Derek Webb wants to dig latrines for Jesus. And he’s looking for a few thousand friends to lend a hand. In a world where as many as 8,000 people die each day from waterborne diseases, he says, it’s the Christian thing to do. To get the word out about his latrine campaign, Webb, a Nashville-based Christian singer-songwriter who doesn’t mince words, is planning to launch a new Web site—www.giveashit.org. The name, he said, is meant to startle people into action.
“The twin towers fall every day in Africa for lack of clean drinking water—7,500 or 8,000 people dying every day and the church does not appear to give a shit,” said Webb, echoing evangelist Tony Campolo’s provocative challenge to churches.
That’s something Webb, who helped found the contemporary Christian band Caedmon’s Call before launching a solo career, is determined to change. And he doesn’t mind offending people in the process, if he can get their attention.
“Part of my job is to take language and redeem it and to use it for good,” says Webb. “This is a great opportunity for me to use language creatively to stir people to action.”
Webb is one of a growing number of Nashville-based Christian musicians who are combining their faith with a commitment to social justice. Rather than simply playing benefit concerts or becoming celebrity spokespeople for charity, they’re taking a hands-on role in serving some of the poorest people on the planet and advocating for social change.
“Rather than ‘I’ll play your benefit,’ which is the most natural thing for us to do, there is more of a desire to be involved,” said Grammy Award-winning artist Ashley Cleveland, a veteran of the Christian music scene in Nashville.