September 14, 2010
Calvin College: No P***ographers Allowed!
Christian school cancels New Pornographers concert because of the band's name
On the surface, the decision seems to go against the grain of the mission of Calvin's Student Activities Office, which schedules concerts. The SAO aims to "change the conversation about popular culture" and "seeks to help students engage with popular culture and to discern the positive and negative messages contained within. We attempt to perform this critical Christian service by equipping our students with the tools and experiences necessary to begin discerning culture." That includes bringing in guest lecturers and musicians of all stripes -- Christian and non-Christian.
Ken Heffner, Calvin's director of student activities, said the decision to cancel The New Pornographers was solely over the band's name, and not its spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof) or the message of its music. Heffner wouldn't comment on who made the final decision to cancel the show. When asked if alumni pressure had anything to do with the decision, he wouldn't comment.
Heffner told CT that the decision was made last week, but wasn't announced until Monday so the school could relay the news to the band before going public with the announcement. Heffner said the band "didn't agree" with the decision, but there was "no anger" and "they were pretty understanding." He also said that the band agreed not to "say anything disparaging" about Calvin as a result of this situation.
Heffner said that he didn't believe that the SAO's mission has been compromised, and that school officials reiterated their support of the SAO. "The college is committed to this work," he told CT. "Their message is to continue on with what we do. I don't feel that our hands have been tied at all."
Indeed, the SAO has 16 shows planned for this fall, including Over the Rhine, Blitzen Trapper, Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken, The Weepies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Colour Revolt, and Van Dyke Parks.
On its website, the SAO noted that "we will continue to do our best to feature artists who will challenge, delight and inspire our audiences, artists whom we discern, from our Reformed perspective, are getting something right. At Calvin, students and the general public experience the work of international touring artists in the context of Christian examination and evaluation. Concerts are, and will continue to be, part of a carefully crafted context that encourages serious critical engagement of popular culture."