Wednesday, June 3, 2009

God stole my third dimension.

On occasion, I'll listen to Christian music. And I'm wondering how much of it provides an insight into how Christians view a non-Christian life, and thus who are non-Christians. Are the lyrics merely hyperbole, or is there an element of 'this is what the outside looks like?'

I used to think that me, myself, and I were all that mattered

Alive, by Rebecca St. James.

The song here is basically about how God makes the person come alive (perhaps you gleaned that from the title itself). But my understanding is that Rebecca St. James became a Christian at a rather young age, and so I would doubt she'd have much non-Christian personal experience to draw upon. So in looking at this, does she truly think that those who are non-Christians think that they are the only people who matter? That they behave in that two-dimensional, selfish way? Not only that, but I've heard her introduce this song as "This is about how God makes us come alive!" So I'd say the song is meant to include more than just one person.

Shine on me with Your light/Without You I'm a cold dark stone

You are the Sun, by Sara Groves.

And while the singer here is singing from first-person ... does this mean then that all non-Christians are considered "cold dark stones?"

The only thing that isn't meaningless to me/is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free.

Conversations, by Sara Groves.

The ironic thing about this song is that it's written as an attempt by a Christian to explain to a non-Christian about how Christianity is helpful. Yet, if I take this verse extremely literally, then as the non-Christian isn't Jesus Christ, the non-Christian holds no importance to the Christian.

And even if I don't go to the extreme methods in literalness, I still find elements in it to be disturbed. To make one thing matter to the exclusion of all else can be dangerous to those around you. It's what we see in people who believe Jesus is returning any second now, and so why bother caring for the environment? It's not like we'll be needing one in the future. Or perhaps someone who is so pro-environment that it doesn't matter what happened to a group of people so long as a tree was saved. Or I just read that PETA is using the Tiller murder to promote vegetarianism with signs like "Pro-Life? Go Vegetarianism," and "Pro-Choice? Choose Vegetarianism."

Things like this are a huge roadblock for ever wanting to become a conservative Christian. As much as they can say that it makes them more compassionate, more loving people, I don't like how it almost forces them to view the non-Christians. There's no longer nuances, those shades of gray. People become these two-dimensional paper dolls. You're either alive in God, or solely self-focused. You either have God's light, or you're a cold dark stone.

20 comments:

Andrew said...

This is one of the most nauseating elements of much of Christianity. I was at a gathering the other day when a friend of mine said "Outside of Christ, a person cannot do anything good."

I think this need to put people in these boxes comes from the very obvious fact that Christians do not statistically differ from non-christians. We are just as likely to divorce, spend irresponsibly, break vows, be uncharitable, etc...

There is no way we can feel superior, unless we can do it on the basis of a theological technicality.

Bruce Gerencser said...

OSS,

I have a hard time listening to Christian music these days, except Third Day.

The lyrics seems so smug, pat, all put together. Me and God we are tight and I got life all figured out..

Andrew should know that the only difference between Christian/non-Christian is the insurance they own. :)

I try and encourage people to love others simply for who they are rather than WHAT they are.

Bruce

Yael said...

So, I guess if I go steal the car of Sara Groves she won't be in the least bit bothered....Cool. She lives here in Minnesota, maybe I could help myself to some of her furniture as well. Mother of three. I guess if I were to walk up and deck one of her kids she wouldn't react since they'd be included in the meaningless category....She could just stand there like a cold dark stone since what's the big deal?

And let's see, the only thing that isn't meaningless to ME is JC and the way he set ME free?

Imagine, and she used to think that she, herself and her were all that mattered.....

Mystical Seeker said...

Quakers often use the phrase "that of God in everyone". If only more Christians saw things that way.

atimetorend said...

My personal experience is of Sara Groves' lyrics promoting division in a relationship. The commitment to the beliefs she writes about are not compatible with any skepticism or doubt. Can't let a cold, dark stone hold you back from shining so so brightly... I had not thought much about how they divide people by the implication they have towards others, but that is unavoidably there.

Those lyrics have such a personal note to them that it hides the wider implication. I believe many Christians would like to have the personal application of the lyrics without the wider implication for people who do not believe the same thing. At that point they have to shrug, and say, "Yes, I don't like saying it, but they apply to everyone, you too."

On a lighter note, I really like the sound of her music, and she seems like a sincere and humble person. I still like her Starfish song, different nuance there.

