Monday, August 3, 2009

The Jesus Jam -- the only band that matters

In my still-limited experience as a student of Fuller Theological Seminary, I have learned that many non-Christians will use the differences in detail among the four canonical Gospels as grounds to argue against the most reliable and detailed story of Jesus Christ's life. But those differences in detail are minute (one Gospel says Jesus healed two blind men and another says he healed one -- WHAT A QUANDARY!!!!!) and they don't change the essential message behind the Messiah's ministry. Plus, those differences are simply the product of four different authors writing about Jesus several decades after his death and resurrection. Let's say you have four different journalists review the same concert -- are they all going to write the exact same review? No. Some of them will focus on particular details more than others, and even if all four journalists enjoyed the concert, they may go about very different ways of explaining why they enjoyed it.

Let's say these four journalists are named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and they all went to see a rock band called the Jesus Jam (cheesy, I know, but just go with it). Mark posts his review online first (because let's face it, who reads print journalism anymore?) and it's a pretty short review. It does not feature much information at all about what happened toward the concert's beginning or end, but Mark's description of every song and moment of stage banter is extremely lengthy and detailed. He portrays the audience reaction as routinely stupefied -- this is the best freaking band in the world (as Mark describes them at the review's beginning) and their fans are enthralled by them in a way they cannot completely comprehend. The Jesus Jam are ahead of their time.

Matthew and Luke read Mark's review shortly after he posts it. They like the review's structure and the concert highlights Mark focuses on, although they both agree his descriptions are a bit long-winded. Assuming that plagiarism and uncredited paraphrasing are not punishable by law (because back in the first century A.D., they weren't), Matthew and Luke basically copy Mark's review verbatim but condense most of the details. Interestingly, they mutually but independently decide to leave out certain parts of Mark's review, which leads one to question if they both simultaneously thought those parts of Mark's review were irrelevant (or maybe it was divine intervention). They both decide Mark's review is a little too short, so they add some details about the concert Mark didn't touch on.

Matthew posts his review, which portrays the Jesus Jam's frontman as an ingenious lyricist; the audience connects with and are nourished by his words. The fans in Matthew's review do not come across as aurally perplexed, like they are in Mark's review -- they understand this band, and are compelled to go out and form their own bands to forge similar connections with eager listeners. Matthew also talks at length about how much better this band is than the Stereophonic Pharisees, who always called themselves the best band in the world but never had the rockin' tunes to validate such a claim. The Jesus Jam are dramatically changing the way people view rock music. The Jesus Jam are punk rock.

Luke posts his review around the same time as Matthew, and though he touches on many of the same points as Matthew, Luke's writing style is very different. Luke is all about music history -- he explains at length how the Jesus Jam are the logical successors to the influential Elijah's Eardrums, who many a past rock journalist praised as purveyors of rock music's ultimate potential. He even recalls a moment when the frontman steps up to the microphone and says the Jesus Jam's goal is to pick up where Elijah's Eardrums left off. Luke's review focuses on the "feeling" the Jesus Jam creates within the audience. It's a feeling of pure, transforming joy one can only experience through a particular lyric, melody, rhythm or chord progression. The audience has never felt this way before. This "feeling" is something the fans want to sustain throughout their lives and share with other people, either through forming their own similar bands or simply playing the Jesus Jam for friends, family and even strangers. This band will change your life.

John reads all three reviews and likes what each one tries to portray, but he thinks he can do a much better job of encapsulating why this concert was so awesome. He joins Mark, Matthew and Luke in acknowledging the song "5,000 Fed" as a concert highlight, but his review is otherwise very dissimilar from the other three. He talks about songs that none of the other three journalists even touched on (it was a fairly long concert), and he does not waste time on details. There is an overarching point behind every concert highlight he writes about: This is the best band that's ever existed, ever. The Jesus Jam's frontman directly says so several times throughout the concert, and unlike the Stereophonic Pharisees, they do have the rockin' tunes to prove it. Like Luke, John talks extensively about that "feeling" but links it back to Awesome God, an iconic group that also had amazing music to validate their lofty claims. John does not think it's enough to simply say the Jesus Jam are Awesome God's successors -- they are the same band with the same mission. Awesome God created and are synonymous with that "feeling," and the Jesus Jam are simply spreading that "feeling" to those who have yet to experience it. Many others have tried to replicate Awesome God, but no other band does it better than the Jesus Jam.

There were a few other, less reputable journalists at the show, and though their accounts of the Jesus Jam make for interesting reading, some of the concert "highlights" they write about seem very far-fetched, and all of them do a poor job of explaining why the performance was and is important. Unfortunately, some of the Jesus Jam's detractors naively use these questionable reviews as basis for their "arguments."

Of course, all of these comparisons assume that the authors of the four canonical Gospels were eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry while he was alive, which was not the case. That being said, the Gospels are still authoritative documents for us as Christians, based upon facets of oral tradition that we accept as factual and theologically infallible. Getting hung up on tiny differences in detail reduces much of Scripture's power. Like many an educated news reader I know, it is wisest to read several different accounts of the same event to get a clearer, more complete picture of what happened. For those of us who believe in the power of their music, the Jesus Jam will always be the only band that matters.


  1. todd, this is awesome. – brittany.

  2. Todd, I love it!

    One thing... are you aluding to the fact that Jesus was in a very large band that wears robes? (I mean, you have Jesus, you have twelve deciples, you have Mary, Martha, and Mary...once you add them all up, you get a crowd!)