(Hemant’s note: This is a guest post by JulietEcho. She has been the fantastic admin for the Friendly Atheist forums for over two and a half years!)
Some contemporary Christian artists write songs that are hard to distinguish from secular music. As South Park parodied so well, many secular songs can be interpreted (or re-written by changing only a word or two) to have Christian messages. What’s an artist to do when their work is mistaken for Christian music?
The band Guster has been patiently explaining for years that, no, they aren’t a Christian band. Although some of their songs contain religious imagery (songwriter and lead singer Ryan Miller has a religious studies degree), these certainly aren’t worship songs. On the contrary, their song “Two at a Time” is a satiric take on the Noah’s Ark story, highlighting the barbarity in a tale that’s often taught to children (and the point is accented by a group of children joining in the singing during parts of the song).
Guster’s newest album, Easy Wonderful, is being released in about a month, and the band has released several songs to promote it. The latest, complete with a clever music video, is called, “Stay With Me, Jesus.” Have a listen.
What do you think the song is about? I’ll admit that my first thought was: “Why is Guster singing a praise song?” I had to give it a second listen before I caught the dark humor, the riff on a theme that’s often covered here on the Friendly Atheist blog. Still, some disappointed fans (and some happy Christian fans) have mistaken it for a Christian rock song. Most of the time, Guster refrains from explaining what their songs mean — they leave it up to fans to interpret them. This time, however, they’re taking a few steps to correct the misconception. On Wednesday, they sent an e-mail to fans that started with:
We’re introducing you to another song in today’s email. Track 5, “Stay With Me Jesus” — sounds like a Christian Rock title on the surface, but it’s not. Guster is not Christian Rock. Guster had Bar Mitzvahs.
Long-time fans should already know that the members of Guster aren’t Christians. Their old website had a Q&A section that included:
Q: Are you guys a Christian band?
A: Rather than answer this one with a simple yes/no, we suggest you check the following sources for clues: 1) Brian’s last name — “Rosenworcel.” 2) Any photo of Ryan where you can see his profile. 3) The Guster Backstage Contract Rider, where we stipify that “the dressing room must be furnished with plenty of borscht, noodle kugels, potato latkes, gefilte fish and homemade rugulah for dessert.”
Still, potential fans who don’t know much about Guster might make assumptions. I’m sure they already have some fans who appreciate their “Christian” songs and some who aren’t thrilled about the “Christian” songs, when in fact none exist. It could cost them fans, although I suppose it could also attract some new Christian fans. It’s an interesting predicament — although not a new one for the band.
What would you do in Guster’s shoes? How would you feel if your work was interpreted as being Christian-oriented when it wasn’t?