Posts Tagged ‘songs with religious themes’

I ♥ Arcade Fire

April 9, 2011

How does an indie rock band afford to pay so many members?

I resisted the charms of this band for years—until they won a Grammy in February, and I needed some new music to listen to on a long airplane flight. My being a thoroughly suburban kid and all, how could I refuse a concept album called The Suburbs? A few of these songs are almost as good as my two favorite songs about the ‘burbs: this one and that one.

Arcade Fire often touch on religious themes, but “City With No Children” includes these tasty lyrics:

You never trust a millionaire quoting the Sermon on the Mount
I used to think I was not like them, but I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground, the rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

“Not spiritual, religious”…

April 7, 2011

… or so said my friend Keith, an Episcopal priest, a couple of years ago on his Facebook profile—in the section asking for one’s “religious views.” I know what he means. “Spiritual” implies ethereal, insubstantial, incorporeal, non-physical. It’s always at least a few feet off the ground. It doesn’t get its hands dirty. It doesn’t sweat or bleed or feel pain or make love. In other words, it’s something we can ignore most of the time. After all, we don’t live in a world of ideas (although some of us live in our heads more than others!); we live in a material world. And we mostly enjoy living here.

While Christianity has many forms of spirituality and spiritual practices, it is intensely concerned with the physical. The resurrection of Jesus—and our own future resurrection—whatever else it may be—is at least physical. God loves this world, this good Creation, these bodies. And God intends to save them.

Christianity’s emphasis on the physical posed an apologetic problem for early Christians venturing into a culture infused with Greek philosophy. For Plato, for instance, bodies were a problem that needed to be solved. Our future hope of life after death meant being liberated from these things that held us captive. This was a compelling message to most people. Therefore if you were inventing a religion from scratch, you wouldn’t claim that the religion’s founder had been bodily resurrected from the dead. That would be a hard sell, to say the least.

This is why the apostle Paul ran into trouble at the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17. He was making a nicely “spiritual” argument for the Christian faith to these sophisticated Athenians and foreigners who, Luke tells us, “would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new” (v. 21)—nice work if you can get it! But then Paul mentions resurrection in v. 31: “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some scoffed…”

I think C.S. Lewis said that our life in heaven will somehow be more real, more physical, than life now—if it’s possible to imagine something like that. Needless to say, we won’t be angels floating on clouds and playing harps—or whatever caricature of Christian hope is out there.

As Bishop Will Willimon reflects on this week’s “word” from the cross from John 19:28 (“I am thirsty”), which I’ll be covering in my sermon this Sunday, he writes the following:

And with Jesus, there is something about us creatures that wants to make Jesus God uncarnate. Here is Jesus—a great spiritual leader, a marvelous teacher of high wisdom, a purveyor of some of the most noble notions ever uttered. That way we can keep him high and lifted up, floating somewhere above the grubby particularities of life. He can mean as much to us as Plato. He can be exclusively spiritual and therefore irrelevant… ¶ On campus, “Don’t you think it’s wonderful that there is so much interest these days in spirituality?” ¶ “I wouldn’t know about that, certainly wouldn’t be excited about that. I’m a Christian. We’re not spiritual. We’re into the physical. Can you say incarnation?

In the spirit of this post, I’ll leave you with this wonderful George Harrison song from his underrated Living in the Material World album. As a Hindu, of course, Harrison understands that the material world is a problem, and on this point Christianity agrees: Without redemption, as it currently stands, this world is a problem. Fortunately, God won’t see fit to leave it that way.

P.S. One of the material world’s problems is copyright laws. EMI won’t let you watch this movie directly in this post. Click the video and it will take you to YouTube, where you can watch it to your heart’s content.

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words From the Cross (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006), 51.

Love is the most difficult, necessary, and courageous thing

January 23, 2011

The unstoppable bass riff everyone loves has been so abstracted from its original setting—the amazing Queen/Bowie collaboration that is “Under Pressure”—that it’s easy to overlook how profoundly good the song is.

The best we preachers can do, when you get right down to it, is stare in the face of this world’s evil, pain, and suffering, and shout “Love” at the top of our voice. To be sure, we try our best to describe its cruciform shape, but we can’t improve upon it. Love is still the answer. This song understands that. It also understands the seduction of indifference: It says, “We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.”

Q: “Why? Why? Why?”
A: “Love, love, love, love, love.”

Pressure on people – people on streets
Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love
but it’s so slashed and torn
Why – why – why ?
Love love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
give love give love give love give love give love
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

“You point the way to the truth when you say, ‘All you need is love'”

January 11, 2010

I collect vinyl records—mostly LPs—but recently I’ve been seeking out 45s of songs from my childhood and early adolescence. Between 1978 and 1982, listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Countdown, broadcast on Z-93 on Sunday mornings, was an important preoccupation of mine. Even when we went to church, I was still often able to catch the last hour or so. I remember rooting for certain songs to be number one on the chart. It was a big deal for some reason.

All that to say I recently picked up a #2 hit song from 1981 called “All Those Years Ago,” by George Harrison. In the wake of John Lennon’s murder in December of 1980, I developed a passionate interest in the Beatles, and this Harrison song was a tribute to his ex-bandmate. In fact, this song was the nearest thing to a Beatles reunion: Paul and Ringo sing and play on it. Read the rest of this entry »