Culture Notes


Issue: "Day scare," Jan. 10, 1998

Reforming CCM

Luther offered 99 Theses against the medieval commercialization of the gospel. Christian recording artist Steve Camp is offering 107 Theses calling for reformation in the contemporary Christian music industry. Mr. Camp, himself a bestselling CCM performer, is publicizing his 107 Theses by distributing a poster to Christian musicians and their fans. He begins by confessing that "early in my own musical journey I wrote songs that neither represented good music nor precise theology." He then laments the theological anemia that afflicts so many CCM songs from avoiding the name of God in favor of vague euphemisms such as "Love," "The Man Upstairs," "My Higher Power," and "Our Family Values Expert" to promoting a human-centered message of self-esteem, happiness, and experience, rather than the biblical gospel. Artistically, Mr. Camp says that "gospel music today has become music for the moment, but not for eternity." A major target of Mr. Camp's manifesto is the commercialism of today's Christian music.He takes special aim at the secular ownership of most CCM studios. His 107 Theses set forth proof-texted biblical principles for music, including sections on "the character of the Christian musician personal integrity and holiness" and the need "to be above reproach in all business activity." Aligning himself with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' attempt to bring reformation to the evangelical subculture, Mr. Camp calls for a return to the Reformation solas (Christ alone, Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, and God's glory alone). Mr. Camp's strongly worded poster is creating a stir in CCM circles, with many music executives predictably accusing him of being "judgmental." But he appears to have struck a nerve.

Information technology update: Web ratings and high-tech steeples

In the weeks following the Supreme Court decision striking down the Communications Decency Act, designed to restrict children's access to Web-based pornography, the Clinton administration met with internet moguls to develop a system of self-regulation. In addition to promises of more effective filtering software, industry honchos are heralding a new rating system, modeled after the one purported to protect children from movies and TV shows. Telecommunications companies will need some 70,000 new antennae to service the vast array of cell phones and other communications devices. But zoning regulations and environmentalists keep them from building all the new sites they need. So the telcom companies have their eye on church steeples. In Massachusetts, companies are paying churches as much as $2,500 per month to put transmitters in their steeples, which are high enough to send effective signals. About 50 churches in that state have already struck deals, and the use of high-tech steeples is spread ing to other states. According to one AT&T official, churches "are sitting on potential gold mines."

Pope gets Lucille, but not Gloria

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First Bob Dylan saluted Pope John Paul II by shaking his hand in a Vatican-sponsored youth concert. At the Vatican's Christmas concert, blues great B. B. King went a step further by giving the pope his legendary guitar "Lucille." Although blues fans were aghast that Mr. King would no longer be playing his beloved guitar, they should take heart. According to Mr. King's autobiography, there have already been 17 Lucilles. But despite the vogue of papal audiences for rock 'n' roll, Latin pop star Gloria Estefan has turned down an invitation to sing for the pontiff. Not that she is dissing the pope. The Cuban-American singer was invited to perform during the pope's visit to Cuba January 21-25. Like most Castro refugees, Mrs. Estefan is a staunch anti-communist. She supports the pope's visit, but Mrs. Estefan refuses to return to Cuba while Castro is in charge. "We will never sing in Cuba while Fidel Castro's regime exists," said her husband and manager Emilio Estefan. "The day Gloria sings in Cuba, she will do so because Cuba is free and we trust that this will happen soon."


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