A favorite band is blacklisted

I was heartbroken to learn this week that a major Christian college invited and then un-invited one of my favorite bands to play on their campus. Calvin College, a Reformed college in Michigan, un-invited them for the same reason I’m reluctant to say the band’s name in a church setting: they’re called the New Pornographers.

But I hasten to add, “They’re not pornographic! They don’t endorse pornography.” The name comes from something that televangelist Jimmy Swaggart said many years ago, calling rock and roll the “new pornography.” I’ve seen the band in concert several times now. I have all their albums. A couple of years ago, in fact, I had tickets to see them on the very same night I had my annual evaluation by the Staff-Parish Relations committee. I explained to the chairperson that I had tickets to an unnamed concert, and could I be evaluated first, so I could duck out early and make it to the show. And of course that was no problem.

But I wasn’t going to advertise the name of the band I was seeing if I could help it! The very first thing that Don Martin said when he walked into the SPR meeting was, “Hey, Brent, did you tell everyone the name of the band you were going to see tonight?” Oh, brother!

I’m a little embarrassed by their name… apparently this college was, too. The band’s name, though ironic and satirical, proved too controversial for the college to bear. Stephanie Drury, in her “Stuff Christian Culture Likes” blog, has this to say about the controversy (pay attention to the last sentence!):

The school states they had invited the band in keeping with their “rubric of engaging culture through a Christian lens” and say they “remain committed to the difficult, yet important work at faithfully engaging popular culture.” But this was a little too much culture to take. They couldn’t explain the satirical name to enough people and for fear that their Reformed institution be thought pornography enthusiasts (and perhaps lose some alumni funding?) they issued a statement that they just couldn’t explain the band name to everyone. But if a Christian college is that concerned about being thought to endorse pornography, they might let the nefarious internet activity on Christian college campuses speak for itself and remove all doubt.

This problem illustrates the impulse toward separatism that I described in yesterday’s sermon. We Christians are often overly afraid of being contaminated by the world.

Here’s a homemade video I made of a recent New Pornographers concert I attended. Please note: My friend Mike’s subtitled comment is ironic. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on “A favorite band is blacklisted”

  1. They are running up against a consequence of their name. It really shouldn’t be unexpected. I would want to name my band something I could be proud of in any arena. Just my opinion.

    1. I hear you, Mary, but shouldn’t Christians be first and foremost interested in the truth? Maybe this is a trivial example—it’s just a rock concert, after all. But the principle at stake here is telling the truth. That’s not a bad principle for a Christian college to defend.

      Here’s what I mean: No serious adult could listen to their music and have any concerns whatsoever about the band’s being pornographic. That being the case, it’s disingenuous for a the school’s administration to cancel the concert out of concern over the content of the music or even the band’s image (which is clean). In other words, the truth is they’re not pornographic in any way; the band’s name is ironic, as anyone could quickly deduce (as if real pornographers would call themselves pornographers!); the word “pornographer” is itself not an offensive word—which is why preacher types, like the one from whom the band’s name was lifted in the first place, can use the word in church.

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