I can't write about this topic anymore. Not only because it makes me viscerally nervous and ill, but because to say it a thousand more times would be even more gratuitous than it already is. The only reason I'm writing this is so I never have to write about it again, again. Also, because the term "American Ayatollah" just occurred to me. The phrase "American Ayatollah" is as bothersome and unfortunate as it is painfully accurate. Why does it occur to me now?
Because I have been reminded, again, that in America, like Iran, artless is not only a trait, but a virtue.
In America, artlessness is a virtue.
It's why I came to Mexico. I can't talk about it in English without getting nervous, angry, or sick. And I have ZERO white- or America guilt. I hate both white guilt and America guilt. I'm an unashamed white Americano, and why shouldn't I be?
I'm also an unashamed songwriter. Contrary to popular opinion, art is not a sin.
So why am I writing this now? Because of my visceral, reflexive reaction to the response I received from Hardcore Christianity in Phoenix, Arizona to the news that I'd posted one of their blocked videos. Rather than thanking me for sharing the video, they told me about deliverance, with a well-meaning presumption that I (probably) don't have a broken or repentant heart toward my life. This is standard operating procedure in every Christian circle I have ever experienced north of the Rio Grande. Which is one of the many reasons I came to Mexico.
However, my heart of repentant broken-ness is such that if Hardcore Christianity weren't worth talking about, and their ministry wasn't the single most-valuable ministry I have ever come across, I wouldn't mention it at all. The work they do is of fundamental importance. It is far more important than anything any songwriter or singer of any stripe could possibly aspire to. Visit their YouTube page and listen to the message. It's important. However, they have a guy who thinks that if you listen to CLASSICAL music you're not "honoring God," and that any music in which the lyrics don't name-drop Jesus Christ is demonic (regardless of whether or not the singer is a true believer), so you need to be aware of the hardcore artistic idolatry there.
The artistic idolatry in the U.S. is such that most true Christian believers there genuinely believe that ARTLESSNESS IS A VIRTUE. It's not just a common, irrelevant trait. In America, like in Iran, artlessness is a virtue. They don't see art as a trade, they see it as an act of divinity. An act of divinity that can be inverted to infernal devices.
Which, indeed, is possible. If you elevate the act to divine status.
Which is idolatry.
Like plumbing, cooking, or automobile repair, songwriting is a trade. The fact that most people believe they're entitled to the products of musicians' labors for free, and/or that it is an inherent act of worship, indicates that most people elevate the trade to a faux-divine status, and are therefore engaged in some form of idolatry, however unwitting. Do you go to the restaurant and walk out without paying? Do you scoff at the plumber who bills you for services rendered? Of course not. But when it comes to music, most people seem to genuinely believe, whether they're aware of it or not, that "the song belongs to all of us."
If you believe the song belongs to all of us, you owe me your shoes. Your shoes belong to all of us. Give them to me now. If not me, the next homeless songwriter you tell to "get a real job." Give him your shoes. Your shoes are the product of your labor, which belongs to all of us. Give your shoes to the next invalidated cultural refugee you see, or become another practitioner of artless fundamentalism. Don't argue from on high. We've heard it all before. Don't talk. Just do it. Give me your shoes.
Do it now.
I can't believe I'm still writing this message. Well, I feel better now, having written it. I had to write it, so I can remain subscribed to Hardcore Christianity, which Thursday night streams with Rick Katt have changed my life. The people there are doing God's work. Since I don't believe artlessness is a virtue, neither can I possibly believe it is a sin. It just is. Artlessness is neither good nor bad. It is merely a trait, like blue hair, or purple skin. It doesn't make anybody better or worse than anybody else.
If you're in the Phoenix, Arizona area, definitely check out Hardcore Christianity. It will change your life. At the very least, check out their Thursday-night livestream, the blocked video of which I'll post below. I'll also post the messages I sent them earlier today, so I don't have to repeat myself again, again. My bitterness is a sin, and I have to get away from everyone who disregards my entire life's work as demonic to heal from it, and repent of it, and remember that it's okay for those people to think that way. They're not entirely wrong, after all.
But they're not entirely right, either.