But I like that Quaker phrase a lot better, go Quakers!

Sarge said...

We have an annual event not far from here called Creationfest which is a sort of Woodstock for christian music.

I don't know who would think to go there BUT christians, who, we are told, have quite a moral handle on their lives (;-\).

And yet they have all sorts of rules and prohibitions (mostly about physical contact) that are quite strctly enforced. Wonder why?

Then again, one has heard of the "Chatauqua Syndrome..."

OneSmallStep said...

Andrew,

**I was at a gathering the other day when a friend of mine said "Outside of Christ, a person cannot do anything good."**

Not only that, but I wonder if the person realizes the picture it paints of themselves and God? If a Christian truly feels I can do nothing good, as a non-Christian, why would I want to know the Christian?

Plus, given all your examples, the only way it really works is to redefine what "good" means.

OneSmallStep said...

Bruce,

The one thing I do like about some of the Christian music I've heard is the joy/passion I hear in the voice. I just ignore the lyrics. ;)

OneSmallStep said...

Yael,

If you try that out, let me know the result.

OneSmallStep said...

Mystical Seeker,

You'd think more Christians would realize that, given that all are created in the image and likeness of God.

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

I also like Sara Groves music. And from what I've heard, she's doing work in Rwanda, and against human trafficking. If her faith is helping her help others, more power to her.

**Those lyrics have such a personal note to them that it hides the wider implication.**
Yes. It's amazing what the first-person perspective can mask. I didn't even pick up on it the first few times I heard the songs.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

Not only that, but I never seem to see any plain-looking or "ugly" Christian singers. They're as attractive as the secular ones.

Lorena said...

Excellent point, OSS. Christian music truly shows how Christians mischaracterize non-believers.

Maybe the music provides them with the illusion that even though the Christian life isn't as great as they would want it to be, non-believers have it even worse.

In other words, as hard as life can be and even when it seems as if no-prayer is ever answered, at least your life isn't as shitty as that of the "lost ones."

atimetorend said...

Thinking more about the personal side of the lyrics. I guess it is like any emotional appeal. The fact that the lyrics are so personal means I cannot challenge the implications for myself -- that I do not believe I am cold, dead, and empty -- without challenging their personal experience. How dare I question someone's personal experience! And all the more so if they care about Rwanda...

BTW, this is a great post, and the title is awesome.

Yael said...

OSS,
Well....I think you'd probably have to read about me in the paper since I would only be allowed one phone call from jail. I just have this sneaking suspicion that if I took her lyrics too literally she'd change her tune in one quick hurry!

Lorena,
I like your lyrics better!

societyvs said...

"You're either alive in God, or solely self-focused. You either have God's light, or you're a cold dark stone." (OSS)

And conservative Christians wonder why they are under scrutiny for their beliefs - they are so damn divisive and exclusive (and smug - some of them) - and they use labels like the best of them in society.

I also think the belief system mentioned about creates a Christian schizophrenia - 2 characters of that person they almost divide in their minds....the one that is good and the part of them that does 'wrong stuff'. They become self-denying, irresponsible adults with split personalities depending on the scenario at hand...I would say they are confused.

I stand adamantly against this type of division and exclusion within the christian community - it just promotes more problems - and society has enough of those already. If they believe the whole 'world' is invited in - then they need to change these tunes.

Albeit - I do like Steve Taylor's music.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**Maybe the music provides them with the illusion that even though the Christian life isn't as great as they would want it to be, non-believers have it even worse.**

I think there are shades of that in certain music. But there's also Christian music that kind of strains credibility. The whole idea of being on fire for God, of life being so much better, so turned around ... is that what non-believers see when looking at Christians? I would say no.

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

**How dare I question someone's personal experience! And all the more so if they care about Rwanda...**

Funny, since certain types of Christians do that all the time. ;)

OneSmallStep said...

Yael,

I'd be happy to send you a postcard. Maybe even a CD or two.

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

And conservative Christians wonder why they are under scrutiny for their beliefs - they are so damn divisive and exclusive (and smug - some of them) - and they use labels like the best of them in society.

**the one that is good and the part of them that does 'wrong stuff'.**

I don't think they quite go that far. Rather, the division is that anything good in them comes from God. Anything bad in them is their own responsibility. So out of the two peronalities, one isn't even theirs.

**Albeit - I do like Steve Taylor's music.**
That's all right -- I like Sara Groves music, and I critiqued two of her lyrics.