“You were 80% angel, 10% demon, and the rest is hard to explain.” Over The Rhine
I was reading an interview with Linford Detweiler of the Ohio band Over The Rhine and it helped to answer some questions about what may be seen as a peculiar Christianity on the part of husband and wife Detweiler and Berquist (also in the band) who do little to hide their Christianity, but who must also make many Christians a little uncomfortable. The discomfort arises from their acknowledgement of being Christians, playing Christian music festivals such as Cornerstone, and referencing so much religious thought in their music all the while never shying from the real world or the need to be pragmatic about either life or faith.
Many Christians seem never to have trouble with secular music or that of praise bands or whatever ilk Christian artists are playing. They also take little issue with a band like U2 which would never play a Christian music festival all the while they dog whistle Christianity.
But let a band like OtR come on the scene and a little discomfort arises, particularly among Evangelicals, who have a view of the world where salvation is always assured and Christianity is ghettoized into us and them camps. Detweiler and Berquist never seem content with this blessed assurance and the there is the right way and the every other way approach to life. It is as evident in their music as it was in the Detwiler interview.
I think this is what makes their music speak to many, well at least a few. They are quick to point out the influence of hymnody as well as the difficult Christianity of Merton, O’Connor, Lewis, and L’Engle. When I listen to their music I am struck by the fact that my imperfection was ransomed at a very great price all the while my life will always warrant confession. I am reminded of a spiritual life that says we need to be “wise as serpents” and yet cries “why do I not do the good that I would do.” It is a difficult place we find ourselves in when out in the world and those of us who say we are Christians would do well to remind ourselves of this. And lest we forget we can turn to those such as OtR who neither hide their spirituality or their place in God’s wide world.