LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world's largest providers of Christian products, has decided their stores will not carry Grammy Award-winning artist Amy Grant's new Christmas CD, Tennessee Christmas, because it is not Christian enough, according to Grant's manager, Jennifer Cooke.
In the long op-ed article Cooke wrote for The Washington Post, she talked about how shocked she was to find out the politics behind Christian music when she first started her career in the 1980s.
"There is an odd question and reality in the Christian music business: What is a 'Christian enough' song or project recorded by someone who is 'Christian enough' that deems it worthy of exposure and commercial viability via Christian radio and Christian retail?" she wrote.
Cooke went on to explain that she always wondered why certain artists such as Rich Mullins were never given the time of day on Christian radio.
"I remember sitting in marketing meetings hearing discussions that some of his songs were too focused on the human condition and not focused enough on Jesus as the answer," the experienced manager explained. "It was perplexing to me as a Christian to realize that to be promoted on the radio and in retail, each song really needed to be able to be neatly wrapped up in a 'Jesus is the answer' bow."
As a devout Christian, Cooke says she could never wrap her mind around why not all great performers who sang about Jesus were given air time on faith-based radio. She talked about Grant's 1991 pop album Heart In Motion, which pegged Grant as a "sell out" to many in the Christian world.
During her pop success, Cooke recalled witnessing Grant be used mightily by God in the lives of hundreds of kids in a youth group Grant and Gary Chapman were hosting. Cooke described that she would fend off angry callers upset with the Christian singer and then watch the same person they were talking so badly about labor in prayer over many of the children in her Bible study.
Unfortunately, Cooke says, not much has changed and although it's been over a decade and times are changing some things in the Christian industry remain the same.
"Here we are again, Christmas 2016. Grant has released her first (all new) Christmas record in nearly 20 years, and the debate is on again. 'Is it Christian enough for Christian retail to support?'" she maintained.
The outspoken manager called out one store in particular for refusing to support Grant's latest holiday release, Tennessee Christmas.
"LifeWay Christian Resources, the large Southern Baptist retailer, decided it was not. It's their choice, and it's okay."
Cooke said it's beyond her comprehension how the music is being pegged "not Christian." Grant's latest Christmas record talks about topics that most people experience during the busy holiday season.
According to The Tennessean, LifeWay spokesman Marty King confirmed that the retail and online stores would not be carrying the album but would not comment further on the decision.
Grant took to Facebook to express that she has no hard feelings over the decision.
"We respectfully accept Lifeway's decision that my new Christmas album didn't meet their criteria. Let's all move on from that decision without arguing about it. But let's not stop asking the questions about what it means to live in faith and reflect love to the world around us," she posted.
The six-time Grammy Award winner's newly released album earned the No. 3 spot on Billboard's Holiday Albums chart and is reaching the masses despite the lack of support.
The song "Melancholy Christmas" talks about isolation and loneliness during the holidays and Cooke says it is resonating with Grant's Christian fans.
"Aren't we supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Does the name Jesus need to be said for his love to be shown or his message to be lived and shared?" Cooke inquired. "Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas in ways that are human — love, loss, nostalgia, family, romance, fun and grief — all with the backdrop of the birth of our savior that gives meaning to it all?"
The outspoken manager ended her post with one final thought for Lifeway.
"Fact is: It is not enough for LifeWay. But it is more than enough for me," she concluded.
You can read Cooke's full article here.