Christian music often focuses on the heavenly dimensions of the Christian faith, the holiness of God, and the coming Kingdom, and this is not wrong. But Aaron Ferris certainly has a gift for awakening a sense of God's close identification with a world of struggle and imperfection, and the difference it makes living with Him in it.
State of Emergency, a modest collection of six acoustic songs, invites the listener to question what faith can change in the here and now, and what it looks like when God intervenes and moves and acts in the often harsh circumstances of the earth we live in.
This sense is powerfully conveyed in "The Way Out of Here" when Ferris encourages those in difficulty to cry out where they are.
Refreshingly, Ferris' music is permeated with a realism that doesn't deprive it of its spirituality and the wonderful human element to this collection doesn't detract from the awe that we should always feel towards God. It's a skillful balance.
There are serious challenges thrown in too but Ferris does this with a genuine sense of personal urgency to see the world healed than out of any sense of self-righteousness. One gets the sense that he is challenging himself as much as he is challenging us.
The challenge is laid down powerfully in the opening track, "Propaganda Village", which tells of the execution of a North Korean Christian caught with a Bible in their possession and a defector caught hiding in a shed.
The lyrics are startling in their candidness:
"They brought him back across the border and shot him in the head / Three generations face the gulags for life / And even that just depends on how long you can survive"
Following immediately on from this is "Mission Field", a beautifully composed song that is anchored in the serious message that the people in spiritual need are right on our own doorstep. But do we see them? This is a song that should be played in every church.
Similarly, the plea to God to set the captives free in "Jerusalem of the East" is matched with a reminder on the other hand that we, the ones who have put our faith in Christ already, are called to tell others about him. And the reason, he makes clear, is that God cries with the ones who are crying. We can so often listen to songs without really listening to them, but don't let this song pass you by.
Fittingly, the album and especially "Jerusalem of the East" and "Propaganda Village", were written to focus the faithful on the plight of North Koreans.
Acoustic albums are normally peaceful affairs, easy on the ear and easy on the soul. Ferris is indeed a gentle singer and the melodies are lovely, but the lyrics are certainly provoking, even disturbing in places. It is not often that an album stirs one to action as well as praise. State of Emergency is medicine for the soul for any Christian who has fallen in love with their own comfortableness and forgotten the call to go and make disciples to the ends of the earth.