Cody McVey recently shared this article on his Facebook page, taking the author to task for what Cody viewed as self-righteousness, referring to such authors as “modern-day Pharisees; they are more detrimental to the Kingdom than we realize.”
The article, titled A Plea to the Clark Family, was written by David Cloud, who heads a ministry known as Way of Life Literature. According to Cloud’s (I assume self-written) biography on the WoL site:
The aim of Way of Life Literature is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and to exalt the truth of His Word in this apostate hour through doctrinal preaching and carefully documented research.
In the aforementioned article, Cloud takes to task a family group based in New Jersey. Why he singles out this particular group, I have no idea. No offense to the Clark Family, but they are not necessarily a nationally-known group. Even McVey admits, “I don’t know the Clark Family personally, but after reading this, I would encourage you to PLEASE go buy their records and support them.”
The only reason I am familiar with the Clark Family is because I stumbled upon their music while working on my Brand New Day project several years ago. One of the songs I recorded had also been done by the Clark Family. Their arrangement was, shall we say, on the traditional side. In fact, the entire album from which that song came from was VERY conservative – no drums anywhere on the project, very little bass guitar, with primary instruments being keys and synth strings. The vocals were likewise very conservative (I’d venture to say almost mechanical). If any group I’ve heard in the last five years characterized “traditional” or “conservative,” the Clark Family would be it.
Mr. Cloud, however, feels that they have journeyed too far into “contemporary” music with their more recent recordings, and takes them to task for nearly every song they’ve covered, not because of the style of their own recording, but because of who wrote and/or performed the song originally. To Cloud, simply having a connection to a contemporary artist is too much, regardless of how the song is presented.
One of the members of the Clark Family told me that since “we sing our own vocal style and record our own tracks using instruments we feel appropriate” that they are not building associations with the authors. But that is an impossibility in this day and age.
To read Cloud’s analysis of these songs is like playing Seven Levels of Kevin Bacon. He starts with the Clark Family’s recording (and the album on which it can be found) and works backwards through the original artist, then to the original authors, giving us what he feels are damning evidence of those artists’ and authors’ heresy (basically, anyone who does not adhere to Cloud’s own fundamental Baptist teachings):
…building bridges to contemporary people the likes of Brian Free, Ricky Free, Jeremy Johnson, Joel Lindsay, Tony Wood, Mike Schultz, Jody McBrayer, or Billy and Cynthia Foote is unscriptural and dangerous.
What is so unscriptural and dangerous about the folks singled out by Cloud? They are CONTEMPORARY Southern Gospel music, and according to Cloud, if you listen to “contemporary Southern Gospel you are listening to CCM. Contemporary Southern Gospel is merely a branch of the larger world of Contemporary Christian Music or Christian rock.”
That must be why there are so many southern gospel categories at the Dove Awards….
What is somewhat ironic about Cloud’s article, however, is that not only does he call out an otherwise conservative regional gospel group for recording songs he feels are inappropriate, but he also includes YouTube links for the original versions of these songs, as well as backgrounds on who originally sang them (in the name of research, I’m sure). For someone who is so against such music, he sure is able to pull up all kinds of information about it, and has no problem sharing it with everyone.
Now, I’m not one to come down on another person’s convictions. If David Cloud truly believes that only one specific style of music is acceptable as worship, ministry, or evangelism, then I would hope that he adheres to that belief with any music he does indeed sing and/or listen to. That being said, after reading through some of his website, I get the impression that there is less evangelism involved than self-righteousness, and dare I say even some bitterness. There is plenty of somewhat snarky rhetoric found throughout the site, and even in this lone article, Cloud is sure to insert his own backstory of salvation and why he feels he is correct over everyone else. I find a large amount of condemnation and very little love and humility.
As for the group at the center of this article, the Clark Family, I will simply link to their website here and allow you to decide if they are falling into the “dangers of contemporary Christian music and contemporary Southern Gospel,” as Cloud puts it.
Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a gospel music soloist, occasional quartet singer, and church music director who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with artists such as Mercy's Mark, the Dove Brothers Band, and The Oak Ridge Boys. Visit his website at www.kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.