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Converting a Christian Music-phobe

Candace Chellew-Hodge

I'm not a big fan of contemporary Christian music. I think it's safe to say I'm a "Christian music-phobe" - because my fear of the music is probably irrational, but based in solid criteria. Usually the music is fairly pedestrian, lacking any real hook or toe-tapping rhythms. But, mainly it's the lyrics that get to me in this kind of music. My Old Testament professor once said if you can sing a Christian song about your boyfriend or girlfriend, then the song is definitely not about God. God cannot be sung about in the same way a lover can be sung about - or at least God shouldn't be sung about in such a familiar way.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, quite by accident, a contemporary Christian band that had all the qualities I admire in more secular music - good, catchy melodies, rhythms that make you move, and above all, lyrics that understand God's place in the cosmos.

The band is called "Farewell June" and their debut album, 1939, has made me a converted Christian music-phobe. From the opening acoustic guitar chords of "Shine On" to the soulful sounds of profound joy in "Welcome Home" this CD enraptured me with its crisp, tight melodies, the solid, smooth voice of lead singer Jonas Woods, and its excellent, intelligent and awe-filled lyrics.

Their slick Web site at http://www.farewelljune.com contains some short snippets of their music. I highly recommend stopping in and taking a listen. You'll be impressed with this young band - and their enthusiasm for God is truly inspiring.

Every song on this CD is solid, straight-forward pop-rock. There's not a loser among the bunch, but some songs stand out for their musical and lyrical excellence including "Glad I Did" and "Servant." As a spiritual seeker and minister these two songs speak directly to my heart about the pain and joy of answering God's call in our lives.

Songs like "Even There" take their inspiration from Psalm 139 - assuring us that even if we make our bed in She'ol, God is always with us. It is this respect for God's awesome presence in the world that draws me most to Farewell June. God is exalted, not brought down to the level of some superhuman boyfriend who promises us the moon.

I guess I have to complain about something so no one thinks I'm being paid to write a great review for this upstart band. The raging feminist in me had to do some primal scream therapy after hearing "In Dreams" when Jonas croons, "You're the only girl who knows how I like my coffee." Oh yeah? Jonas, my man, the question is do you know how she takes her coffee? This patronizing line, that comes in the middle of some great lyrics about the depth of his relationship with the woman in question, ruins the whole song for me.

Otherwise, I've got nothing but good things to say about this album and this band. They draw from a deep well of influences, including Dave Matthews, U2 and James Taylor. I was a tad worried that the band might not appreciate even a glowing review from a magazine designed for GLBT Christians, but band member Becky Woods lists the Indigo Girls among her influences, so perhaps my pre-conceived ideas about Christian rock bands is misplaced. It would be fun to build a gay Christian following for Farewell June and see if they welcome us with grace and love.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. She is an ordained minister and holds a master's in theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. She currently serves as assistant pastor at MCC Columbia. She is also a spiritual director, trained through the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She has worked for the past two decades in journalism and public relations. She can be reached at editor@whosoever.org.

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