Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I am a fan of post-modern Christian writer, pastor, and thinker Brian McLaren. At a time I was losing faith in the ability of institutional religion to really do more than pamper its own people, I was given a copy of "A New Kind of Christian", and since then my outlook has been forever changed. His last book, "The Secret Meaning of Jesus" is probably the best distillation of a post-modernist view of Christianity (and a hundred times easier to read than Lesslie Newbigin's works, of which McLaren is deeply indebted). Currently, McLaren is gearing up for the release of newest book, "A Revolution of Hope: Everything Must Change", which he told us last winter would contain how the message of the Gospel must be modified by the mainstream church not only to reach new generations of people, but also to be in line more accurately with pre-Christendom (and pre-Constantine) Christianity.
As a part of this project, though, McLaren has decided to write an album's worth of new praise music. A fan of contemporary music, but long a critic of the often vapid "me-and-Jesus" kind of praise music that now rules most worship services, McLaren (apparently a long-time musician), decided to pair up with some other folks to write praise music that he believes has the necessary theological depth to be embraced by Christians in a post-Christian world. I hadn't been on his website (which is linked there on the masthead) in quite some time, so I hadn't heard about the musical "side project" or the music itself. There was a link to a YouTube video of one of the songs which is entitled "I Am An Atheist", which I then sampled. Here it is:
While I can behind what McLaren is trying to do, as a I listened to the song (which, I must admit, not only made me laugh out loud, but conjured up visions of people who smell like petulie oil sitting in a drum circle in the middle of a makeshift wigwam made out of plastic canopies singing this while surrounded by dense sage brush smoke while a girl everyone just calls "Sunshine" twirls quietly in the corner) I couldn't help but envision three other famous people who decided to take on a creative project outside of their specialty, with, um.... mixed results.
Eddie Murphy, at the hight of his fame and popularity, decided to release an album, which featured the infamous single, "Party All The Time".
The song, which was produced by the late Rick James, will never be mistaken for a Bach concerto. Murphy has often expressed his dismay at having cut the record in the style and amount of time that his schedule allowed. I can remember as a kid watching this video and hearing this song just invited howls of laughter from my high school aged friends and I. The song ensured Murphy would never record another musical album, while the video helped all of us who wondered what Rick James would look like in a silk shirt and red hair wonder no more.
For those who don't know who Alex English is, English was one of the best pure shooters and scorers to ever play in the NBA. Back in the day, he and Kiki Vandeweghe (the Great White Hope) together powered Doug Moe's high octane motion offense for the score-happy-defense-challenged Denver Nuggets. English, who was never the most popular player in a NBA that was even less popular than it is now, made a movie, "Amazing Grace and Chuck" about a basketball player who (I am not making this up) joins a little league baseball player in going "on-strike" until the world gets rid of nuclear weapons.
I'm sure your video store (unless it still rents a lot of really old video tapes) doesn't have this movie (although your local library might). It is fantastically bad. Even worse than "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" (which was Dr. J's foray into film). Now, Alex English is in the Hall of Fame, and a distinguished elder statesman of the game. However, his acting career is currently on hiatus.
If you haven't seen this clip, its kind of amazing.
Shatner, who was never what one would call the most polished of actors, recites Elton John's "Rocket Man" at what appears to be an awards show back in the seventies. I thought of him cause I'd love to see him recite the words to "I Am An Atheist", complete with a theramin accompaniment. That might be the single greatest moment in all of entertainment history.
All that being said, more power to you, Brian McLaren. I hope you fuel a praise music revolution. But, if you don't, please keep writing books.