August 12, 2010
The Day Metallica Came to Church
Author says God speaks through all kinds of pop culture -- including head banging heavy metal
John Van Sloten, whom some call "Canada's pop-culture pastor," once preached a sermon about Metallica and the band's spiritual connection, never believing anyone outside of his congregation -- Calgary's New Hope Church -- would notice. But word spread, it made international news, and even the heavy-metal band heard about it. That led to a series of sermons on pop culture, covering films like Spider-Man and Grand Torino, bands like Coldplay and Green Day, artists like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Van Sloten says God is speaking everywhere, through everything.
"The reason I preached on all these topics is because I believe they belong to God," he says. "And when things belong to God, they matter and have something to say."
It's an intriguing but controversial idea, this notion of God speaking through everything. Really? Everything? Through The Hangover? Through gossip rags and celebrity tabloids? Through Lady Gaga? The very idea drove almost half of Van Sloten's members away. But he says of those who remained, they "no longer watch a film just for entertainment; now they constantly find themselves asking, 'What are you saying here, God?' When you acknowledge that God is speaking everywhere, you're forced to engage in seeing and listening more discerningly, and to ask the right questions."
Well, yeah. Sorta. I'm all for discernment and asking the right questions, but sometimes God simply isn't behind it. Sometimes the question isn't, "What are you saying here, God?", but "What are you saying here, Musician/Filmmaker/Artist/Whatever?" It's good to ask what a piece of art or slice of pop culture might be saying, and indeed, we often can find God behind something "secular" -- truth, beauty, and goodness are all manifestations of his glory, whether the humans behind those things are believers or not. But some things are totally devoid of truth, beauty, goodness, and more, and I'm just not convinced that God speaks through those things at all. Maybe he can speak through a donkey, but I don't think he speaks through crap.
(I'm also a bit troubled by New Hope Church's website. The homepage background consists of the cover art for Van Sloten's book, and about half of the promoted content on the homepage is linking to pieces that promote the book. I'm all for self-promotion, but taking up half of your church's homepage for it? Gulp. FWIW, the publisher, Faith Alive, does have a "proper" promotional website for the book as well.)
The previous parenthetical aside, what do you think of the premise of this book? Does God really speak to us through everything?