarily going to know sitting down and listening to 80% of their songs that they've got God on the mind. I guess that depends on which CD you've picked up, though. Redemption Songs will leave very little doubt, especially with the tagline "save the hymnals." At the risk of making some of you uncomfortable, I love Jesus and I like listening to music that shares many of my similar beliefs. I'm not a big drinker, I don't party, and I certainly don't beat up hoes, so it's nice to listen to something I can relate to and that I know isn't going to offend anyone. Except maybe atheists.

I don't have a problem listening to music that isn't "Christian," though. I quite enjoy it. I don't listen to Christian radio stations by default although they are programmed into my car's stereo. I think middle ground is important. Living outside of a Christian bubble is kind of huge. Some of my favourite people don't have the same faith as I do and I get the feeling that if I had no middle ground interests we'd have very little to talk about. I think that's part of living in the modern world.

Dan Haseltine says a few truly excellent things. I love that he talks about the middle space being for both drug addicts and preachers. That says no judgment. I think that's one thing a lot of "religious" people struggle with. I know I do. I think most of my judging is done closer to home though.

One thing that I think Christians get a bad reputation for is hypocrisy. Okay, I don't think it, I know it. While a lot of people label themselves "Christians" I think there are a lot of ways of defining that title. Everyone has different degrees of religion or spirituality or lack thereof. I think that's something that's important to keep in mind without passing too much judgment.

I grew up going to church although I didn't come from a highly religious family. My mom was the one that got me going to church at the tender age of three and, while I don't doubt her faith, we were never a "religious" family. We would pray at dinner and bed time and talk about church but it never went much deeper than that.

I got the majority of my Christian understanding from my time at church and a tight knit group of relatively sheltered girlfriends. I remember being fifteen or so on the way to a youth conference and hearing someone say "piss" and how shocked I was that things like that weren't utterly taboo. It was a life changing moment for me.

In case you're getting the wrong impression of young me I did not grow up in a bubble, went to public school, had a harder time that a lot of my friends growing up being a socially awkward only child that couldn't reconcile a strong desire to have friends and a desire to be a "good Christian kid." Thankfully I grew out of that stage and into the lovely, socially capable young woman I am today. Seriously, it's night and day and I feel like a different person. You can debate my social skills all you'd like.

That "piss" moment helped me realize that Christians are people too. It's a sad thing for that realization to have come so late in life.

One thing Dan Haseltine said that really stuck out to me was, " Have a beer and consider the depths of love and faith." It made me smile. I know some people think alcohol is the devil and for some people that struggle with it I'm sure it certainly comes close. He's not asking people to get drunk, though. He's saying to enjoy the middle ground and do it in moderation. There's nothing wrong with alcohol. Jesus drank wine. You know it, I know it. Sure enough, though, someone commented that they were shocked that a Christian would be encouraging other Christians to drink beer. The comment may have been tongue in cheek, but it's hard to say.

I love the idea of a middle ground. It meant a lot to me when I finally realized that it was there. As "Christians" we're meant to live in the world but not be of it. Is it possible to love Jesus and not be a total prude? Absolutely! I think that there's a total balancing act involved and it can be hard to find that balance. Enter hypocrisy.

I just thought I'd share with you his post because as much as it is about Jars of Clay, it made me think about how I've viewed Christianity and its place in the world throughout my life.

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