Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Matt Maher, Identity Politics, and some final thoughts

Identity Politics

I was talking to one of my friends about this album yesterday and she brought up a contradiction of sorts. She was annoyed that in a review she had read of this album the reviewer had specifically noted that Matt was a worship leader at a Catholic Church. She felt like that might turn some non-Catholic Christians off by the possibility of their prejudices. At the same time she said she was disappointed that this album wasn't more "Catholic." I thought that was an interesting set of responses.

First, I am a proponent of Matt's affiliation with St. Tim's being known. I pointed out that, for most people, it's a major plus for a worship leader to actually have a home church where they are actually involved with leading an actual congregation in worship. So I think Matt's credibility is strengthened by that being known and celebrated.

Second, while there isn't a "Litany of the Saints" or a "Lamb of God" or "Adoration" on this album it seems laughable to me to question Matt's Catholicity. Apart from his extremely close relationship with organizations like LifeTeen, ADORE (and with that CRS), YouthArise, the Steubenville Youth Conferences, etc he is just totally Catholic! I don't know what else to say! It's so much a part of his identity and work, it seems like a step in the wrong direction to demand that his work have some sort of "Catholic" boundaries. I feel this way in general about all Christian artists: let's let them be ARTISTS instead of demanding some sort of saccharine, boxed-in, idea of what it means to express one's faith.

My point is that this brings up well the place Matt, his music, and his band find themselves in as minorities in the CCM scene. I rejoice, though, because it's so exciting to have the opportunity to build bridges in the way something as unthreatening as music allows us. I really celebrate the opportunities Matt has had to dialogue with people like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, JD Walt, and other influential Christian artists. Jesus prayed that we would be one and I think we're all called to find our commonalities and celebrate our shared faith in Jesus Christ.

A Few More Things

Here is the first part of an unabashedly Catholic (and candid, I did NOT need to know anything about Kenny's bowels...) discussion of Matt's new record; he talks with LifeTeen's Greg Iwinski. The thing this interview reminded me of was that a LONG time ago Matt had mentioned this album would have some thinking centered on Augustine and his Confessions. The first time I heard the album streaming on his website I thought, "I didn't hear anything about Augustine. Am I missing something?" Then I promptly forgot all about it. I was looking forward to hearing that song. Someday I think we will.

When I opened my jewel case and saw the actual CD I think I actually said, "Oh. Cool." out loud. I really like the design!

This recording is downright awful but it's SO "Catholic" that I couldn't resist adding it- Welcome to Life's thunderous opening of TRANSUBSTANTIATION! complete with band in front of crucifix and Our Lady of Guadalupe print? I love it.

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