Well, the 30 Day Challenge is over, and as far as I can tell I didn't win an iPad mini. Oh darn.
But of course the question I'm sure you're asking is, "Did my life change? Were K-LOVE's transformational promises fulfilled?"
Well, no. Not exactly.
I mean, sort of. Did my life change in 30 days? Yes, of course. And it will in the next 30 days of listening to heathen rock music as well.
To put it another way, I think one of the things the Challenge led me to reflect on is how I think of--or better, how I tend to experience--change.
I have friends--mainly I'm thinking of Christians who tend to swim in more evangelical waters, but also some more secular folks, too--who have had very genuine experiences of rapid and radical change. Addicts who stumbled into an 12-step meeting and never took another drink or hit. Non-Christians who met Jesus--in a church or on a sidewalk or at a sporting event--and whose lives were turned upside down. People who went to the Holy Land as raging Zionists and came back to start BDS movements in their churches.
Like I said, I'm not talking about phonies here. I'm talking about friends of mine whose stories I trust who were walking along one day and then found themselves walking completely differently the next.
But for me--and for most people I know--change doesn't work like that. Change happens slowly, incrementally, often weakly. Little habits, hard earned. The slow accumulation of repeated conversations, steadily changing minds. Healing that never looks linear. Choosing to get out of bed again on hard days. Learning new skills or new ways of dealing. Figuring out how to pray again. Saying, "I'm so sorry," again.
Grace seems abundant some days, but many days seems barely sufficient. I'm a total Wesleyan nerd, and I believe in sanctification. But for me, anyway, it's gonna take awhile. And as William James is reported to have said: “I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man's pride.”
So then what did I learn in 30 days? Well, other than learning that Christian radio is just as annoying as most other radio--more annoying in some ways, less annoying in others--I think that I learned that there is a real mix of good, bad, and ugly in the CCM world.
Here are some things I heard:
I heard the story of a psychologist who killed himself told in a way that suggested that if he had known Jesus it wouldn't have happened, as if suicide and mental illness are symptoms of a lack of faith.
But I also heard the mic handed to people, from CCM artist Jamie Grace to random people who called in, who told stories of real struggle and hurt and pain and for whom the music of stations like K-LOVE helped them keep taking that next step.
I heard a radio station that claims to want to avoid scaring people off with Christian or sectarian language give airtime to the deeply socially conservative group Focus on the Family (whose CEO Jim Daly, incidentally, paid himself more than $250,000 in 2011, a salary most of the call-in listeners of WGTS could only dream of).
But I also heard some honest and powerful advice given about families. Like that there are going to be times when you like one kid more than another, and that that's not a sign that you're a terrible person.
I heard a lot of language about shame, some of it not so good, but some of it sending the message that the good news is a good news that releases us from shame, a gospel message that reminded me of the powerful work of Brene Brown.
I heard Matt West's song "Do Something," which--every single time of the 1,000 times I heard it--hilariously reminded me of Aldous Snow's latest single in Saving Sarah Marshall (I mean, seriously, the videos even have the same "hold up a card with a message on it" thing going on):
But I also heard Matthew West's song "Do Something," about a thousand times; and it's a song about standing up for justice and advocating for people who are being crushed, and it's playing over and over again on Contemporary Christian Music radio, and I think that's a really good thing.
I heard God called King over and over again, mostly because it handily rhymes with sing.
But I also heard about God as an oceanic force, as Love that never stops loving, as a Storyteller and a Dreamer and a Friend.
I heard a musical genre so narrowly defined by an industry that no non-Christian artists with positive and encouraging messages, and not even a lot of Christian artists that I love, will ever get a voice in it; a Christian subculture that doesn't seem to recognize itself as such.
But I also read the genuine, humble, and deeply considered thought of a station manager who wanted me to know that he wanted to share music and message with people in a way that wasn't intimidating or sectarian, that he didn't have all the answers, and that he welcomed further conversation.
I heard almost exactly the same guitar loops, over and over.
But I also heard...ok, no, I basically heard almost exactly the same guitar loops, over and over.
So, it's not surprising, exactly, but it is good to experience first-hand, that like any social/cultural phenomenon, there is plenty to be valued and appreciated about K-LOVE.
Will I keep listening to K-LOVE/WGTS? Probably not. Maybe occasionally if I'm looking to glean a new worship song or two, but mainly I'll go back to my NPR or my Spotify account (on my schnazzy new iPhone!!).
But I like to think that I have learned a few things, become a bit more open-minded, and started some great conversations.
And so, in those little ways, I suppose that my life has, in fact, been changed by the 30 Day Challenge.
So thanks, K-LOVE. You keep doin' what your doin'. If your positive, encouraging music helps Shelly in Omaha who's helping her daughter get through school by working two jobs get through her week, then God bless you, and God bless and sustain and uphold her.
Currently playing on klove.com...just kidding, I'm listening to Son Lux on Spotify because Mike Stavlund told me to, and I like ironically treating post-modernist writers as arbiters of absolute Truth 'cuz it drives 'em crazy.