Christian culture is near obsessed with the center. Words like mainstream and crossover drip off the tongues of A&R guys like diamonds. Influence is king. The idea of bands, writers, speakers, actors being part of the Christian community and the ‘influence’ they’ll wield on mainstream culture is like an elusive Holy Grail.
All of it is about the center. This idea that if we move enough of ‘our people’ to the center, that things will change. That people will convert quicker. But I don’t want conversions. I want believers. I want to see people on a journey of faith. So scratch that argument. Let’s just say, that if we can get enough of our people to the center, then we’ll be in the midst of the biggest crowd.That’s how crowds work. Cities have their dense population of buildings and allotments in the center, slowly spiraling and spreading outwards.
So Christendom gets continually caught in the pull towards the center. And anyone in the center, who seems remotely accessible, we love to hijack. We confuse country artists with gospel singers because they sing the themes of colloquial spirituality we’ve grown up with.
Still, I believe, that it’s a futile pursuit if we really want influence. The fastest way to the center is to go to the fringe. The biggest area of influence is the circumference of the circle, not the center of it.
The artists, the writers, the thinkers – and really, it’s the thinkers that are key to influencing the thoughts and ideas that are expressed at the fringe. I know I’ve written about this before, this idea that shuffles through the way I write and express. But it has a grip on me.
Re-thinking, re-inventing, imagination and discovery can’t be found at the center of the circle. In order to be stretching out on horizons, you simply must be at the fringe. In the eclectic community of people that live there. They are a bit transient. They move on rapidly and with fluidity. They hold ideas loosely and let themselves be shaped.
It’s a marvellous gift to be at the fringe, because there’s both the luxuriating, intoxicating ability to observe the center from the external, whilst still being connected to it. And when the center every so often takes one of the fringe thinkers, writers, artists, poets, songwriters into the core… to be lifted up high for a moment.. it’s pointing the way towards what the fringe has already discovered.
I write again, “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”. What sets Lady Gaga apart from Miley Cyrus? Gaga is prophesying a shift and change in our expression of sexuality and sensuality, of power between men and women, the importance and assignment of gender. What the gossip columnists write about is simply the popular mythology around the questions she stirs in us… but by the time the center catches up, she’ll have moved on to some other idea.
Think Madonna and her expressive sexuality of the 80s and 90s. Think Dylan and the political songs of the 60s and 70s. Think Elvis and gyration.. the idea that a man’s sexuality and power could be proven by his dancing..
Think Kate Shepard, DH Lawrence, Walt Whitman, ee cummings and all the ideas they played with and changed.. now long dead as the center is still discovering and embracing fluid punctuation, punctuation you can play with. Now expressed in TXT language.
So it’s the fringe and always the fringe. Now that indie pop and alternative folk songs are cool.. something new must emerge. Slowly what happens at the fringe is carried through to the center. That’s why the best writers and thinkers go out to the edges of truth and what is, to imagine the what could be. They lift it up in the light, examine it and capture something that can speak to the whole.
The height of creativity is to go to that playground at the edge of imagination, spirituality, culture and sociology and to experiment with something entirely new.
Write something on the subway walls. Create something new and unheard of. Take it to the fringe. Make a home for yourself on a journey not a destination… choose to travel outwards and outwards and outwards.