How Christianity Infiltrated Seattle Music with a Little Help from Mars Hill Church and the City Council


Thanks Kathleen for bringing this subject up. There is no better person to speak with about this than Dave. I'm glad you did. I would submit that a bit of the history of the Paradox is not quite correct, but then again I was heavily involved and may be seeing things from a slanted perspective. I am thankful you brought it up and ended the article with this.
"There will always be Driscolls. Our refusal to engage in meaningful conversation about our differences creates the toxic secrecy that allows the Driscolls to fill the void.
That's no way to make art, no way to be a fan, and no way to be a city. The hard question is: Can we believe radically different things and still create a scene together?
I don't know, but I'm ready to talk about it."

I am ready to talk about all of those things for sure. Thanks for initiating the conversation.
Kathleen --

Agree with Jeff. Great start to the conversation. Would love to participate further via pub gathering, facebook thread, or whatever.

Some interesting background (from the guy who put the 1st mp3 on the Mars Hill web site back in 2000 – Yeah, you're welcome ;) ––

I personally saw Megan Seling's reporting via the Stranger of the Paradox's shift toward church control vs. community partnership – I saw it as a very concerning "canary in the coal mine" that Driscoll and other Mars Hill leaders were turning a corner from being good neighbors to being controlling assholes.

I know many others within the Mars Hill community who valued that reporting by Megan and The Stranger in the same way.

What is interesting to track, and what has not been detailed much publicly, is that there is a direct line from that 2006-2007 skepticism, that ended up being consistently followed up on within the Mars Hill community for 7-8 years – and it eventually lead to the ouster of Driscoll and the shuddering of his exploitive culture (in the form of the official Mars Hill entity)

What's funny about the white blood cells of thoughtful Christian community is that, while they are slow by many measures, they are extremely thorough by others.

In the end, the folks who raised the most hell about all of Driscoll's (+ his cronies's) bullshit, lies, manipulation, exploitation, and graft –-

Well, most of those people were artists.

They were people inside the Mars Hill community who greatly resemble the culture creators you note in the article -- Folks who, as Makoto Fujimura has said, are border walkers (in the Beowulf, mearcstapas, sense) -- Folks most at home as they wander, befriend, and learn from other tribes -- sans cultural imperialism, arrogance, and ass-holery.

Those are the artist folks who, slowly but surely, shined light on the fucked up things going on with the Driscoll-ites internally at Mars Hill and said, "Enough".

As they say, never underestimate the power of art and artful thinking.

Much love --

Bryan Zug
Kathleen --

A little more from Fujimura on this topic --

-- bz
Lost me at:
"Though Pedro the Lion records had all the sonic hallmarks of 1990s indie rock, the band's Christian fans had likely never heard anything like it before. Here were stories of doubt and struggle that didn't resort to standard Christian tropes. No doves. No "Awesome God." No altar calls."
This infuriates me. Been listening to music made by Christian people since I was a kid and I've somehow managed to find my way far from these sad, lazy "tropes." Even actively spoken out against them as token and empty for years. Most of the people I grew up with would tell you the same thing so... what gives?
It may not be obvious because dismissing artists form the Christian community and relegating them to the kid's table is so accepted, but this really is just a snide way of suggesting Christian artists and Christian people in general are only capable of or familiar with weak art.
The dismissal of people of faith - Christianity in particular - as legitimate and socially-contributing artists (in any role) is safe, applauded bigotry. Dave and Pedro aren't the one exception.
The tough part about wearing all the badges of honor and wonderfulness is actually being honorable and wonderful. There are decades of excellent, honest artistic expression from people within the Christian community, and through many different forms. No person actively and consciously seeking Jesus gets a life without doubt and/or conflict - it's part of the Path. Honest reflection of that is expressed in literally hundreds of different artistic forms.
The above statement has as much to do with Pedro the Lion albums landing in the "Gospel Music" bin with Sandi Patti as anything - including the unartistic, knuckle dragging garbage put out by many other bands claiming to be members of the "Christian Music Industry" looking to make a quick (if imaginary) buck off of token expressions of faith through lyrics or content that might possibly come from a "Christian" version of a magnet poetry kit.
I believe God to be the Creator and as such, His creation glorifies Him best with honest creativity. As a point of fact, Jesus Christ told His followers they would not be welcome in this life and any true follower of Him knows that conflict intimately. Tell me that isn't the foundation of some earnest expression. Start there, keep an open mind and who knows... maybe you'll experience something beautiful.
I am happy to read more in depth details about the Paradox. This history of the venue has always been fuzzy. My husband remembers going to the Paradox when it was in the u district, while I only attended shows hosted in Ballard. I got a concussion at one of the shows, and the staff was very accommodating. Seattle used to have great all ages venues in the mid 2000s. Shout out to Real Art (located in Tacoma) for being a volunteer run all ages venue. Support the small venues.
Though from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Black Happy played the hell out of Seattle and was filling RKCNDY in the early 90s. I'd like to think some of the artists named in your article cut their teeth at the odd Black Happy show around town.…
I started going to shows at the U District Paradox in the very earliest of days and have nothing but very formative, fond memories of the venue. So much amazing music, secular or not, came through there. I'd pay good money to see a documentary of those early days.

