Remembering Mark Heard
The art of Mark Heard has helped to change my outlook on Christianity.
There have been many artists of music that have had a great impact on me, from all types of genres. Thanks to Mark and a few others, I even have difficulty separating music (as well as other forms of art) into spiritual categories. Oh, I still understand the convenience of labeling certain types of music as bluegrass, progressive rock, doo-wop, etc. But gradually through the years, I began to grasp the futility (and folly) of attempting to categorize the “spiritual bent” of artists’ creations. Some folks still believe that you can do this according to lyrics,,,,I don’t. I think that that argument falls apart as soon as you evaluate an instrumental song that has no lyrics. “But has it still been dedicated and offered to God with as much sincerity as the song with lyrics praising our Creator?”, I would ponder. Mark Heard helped me to think this way. He helped me to go deeper.
You know, I believe that many people struggle with really opening up their minds. They fear to question long-held beliefs. What some would classify as “brainwashing” may merely be an attempt to rid your mind of “tape-recorded” principles that are useless (and actually detrimental) to helping us to grow into the spiritual beings that God intended us to become. Our parents’ generation didn’t have it all right, including their teachings about God. This doesn’t make them bad people, nor necessarily flawed in many ways,,,,it just makes them human.
And I think that was an important observation that I began to understand by listening to Mark Heard’s music. I recall the way I felt when I first heard certain lines from his lyrics. From “One Night Stand”, a song describing his thoughts on living life on the road—
“ I hit the depot half-past seven
I took the bus to a cheap motel
I went to sleep and I dreamed of Heaven
When I awoke I was back in Hell..”
And this refrain from “In The Gaze Of The Spotlight’s Eye”, a song about ministering to strangers from the stage—
“And….ooooh…I want to go home
I wish that this night would end
But….ooooh…. I’ve got to go on
And shoot from the heart again…”
My initial feelings upon listening to some of these lines were…..”back in Hell? Is this really what he thinks of this world? Hell is supposed to be so much worse than this world. Is he whining?” And…”He wants to go home? Isn’t he supposed to be the happy Christian putting on a brave face and doing what God wants him to do? Quit griping…shut up and sing…..you’re a Christian who is supposed to share your faith with joy”….etc…etc…
I was young, early ‘20’s. I have actually repented for some of my thinking then. As I grew in Christ, I began to see that I was getting hung up on semantics….and I began to realize that Mark was just being brutally honest…something that many Christians need help in doing. Mark was showing me himself….his soul…..without all the “evangelist trappings”. He was saying, it’s okay for us to acknowledge that we feel feelings like humans do. It’s okay to question. We do not always need to “put on a brave face” if we are not feeling brave. God knows our hearts anyway.
It is the reason that Mark rarely smiled in “posed” photographs. He thought it was deceptive to do that. He thought that there are too many artists perpetuating a myth that Christianity was “living a happy life all the time.” Mark smiled, but when it was genuine, not when told to.
It is insightful to know that Mark studied L’Abri and their principles. Look it up….he would probably want you to.
He sang to the Christian and non-Christian alike……he sang to people. He could be very direct when singing to the Church, as in these lines from “We Believe So Well”—
“But we believe so well, don’t we tell ourselves?
Don’t we take exclusive pride that we abide so far from hell?
We might laugh together, but don’t we cry alone?
For the ashes and the dust we’ve swept beneath the holy throne…”
Many in the pews (or, more accurately, the concert seats) wanted to bolt, or at least bristle. Thank God many didn’t. I was one of the latter, who eventually welcomed someone who was willing to broach subjects and thoughts often regarded as taboo by the Church in general. And he could do it with an accommodating vehicle in music…..good music.
Mark was really not a revolutionary……not even a rebel, really. He was just a great songwriter, musician, poet….a true artist. Some folks get all hung up on the whole “Christian first….then your human-ness” thing. Mark really didn’t. But if he did, he probably wanted to be known as a human being who also happened to believe in Christ. After all, God didn’t create Christians…..he created humans….and saw that it was good. More importantly, I don’t believe that it was important to Mark to be “known” at all.
–written by Mark Hendricks, 2008
Reflection on the Word and on the world is necessary, both for holy living and also for wise communication of the gospel to those around us. Paul spoke the same truth, but he presented it in different ways depending on whether he was in a synagogue with Jews and God-fearing Gentiles, or whether he was on Mars Hill with pagans. To communicate faithfully we have to work at understanding the intellectual climate of the times in which we live. –L’Abri principle
Article by permission by Mark Hendricks