Tokens: Deluge, Hope, and Patience

This week the family and I will be heading to the Christian Scholar's Conference being hosted by Lipscomb University in Nashville.

In my last post reflecting on James Davison Hunter's book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World we noted that, by and large, Christianity is a weak culture. One aspect of this weakness is that Christians produce an enormous amount of cultural product of dubious intellectual and artistic quality.

However, there are some wonderful exceptions to this general trend. Locations where theological sophistication mixes with artistic excellence. And on Friday night this week Jana, the boys and I have tickets to one of these exceptions: Tokens.

Tokens was started by Lee Camp, professor at Lipscomb and author of Mere Discipleship. A review of Tokens can be found here at Sojourners. From the review:

The theological variety show, hosted by Lipscomb professor Lee Camp, bills itself as “Too Serious for Public Radio. Too Edgy for Christian Radio. Too Much Fun to Miss.” It features a house band of A-list Nashville musicians, musical guests such as Vince Gill, and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Hubert Locke. There are also the Token Radio Players, whose “Dispatches from the Bible Belt” would give Dusty and Lefty a run for their money...

It’s part of the show’s sideways approach to addressing theology and social issues. If he can get people to laugh, Camp says, they are more willing to listen. “We try to use the humor and music to sneak up on people, and get them to look at substantive issues.”

The inspiration for Tokens came from a New Year’s Eve show hosted by Garrison Keillor in Nashville several years ago. Camp, who’d been a fan of A Prairie Home Companion for years, began to wonder if Keillor’s approach would work for talking about social justice and theological issues. He especially considered how a song can pierce the heart of a matter, in a way a sermon or lecture can’t.

“Songwriters can get at important theological questions much quicker than theologians,” he said. “And they do it using metaphors that aren’t God-talk. It’s a very compelling way to get at substantive questions.”

That doesn’t mean Tokens is simply a Christian imitation of Keillor’s show. While Camp and his cast deal with theology, they are after something bigger—glimpses of God’s action in the world, or tokens of grace.
In light of the recent floods in Nashville, the Tokens show this Friday is titled "Deluge, Hope, and Patience" and is billed as "an evening of reflection, lament, and hope in the wake of Nashville’s floods." Featured performers will be Over the Rhine, Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, and Buddy Greene. In another wonderful move, Tokens is formally inviting—completely free of charge—anyone made victim by the Nashville flood, as well as anyone who worked to bring relief to those affected (for more information you can call the Lipscomb University Box Office at 615.966.7075).

Can't wait to experience Tokens on Friday, this rare and wonderful mix of social consciousness, theological sophistication, and artistic excellence. May their tribe increase.

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