Jeff Foxworthy, Evangelical Angst & Would Jesus be born in Hollywood, Washington DC or Little Rock Arkansas?

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Conventional wisdom sees power concentrated like maggots in rotten meat in sophisticated strategic cities like Hollywood with its glitter and glamour or DC with its power and pageantry. Ministries are clustering there like flies on honey. Visions are cast. Money is raised. Programs are launched. Prayer breakfasts are held (You know the ones where big shots show up to see and be seen and nobody prays.)

So what are we to make of Larry the cable Guy And Jeff Foxworthy? Here are blue-collar guys selling more albums than Chris Rock (Rock won the grammy for “Never Scared” which sold 32,000 copies and Larry The Cable guy’s “Right to Bear Arms” sold 700,000+) and according to a recent article in the New Yorker this phenomenon is leaving “Jewish guys in Hollywood” scratching their heads, one of them saying of Foxworthy’s tour manager JP Williams, “he is not a genius. He’s just tapped into this huge audience of one hundred thousand people filling the Astrodome to see Billy Graham, and none of us Jews here know who the f**k they are or what the f**k they’re thinking.”

In the same issue of the New Yorker, Chris Anderson, a business journalist argues in “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” that we are witnessing the decline of the blockbuster. The “emerging digital entertainment economy is going to be radically different from today’s mass market,” he writes. “If the twentieth-century entertainment industry was about hits, the twenty-first will be equally about niches.” As the NYT’s reports this is good news for CCM with groups like “Mercy Me.” Don’t tell anybody but Mercy Me’s “Undone,” from 2004, still moved more than 600,000 copies, about the same as Bruce Springsteen’s last album. Hey everybody in Nashville–there is money to be made and influence to be wielded.

The niche market and Foxworthy blue collar phenomena is good news for evangelical moneymakers but is also confusing. Evangelicals are accustomed to knowing what the popular table is, where the cheerleaders and jocks hang, and these new trends make imitation more complicated so should evangelicals become blue collar and abandon Hollywood? Do they jettison their power suits and don dungarees complete with plumber’s cracks? How do they stay relevant?

These of course are the wrong questions–a deeper more important set of questions might be the following: Where are the authentic humans originating art from their own cultural context but transcending it? Where are the thoughtful creatives? Where are the Eric Hoffers, the dock worker philosophers? Are some art forms and cultural styles more consistent with God’s restored image than others? Can entertainers emulating “Hee Haw” and making a buck off it love God with their minds? Ask Bill Gaither. (Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity, Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked¢â‚¬¦Oh there goes Midwest donor dollars leaving CFC)

At the macro level, how do we reconcile a US based entertainment culture with a faith that is global and aims to be a loving, transforming presence in the world? Here’s the deal. Al Qaeda is Sunni and Hezbollah is Shiite. Sunni are blowing the smithereens out of Iraq and Shiites have enticed Israel into blowing the smithereens out of Lebanon. Andrea Yates was found not guilty by reason of insanity. 30,000 children die of starvation & malnutrition everyday. The Superman movie has Lois Lane saying: “The world doesn’t need a savior…” Clark Kent says, “Listen”… Lois Lane: “I don’t hear anything.” Clark Kent: “I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one¢â‚¬¦” And we’re asking how many units of Mercy me are sold to the niche market of Christians?

We wonder would Jesus be born in Hollywood, DC or Arkansas? Are we like the character described by the criminal in James Lee Burke’s “Sunset Limited,” who says of his detective protagonist, “I hate guys like you¢â‚¬¦ You go to church with your family, but you got no idea what life is like for “two-thirds of the human race.”

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in July 28, 2006 by | No Comments »

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