With Brad Paisley, 'crazy' a sensible view of Christians

Country music star Brad Paisley brought his "Virtual Reality" tour to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, March 3, 2012.
Country music star Brad Paisley brought his "Virtual Reality" tour to Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, March 3, 2012. Herald-Leader

What is crazy?

Is it good or bad?

Is it doing something selfless or selfish, forgiving or judgmental?

Is it something you would like to be called?

Country star Brad Paisley posed that question to Christians this month with the 16th track on his new album, Wheelhouse.

Those Crazy Christians gigs Christians for some habits and blind spots, like getting "their weekly dose of guilt before they head to Applebee's" as well as ringing those church bells so dang early on Sunday morning.

But then it heaps props on Christians for being the ones who will spend hours in a hospital praying for a stranger or hopping on a plane to go to an impoverished country to help people in need — those crazy Christians.

Watching events unfold in Boston this week, I had to think there were undoubtedly a lot of crazy Christians dropping everything to help people affected by the attack on the Boston Marathon.

It's a terrific song that to me kind of steps back and takes a multifaceted look at evangelical Christianity today, and sees both the good and ... uh ... things that need some work. Granted, it's not all-encompassing, leaving out some of the uglier aspects of supposed "Christianity," like the Westboro Baptist Church folks who do very little that rhymes with Christianity.

But as far as regular churchgoing folk, the song is as honest an assessment as I have seen in a while, particularly for a four-minute, 20-second country song.

Paisley thought he was going to get some heat for it, and frankly, so did I.

My expectation was based on observing the Christian community, particularly modern evangelicals, the last decade or so and concluding it's not the most self-reflective group, not terribly willing to take a critique from an outsider, or at least a perceived outsider.

Paisley told Parade magazine he expected backlash over the track, and the album has raised controversy with another song, Accidental Racist, a well-intentioned but poorly executed duet with LL Cool J about race relations.

But thus far, Googling as best I can, I cannot find a real denunciation of Those Crazy Christians, only articles anticipating controversy. One of those articles, on the Christian website, was followed by two dozen or so comments, almost all in support of Paisley's song.

"It's a great song," one comment read. "I don't mind if some think I am crazy, for Christ's sake. He didn't think it was crazy to die for my sins."

After all, one of the classic songs in contemporary Christian music is dc talk's Jesus Freak, including the lyric, "I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak, there ain't no denying the truth."

And the song itself did come from a very sympathetic place. Paisley told Parade, which appears every Sunday in the Herald-Leader, that he was inspired to write the song after watching his cousin-in-law fight against and ultimately lose his life to a debilitating disease.

"There weren't five minutes of intensive care that there weren't at least two church members at the hospital, around the clock, and I remember thinking, 'What makes people take shifts for somebody they haven't known very long?'" Paisley told Parade. "I remember thinking, 'Those crazy Christians. Look at them go. Look at them swoop in to save the day.'"

And that is reflected in the conclusion of the song, where after the skeptical observer derides Christians for everything from waking him up Sunday morning to being quick to forgive a disgraced TV preacher, he says, "as I'm baffled by it all, If I ever really needed help, well you know who I'd call, is those crazy Christians."

That's not derision, that's respect, with some gentle joshing. It's good to see most of the faithful seem to get it: In his song, "crazy" is a compliment.

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