The Grammy-award winning rock band Switchfoot released its latest album, Fading West, two days ago. But since every member of the band is a professing Christian, why doesn’t Fading West mention Christianity in any of the songs? Are the band members missing an opportunity to obey Jesus’ command to be the “light of the world?” (Matthew 5:14).
This leads to a much more basic question: is Switchfoot a Christian band?
In response to this question, lead singer Jon Forman says,
Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s [sic] Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.
Foreman goes on to say that to label some professions or callings as more “Christian” than others is “flawed and heretical” because it denies everyone’s unique purpose in God’s kingdom.
After all, how does one define “Christian?” Foreman maintains that while he can define himself as a Christian, the term simply can’t apply to any of his work. Here’s why:
Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from [S]cripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.
According to Foreman, any song can glorify God—whether or not it explicitly mentions religion or the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, this applies to any work that we do. The important thing for Christians is to do their utmost to live in obedience to God’s call on their lives.
God gave man his first job description in Genesis 1:28, a passage known as the “cultural mandate.” In it, God called us to “fill the earth and subdue it,” taking dominion over every living thing. This is a call to stewardship, to take what God has made and to improve it, to finish it so that he might say “well done, good and faithful servant,” when he returns.
It’s important to remember that the cultural mandate applies to all of creation. Because of man’s sin, creation is marred, but God hasn’t given up on it. In addition to redeeming the souls of individuals, God is actively working to restore the entire creation—his coming kingdom. Best of all, he is giving us a part to play in all of this through the everyday work that we do.
This is why it is so important for us to have a kingdom-oriented mindset in everything we do. It’s not necessarily about slapping a Christian label on everything we touch; it’s about our faithfulness and obedience in our vocations and in the workplace.
Going back to Switchfoot, Foreman sums this up when he says,
So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.
In the end, we as Christians are all members of the same body, each playing a different, but important role in furthering God’s kingdom. And since God has created us in this way, he has given us institutions such as families, churches, societies, and markets where we can all come together and exchange the unique gifts, talents, goods, and services that we have to offer. This sort of community helps us to celebrate our individuality by allowing us to specialize, leverage our differences, and serve others.
So how does all of this apply to Switchfoot? Some bands are called to create music that explicitly mentions Jesus Christ. Others, like the members of Switchfoot, find that this confines them to a box. Their calling is to serve a different audience by playing “secular” music that celebrates the beauty of life, humanity, creation, and redemption.
Both strategies glorify God and build his coming kingdom.
What makes something “Christian?” How do you incorporate a kingdom-oriented mindset into your work? Leave your comments here.
Fading West album cover – screen capture from www.switchfoot.com.