“Is Kirk Franklin trying to serve two masters?” Part Three (final)

Some very serious questions were raised at the end of Part Two. If you’re coming into this debate now, or you are the sort of reader who wants to get to the end as quickly as possible, then I do understand where you are coming from – but if you don’t go back and read Part 1 and Part 2, you will miss something that you may need for your own understanding!

~

My friend ‘B’ had said:

“…I still contend that any musical genre can be used to glorify God. I don’t know if another quick analogy over lunch will be helpful, but since drugs have been mentioned: If heroin can be usefully and helpfully employed in a hospital, but at the same time destructively abused by a drug dealer or an addict, then couldn’t we say the same about certain club music genres or hip-hop?”

If my friend ‘B’ is right, then some club genres (but not all?) can be used to promote the gospel – and seeing as virtually all club genres are part of a lifestyle of rampant hedonism where emotions are lived out both in the mind and the body and where the very point is to lose control in controlled circumstances (like a person choosing to get high in a ‘safe’ party environment or get drunk in a situation where there are people around to ensure that they don’t become vulnerable to the wrong persons).

There are indeed some club genres that are more cerebral – more for the mind than for the body. But the musical skill involved in their creation is still something that really only makes sense as music itself. Some of those drum programmers are incredibly talented – but this music does not tend to have any message other than that of music itself and being a celebration of human creativity on its own terms. How do I know this? I did a research project for one of my postgraduate research projects on contemporary club genres of the more cerebral variety – an area that very few Christians have researched in any way. It was singularly eye-opening.

However musically clever they may be, brass tacks: all club genres and other popular (that is an important word as you will see when I write about what jazz actually is) secular music forms are actively promoting a secular, anti-God agenda through both lyrics and instrumentation – creating the means for the rational mind to be bypassed by the music. And this agenda is not in any way compatible with the message of the gospel. Neither is it congruent with who God is. And this is the final strand of this argument: in Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul talks about two contrasting sets of characteristics – the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

Part of the theology of that passage is contained in the reality that there are some things that mankind can do pretty much on their own. Sure, they need the life-breath that belongs to God, but other than that, they can execute the ‘works’ of the flesh all on their own. We can make things with our hands and think them with our minds. And so Paul calls them ‘works.’

So why does he not say ‘works of the Spirit?’

Well – in a way, he does say that! Let me explain. The works of the flesh are what we do in our fallen, carnal state. The work that the Spirit does in us when we say ‘yes’ to Him is what the Spirit does in us – not what we do in the Spirit! Can you see the difference? And so, the work of the Spirit in us results in ‘fruit’ – the fruit of our lives! Now, I can build a car, or a computer, or a whole hospital complex – but I cannot make a fruit. I may stand in my own orchard and admire my fruit trees that I grew and cultivated myself, but I did not make the seed. I did not give that seed power to live and become fruit, and I did not give that fruit the properties that make it life-giving to me (not that all fruit is safe to eat, but you know what I am saying).

I believe that as a Christian, I should abstain from alcohol. Not all Christians do. That’s fine – that’s how it is. Here’s my point: just because I do not believe in drinking alcohol, and cider is made from apples, does that mean that I can make a reasonable argument to say that apples are bad? God made apples!

I also believe that fermented substances can play a part in our healthcare – but I would not say that commercially-manufactured-and-packaged cider bottles are a ‘fruit’ of the Spirit. The alleged health benefits of commercially produced alcohol are far outweighed by the incredible trouble it has brought to the world. Inebriation is not part of God’s will for humankind, and so anything that facilitates that is going to be a ‘work of the flesh.’

So then: what about the origins of jazz? And gospel music? Surely they cannot be used for the glory of God either, given where they come from!

I have been waiting to write on the subject of jazz and Christian faith for a long time. The time has come. In due course, that blog post will appear.

And I will also address the origins of gospel music in a separate blog post. Stand by for that.

