Beliefnet
When a 63-year-old man named Bob Briner (pictured, left) died of cancer in June 1999, TheNew York Times ran an obituary focusing on his accomplishments, includingtaking televised tennis to Asia, agenting for Michael Jordan, and garneringan Emmy Award for a documentary on the life of tennis great Arthur Ashe.

But just as the establishment press misses many stories with afaith component, the Times barely gave one sentence to what willundoubtedly be Briner's most enduring accomplishment: his authorship, latein his life, of several books that have turned Christian America upsidedown.

In 1991, Briner decided to make use of the enormous amount of timehe spent on airplanes and, taking a pen to a yellow legal pad, put histhoughts to paper for what would later become the slim paperback "RoaringLambs."

Briner's message? Christians had no one else to blame for the decayof American culture but themselves. Because of their decision to abandon thearts, music, journalism, and academia, their ideas were no longer reflectedin the milieu of American life. Christians had been like timid lambs, Brinerargued, but now it was time for them to clear their throats and roar.

Briner had wanted to call the book "Saline Solution."

"Get it? Briner-Saline Solution," he joked in the introduction. This executive turned cultural thinker wrote about what it meant to followChrist's command that his people be the salt of the earth, notingrepeatedly that salt as a preservative agent could not be effective from adistance.

Briner was writing around the time of the controversy over the rap group 2 Live Crew's obscene lyrics, when Christian contributions to film consisted of gathering 5,000 of the faithful and marching in protest of "The Last Temptation of Christ."

At first, the book sold modestly, but over the next seven years itbecame the premiere cultural manifesto for a generation of young Americansfed up with the culture their Christian parents dropped out of and leftthem with. For many Gen X Christians, Briner was the only grown-up who hadthe courage to say that this had been a disaster, and his book became forthem what Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book was to young Chinese Marxists:marching orders for a great cultural revolution that is now in quiet bloom.

Briner encouraged his charges to cast off the mediocrity and smallmindedness they had learned in their little Christian schools and marchinto the culture, retaking institutions one reporter, musician, teacher, andexecutive at a time. Politely chastising those believers who had joinedinstitutions that catered to the interests of other Christians for beingdisobedient to Christ's command to engage the world, Briner made it clearthat he saw little value in Christians speaking, singing, and asking fordonations from one another.

Seven years later, his disciples have fanned out throughout theculture, and as "Roaring Lambs" climbs past 100,000 copies sold, Briner isfinding new popularity with the posthumous release of his final book, "FinalRoar"; the re-release of "Roaring Lambs"; and a companion CD soundtrackfeaturing the work of artists who claim Briner as their inspiration.

In the soon to be released "Final Roar," which Briner had originally wanted to title "Christians Have Failed America and Some of Us Are Sorry," Briner again takes on numerous sacred Christian cows, including the excessive involvement of ministers in politics and the new trend among musicians and record executives to devote excessive amounts of time and resources to developing a sub-genre called "worship music," which is aimed solely at fellow believers and is of almost no interest to those who don't share the faith.

In Christian pop culture circles today, Briner is nearly a saint,but the irony for those who knew him is that like Christ himself, he isembraced and lauded publicly by people who to this day refuse tointernalize his message and instead live professional lives that are indirect contradiction to Briner's message.

The CD, for instance, features mostly roaring lambs like SixpenceNone The Richer and Jars Of Clay, but also a few meowing lambs--artists whodespite their rhetoric still play for the home crowd--playing safe,Christian-oriented concert venues, failing to tour with mainstream acts, andspending more time on the 700 Club than VH-1.

For these, and Contemporary "Christian" Music (CCM) executives whocontinue to effectively keep music made by devout Christians from the"secular" masses by insisting that it be marketed as a separate genrecalled CCM and stocked in the religious sections of record stores andplayed on faux Christian MTV channels, Briner's words will continue to getunder their skin.

"CCM is intramurals," he once said, urging artists to hone theirskills there if necessary but ultimately join the real world.

Ironically, the artists most in tune with Briner philosophicallysound the best musically and none more so than Sixpence None the Richer,which followed Briner's playbook to the top of the pop charts, faith intact,and sing of him: "We walk the ground that you shook and we read the wordsin your book.... I see your choice, I hear your voice, it's written on us."

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