Thanks for listening.
p.s. Decide for yourself if songs like "Tomorrow To The Day" are demonic because they're not gospel hymns performed by people wearing antifreeze smiles. It isn't a gospel song, but it clearly points to Jesus. Does the blindness and unwillingness of other people to listen to your work automatically invalidate it? It does not. Does other peoples' ignorance of your spiritual condition validate their assessment of it? It does not. If well-meaning people for whom artlessness is simply a trait (regardless of how they unwittingly elevate it) participate in a culture that invalidates the work of an entire group of tradesmen as a matter of natural course, does that mean Jesus doesn't see you, or hear your cries in the empty wilderness? If, like a dead, unloved, and unappreciated tree, an invalidated cultural refugee falls in the woods, does Jesus hear it?
He does. As hollow, sorrowful, and empty as it seems, don't ever let them tell you otherwise.
Original Message To Hardcore Christianity
I have completely abandoned any hope of anyone north of the Rio Grande ever listening to a word I say; 15 years of living in cars and vans because nobody at any level of society believes my work is worthy of reasonable compensation (whatever their views on Jesus Christ) has done much to harden my heart, or, perhaps more accurately, has given me a STRONG SENSE OF VISCERAL DISENFRANCHISEMENT that is NOT based in abuse, and therefore easy for people to deny. The effect of this disenfranchisement is that I actually, viscerally feel more comfortable around people with whom I share no cultural or familial connections whatsoever (Mexicans). They're grateful people, and haven't been trained to hate each other. I make no attempts to ingratiate myself to them, but I'm more comfortable around them. It's a form of, forced-yet-self-imposed willing exile. But that's a tangent.
This email is perhaps my first (and possibly last) chance to make this point, and I appreciate you taking the time to listen to it. It's okay if you don't. Nobody else does. I have no faith in people whose first language is English. They've ignored me off the Titanic, and while lifeboat life is sad and not my first choice, it does beat arguing with smug demoniacs on the deck of the ship about politics and identity issues (not you).
YOU ARE RIGHT, of course, to observe a strong demonic influence in my work. It's one of the reasons, probably, I never write anymore. Except a couple gospel songs in Spanish, and one song called "Tomorrow To The Day," which last verse contains explicit gratitude to Jesus Christ. It isn't a gospel song, but it's true. Nobody up there cares about that, though. Like Iran, in America, artlessness is a virtue.
You are right to observe a strong demonic influence in my work, in some of the cover art, etc., and it is only natural to assume I must join Zoom night with a broken heart, open to repentance. However, let me tellya brother, I'M ALREADY THERE, and have been for awhile.
Your ministry is the ONLY ONE I have EVER FOUND that I don't feel compelled to argue with. The Lord called me away from weed almost 2 years ago, but I will always be aware that using it saved my life when alcohol was killing me in 2001. Regardless of what anybody believes, that is true. Did He call me away from it? YES. Will I ever pretend that isn't true? NO. Will I argue with anybody who automatically thinks smoking weed is communing with demons? NO. They might be right. I'm not dogmatic about my OPINION. It's a moot point for me anyway. God called me to purity, not mixing being stoned with reading the Bible. I've been there. There's a poster on my Redbubble which depicts me wearing a T-shirt on which is scrawled "JUNKIES FOR JESUS." It's by far one of the most idiotic periods of my life. This isn't that.
In like manner, I am beyond grateful for anybody up there who is open to the possibility that being duped by fake Christians who are fleecing you for millions of dollars in an era in which it impossible for singers and musicians to make a real living (they see an opportunity in a naive, gullible demographic), by name-dropping Jesus in a song lyric and feigning happiness everywhere they go, is ALMOST AS UNWISE as walking down the street with a T-shirt proclaiming that you are a junkie in service of Jesus Christ.
Not quite as unwise, but maybe almost. Maybe not. I'm not dogmatic about my opinions. Jesus didn't call us to be contentious within the body about issues like this. If _________ wants to tell me I'm not serving the Lord because I haven't thrown out my Miles Davis albums, and thinks that listening to Miles Davis is the same as listening to Slayer or Biggie Smalls, he is welcome to his opinion. I think he's out of his legalistic mind, but God bless him anyway. I'm not going to argue with him about it. God bless him on every level.
