Artist’s Christian music leaves room for doubt, mystery and experience

Jonathan Rundman

Jonathan Rundman

By Brian Q. Newcomb, UCC News • • •

Jonathan Rundman
Self-titled solo album
Salt Lady Records

Jonathan Rundman’s main gig is being himself—working that fine line between garage-y pop-rock singer/songwriter and youth worker/church musician.

Can you imagine Paul Westerberg as the contemporary worship band leader for an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation, who’d rather write smart, fun songs than sing the usual praise choruses out of the Vineyard songbook?
The result is better, more progressive theology and great, sing-along songs that sound more like Cheap Trick than the standard campfire fare.

What we get here is a 20-song retrospective from the last decade, essentially the artist sharing the high spots from his four full-length recordings, with a few new songs, alternative versions and remixes to sweeten the deal for longtime fans. In short, if you’ve not heard Mr. Rundman before, this is a simple introduction to one of the better left-of-center Christian pop-rock artists working today.

The youth worker wants to tell boys to pay more attention to the “Smart Girls,” while celebrating that church is the best place to fall in love (“Carol of the Bells”).

As a liturgically minded Lutheran, he throws in a Lenten reflection in “Ashes,” and a celebration of the Church coming together in meaningful ways in the “Narthex.” Which means grace comes first and foremost in “Forgiveness Waltz,” but there’s good we can do when we’re “Workin’ My Committee.”

But unlike so much conventional CCM (contemporary Christian music, coming from more conservative theological traditions), with Mr. Rundman you never get that anti-cultural bias, which says doubt is sin. Rather in “If You Have a Question,” there’s room for those of us who live with faith and doubt, experience and mystery.

All of which makes Mr. Rundman an excellent candidate for mainline/mainstream progressive-minded churches’ youth and young adult ministries. Frankly, I’m not sure why this guy is not a huge rock star around our side of the church. But maybe that will happen with this album.

The Rev. Newcomb is senior minister at David’s United Church of Christ in Kettering, Ohio, and a longtime music critic. He blogs at http://quincessentials.wordpress.com. This review is reprinted with permission from United Church News (www.ucc.org/news).

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