Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

#189 Not The New Pornographers

A Christian college in Michigan recently acquiesced to pressure from its supporters after scheduling The New Pornographers to play on their campus. Rumor says the band name is an ironic reference to Jimmy Swaggart’s (the Abraham Lincoln of Christian culture, or at least the President Taft) infamous statement that rock is the new pornography, but Christian culture isn’t exactly known for its grasp of irony.

The school states they had invited the band in keeping with their “rubric of engaging culture through a Christian lens” and say they “remain committed to the difficult, yet important work at faithfully engaging popular culture.” But this was a little too much culture to take. They couldn’t explain the satirical name to enough people and for fear that their Reformed institution be thought pornography enthusiasts (and perhaps lose some alumni funding?) they issued a statement that they just couldn’t explain the band name to everyone. But if a Christian college is that concerned about being thought to endorse pornography, they might let the nefarious internet activity on Christian college campuses speak for itself and remove all doubt.

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posted September 14, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Just a small correction, Calvin College is not Presbyterian, they are of the far more conservative Christian Reformed denomination.

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Lisa Ann Cockrel

posted September 14, 2010 at 6:59 pm

A couple of clarifications: Calvin is part of the Christian Reformed Church (it’s Reformed, but not Presbyterian). And the name of The New Pornographers does not come from the Swaggart quote. It’s from a Japanese movie.

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Lisa Ann Cockrel

posted September 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Ha! I think our comments must have just passed each other in cyberspace. And both of our names are Lisa. Fun.

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stephanie drury

posted September 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

It’s from both the movie and Swaggart. Neko told me.

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Paul VanderKlay

posted September 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Yeah, looks like a mousy thing to do. I’m a Calvin alum and I have a son currently at Calvin.
Presbyterian churches are all over the map. The Christian Reformed Church tends to be conservative theologically yet has some camps are a bit more progressive socially. Membership of about 1/4 million in the US and Canada.
Jeff Overstreet tweeted in response to this: “Calvin College remains the bravest, best Christian college/university when it comes to celebrating what is best in the arts.” and I very much agree.

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Ryan McCarthy

posted September 14, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Wow. What a disappointment. Not the cancellation itself but the fact that people are unable to separate words from their connotations and therefore allow silly ‘politics’ to govern the thinking of many. Of course CC does not endorse pornography. If there is truly confusion on this behalf, then maybe the issues are deeper than simple letters formed into words. So now the city of GR may be denied this awesome band because people are (incorrectly) assuming that CC is lending their name to the “filth” that is pornography. Silly. Sad. Backwards. But all true. More proof that GR is not as progressive as some may think. We are heading in the right direction, but this doesn’t help. Too bad. I attended a show at CC a while back and it was great. This was before the renovations, so I can only imagine the treat we would be in for. Apparently semantics got in the way and now this story is being picked up on a national level. Could have been picked up with a positive spin, but it is sounding like the close mindedness of whomever at CC caused this failure. Good luck to CC in further attempts to explain this away.

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Jeff Breakfast

posted September 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I look forward to the booking/cancellation of the following dangerously suggestive events at Calvin College in the coming year:
A screening of the Lynn Shelton film “Humpday”
A round robin verse memorization tournament sponsored by AWANA (too close to “marijuana”)
A Doobie brothers reunion show
A Dick Cheney “Parts for Hearts” fundraiser
A speaking engagement by David Fricke
A thesis presentation on “The Stoning of Steven”

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posted September 14, 2010 at 8:03 pm

ironic, considering the subject of the subject of the previous post. (xtian hipsters.)
guess Calvin’s just lost all its street cred.

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posted September 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I’ve attended some amazing concerts at Calvin, and the stuff they’ve done with booking over the past couple of years is amazing. I challenge any college to rival their lineup….it’s been really, really good!
This decision does Ken Heffner and others a disservice. It’s just too bad that whoever was offended by the name has caused this smear on the college’s reputation. Now it will be that much harder for them to get the world-class musicians they’ve been able to host in the past. It just stinks.
Calvin hasn’t gotten this much bad press since George Bush was their commencement speaker (lots of alums & faculty were mad about that, too).

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Jason De Vries

posted September 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I wonder what this will do for the band’s popularity among the students? Calvin students tend to get pretty interested in things that the college “bans.” :-)

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posted September 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm

If they really can’t explain the band’s name to people, I don’t know that they ought to be granting degrees in higher education degrees.

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posted September 14, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Ikea catalogs are pornography….

