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That doesn’t make it “Christian”

Led Zeppelin’s 45-year-old song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has been in the news lately. The estate of a former member of the band Spirit is suing Zeppelin, claiming that the legendary British rockers plagiarized the opening notes of the song from Spirit’s song ‘Taurus.’ I don’t know enough about music to know if they have a case. I do know enough about Jesus to know that ‘Stairway to Heaven’ isn’t a Christian song. A friend tells of hearing a well-known radio personality talking about his first on-air job. It was on a Christian radio station. He was Jewish. His show was on at night and, since he was the only person on duty, he had to answer phone calls. It was 1971, and he said he continually fielded requests to play ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ He tried to explain to caller after caller that it wasn’t a Christian song. ‘It’s not Christian just because it mentions heaven,’ he said. That reminded me of a story I heard about something that happened at a South Georgia radio station that featured Southern Gospel music. One of its on-air ‘personalities’ was a local minister. One day in 1977, he introduced a song with words something like these: ‘Folks, I have a new record here. It’s by a group I’ve never heard of and I’ve never listened to the song before, so we’re going to hear it for the first time together. It sounds like a great Gospel song. So let’s listen to the Kendalls sing ‘˜Heaven’s Just a Sin Away.” And all the people said ‘Oh my!’ Somebody hopefully told the DJ, ”It’s not Christian just because it mentions heaven.’ As a matter of fact, not everything that’s called ‘Christian’ is in fact Christian. Take ‘Christian’ political candidates.’ Please. Candidates who trumpet their ‘Christian faith’ and ‘Christian values’ make me nervous. First of all, I’m not sure that a person will, if genuinely Christian, ‘trumpet’ such things. I mean, Jesus said we shouldn’t, and if Jesus said not to do something, then his followers certainly won’t do it. Right? Besides, if you’re really filled up with the love, grace, humility, and compassion of Christ, it’s going to show, whether you want it to or not. And if you get credit for it, you’re going to be embarrassed by it. Second, when candidates make their ‘Christianity’ part of their advertising and rhetoric, it’s hard to shake the feeling that they’re just trying to attract votes from a particular segment of the Christian community. Once, some members of the church I pastored at the time wanted to put out some ‘Christian voting guides.’ ‘They’re not in support of any particular candidate or party,’ they told me. So I looked them over. The values that the guide said should direct our voting decisions lined up very nicely with one party’s platform. There were other Christian values, some of which are very important, that the guide failed to mention, all of which lined up with the other party’s platform. I declined the request to distribute the voting guides in the church. Don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying there are not Christian politicians. Some are characterized by love, grace, and humility. They regard their public service as a part of their Christian commitment. You’d strongly suspect they’re Christian, even if they never say they are. What I am saying is that we need to watch out for those who say the right words and check the right boxes, but whose attitude, bearing, motivations, and actions seem to indicate that they may not know Jesus very well, if at all. A song’s not Christian just because it mentions heaven. Politicians aren’t Christian just because they say they are. Some of them count on Christians being gullible. So let’s be discerning ‘¦ Mike Ruffin is a Barnesville native and graduate of Lamar County High School. He and his wife Debra live on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville. He is the Connections Curriculum Editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon and Interim Pastor of The Rock Baptist Church.

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