Sandra McCracken: Creating Culture

(Listen and read, you can do it!)

When I first encountered Sandra McCracken’s music as green student of theology, I knew I’d been missing something. I’d given up on any piece of music that was even tenuously connected to the Christian music genre. I was disenchanted with Christian music. Actually, I was disgusted with it. Unfair as it may be and as snobby as it may sound, it’s the truth. But when I heard, “Rock of Ages, when this day seems long / From this labor and this heartache, I have come,” I had hope (from her 2005 album, The Builder and the Architect). I had more than hope. I felt deep emotion and appreciation because I felt the Spirit behind what Sandra sang–that Spirit that ignites and anoints us differently and yet all the same. 

I would eventually learn that Sandra is an artist. When she composes, she composes for the sake of Beauty, not for the sake of genre. Like great artists, when one considers her body of work, categorization seems impossible. And it is. With her new album, Desire Like Dynamite, her artistry reaches a new, dynamic height.

Sandra is also a theologian. She wrestles deeply and meaningfully with concepts that have become lost on us. She helps us to find out what believing is, because she is earnestly finding that out for herself. The theological centerpiece of her new album is desire. As she says:

“Desire Like Dynamite is exploring the themes of desire at the most basic human level. When you run after something, when you really want something, that can be a good and noble thing, or it can be self-centered. And at some point, your desire is going to intersect with somebody else’s, and that’s where relationships come into play. The whole album is about exploring the human story by way of that theme.” 
The album explores what, to me, is the greatest mystery of our existence with God and with each other: that God desires us to desire God, to desire each other. And as Sandra reflects, the tension of those intersections is what tests our hearts, what sometimes breaks them. In Desire Like Dynamite, Sandra calls for God to heal and remake our hearts so that we can better dwell in that tension and endure. 
Ultimately this album is a departure for Sandra, and I mean that in the best sense of the word. Her connection to “Christian music” becomes very tenuous, yet this album is comprised of music that wholeheartedly belongs to Christ: The album breaks through boundaries and stands gracefully in the midst of the most trying issues of our culture; and it creates a culture of healthier desire that would endure if we’d listen.

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