God Is Love…Right?Published by Torrence Glenn on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 at 10:16 pm.
A few weeks ago I sat down with singer/songwriter PJ Morton to talk about his book “Why Can’t I Sing About Love” and his experiences being an R&B singer who also happened to be a Christian. We know how slightly (or not so slightly) closed minded and judgemental “church folk” can be, especially on this subject. And although it’s 2009, I’m shocked (but not completely surprised) to see that some things never change. CNN also took notice of PJ and his work and profiled him this past Sunday on their “Faces of Faith” series. It was this piece that proved to me that we have a long way to go, but before I explain, please watch the video. (It’s way shorter than mine, promise! ha!)
If you get me, I’m sure you already see why I’m scratching my head. I’ll be honest (is there any other way?), Tye Tribbett’s comments kind of made me go “huh?” I’ll explain, but first let me say this. Having worked in TV for some time, I understand how one interview can be used to support another interview and the wires can easily get crossed. What do I mean? Well, I wonder if when interviewing Tye, the producers told him that his interview would be used to discuss PJ Morton and his book. Who knows, he may have thought that he was being asked about all secular music; including hip-hop, reggae, etc. and based his comments off of that. The type of music PJ Morton writes, sings and is referring to are so obviously not just run of the mill “secular” music. The real heart of the matter that PJ discusses in his book are love songs. But that’s not to say that a song that isn’t gospel, and also doesn’t talk about love specifically is wrong to me. BUT, since Tye or his people posted the CNN piece on their youtube channel not long after it aired, I take it that he stands by his words and is proud of what he had to say. So with that said, here’s where I go “Huh Tye?”
Firstly, Tye asks when secular lyrics are being sung, who’s being edified? Well I have a question in response, who’s being edified when we sing “Happy Birthday?” Who’s being edified when our kids sing nursery rhymes. Perhaps “twinkle little star,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “London Bridge” will send our youth straight to Hell. Those songs aren’t about God or love but I doubt we look at any of this as sinful. Yes, my comparison may be a little cut, dry and simple. Why, because it really is that simple. EVERY song should be measured by it’s content, INCLUDING gospel songs. You don’t know what an artist might try and sneak by you. LOL! I’m still trying to figure out the meanings to half the congregational songs we sung growing up…
Next, there was a point where Tye talked about performing with R&B acts and how the life he and his crew were living didn’t add up to the lyrics those performers were singing about. Newsflash, that kind of disconnect can happen anywhere. The life you live will always be more important than what you sing or say, I don’t care what you do. R&B singer, gospel singer, bank teller, blogger or garbageman. But I do agree that if being around other people who don’t live like you can compromise the way you live or make it difficult for you stay saved, you probably should go do something else. And if you ask me, you CAN be a light in darkness. That’s where it shines brightest. Light a match outside in the middle of the day and there isn’t much effect, mainly because it’s not needed because the sun is shining. Light a match in the dark and you can’t miss it. As a matter of fact, it helps you to see when you otherwise couldn’t. I’d RATHER be a light in darkness where I can be more useful. So yes, I agree with Tye in that you cannot be a light and everything “they” do. But who says you have to do what they do?
Then there was that whole business about not serving two masters. Dude, you said yourself that that scripture was talking about money and didn’t necessarily apply to the subject of the documentary. But I know that feeling of just wanting to say stuff because it sounds good. A lot of times in church we’re raised to have a scripture in our pocket and a cliche in our hand. It’s in our “programming.” But seriously, what did that scripture have to do with PJ and secular music. There was never any question about who PJ’s God was. Although, PJ’s talking about love….and God Is Love….Right? (That’s in the book too.) The Songs of Solomon are a bonafide romance novel (and graphic too ). Real talk, the reason I’m not quoting scripture left and right in this blog is because it’s really not that deep or that serious and truthfully, if you pick up PJ’s book, he breaks the scriptures down way better than I ever could. I think we can really discuss on a very basic and commen sense level.
Finally, I find it very interesting that Tye bashes so strongly the very style of music that put him on the world stage. What do I mean? Well, having grown up in the New York Metro area, Tye Tribbett and Greater Anointing (as they were known before G.A.) were not ”new” to us. They had been singing for years. Soundcheck, the band, was always tight. Tye could always sing. The group, although they dance and move more now than they ever did back in the day, were always essentially….pretty good. All the things we love and appreciate about him and his ministry were always there. But interestingly enough, Tye’s gospel appeal and influence seemed to linger and stay at local celeb status at best. However, his profile in the R&B/Soul music scene rose quickly and prominently as he played and backed R&B acts such as Eric Roberson, Vivian Green, Jill Scott and others. Correct me if I’m wrong but it was his association with these very artists that got him the attention and interest needed that he was able to FLIP and make him the gospel star he is today. It’s a little too convenient that since NOW he doesn’t need to perform r&b music and support secular artists, he’s able to so easily denounce it.
I think we (all of us church folks) need to stop and think about how we feel before reciting what we’ve been programmed to say and really think about these things. A lot of times we don’t even fully subscribe to the stuff we say, but we say it because we’ve been taught to say it. What do I mean? How can I put this “gently.” At last check, I thought Tye Tribbett was married and I refuse to believe that they “do married things” to “Victory” or “He Has Made Me Glad.” To each his own, but I’M NOT BUYING IT.
But with all of that said, I want to be clear that this isn’t an attack on Tye Tribbett or anyone else. I’m more than open to talk to Tye about this and a variety of other subjects or give him a space to say his piece, so beef starters, dip and fall back.
What do you guys think?