If you’ve ever been to a for King & Country concert, you’ll know it’s not just the music that stands out, but also the message.
Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone have been making Christian pop for almost a decade, collecting Grammy’s, K Love Awards and topping all kinds of Christian music charts. Their latest record, Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong. won Pop Album of the Year at last year’s Dove Awards, and they’ll be back as hosts of the Dove Awards this month.
But their proudest achievement isn’t chart topping hits or platinum records – though both are certainly nice – but an empowering movement they’ve committed their careers (and lives) to fueling.
Seven years ago, the brothers were touring with their sister, Christian artist Rebecca St. James. James often spoke at women’s conferences around the country and Joel and Luke were recruited to be her back-up band of sorts.
“We’re sitting there going, ‘This is what our career’s going to amount to. We’re going to be doing women’s conferences for the rest of our life,’” Joel jokes of that time early in their career. “But we realized, ‘Man, we’re actually here by design. We need to say something. We’re the only dudes here and there could be something powerful about us saying something to these ladies.’”
The guys felt the need to contribute to the conversation about equality and women’s rights, so when their own music took off and they began playing for crowds of thousands – both women and men – they took the opportunity to deliver a message to their fans.
“After the conference we started doing shows for men as well so we started saying to the guys, ‘Hey guys, it’s time for us to be men of integrity. It’s time for us to treat women the way they deserve to be treated, with respect and honor,’” Joel says. The brothers often interrupt their set lists to encourage women to believe in themselves and to avoid bad relationships. They also speak to men about valuing the women in their lives.
But doing a bit of talking on stage wasn’t enough for the duo.
“It was kind of like we were just hitting the tip of the iceberg,” Joel says. “We hadn’t really gotten to the bottom of what’s going on.”
The pair went to their brother Ben, a film director, with an idea for a book (already on shelves) and movie called Priceless – which releases later this month. Both projects focus on issues of human trafficking and are inspired by true events.
“Part of the reason we wanted to focus on that was because, if we are to say that a human life is priceless, what’s the antithesis of that? It’s a life that can be bought,” Joel explains. “Our grand message is that we believe that you’re priceless. That a woman is priceless. That a man is priceless. For us to help illustrate that, we felt like talking about [human trafficking, where] someone can be bought was [important. It proves] the big picture message that a person is priceless.”
As husbands, brothers, sons and now fathers, Joel and Luke take their feminist mission seriously.
“Part of the reason we’re talking about it is because the issue starts with men. If we didn’t have our distorted view of women and what they can give a man we wouldn’t have this issue,” Luke explains. “The issue would be 100% eradicated. Part of our responsibility is not just to talk about it and hope men get on board, but to actually stand up and say, ‘I’m part of the problem.’”
They hope that women can find encouragement in their Priceless contribution to the feminist movement and that men can view it as an opportunity to change – for the better.
“If you’re trapped in this world as a man thinking that what I look at on a computer screen is not wrong, then there’s an opportunity for God to do a new thing in you,” Luke says.
Ultimately, the brothers want their fans and anyone who hears the message to have meaningful relationships with the women in their lives, to be able to experience the blessing of a relationship in which both parties are treated equally.
“I don’t claim to be an expert on the movement,” Luke says. “What I know is that a lot of times we don’t respect the women in our lives the way we should. How I treat my mother, how I see other people treating their mothers or sisters or their spouse or their girlfriend — those are the things that I can actually address. And, if we didn’t have the women in our lives, we’d be fairly miserable human beings.”