That said, while it is OBVIOUS I am STILL IN NEED of more deliverance, I would be grateful for anyone Christian up there who has enough faith to consider the possibility that their salvation is not at risk by looking at a few of these articles, perhaps reading past any demonically-inspired immaturity that may be in them, of which I'm unaware, and while not compromising with Satan by "meeting me halfway," if indeed it would require a compromise with Satan (I'm not convinced), just considering the possibility that art is amoral, and not in and of itself either virtuous or sinful. How DO you tell the sheep from the goats? Listening to fake Christians who name-drop Jesus receive applause while you live in a van perhaps IS a GATEWAY FOR DEMONIC BITTERNESS TO TAKE ROOT. My problem, certainly, but perhaps not entirely my doing? There is no FAULT, except with Satan and his demons, but perhaps it's not as simple as believing in the virtuousness of listening to fake art made by fake Christians.
How To Tell The Sheep From The Goats?
What Is Devil's Music?
Because the end result, and one thing I have to look past even Rick Katt on, is that by not being able to make a living, and being told it's because I'm a demoniac, my work has become INVALIDATED. Rick Katt walks in the room and flips $200K houses like pancakes, while I'm eating expired beans from the food bank in the back of a freezing (or burning) van in the parking lot of Safeway, my home for the night. Is it possible that ART is not something to be REPENTED OF, but rather infusing it with demons is? Is it possible that _________ is an artistic legalist, and therefore an unwitting art worshiper, God bless him even more than He already has?
Art Worshipers & Artistic Legalists:
(There's an article or 2 on the Publish0x page about "Fake Christians, Fake Music" way down the list if you have the time, interest, and initiative)
Anyway, it's a lot to unpack, much to read even if you only make it to the end of this message (which I don't expect), and I don't expect a response. And in fact I would hesitate to open one. The English world has trained me to distrust it, and if I have any joy at all, I usually hesitate to check my phone or email, because I'm tired of patronizing, invalidating news from the United States. Which is in fact one of the reasons I'm down here. I have much to say, and I AM broken and DO have a VERY REPENTANT heart, and the Joy of the Lord IS my strength, and your ministry has been one of the greatest blessings of my life, even though I've never been there, and will probably never return to the U.S. Though if God says to, I will (I don't think He will).
Which is the only reason I'm writing you at all. Even if you never respond, don't finish this message, and don't click on anything, and keep me at arm's length like everybody else. You're one of the few, perhaps only, people left up there I consider worth saying it to at all. Which had better not be haughty from my end. God forgive me if it is. I'll think about the Zoom. Maybe if the cultural Ayatollahs up there realized that their inability to sing, play, or write were not virtues in and of themselves, and didn't therefore qualify them to AUTOMATICALLY have dogmatic opinions about the topic without thinking, I'd be more inclined. My work is valid. Repenting of art is like repenting of speaking English. I DO have to clean the bones out of the tomb, undoubtedly, and perhaps you can help me with that. But allow me to throw the possibility your way that there is perhaps some whitewashing going on on your OWN cultural tombs. Maybe not. Unwittingly, to be sure. It isn't self-righteousness on your (America's) part; it's just a total lack of appreciation of your artists. It doesn't matter. We're not even going to be singing "Amazing Grace" in Heaven. And I DO need more deliverance, whether the Ayatollahs up there ever validate me or not.
Thanks for your response, and your ministry. See you in Heaven if not sooner,
In fact, I think the "art is automatically demonic if it doesn't name-drop Jesus, regardless of the actual faith or beliefs of the artist" idea is an unwitting form of IDOLATRY. It puts art on a pedestal.
Art is neither sacrosanct nor defiled, by nature. It is a TRADE. I am not a priest with words and music any more than the car mechanic is a priest with a water pump. I am a CAR MECHANIC; words and tunes are my wrenches, and songs are my cars. Some are built for carrying groceries, some are hot rods. Some of the ones that have been infused with demons have BY THE NATURE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT RESIDES WITHIN ME, been rendered obsolete (and in a few cases, unfinished). But it's not an inherently righteous (or defiled) act. Meaning writing and singing music.
To think otherwise is a form of idolatry. The culture thinks so unnaturally highly of its singers and performers, that it automatically assumes that what they do is somehow more important than what the plumber or car mechanic does.
It is not. And it can not be repented from. Though, you'll never see me make an album called Angels on Fire again, of course, and thank God. But I don't think the U.S. respects art. It thinks far too highly of it to respect it for what it actually is. Which is no more or less important than what the car mechanic does. And for the record, the guy who invented indoor plumbing did far more for humanity than Michelangelo or Miles Davis ever could. We pay him, but treat people like me as though we were priests overseeing some faux-divine act. Hardcore idolatry.
Thanks for listening,