That said, at the time I was pretty oblivious to the church aspect of the venue. I remember them being more rumors than anything else. Something my secular friends and I shared with minor disbelief and eventual ambivalence. The only propaganda I remember picking up there was my first issue of Vice.

After the transition to Ballard, playing and seeing shows at the "new" Paradox sucked, not because of the booking, which was on point, but because of the general megachurch vibe. It was sterile, and big, and boring. By that point, the lines had been blurred enough that I started to feel like I was crossing personal boundaries by giving this church my money, so I eventually stopped going.

I watched with typical smug liberal glee at the fall of Driscoll and his church, but still haven't fully grieved the loss of the original U District Paradox.

Lot's of memories, lot's to reconcile.
I don't think christians should make art.
@8 -- I can almost see what you're trying to say with that, but I can't help but laugh at the outlandish statement at the same time. :)
Pedro Bazan and Damian Jurado make some of the most overrated, mold-inducing, moss-growing, shoe-gazing lethargy/music i've heard.
The double standards and hypocrisy that surround critique of Christian music are almost as obnoxious as the bigoted so-called Christians that get thrust into the limelight on behalf of the diverse and complex landscape that is Christendom.

If a Christian writes a song, they are creating propaganda. And yet anyone else doing the same is making art? Regardless of quality or content, many are willing to throw away an album if they find out the artist is a self-described Christian (which can mean a million different things). That seems to me to be the same pre-judgement that so many outside of the church take issue with.

Perhaps the last bit of this article is a clue as to the way forward. Certainly worth a conversation.
The Stranger has long jizzed over boring milquetoast Christian Indie garbage. You can point fingers at the grossest of the mega-churchers, but there are legions of indie dummies with bad taste who enable Christian stupidity and mediocrity by supporting the "good ones"...
Of all the bands/musicians you listed there, the only one with ANY meaningful influence on our region was MxPx whose most popular songs had nothing to do with Christianity. Nobody south of Portland had heard of Pedro the Lion. None of the other bands you mentioned secretly poisoned the minds of Seattle's youth because the music simply wasn't influential. It was low grade indie scene music that nobody on a tangible scale cared about. Hell, even if it was some super secret recruiting ground for Mars Hill, the damn church only grew to 5,000 a number that renders the faith insignificant in comparison to local Jewish, Muslim and Catholic faiths.

I guess I just don't understand why we would analyze a barely functioning music scene that is barely a blip on Seattle's radar.
@13 actually I was a fan of Pedro the Lion when was just a teen in the mid west. Had never been to Seattle at that point. Pretty ridiculous that you think they had no influence on the local scene, by the time I moved here in 2001 they had quite a cult following.
@13 But I did have a good laugh every time one of my far flung cousins sang "Move To Bremerton"!
@16 That DOES sound unbelievable! I probably wont forgive myself if I don't check the financialy rewarding to have been earned 89 dollars per hour.
I listened to or had heard of nearly every Christian band mentioned in this article, from Pedro the Lion, Damien Jurado, and MxPx to 90 Pound Wuss, when I was a teenager in Florida in the late 90s/early 2000s. (I also listened to secular music and am no longer--probably never really was--a Christian. And it was exactly the anti-feminist messages that drew me away. Also: drugs are fun!) I went to shows at churches and all-ages venues. My friends were in Christian punk, emo, and hardcore bands. One was on Tooth & Nail! Those bands and that scene were definitely influential outside Seattle.