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posted September 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm

“Neko told me”, got me all hot-and-bothered.
“We are the challengers…”

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posted September 14, 2010 at 11:23 pm

@ Gaypet: haha!

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Peter T Chattaway

posted September 15, 2010 at 12:22 am

FWIW, when the band got started over a decade ago, Carl Newman said the Swaggart reference came to him *after* the band got its name. I quote an article from the November 2000 issue of Exclaim:
Even Newman’s explanation of where the name came from was after the fact. “I didn’t find out until recently that it actually had some kind of meaning,” he admits. “[Televangelist] Jimmy Swaggart wrote a book called Music: The New Pornography. Holy s—, it fits so perfectly. Ever since, I tell people ‘Jimmy Swaggart said music was the new pornography. The New Pornographers are merely musicians.’ It’s completely innocent, and poo-poos people who say ‘what an offensive name you have.’”

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stephanie drury

posted September 15, 2010 at 1:14 am

All I know is what Neko told me.

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posted September 15, 2010 at 2:59 am

Well, there’s always Calvin’s 2011 commencement to look forward to. Perhaps they can book the Butthole Surfers to play that gig.

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Stephen Charles

posted September 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

We Grand Rapidians refer to this town as either “Little Geneva” or “(Little) GRusalem.”
This is a funny story. But I still like the story from a few years about Cornerstone University (a Baptist college just up the road from CRC Calvin) lifting its ban on dancing. I think the list of institutionalized legalisms also included tobacco/alcohol use, dice (!) and cards. They celebrated with some line dancing on campus. No accounting for taste, I guess.
But recently another legalism was sorta lifted: faculty may now be adults and drink alcohol off campus but students mayn’t:
They say that it is being dropped after “a three-year internal study concluded it is ‘biblically indefensible.'” I guess banning the throwing of dice is biblically defensible, as well as telling people of legal drinking age they must also have a Ph.D first. Legalism is so hard to follow. I wonder if a Ph.D and a drink would help that?

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posted September 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Well, you know Neko Case sings about loving the devil in her “Hold On, Hold On,” so they dodged that bullet too.
Unfortunately, it is one of my favorite songs so I guess my soul is forfeit.

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posted September 16, 2010 at 1:06 am

As a Calvin Alum who used to work with the office that brought in various music acts, I can attest to how frustrating this all can be. The school actually gets a wide variety of acts, everything from Dave Matthews Band and John Mayer to Bela Fleck and the Indigo Girls.
That’s right, they brought the Lesbians. But Irony, whew! That’s tough.

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posted September 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Too bad for those Calvin College kids- they were finally going to get something really good.

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George, American

posted September 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

“Reality” Television is the new pornography in basic intention. People should be more concerned with systems that attempt to package human experience for mass consumption rather than music.

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posted September 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm

My sympathies to all Calvin students and to the good people of Grand Rapids. Sad the irony had to be explained at all.
Although I must say this sort of issue isn’t as bad as the lengthy debates that ensued at my university when someone suggested the laundry rooms be opened on sundays!
Stephanie your last comment about internet activity is sad and all too true. However when schools try to do something (beyond offering professional counseling, peer support, accountability) like put up a web filter. They end up with the school website being banned for “potential pornographic content” and students finding ways around the blocks.

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posted September 18, 2010 at 11:58 am

Bah, if you’re going to concern yourself with the New Pornographers’ sin, how can you overlook their obvious flouting of the first commandment?: “For the love of a god, you said / Not a letter from an occupant.”

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posted September 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Our Christian University’s internet literally crashed because of the porn viruses. An entire university’s internet. Down. Because of PORN. Yeah. Let’s just keep pretending it’s not happening.

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posted September 21, 2010 at 12:43 am

Sounds like you guys need to switch to another anti-virus program. Jehovah Internet Securities doesn’t seem to be working

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posted September 21, 2010 at 12:57 am

I think this says a lot more about the trustees and big-time Dutch donation kings than the school administrators. They were probably under a huge amount of pressure. After all, Calvin let Soulforce on campus– way more dangerous, because of all the gay-ness. My school didn’t let them on the grounds, and neither did Cornerstone.
Calvin usually does a pretty decent job of keeping it real. This seems like more of a case of “confused, rich white folk freak out at the word ‘pornographers’ and demand justice”.

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posted September 24, 2010 at 11:39 am

I used to be in a band called Immoral Roberts. I think we had a better name.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted December 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Can the BareNaked Ladies still play there?

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