...There is strange irony in the fact that after decades of trying to break Christian acts into mainstream music and eventually succeeding at doing so, that open-door facilitated a cross-pollinization of Christian and secular culture, one that has had deleterious effects on the singular importance many youthful believers place on Christian music as their source for their cultural engagement.
The result is that attendance and profits for Christian festivals around the country have dropped significantly over the past decade. Many of the smaller events have ceased to exist, while a sizable portion have been swallowed up by the still massive Creation series of festivals – including Ichthus in Kentucky, where Mike Pence found Jesus. Even more worrying for traditionalists is that many of the acts performing are not overtly religious in their messaging and do not sing about God, while others even make questioning their faith a central theme of their music. Like it or not, modern Christianity has become intersectional, and it’s a lot harder to influence a generation who pick and choose their identity in a bricolage rather than a one-size-fits-all worldview.
Partly because of this, and partly because of the downturn of Christian festivals as a whole, there is a struggle being waged for the soul of the culture. Leaders like Bob Thompson, executive director of the Christian Festival Association, are trying to change what Christian festivals are all about. “As a community, we’re known more for what we’re against than what we’re for,” he says. “We want to acknowledge the negative associations with Christianity – that it’s anti-homosexual, highly judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, and we don’t accept people of other faiths. We took a real hard look at ourselves and we’re trying to change. We want to be known for what we love, not what we reject.”