Monday, February 11, 2008

Discernment and a Grammy Award Winner

Last night I resumed awith my students what are called "Learn to Discern." A Learn to Discern is a time when we sit around and listen to a particular song, watch a music video, movie clip, etc. and discuss its content. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the music, vocals and lyrics. Then we do our best to bring the gospel to bear on the worldview being presented.

In the past we have discussed punk, country, pop, and metal. We have watched scenes from The Village and Signs. And we have talked over online dating advice. The kids enjoy it. I enjoy it. And I have seen much fruit from it in developing minds and hearts who think biblically about the world around them.

Since last night the Grammys were on TV, I thought it would be interesting to discuss a song by an artist who was nominated. So I chose Rehab by Amy Winehouse. I knew next to nothing about Amy before sitting down and listening to this song and watching the video yesterday. I did know about her drug problems, which made me want to disccuss her hit song, (and soon to be a grammy-winning single) Rehab.

Amy Winehouse's music is described as jazz, soul, R&B and doo-wop fused together to produce a sound that is magically fresh and classic. It reminds me of Van Morrison more than anyone. Although much of her music contains some graphic and gritty language there is alot of beauty to admire. I have to admit that I really like her music. It would not surprise me if people are not talking about her breakout album, Back to Black as one of the "great albums" for years to come.

Amy is either presently in Rehab and was able to leave so she could perform at the Grammy's or she has finished her "70 days." (Either way, I thought the performance was a highlight of the night along with the Josh Groban/Andrea Bocelli duet.) So we actually went further in our discussion and talked about why we thought all these young female entertainers (Spears, Olsen Twins, Lohan and now Kirsten Dunst) are ending up in Rehab. We talked mostly about the search for significance, the pressures of celebrity and the the lack of fulfillment in being famous and rich.

I closed the discussion with some confession. My default mode when I read about celebrities who are self-destructive is to judge them harshly as "losers" and "screw-ups." I write them off as weirdos who are out of touch with reality. In other words I look at them the same way the Pharisees looked at the very sinners Jesus loved. I take a position of superiority (as a believer in the gospel!) and look down on "those dirty pagans"(to qoute Keller).

But yesterday as I read about Amy Winehouse's life and music I actually was moved by the Spirit to see her as one in need of the cross just as I am. Apart from God's gracious work of the Spirit in my life I would be in the same boat with her. If I were judged by God based on my works the same way I judge celebrities of their works. If God refused me kindness because of my lack of conformity to his character and my refusal to give him the honor due him the same way I refuse to think and talk kindly about celebrities like Winehouse, I would have no hope.

I am still thinking about the implications of bringing the gospel to bear on how we think about celebrities but the following is my start:

1. The gospel should level the ground as far as moral superiority is concerned. Any morality and victory over sin I enjoy is the result of a gift. I get no credit and therefore dishonor the Giver with my pride in moral superiority.

2. I should see that what Amy Winehouse needs the most are eyes that see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. She does not need to clean up her act so I am not offended by her behavior or language.

3. Instead of smug judgements I should pray for celebrities. I should pray that God blesses those whose talents I enjoy with a belief in the gospel. I should pray that God places in their path believing men and women who will deal with them as Jesus dealt with them. It was Jesus who was known as a "friend of sinners" (Matt. 11:19 and Luke 7:34). What if the American church was famous for loving sinners instead of judging them? What if the church took it upon itself to pray for its entertainers instead of denouncing them and blaming them for our country's ills?

4. When I see so much talent in someone like Amy Winehouse, coupled with so much self-destructive behavior I am amazed. I am amazed at how the image of God can still shine brightly in the darkness.

5. The Gospel compells me to deal first with the plank in my own eye.

Below is Amy Winehouse's video for Rehab and her performance at the Grammys singing You Know I'm No Good and Rehab.

No comments: