For some people, Christianity is a life-shaping faith and a source of hope and meaning. For others, it’s a tribal competition in which life is all about scoring points for Team Christian.
Good news for people in the latter category, Christianity Today reports that Team Christian now has the No. 1 album in the U.S., according to Billboard magazine:
Chris Tomlin’s new album, “Burning Lights,” topped the Billboard 200 album chart yesterday with 73,000 units sold in its first week.
He is only the fourth Christian artist ever to hit No. 1; TobyMac’s “Eye on It” … was the first since 1997. Both artists have been top award winners in Christian music.
Four No. 1 albums for Team Christian is impressive — although it still leaves us well behind Team Jehovah’s Witness.
But wait … only four Christian artists have ever had a No. 1 album?
That seems low. Sœur Sourire was a No. 1 album in 1963 based on this hit:
But Jeanine Deckers, aka “the Singing Nun,” apparently doesn’t count as a “Christian artist.”
OK, so Dominican sisters can’t be Christian artists — how about Baptists?
Well, since Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Alice Cooper, Whitney Houston and Patti LaBelle’s No. 1 albums don’t seem to count, I guess Baptists cannot be “Christian artists” either.
Just consider that small handful of artists and try to come up with some way that phrase “Christian artist” makes sense.
I suppose we could take a moralistic approach to clarify that “Christian” really only refers to real, true Christians who don’t drink or do drugs or commit adultery or wear eyeliner or marry Bobby Brown or sing about “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi.”
But that still doesn’t explain ruling out Sister Jeanine.
It also seems kind of unfair to Alice Cooper — who, off-stage, has always been a pretty straight-laced Baptist pastor’s kid.
Plus ruling out Johnny Cash puts you at odds with Billy Graham, who loved to have Johnny sing at his evangelistic rallies. If singing for Billy Graham at revival rallies doesn’t make the grade as a “Christian artist” then what does it take?
But the truth is that Sr. Jeanine and Johnny Cash and the scores of other Christians who have recorded No. 1 albums don’t count here as “Christian artists” because they weren’t “Christian” in the tribal sense of playing for Team Jesus.
Meaning the sales of their albums did not profit Team Jesus.
That is what “Christian artist” means in this context. And that is all that “Christian artist” means in this context. It means someone who records albums for a “Christian” record label, preferably one based in Nashville.
It’s not about the faith of the artist and it’s not about the art of the faithful. It’s about who gets the money.
Tribal religion always seems to be about who gets the money. Go Team Jesus!