May 17, 2010

"Christian" Music II

Welcome to the soundtrack edition of "Christian" Music. In my last post about "Christian" music I wrote about some songs that are not intentionally Christian but carried a sense of Christian perspective. This time I'm looking at a couple songs that are intentionally Christian, but are contextually not so. Here's what I mean ...

Civilization 4 Soundtrack: "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin.

When you first fire up the Civilization 4 video game, you hear this song and it's pretty powerful. Mark, Matt and I loved this song from the first time we got Civilization 4 home for what would be many all-night Civ sessions. We never knew until years later(?) that it is a Swahili adaptation of the Lord's Prayer by Chris Kiagiri.

I remember reflecting on it later as one of those powerful times we experience God in the world where we don't expect Him. A personal example of "finding God in all things" as in Ignatian spirituality.

Gladiator Soundtrack: "Now We Are Free" by Lisa Gerrard.

Lisa herself said about the lyrics: "I sing in the language of the Heart. Its an invented language that I've had for a very long time. I believe I started singing in it when I was about 12. Roughly that time. And I believed that I was speaking to God when I sang in that language. Now I am filled with the Holy Ghost, that is the promise in the Bible the Church will not talk about, because this secret would mean the fall of the religion."
There's some anti-(Catholic)-church attitude in her words - fair enough; I have my own dissent with the Church at times too. In my experience, the Church has a somewhat open mind about this though - at least here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I've tempered my fervor over "speaking in tongues" as empowered by the Holy Spirit from my more pro-Pentecostal upbringing, but I don't know that I've lost all my faith in the experience. Paul cautions against preaching "in tongues" in the assembly without interpretation, and for good reason - it can be wacky and disorderly.

But when I hear this song I don't get the sense that it's the kind of "infantile babbling", "incoherent exclamations", or "pythonic utterances" the Church obliges us to reject. Do you? I came across someone's personal interpretation which I thought was really cool. Breathed straight by the Holy Spirit? I dunno. But I think it captures a lot of the essence of this song. Gladiator itself has some strong messages that fit the Christian perspective, and I think almost everyone who hears this song feels at least something real and stirring in it.

What other soundtrack songs am I missing?

May 13, 2010

Sent away empty

I don't know if I've had another bout with depression recently or what, but I've been feeling convicted, to say the least. I can't tell if I have chronic minor depression, or anxiety, or does everyone who studies theology go thru these kinds of emotional upheavals? (Caedmon?) I'm a bit scared of the grand ideas swimming (and colliding) around in my head - the nature of sin, soteriology, theodicy, and the like. Here's one of the things really bugging me:

If God is just (He is), and God has said that the rich will [hardly|barely|not] enter the Kingdom (He has), and America is full of the richest people the world has ever seen (it is), what hope do we have?

Now I know valid "pro-rich" analyses in relation to the passage. But I still can't help "feeling" (Stupid feelings. If men knew how much emotion they would start to experience after fatherhood, there would be no babies.) conviction that Americans, and especially those of us in the top 10% of wage earners ... well, I can't even describe the feeling. Guilt? Condemnation? Reprehension? There's just something unsettling about Jesus words spoken to a "rich man" who would be extremely poor by modern America's standards.

This morning I was reading my New Testament textbook. (The class is over, but I didn't get to read it all during class - had to keep jumping around to finish my homework on different books.) Johnson was discussing the prophetic motif of Luke's Gospel - demonstrating how the Sermon on the Plain fulfills the programmatic prophecy of the Magnificat. The combination of the woes for those who are rich - who "have their consolation now" as fulfillment of Mary's prophecy of the rich "sent away empty" really struck this cord with me. Do I have consolation in this world? I have a (luxurious) house, plenty of (extravagant) food, a full wardrobe of (geeky) clothes, and a plethora of luxuries and entertainments to pass my time.

Now here comes a point ...

Despite (probably because of?) all that, the prospect of being "sent away empty" is actually a relief to me. It's like one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes - "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Even with all my "stuff" I desire something more - something else. So when I read that I could be "sent away empty", I'm starting to understand that for those of us who are rich in this world, that statement is really a statement of graceful relief - of salvation, not condemnation. I hope and pray I stay willing to lose this all for the something more and else that I really want.
I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.

Or am I just rationalizing away the guilt of my own extravagance?

May 4, 2010


I'm closer to the center than I am to the right of the political grid; though I'm still right-of-center I think; though I like to claim I'm "above center." Anyway, in class we sometime touch on the subject of multiculturalism; often with criticism. The "multiculturalism" we discuss is actually the "cultural relativism" that is often promoted in liberal academic spheres, which approaches, but does not reach, a "real" positive multiculturalism.

I tend to agree that multiculturalism is paradoxical, but I'm with Chesterton that paradox is sometimes the proper ordering of Truth - e.g., a crucified messiah, love for those who hate us, etc.

I don't seek a purely multicultural society, but I do hope for something more than a mono-cultural society. One of the things I find appealing about Christianity is the myriad of traditions that can be united, at least to an extent, by our fundamental creed.

This has come to my mind lately because I'm a soccer fan and I'm getting pumped for the World Cup this summer - to be played in South Africa. I came across this commercial that seems to tap (for me) the hopeful and inspiring facet of multiculturalism.

I experience the same kind of thing around the Olympics as well; really, any international encounter that plays out without violence is a good thing, in my opinion. Or at least better than a violent alternative, right?

Here's another "multicultural" video:

I love in this video that the interest goes from Matt, to the scenery, to the other people - from the personal, to the general, to the "other as other," as Acquinas would say. Every time I watch that video (and I watch it a lot!) I find a new person in the crowds who strikes me with their "otherness."

In my mind, these cross-cultural expressions of common humanity are a good aspect of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism can be a strong indicator of the Truth that God creates us all in a similar image - a divine image intended for that 'participatory theonomy.' Of course multiculturalism should be understood as a means to that end - i.e., a relationship with each other with God - and not as an end of itself. And I think it's sad that our multiculturalism is now reduced to either relativism, or else merely 'amusing' objectives (soccer or dance). Why does it seem so hard to mix cultures on more substantial issues - hunger, poverty, war, disease, human trafficking, and the like?