Frank Zappa Shows Our Evangelism Sucks

January 2, 2010

Blessed Frank Zappa

Saint Francis? Frank Zappa was a musical genius who built his career on being rude, crude, and socially offensive. He’s not for everybody, but I sure liked a lot of his stuff. So I took note when a friend posted a quote on Facebook:

Frank Zappa: “To hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good and cares about any of it is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”

My response:

I like FZ. It’s a shame that something as amazing as The Great Story of Redemptive Relationship has been perceived as “The Cloud Guy” and “The Big Book” and being “bad or good.” The Christian church bears much responsibility for telling the story so poorly.

(Important clue from the Story: “bad or good” is barking up the Wrong Tree.)

Also important: “Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.”

Note that I am not merely criticizing “the way the story is told,” that is, the evangelistic technique. I think that quite often, we are telling the wrong story altogether, particularly for a post-Christian culture.

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Image from Pre-Emptive Prayer Cards

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

4 responses to Frank Zappa Shows Our Evangelism Sucks

  1. Our knowledge is defined by the boundary between what we know and what we don’t know. Or faith is defined by what we can believe and what is beyond our belief. For many people, Zappa provided those outlier points to our beliefs. And he did it with a good guitar riff and a blues chord.

    • Tim,
      In many ways, Zappa played the role of Trickster, the Shakespearean Fool …or in religious terms, the Prophet. He spoke truth to power, where the power at the time happened to be the religious right. I am glad for that.
      Plus a bunch of strange and wonderful music.
      “Help, I’m a rock!”
      Thanks again for giving me grist for my mill. 🙂

  2. I’m agnostic as far as FZ is concerned (love the yellow snow line, of course), but I found myself sitting in church this morning, wondering yet again why the gospel as it was being preached sounded like the wrong story, or at best only a small part of the story. It wasn’t a specifically evangelistic sermon, just your generic, intended for the church audience sort of thing. Anyway, something I’d like to think more about in 2010…

    • Maria,
      That, as Zappa would say, is “the crux of the biscuit.” This morning we had a fine gospel presentation of substitutionary atonement, which was probably just what a number of people there needed to hear. But I plan to write about its shortcomings, particularly in the context of mission in post-Christian culture.