Amy Grant and fire in a theater

Intellectual icons (and mere plebeians) have been noting for centuries that democracy, (free market) capitalism and Christianity, though imperfect, are superior to all other management systems designed to unite, organize and incentivise large numbers of people living in discomfiting proximity to one another.

To those who don’t know a bone spur from a boot spur and who insist it is time to bag the current political and economic system and give secular socialism (less religion and more government) a try, I say, hold your untamed horses.

The July 14 anything-but-perfect Amy Grant concert (at the Academy Theatre downtown) is living proof that life in Hollywood and in D.C. and on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, is not life in Lynchburg, Va., also known as America. And it is also living proof that, left to its own devices — completely detached, psychologically, from the not-normal thinking and behaving of a self-selective and hyper-privileged few — any “ordinary” American community is more likely to thrive than to fail.

The Academy Theatre restoration did seem to take “forever,” especially when compared to the time it takes Liberty University to design a building and get it built. But the Academy Theater did get restored. And it, arguably, got restored as perfectly as a building of its kind can be restored in the 21st century.

Why did our theater get restored at all? Why wasn’t it torn down? Ten years ago, more than half of Lynchburg thought that irreplaceable example of Neo-Classical architecture should be bulldozed because it and the urban street upon which it stands were disintegrating and were considered by thousands to be unworthy of intellectual and financial investment and restoration.

The Academy Theatre got restored because we citizens wrote letters and elected men and women who believe in art and Main Street and who agree the city needs and deserves a magnificent theater. And it got restored because men and women who could afford to contribute (but who did not have to contribute) chose freely to contribute to the downtown revitalization project, a cornerstone of which was the theater’s restoration and re-opening for business.

And what made the Amy Grant concert at the Academy Theatre so special?

I’ll tell you what made it so special.

Amy Grant is as Christian as a Christian can be.

As I watched and listened, I asked myself, why isn’t Amy performing at Liberty?

She’s a crossover artist (someone who sings all kinds of repertoire well), to be sure, but she became a star, and remains mostly beloved, in the Christian pop corner of the music business.

Grant did sing a few Christian-themed songs, and she did refer to God and her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, during the program, but only twice and without a hint of sanctimony or prosetelyzation.

Not once did Amy ask us to say a prayer with her, as she would have been expected to, if she had performed at Liberty instead of at the Academy.

And I wholeheartedly maintain that Amy Grant’s natural ability to be a Christian rather than project and advertise herself as one enabled religiously uncertain members of Sunday’s audience, people like me, to leave that theater feeling — if not saying aloud on the way to the parking lot — that there is a God and there once was a man as kind and forgiving as Jesus Christ.

Those who paid a lot of money to see and hear Amy Grant will say the show will remain forever unforgettable because of the fire alarm that forced the complete evacuation of the theater just as the concert was about to begin.

In truth, the audience that was blessed enough to be able to attend the show will never forget it, not because of the false alarm, but because, through Amy Grant’s communicating as a genuine singer and empathetic friend, they learned the demise of civilization is not upon us, after all, and they discovered, even if there is no God, there is art everywhere that moves us infinitely and there is at least one woman among us who is the embodiment of everything any god could wish for one mortal to be.



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