music, faith, and the transformation of the LA Times

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I’ve always liked the LA Times. I can’t say why, and many of those who share my political persuasion have plenty of things to say about it, very little affirming.

They’ve been struggling, with readership down, and their quality did seem to drop. But, there’s been quite an effort underway to get back on track. Anyone who follows the paper could see the changes made, and remade, and often unmade — within the same week.

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is quite a few articles dealing with Christianity, or other types of spirituality. These articles are not always flattering, however, I’ve noted the writers have trotted out more than just the usual suspects of church detractors and naysayers. There’s been balance, and I appreciate that. I don’t mind being criticized, but do it fairly and note the self-criticism and disagreement. Or, if about something nice and interesting, there’s no reason to bring in someone who lives to negate the spiritual life of others.

All this to say, I’ve found yet another article at the Times which touches on Christianity and Spirituality, though in a much more subtle and surprising setting.

It’s a new generation of music in which “today’s folk songs are being sung–very quietly–by a generation that’s had it with sex and drugs and doing it in the road”. This is being represented by people like Sufjan Stevens:

Sufjan Stevens is one of underground music’s oddest recent success stories—a self-avowed Christian in a scene that is irreligious to its core; a singer-songwriter who graduated from the New School’s MFA fiction workshop; a performer with more affinity for Paul Simon’s dulcet tones and contemporary classical music’s sonic wallpaper than Bob Dylan’s incisive wit and punk’s snarling attitude. In an interview a few weeks after his performance at the Plug awards, near his home in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood, he is an even more striking figure. Close up you can see his clear hazel eyes and the Madonna-esque gap between his two front teeth; you can feel the energy he emits, at once confident and reserved, solicitous and bristling.

Stevens resists discussing his life in a way that might compromise what he believes in. “My faith informs what I’m doing. It’s really the core of what I’m doing in a lot of ways,” he says. “But the language of faith is a problem for me, and I try to avoid it at all costs. You could say that I have a mind for eternal things, for supernatural things, and things of mystery. I’m more comfortable with using those terms because they can be used without controlling or stigmatizing anyone.”

Have a look at the Soft Revolution.

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