MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Coming up next, an excerpt from tomorrow’s episode of Listening In.
This week a conversation with author and Christian musician Alisa Childers. Childers is the daughter of Christian music pioneer, Chuck Girard of Love Song. She was also part of the CCM group: ZOE Girl. She grew up in a Christian home, but had a crisis of faith as an adult when she met a progressive pastor. She’s just published an apologetics book to help others answer critics of Christ.
WARREN SMITH: You were part of ZOE Girl, kind of raised in that Christian milieu, and you talk about being in the green room looking out on the stage. When an evangelist was issuing an altar call. Can you talk about that story and why that episode kind of put a pebble in your shoe so to speak about your faith.
ALISA CHILDERS: Yeah. So, when a lot of the critiques were coming in about evangelicalism about the late 90s early 2000s, I related with a lot of those critiques because I had seen a lot of things in evangelicalism that I just didn’t understand or I didn’t think were good things.
And so I do remember one time we were doing this summer festival and I was in the green room, and the way that this green room was set up is, if I just sat at the table I was looking out the window right over to the stage which, you know, wasn’t that far away. And this pastor was giving this altar call and it was really impassioned, and maybe even a little angry, and he was, you know, doing the whole hell and brimstone thing and, really, it felt to me like it was really emotionally manipulative. And he just kept it going, and going, and going, and going, and to put that in context I think that was coming on the tail end of just a lifetime of seeing a lot of stuff like that. Not that there’s not a genuine version of that because of course there is.
I know many people who walked forward at a Billy Graham crusade or Harvest crusade and responded to the gospel and so I don’t mean to cast a shadow on that but there’s this other thing that just, it kind of felt like those knockoff Louis Vuitton bags you’d buy in New York on Bleecker Street there where you get all the knockoff merchandise and it just seemed like it really wasn’t about salvation but it was about filling out a card or being able to say, the number of people that responded and then everybody would would get all excited and this emotional crescendo would happen, and, and then the altar call would be over.
And then I was just left wondering, “well what happens now? What about all those kids that walk to the front, for whatever reason, if it was genuine or just because they just felt like if they don’t, they’re going to go to hell, I have to walk forward to the front of the stage in order to call myself a Christian?” And I began to really be concerned that the actual gospel wasn’t really getting communicated. That it really became more about, well, just say these magic words or pray this prayer or walk forward, and this is all you need to do. And then nothing really happens after that. So that was one of the pebbles in my shoe honestly about…not about the gospel, but about the way Christians were living out the gospel in the world, I guess you could say, or in that particular cultural moment.
BASHAM: That’s Alisa Childers talking to Warren Smith. To hear the complete conversation, look for Listening In tomorrow wherever you get your podcasts.