Surprise, surprise! Derek Webb is being CONTROVERSIAL!
Well, you also have an upcoming album, Mockingbird, due in December around Christmas. I've heard you say this is a follow-up album of sorts to your solo debut, She Must And Shall Go Free.
Well, this record covers a lot of ground on social issues and things like that -- social and political issues. But it wasn't something I planned, just like I didn't plan for my first record to be all about the church. I was just reading and studying a lot about the church and what it was, what it's role in society was, and my role in that. I just ended up writing a whole bunch of songs about it. It wasn't this grand idea that I was gonna go and do this record about the church and then do these house shows. It all just happened. It was like dominoes falling over.
Looking back, it looks like a great plan, but I did not plan any of that. I'm just as surprised as anybody as to what's going to come out next.
So this record is kind of the same way. It's just what I have been interested in and learning about and trying to find my role in. There's just a lot of things for us to think about in the climate of our world right now. The command to love our neighbors and to love our enemies is getting more and more difficult. It's getting to be a harder and harder teaching every day in the West and it's something that we have to apply to a lot of complex situations. It's like when we hear about the prisoners that are in our care or just any number of things, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out how to love our enemies. But when Jesus said this command, he said it in the context of the Good Samaritan, which basically makes our neighbors to be the same as our enemies.
So this makes things really complicated. And so I just started writing a whole bunch of songs about these issues.
How is this new direction going over?
I had a lot of friends and people who were on the message boards, for example, who started to hear some of the new songs and get really concerned. Because anytime you start talking about the poor, evangelicals will call you a liberal, which doesn't make any sense, of course, but that's the way it is. So I start to sing some of these new songs and the people in the on-line community started to get concerned that I was no longer interested in preaching the gospel, that I was all into this social justice gospel.
But you can't separate the two, right?
Well, that's right. But I understand the concern because we did go through the whole social gospel movement not that many years ago in the church. There we had some people go to an extreme in their care for the poor -- meeting only their physical needs with no care for their souls, which is obviously not what I am advocating.
So they were concerned. They were worried that maybe they were losing me to some movement or some kind of fashionable dissent. But I wanted to address this with the press, because they won't be the first people asking that. So it's important for me to state that I think this record is just as much about the gospel as my first record. My first record has a lot more Christian language on it. And because it's about what I would call one side of the gospel coin--which is the proclamation of the one who has come, who has made a way, who has kept the law on our behalf -- that's one half of the gospel. But the other half of that coin is the proclamation of His kingdom coming. It's Jesus and His kingdom coming that we are to take to people.
So I did spend one record talking about that first half. I did still make that record. I did still write those songs and continue to sing those songs. It's not that I am starting from scratch and developing this whole other identity. I just do this record in the context of everything else I've ever done. This is just another chapter in a long story for me. So I personally don't feel the obligation to have to write the entire gospel story into every record I ever do. I think I can specialize on some records.
You can listen to my first record and say, "Well, this record is just all about the church. What about loving others? Does this mean you don't believe any of that?" Well, no. That record was about something specific. And this record is about social issues. It's not that I don't care about the other songs, the other topics about the church anymore.
And there's much more where that came from!
So how would you describe what you're doing now? Are you a musician making good music? Is there something more behind that?
I would definitely say that this whole thing is not ministry for me. I am not a minister. I am a singer/songwriter. My job is to write and play songs. That's part of what ends up being confusing for people who might judge quickly and harshly on what I'm doing or whatever. They say, "How dare he turn his back on preaching the gospel?"
Just like any Christian in the arts, I don't have any obligation to use my work for evangelism. It's a very common misconception. If you are gifted in the arts...For example, if you are a guitar player, your only option for work is not to go join a praise band. There are a lot of things you can do. But unfortunately, we have the whole gifted in the arts and full-time vocational thing all wrapped up into one now.
It's not that different than someone who is gifted in caregiving and is a doctor and opening up a practice to give excellent health care. If there are moments of ministry that come in, you look for them and wait for them, then you take advantage of them. But your work is to give excellent health care. To do your work with excellence is glorifying to God. However, a doctor could decide to go into full-time vocational ministry and open a free clinic.
There are musicians who do that. I am just not one of them. Of course, there are moments of ministry that happen, but what I am here to do is play music and to play the best that I can.
That affords me the liberty to write about anything I want. Anything that Jesus is Lord of is something I can write a song about. And Jesus is Lord of all things. This means I can write about anything.
My problem is that what is classified as Christian music...Christians are only writing songs and painting pictures and making art about the most spiritual top two percent of stuff -- the afterlife, the most spiritual of current living. The problem is that there is that whole other 98% of creation and life to discuss -- that does involve politics. It does involve sexuality. Scripture does give us a framework to speak to each of these things. We just are not for whatever reason.
This is a tremendous disservice to the church. I think that one of the primary ways to engage in each other's worldviews, the way to look at movements, is to look at the art from that worldview or movement. It has always been that way. Look at any movement throughout history and the art will tell you a lot about the movement itself. It's the biggest door you can come in through.
For what its worth, I talked with Derek's publicist earlier this week, and I should have a copy of his new album any day now. Can't wait!