Maybe the conversation isn't as relevant to Seattle as it is to all the Christian and ex-Christian kids who listened to it. Seattle obviously had more interesting stuff going on in its music scene, but NW Florida mostly didn't.
I'm with #13, who said it much better than I. I'm not even sure there is a takeaway to be had from this semi-historical 'thesis' of Mars Hill, underage clubs and their crappy, non-influential bands. Mars Hill really wasn't much of a thing, they just made a bit of noise that Seattle media ate up, along with the sheeple who where members or attended.
@11 Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view." Artists who are Christians don't necessarily create propaganda, but when an artists expression is dominated and defined by an adherent's belief as is the case with "Christian artists," it is, by definition, biased toward that belief. So the word "propaganda" is appropriate.

Artists who aren't espousing a particular point of view other than their own do sometimes create - either intentionally or unintentionally - propaganda for other systems of thought. But they're rarely focusing on the same theme in all their work, and there is usually some level of analysis wrapped around the expression of the idea. Artists who are Christian who sometimes include Christian themes in their work also often mix in some analysis of their own, which is what makes them artists who are Christians as opposed to "Christian artists."

Compare it to Soviet artists. In the later years of the Soviet empire with glasnost there were arguably "artists who were Soviets," but for much of the existence of the Soviet Union, artists had to present their work with a defined slant, making them "Soviet artists" because their art present a biased view of life. There's a reason that "Lenin with the little children" paintings were common in the Soviet union and look a lot like pictures you see in many Evangelical churches of "Jesus with the little children."

Now, of course much of historical art contains biased religious symbolism and can also be considered "propaganda," some of it definitely being propaganda from the Church, and some of it presenting Christians themes in a way to express other ideas. Contemporary art produced by artists who are Christians is largely the same - some of it is definitely propaganda pushing a biased view, while other of it is using Christian traditions to express other, more personal, ideas in conjunction.

As a final comment, the reason "gangsta rap" isn't usually propaganda is that rappers aren't expressing a belief that the ganster lifestyle is the best lifestyle, they're either bragging or their expressing their observed reality. Applied to the idea of Christian art, artists who are Christians who express their observed reality even when it includes Christian ideals aren't creating propaganda, but Christian artists who, for example, express how Jesus makes life better are making a biased pitch for a specific belief system and are therefore creating propaganda.
As someone who despises organized religion, I have to say this is an incredibly poorly written and organized article, which I would place the blame for on a lack of quality editing. There are separate stories here which have nothing to do with one another, except as a way of perpetuating bias and creating a sense of "other" about anyone with a particular religious affiliation. In other words, its the type of lazy, unfocused reporting we expect to see from Fox news lumping every Muslim into the same category, namely Muslim. Or Jews. Or Hindus.

Here's the problem with this article: its white people problems. This whole thing it seems to be about is so fucking biased and based in privilege its a fucking joke. Or not. Maybe I'm now lumping everything together. All sins are sin?

The article rests on an argument that Pedro the Lion's artistic production is in some way related to the spiritual disease of Mark Driscoll. WTF? Because they are both Christian? And you throw MxPx in there? You know how many of your local grunge, metal, rap, and folky fucks went to church growing up and use that in their lyrical content? Or better yet, what the foundation of popular music structures are born from? A whole lot of folks used to party down in an old church in Ballard til it burned up in the late 80s. Does that make for a Buddhist infiltration now? I'm being oblique there, but if you were around you'd understand the reference and connection, and how utterly ridiculous the connections are. Drawing everyone into the same pool is so disrespectful of the work of these artists, and connecting their very real efforts in an article about Paradox is just offensive. I mean that as not just a songwriter, but as a human being.

Pastors are people who manipulate and control human beings for ego and gain. Artists are something else, something wonderful, regardless if they are Sister Rosetta Thorpe or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Who apparently didn't create music, but something that needs warning labels lest the teen dreamers fall asleep before the spell of parading zealots.
@23 Eric, all artists, like all people, are going to have a point of view, and if they are any good, will use their artistic skill to frame that point of view within their work. All artwork can then be seen as propaganda, which it is not. Guernica was not propaganda. Goodfellas is not propaganda. Entering Into Banality is not propaganda. Meshes Of The Afternoon is not propaganda. These are works of art, with an overwhelming and convincing perspective that take the route of Art, not of Politics. They seek to guide. Chagall's work for instance, as an example from the Soviet time period, which found disfavor among the Soviet politicians in one respect to become favored by those with a Zionist bent elsewhere, was heavily imbued with what could be seen as cultural propaganda, but its not. Its Art.