Friday, April 25, 2008

Letterman Lusts; Thinks Gospel is "Beautiful"

This classic 1999 episode of Letterman interviewing Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer's Leigh Nash is finally online (like everything else). You will want to watch it, at bottom of this post, after reading a bit about it.

I told the story in my post on "Is there such a thing as Christian music?", excerpted below:

The Christian in-house debate over ( and at times near ex-communication of ) " Sixpence None The Richer" and their Steve Taylor-produced (pastored?) breakthrough single on the "secular" charts, "Kiss Me," was both humongous and hilarious; both necessary and fruitful on one level, and ridiculously unneeded on another; both intrinsically-motivated in some, and extrinsically and Pharisaically-so in others; both appropriately Christian at points and sub-Christian and unadulterated Gnostic at others ("all matter is inherently evil", "clear distinction between secular and sacred", etc).. at others.

Said song may have not mentioned the " J" word . or even a generic "G" word (maybe that can be snuck and danced round by substituting "Yahweh," or maybe, "I AM", ..someone oughta try that!), but who is to say whether it is ultimately..or simultaneously..about a human romantic kiss , and/or a kiss between our Divine Lover and us…and as you know by now, Bono has recently invoked a Song-of-Solomonic kiss on his Guiness-tainted mouth by none other than Yahweh! ), but it sovereignly led (in a way a "straight-up" worship song couldn't have) to an amazingly Spirit set-up moment between Sixpence singer Leigh Nash and David Letterman on Letterman's show, where God convicted Letterman, and not only turned him red in from of millions of viewers, but momentarily turned him into an articulate evangelist, who theologized aloud about God and salvation through the lens of C.S. Lewis before his studio and worldwide "congregation". Is that "Christian"?

Here is some of John Fischer's post on this episode:

Merely Christian
© by John Fischer for CCM Magazine, September 1999 issue.

Who would have ever put C.S. Lewis and David Letterman together? Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer, that’s who. She did it deftly and with a disarming sense of playfulness in Sixpence’s second Late Night appearance last July. Following on the heels of the huge success of their single, “Kiss Me,” David Letterman decided to give lead singer, Leigh Nash, a brief interview after the group’s performance. When asked about the meaning of her band’s name, Leigh brought up the English writer.

“It comes from a book by C.S. Lewis.” she said. “The book is called Mere Christianity. A little boy asks his father for a sixpence, which is a very small amount of English currency, to go and get a gift for his father. The father gladly accepts the gift, but he also realizes that he's not any richer for the transaction because he gave his son the money in the first place.”

“He bought his own gift,” Letterman clarifies.

“That's right. Pretty much,” replies Nash. “I'm sure it meant a lot to him, but he's really no richer. C.S. Lewis was comparing that to his belief that God has given him and us the gifts that we possess, and to serve Him the way we should, we should do it humbly, realizing how we got the gifts in the first place.”

“Well, that's beautiful,” David remarked to an overwhelming audience response. “That's very nice... Leigh Nash, ladies and gentlemen... Charming!”

This is a good thing—this newfound success of Christians in the mainstream music business. It has happened because of the quality and creativity of the work and the “crossover” paths that have been blazed by the likes of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith amidst unfortunate criticism from some of their own fellow Christians. Hopefully those critics have been silenced by opportunities such as this for the world to see and experience “mere Christianity” in prime time.

If you are a Christian reading this magazine, and you like Sixpence’s music, chances are you enjoyed it long before “Kiss Me” ever became a sensation on national charts. If you’re like me, you listened to this CD numerous times and felt like it was probably as good, if not, better, than anything else out there in its genre. So you’re not surprised to see this happen. The only thing necessary was for the world to find out about this music and be able to get a hold of it.

This would be a good time to stop and give some credit to the people who have a tendency to be the most maligned in Christian music—the business people who make this industry work and saw the vision for its wider influence. These are the managers, promoters, agents and record company executives who are constantly criticized for being in it just for the money. Well, the money paid off.

In three brief minutes on national TV, Leigh Nash accomplished an incredible feat probably without knowing she was doing anything but being herself. She gave an example of humility in a position that usually is accompanied by arrogance.

“It's awesome! Just.. all my dreams are being fulfilled,” she said, when David pressed her over her apparent nervousness. His attempt to jokingly turn Leigh’s enchantment into a clandestine hotel tryst was met with an innocent response that betrayed the singer’s genuineness.

“I'm being needlessly coarse. I'm sorry,” was all David was able to say in an attempt to regain some dignity, and the audience loved it. The people couldn’t help but respond from some real place in their own souls. Bashfulness is a rare and welcomed commodity in today’s satiated society.

Then there was the simple truth of Lewis’s story, that all we have is from God—a perspective rarely heard anywhere, much less on TV—as well as the mention of Mere Christianity, a book that some in the millions of viewers who saw this show have no doubt purchased and read by now.

This is good. This is all very good. Cultural whims change overnight, but right now, Christians are producing some of the most creative, original work in popular music, making possible a wider exposure for contemporary Christian music and it’s artists than heretofore realized. Three minutes on David Letterman may not seem like much, but in light of the media’s relentless stereotyping of Christians, it is. We can go a long way by merely being Christians in the world. And if even for a brief moment, the mere Christianity of our lives can be put on display, it will, by it’s very nature, disarm many false perceptions and cause some folks to have second thoughts about Jesus Christ.

Popularity is a responsibility, not a privilege. It is not something to be sought after for its own sake, but received as a means to a wider influence. A Christian in the world’s spotlight need not peddle her faith beyond being real. For all Christians, Christ will be seen in and through who we are.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

If we all can start praying for and rejoicing in these opportunities instead of being suspicious of them, we’ll all be the richer for it.

John Fischer

If you know anything about Sixpence's tortured and tenuous relationship with the Christian music industry, you will appreciate the clip all the more; and will need to read Charlie Peacock's amazing and prophetic editorial at this link: "Art/Empire/Industry & "AntiMechanistic Gospel".

Here is the clip; enjoy.
Note Letterman's last words/benediction. Does he say that to every guest?
A great example of what the rabbis and Bono meant by the "elevation" of sexual thoughts.
Dave got accidentally elevated.

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