a Grammy isn’t just a Grammy

Yesterday, the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire won the Grammy for Album of the Year.  They were by far the least-known band in the category and I imagine their album “The Suburbs” sold fewer copies than any other nominee.  They beat Eminem, Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum and Katy Perry.  But they won because they’re important.  At least I think that’s why they won.  (they may have won because Katy and Lady A. split the sugary vote and Eminem and Lady G. split the edgy vote, but that doesn’t help me make my point.)

I say “The Suburbs” is in an important album, and that the Arcade Fire is an important band because they represent a much larger movement:  small and meaningful is better than popular and unsatisfying.  Our world has gotten abstract, pre-packaged, institutional and basically meaningless.  After winning the final award of the night, Arcade Fire took the stage and sang “Ready to Start,” the first single off the now Grammy-award-winning album.  Some lyrics:

All the kids have always known
That the emperor wears no clothes
But they bow down to him anyway
It’s better than being alone

I would rather be wrong
Than live in the shadows of your song
My mind is open wide
And now I’m ready to start

People are rejecting the “inauthentic” world in all kinds of ways and it’s starting to show up in popular culture.  This is why “The Hurt Locker” beat “Avatar” for best picture last year.  This is why small, local-owned coffee shops where the owner knows the regulars can stay open less than a mile from a Starbucks.  And everyone is a part of this movement, whether they know it or not.  The people posting things like “who the heck is Arcade Fire?” all day today are a part of it too.  They express their individuality and reject certain corporations or institutions even if their iPod contains only top 40 hits.  Some people refuse to shop at Wal-Mart or McDonalds.  Some people recycle with near religious fervor.  And some people refuse to participate in organized religion because it just looks too much like every other institution. 

This is why I care about this stuff.  (actually, I care about Arcade Fire because I love their music)  But this is why I think other people should care.  The world is changing.  By the time the Grammys notice, it’s probably already changed.  And it affects the way we do church.  Church has to be real.  It has to be meaningful.  Churches who look and act like corporations and institutions will never reach these people.  You might be thinking this is where I tell you how to do that, but…this is a blog.  If I had the answers, this would be a bestselling book by now. 

What do you think?


  1. I agree with this. Don’t have much to add, so I’m not published either. Just wanted you to know I agree. Wish I knew what this is going to look like, but it’s probably going to be a “local” movement (eg. locavores, etc.) within the Church of some kind. Who knows…

  2. Wow, sorry this reply is so late. I think this is really what the “Emerging Church” is about. I don’t think it’s a radically new theology or definition of church (though emerging churches make room for both). I think at it’s core, emerging Christianity is a way of trying to do church without the “inauthentic” stuff. But since “inauthentic” might be the world’s most subjective term, it leads to all kinds of different expressions. Some helpful; some not.

    1. I’m a little bit with those folks who think “Emerging” was a little overrated, even though I bought into it pretty heavily when it first appeared. I do like the idea that you’re pointing to of “authentic church.” Authenticity is going to be the key for younger generations. Now what on earth does that look like? Well, I know it’s going to be different depending on where you are. I don’t mean the theology will be different, because I think the core orthodox traditions of the faith have to be the same. I do think, however, the expressions of that theology will look different.

      That’s probably my main problem with most “contemporary” Christian music. It’s so stinking corporate sounding and sounds just like everything else – conversely, this is my same gripe about a lot of contemporary Country music (oh great, I just sounded like the hipster complaining that I had Arcade Fire on vinyl before everyone else…I didn’t, and I don’t, so let’s clear that up.).

      Then again, I’m not Charles Wesley, out here writing hymnody or local expressions of faith. So anyway, I’ve lost my train of thought, but there you go. Thanks for the reply, better late than never. 😉

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