In conclusion, therefore, do I believe that Kirk Franklin is trying to serve two masters? Yes, I do. I think that he is an exceptionally talented artist who has been deceived by some very subtle and dark forces. In sampling secular music and collaborating so closely with artists who have gone out of their way to make music that itself flies in the face of God and His will for humankind in order to make a type of music that will appeal to secular listeners who might want to be ‘entertained’ before being ‘edified’ he has crossed a line that I would not advise any Christian music artist to cross. This does not mean that we never work with those who do not believe as we do – but to what extent? And with what parameters and boundaries? What sets the agenda for the style of music we put out there? If KF had stuck firmly to the kind of pure, confessional gospel that he can do so well and brought his collaborators into that soundworld, that would have been different. But he is going in their direction – not the other way round! How does that work? What example does it set?

In addition, I have not yet addressed the matter of homosexuality in the music industry and in the gospel music industry, but the time has now come to hit some more of those big subjects. I do not believe that KF is homosexual. But one of the consequences of writing this three-parter is this: I finally know for sure that if I ever become a famous sacred music artist, I will need to stay away from the major labels. I may distribute with a big name, but I will need to retain control over the direction of my own music and I will not be targeting any audience groups. KF is on record as saying he wants to target fans of both gospel and r’n’b. I used to think like that. Now, I know my job is to put the gospel message into the best music that I am capable of making and let the general public make their own decisions.

In Part 1, I posted the video for ‘I Smile.’ To my mind, that video sent some very mixed messages. But if you were to take these very words, with a more powerful and focussed choral arrangement (and band arrangement, come to that), and have a confessional gospel choir singing it, it would be a different message to the one in the video – but you know what? Make up your own mind…

“I Smile”

I dedicate this song to recession,
depression and unemployment.
This song’s for you.

Today’s a new day, but there is no sunshine.
Nothing but clouds, and it’s dark in my heart
and it feels like a cold night.
Today’s a new day, where are my blue skies,
where is the love and the joy that You promised me
You tell me it’s all right.

(I’ll be honest with you)
I almost gave up, but a power that I can’t explain,
fell from Heaven like a shower now.

(When I think how much better I’m gonna be when this is over)
I smile, even though I hurt see I smile,
I know God is working so I smile,
Even though I’ve been here for a while (what you do?)
I smile, smile..
it’s so hard to look up when you’ve been down.
Sure would hate to see you give up now
You look so much better when you smile, so smile.

Today’s a new day, but there is no sunshine.
Nothing but clouds, and it’s dark in my heart,
and it feels like a cold night.
Today’s a new day, but tell me where are my blue skies,
where is the love and the joy that You promised me
You tell me it’s all right.

(the truth is)
I almost gave up, but a power that I can’t explain (the Holy Ghost power, yo)
fell from Heaven like a shower now.

I smile, even though I hurt see I smile,
I know God is working so I smile,
Even though I’ve been here for a while
I smile, smile..
it’s so hard to look up when you’ve been down.
Sure would hate to see you give up now
You look so much better when you smile.

Smile.. for me
Can you just smile… for me.
Smile.. for me
Can you just smile… for me.

ohohoh you look so much better when you
ohohoh you look so much better when you
ohohoh you look so much better when you
ohohoh you look so much better when you
ohohoh you look so much better when you
(and while your waiting)
ohohoh you look so much better when you
(and while your praying)
ohohoh you look so much better when you
(look in the mirror)
ohohoh you look so much better when you
(always remember)
You look so much better when you smile

I almost gave up, but a power that I can’t explain (but the Holy Ghost power, yo)
fell from heaven like a shower now.

I smile, even though I hurt see I smile,
I know God is working so I smile,
Even though I’ve been here for a while
I smile, smile..
it’s so hard to look up when you’ve been down.
Sure would hate to see you give up now.
You look so much better when you smile.
so smile.

ohohoh (Dallas) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (New Orleans) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (Cleveland) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (Detroit) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (Philly) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (Jersey) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (L.A) you look so much better when you
ohohoh (all my people say) you look so much better when you
smile…

See I just don’t want you to be happy
’cause you gotta have something happening.
I want you to have joy
’cause can’t nobody take that away from you.
I see you…SMILE!!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s