Circled by a relentless journalist in a 2006 interview, quirky indie wunderkind Sufjan Stevens found himself backed into a corner and confronted about his understated faith. “Do you think we’re seeing a new era of Christian music?” the dogmatic journalist asked.
“There’s no such thing as Christian music,” retorted a seemingly exasperated Stevens. “’Christian music’ exists exclusively within the few insulated floors (cubicles and computers included) of some corporate construction in Nashville, Tennessee.”
Stevens offered further clarification in March this year, in a piece published in the The Atlantic under the ambitious title How Sufjan Stevens Subverts the Stigma of Christian Music.
When pressed on how his faith influences his art he offered, “It’s not so much that faith influences us as it lives in us. In every circumstance (giving a speech or tying my shoes), I am living and moving and being. This absolves me from ever making the embarrassing effort to gratify God (and the church) by imposing religious content on anything I do.”
Stevens’ stance echoes bible scholar N.T Wright, whose prescription for a Christian influence in the modern age started with full immersion, a call to be “at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology.”
He may not be ushering a new era of Christian music, but he’s a great example of an artist who lives a holistic faith; one that informs not only every facet of his art, but his life.
The Atlantic surmises: “[For Stevens], the gospel doesn’t just play some small, personal role in life and culture; it infiltrates and restores all of life and culture. It addresses the entire human experience, or “the totality of life” as Frances Schaeffer described it. Stevens’ music also doesn’t alienate listeners of different beliefs. His work may seem less spiritual than that of others, given its seeming focus on “secular” rather than “sacred” things, but it actually proves more accessible to the wider world than that of contemporary Christian music—an irony given the evangelical intentions of these artists.”
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