Singing Forth a New Vision

PIANIST AND SINGER-SONGWRITER KEN MEDEMA primarily performs his music in churches and at Christian colleges. While he readily admits there is a biblical message inherent in his songs, he also notes that it may not be as obvious as it once was. Although his older albums on Word and Glory Sound Records were steeped in what Medema calls "God-talk," they nonetheless challenged listeners to examine their Christianity in light of the biblical imperative to have compassion for the oppressed and to work for peace and justice.

On his 1980 Kingdom in the Streets album, Medema confronted the safe and secure image of Christianity with songs such as "Corner Store Jesus": "Do you want a corner drugstore Jesus passing happiness pills?/Do you want some kind of magic potion that will cure all your ills?" Another light melody, "Those Love Songs," challenged Christian piety: "I'm sick of those: I-am-his and he-is-mine/and doesn't-it-make-me-feel-good love songs ... /We need a few more: We-are-his and he-is-Lord, /He-calls-us-to-his-service work songs."

These days Medema has his own record label in San Francisco, Brier Patch Music, and still sings about dissatisfaction with the traditional church world as well as about refugees from Central America and Christian activists working with the poor in Nicaragua. He was born in 1943 and brought up in the Reformed Church tradition, however, his restless intellect led him to take leave of the church when he was still in high school. He says, "I always felt good about being on the heretic fringe -- an outsider intellectual who asked questions about everything."

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