So welcome to Rock & Soul – this Bible goes to 11!

Contrary to what we often hear, I believe our culture is incredibly theological and spiritual.

In each post, I’ll take a song I’ve heard from my own collection or something that’s tearing up the charts and connect it to the Bible, the gospel, and our collective soul.

Some people just hear the radio or a playlist. I hear the gospel being shouted from the rooftops.

To that end my friends, here’s what this little corner of the digital universe is about: Rock & Soul.

 

First up on the playlist is a band my 20 something nephew was a big fan of, Rise Against.

Ok, disclaimer time. If you don’t like punk rock or hard core, this won’t earn a heart on your Apple Music of Google Play. These guys still generate plenty of harmonies and slick melodies, but if you’re looking for Bieber-esque…this ain’t your jam.

Still, I beg you – you’ve come this far – don’t turn back now.

Growing up in St. John’s Newfoundland in the 1990’s during the grunge revolution, there was a huge outpouring of “All Ages” shows, most of which were put on by punk bands. We met in Lion’s Clubs, curling rinks, and high school gyms. I grew up with punk and hard rock and to this day, continue to love it and play it myself.

While I would say that you should never discourage expanding your horizons, the lyrics are sufficient and posted below.

On YouTube alone they’ve earned over 2.7 million views for this tune that’s really right out of Genesis.

That YouTube audio is here too and it’s on heavy rotation over at Live 105 in Halifax.

Dancing on the crumbling precipice
The rocks are coming loose just at the edge
Are we laughing? Are we crying?
Are we drowning? Are we dead?
Or is it all a dream?

The bombs are getting closer everyday
“That can never happen here” we used to say
Have these wars come to our doorstep?
Has this moment finally come?
Or is it all a dream?

Chorus: Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Is the violence in our nature
Just the image of our maker?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
To become something greater
Than the violence in our nature?
Are we not good enough
Or is it all a dream?

To a predetermined fate are we condemned
Or maybe we’re a book without an end
We’re not stories, we’re not actors
We’re awake and in control 
And this is not a dream

So can we break this mold
And set in motion something new
Forgetting what we know
An evolution overdue 
Fight the current
Pull the ripcord
Get away!

Chorus

We travel back to what we take
We need a storm, let’s pray for rain now
To wash these roads away
Let’s get off track and wander far
Same roads lead to same destinations 
Follow nothing but your heart

We’re talking in our sleep 
And sleeping through our lives
We dream of the places where we never die
We step from our shadows and into the light

Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Is the violence in our nature
Just the image of our maker?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
To become something greater
Than the violence in our nature?
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
Are we not good, good enough?
Or was it all a dream?

Songwriters: Brandon Barnes / Joe Principe / Timothy Mcilrath / Zach Blair
The Violence lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

So why did I choose this song? Simple. The chorus.

These are profound and spiritual questions.

What does it really mean to be human? Look at the endless violence in the news cycle whether from war or terror. Are we “good” or are we “bad”? Why?

Wait a minute – is this a punk rock song that’s singing in the same key as Genesis chapter 1 and 2? Pretty much.

Literally the song asks if being made in God’s image necessitates violence. If you’ve read the bible, it really is a lot of sex, drugs, and rock and soul.

Human beings are messy by nature because just as the biblical writers understanding of God evolves in the bible, we’re evolving too. We make mistakes along the way. We solve problems and yes, we often make new ones.

From the time of creation where the serpent famously tempts humanity to desire being in competition with God more than being in relationship with all of creation (Genesis 1 and 2), to when Noah literally has to contend with the flood as this song calls for in the second verse, the fingerprints of Genesis are all over this tune (Genesis 9:7-17).

To the song’s credit, the violence of the flood in Genesis doesn’t change anything. It’s the fact that afterward, God demands we have to change our relationship.

The rainbow is a promise that violence can never be the way out if we want new life. Many of the biblical authors rejected the idea that God demands violence and sacrifice as over time, their cultural and spiritual experience of God evolved.

In short hand, this is how I’ve always understood why our ancestors of faith told that terrible story of Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-19).

It’s horrendous that child sacrifice wasn’t uncommon in ancient times.

It’s miraculous the biblical writers challenged this practice and wrote a story that pushes back against any such understanding of God.

 

I think the song is also bang on – we’re not actors or stories. We’re not fans on the sidelines of a life that isn’t our own. We are the protagonists of our own lives – something Jesus urged us to be focused on.

15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

 

As in the first verse of the song, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus also danced on the precipice with a tempter who promised power over others through domination.

8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”[d] 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.  –Matthew 4:8-11

 

Jesus didn’t jive with any of that. He showed us a different way. Grace, Mercy, Peace and Justice for all.

13 “Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” –Matthew 9:13

 

When the lyrics wonder if we’re sleeping though our lives and the moment in history that’s confronted humanity’s apathy for change and transformation, that’s right out of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Don’t you remember a little episode when the disciples kept falling asleep while Jesus pleaded for them to waken and realize what was really at stake?

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.[b] See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 

We dine on apathy to our peril. Change starts with a single step and we need to ask if we really are stepping out of the same patterns that lead to the same places in our lives and our world.

For the ancient Israelites, didn’t dream of falling asleep at the wheel but of  a promised land. A home. A new horizon where everything was possible. Where safety and security were had for all. Where the economy empowered the people rather than forced the strong to consume the weak. It wasn’t just a “nowhere else to go” kind of place.

 

Jesus called this dream the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God depending on which Gospel you read.

Walking on that path was called “The Way” of Jesus – the first name followers of Jesus subscribed to and long before we started calling ourselves “Christians”.

 

Is the Kingdom of God just a dream? Are we not brave enough to walk a new direction and transform our lives and the world around us? This is the challenge and the invitation of Jesus who simply said, “Come, follow me.”

The song insists just as Jesus did in the gospels, that a life of faith (becoming something greater than the violence of our nature) is ours to choose.

 

Jesus challenged us to believe this all the time.  Consider that time when everyone was going to stone a woman to death for adultery – what was Jesus response?

“Whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first stone.” And “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

John 8:1-11

 

The first in the kingdom of God isn’t the greatest because they can bully everyone else into submission – they are the servant of all.

 

Are you sleeping through your life, or are you awake to the possibility that you can change the world of so many around you? What about our church?

As Rage Against the Machine would echo: “There’s no better place than here, no better time than now”, to take up the cross and follow. If Jesus showed us anything, it was that God dreams we are so much better than violence.

 

After all – Jesus transformed the cross from an instrument of violence and death into a rainbow…into a sign that this world can be so much better and being that change you want to see in the world is the farthest thing from fantasy.

The revolution of life we seek won’t be found in violence. It’s spiritual. It’s always been spiritual.

Our ancestors of faith knew it. Jesus knew it. And yes, even a punk rock song knows it too.

 

The question has always been, does it matter enough for you to be brave enough and make the road of new life by walking enough ’till we get to the promised land?

Or is it “all a dream”?

 

Like the song, the question is yours and mine to answer in the life we lead today, and all those to come.

M