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Al Denson, Purity Culture, and DC Talk
Welcome to 1993! This issue is a musical grab bag. There's an article with country singer Bruce Carroll, rock band White Heart, pop singer Crystal Lewis (who was newly married and they talk about submission *of course*), alternative band Hoi Polloi, adult contemporary artist Al Denson, and then because it's the November issue, they also cover Christmas music!
In November 1993, Christie Todd Whitman was elected the first woman governor of New Jersey, Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City, Schindler's List opens in theaters, and Clinton signed the Brady gun control bill, and DC Talk performed on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno!
"ForeFront Records is set to release the trio’s next single, “Lean on Me,” off of their still super hot Free at Last album. The single, produced by Bryan Lenox, includes five slammin’ remixes. On top of that, their Nu Thang and Free at Last albums will probably have been certified gold (in plain everyday talk, that means 500,000 albums sold), by the time you glance your eyes at these lines."
from a letter to the editor...
"I have just read your article about the Prayer Chain (September ‘93) and will tell you that I am disappointed in their view of the church. A church that is Bible believing and zealous for the work of the Lord will support a ministry that is reaching the world for Jesus. It is hard for me to believe that all churches in southern California are social clubs. There are churches all across America where people hunger and thirst after righteousness just like our Russian brothers and sisters. It also concerns me when a group says that they are accountable only to Christ and not his church. I believe they feel they cannot be a part of the church since they are alternative instead of mainstream. Personally I don’t like all the rules some churches have, but I don’t allow this to sever my relationship with Christ’s church. There is more to like than dislike in a living church. It is possible to have accountability with a church and play your style of music. Just ask Carman, Mylon and Rez Band. Christian music comes from the church and that is why it should stay there."
This cover story is about his 1993 album Reasons, and in it he talks a lot about his work with youth pastors and students, and his efforts to increase student discipleship. His comments about 'this generation' definitely ring a bell from my youth group days - but it strikes me that it's also incredibly disingenuous. By acting as if the young generation is the only one to save the world, it ignores how Denson's generation is being *just as influential* if not more, because they were actually adults with power and resources. Surely this is partially just a marketing ploy - with the rise of the megachurches came the rise in youth group activities and the need to make teens of the '90s feel as if there was a bigger spiritual purpose for them - but it also actively works to hide the role that people like Denson had in fostering these culture wars in the first place.
“Of course, kids seem to be my big, hot marketplace which is exciting for me because I believe my generation lost the chance, my parents and grandparents have lost the chance to change the nation. I honestly believe change will take place in America when the American student takes a stand for what they know is right, take a stand for Christ. We had almost three million students gather around their flagpoles this year to take & stand for Christ and to show their campuses that they're not ashamed of the gospel. They wanted to give them reasons – that’s a pretty strong commitment. I think this generation, if we could just get their feet pointed in the right direction and show them that Jesus is the reason, then it will be major. They've got the energy, the power and the passion, they just need the cross.”
I just finished reading the excellent The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy, and it makes me wonder, yet again, just exactly what Denson means when he thinks the older generation lost at changing the nation.....
Did you know that SYATP is still going?!
I never watched this show, but if you're looking for a true 90s flashback, here's an episode of the evangelical teen version of Saturday Night Live, Fire by Nite featuring Al Denson.
Purity Culture Time!
1993 is when the True Love Waits campaign was created, and they wasted no time in quickly getting musicians and the music industry on board. (What's also interesting is that the Baptist Sunday School Board is where the CCM industry really originated when they published the 1967 Good News: A Christian Folk-Musical!)
One of the songs included on the True Love Waits album was "Chaperone" by Lisa Bevill, and this video was nominated for a Dove Award in the Best Short-Form Video of the Year category. Content warning for some pretty overt racist behavior at the beginning.
True Love Waits CD
One of the things I’m interested in is the way evangelical beliefs are spread throughout the music industry. One huge belief, which probably seems obvious to a lot of people, is the way that white evangelicals especially, see social issues as needing to be changed individually instead of through systemic, structural change. You can see this ideology in action in an interview with the rock band White Heart:
“One reason White Heart’s songwriting evolves is because, while its writers make religious and theological statements, they're also personal statements. I think the world is changing at a personal level, Gersmehl, keyboardist and vocalist, says. That’s the way Jesus changes hearts. Banners are great, we all need powerful banners to rally around. Sometimes after a world tour you decide a “Powerhouse” is an important song for you. But I really feel change takes place at a personal level, and when you look back over your life, are you going to remember when the Wall came down or the day Clinton took office... you might remember some of those things. But probably more than that you're going to remember the day you had your first child, the day you met the person you fell in love with…those are the kinds of things that are going to be the real milestones in all our lives because life is lived at that very intimate level of feelings.”
a look at the top charts...
Ok, and finally, this is a little funny watching Toby talk about the early DC Talk music.