A few recent reflections from my social media sites.
As I'm working through Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication.
I posted both of the following videos under the same tweet because I thought the first one didn't upload. However, it did, and I think both of them work well together.
And a display in Abbotsford got me thinking about abortion yesterday.
I'm not a very confrontational person and I've kept pretty quiet about faith-stuff, all in all, for the last few years. My online presence is obviously critical of religion, and I've cultivated a digital sympathy for various atheist-folks and ideas, but I've always avoided saying anything about it myself. As a teacher, I don't want to cause an unneeded ruckus, and I really don't think "what I have to say" is any different or more articulate than anybody else out in cyberspace.
However, yesterday I broke my own general rule and posted a comparatively aggressive video to Twitter:
I recently came across an copy of a textbook I used in Grade 7, back in 1993-1994. I enjoy history and I fondly remembered the textbook, so I opened it up and read it a little to see what it said... 20 years later.
I found the passages on early Christianity and was a little bit shocked to see how credulous they were about treating the Gospels as useful historical sources for the life of Jesus. Here are the passages that surprised me:
The tone in these passages clearly supports the Bible-as-history narrative, and they do so in a rather sneaky way. On Page 7, the paragraph sequence leads the reader into accepting the Gospels as legitimate sources:
Ironically, this was also the textbook that introduced me to the nature of "humanism," and this confused me greatly. I had heard sermons about the perils of humanism, but when it was described in the textbook, I couldn't help but feel like it was a good thing. And when I tried to confront the textbook with my own beliefs in my head, my adolescent anti-humanism, pro -theology arguments naturally fell flat.
I'm not a die-hard mythicist, but I do find it annoying when historical books treat religious texts as historically accurate or authoritative sources. It puts the author's intention into question when they mash up history with theology.
I don't think many Canadian textbooks do this any longer; this textbook was published in 1984 and I imagine they've been retired in most schools. But it's nice to see that I'm a more critical thinker than I was in Grade 8.
Although I no longer claim Christianity in any way, I grew up listening to Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) and still have a fondness for some of those artists I listened to in the 90s and early 2000s. To be honest, I was never a fan of deeply theological songs—they are inherently tired in their metaphors and imagery—but I often gravitated to artists' more theologically neutral tracks. A few of them remain on my cell phone to appear in my shuffle. Unfortunately, their isolated industry leads to a limited audience. These songs deserve a little more recognition.
Here are a few tracks I remember with particular affection.
And the confusion was palpable. They didn't know how to handle it. Their eyes were glued to the screen, bewildered. Why was Bono thrusting into the camera? Isn't that girl dancing too provocatively? What are we supposed to get from the song? I had no expectations and spent a good portion of the video watching my friends, and I enjoyed this part of the experience.
But I liked the song. And when the album was officially released, most of my friends bought the CD immediately. They played it for a couple weeks and then generally stopped trying. And I set it behind me for a while. At Bible camp, where I worked for five consecutive summers, U2 was a unifying point for many of the staff, and their derision of Pop also unified them. I would often hear people say "I love U2's music, but their latest stuff isn't inspiring." "I hope Bono finds his way back." "I'm so glad he's giving voice to his doubts." People sought spiritual inspiration from U2, but Pop didn't deliver. Friends who attended the tour felt spiritually fed by the concert, but the album, as is well-known, was a dud.
But it stuck with me.
It inspired me.
When I signed up for BMG/Columbia House in 1999 or 2000 or so, I ordered Pop as one of my free CDs.
And I revelled in it. After recording the video for the "Discoteque (Hexi-Decimal Mix)," I realized that "Discoteque" was a guitar-driven rock and roll song; I kept getting drawn into "Do You Feel Loved?" for its guitarwork and throbbing drums; I enjoyed the tabooness of "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" and "MOFO;" I loved the spiritual alienation exemplified in "Wake Up Dead Man;" I appreciated the arrangement in "Gone."
Musically, Pop showed me that drum loops were OK and that guitars could be used for sounds that were decidedly un-rock-and-roll. "Do You Feel Loved?" in particular moved me to play with my pedals more to make my guitar sound less and less familiar.
Spiritually, Pop gave me a distinction from my evangelical mean: where my fellow Christians were discouraged and confused by the album, I embraced it for its worldliness. I appreciated that my friends could not assimilate or appropriate Pop into their worldview: irony doesn't sit well with evangelicals, and Pop dripped with it.
Recently I heard this podcast which helped me put Pop into a bit more context for me:
In the podcast, the hosts reorder the tracks to make a better album. Although I don't agree with all of their ideas, some of them are totally legit: "Miami" and "The Playboy Mansion" can go; "North and South of the River" should come in. It's nice to hear some other people who have battled through the album as well.
I agree that Zooropa is probably a "better album," but Pop is a bigger, more moving influence for me. Its production is far more enduring and its messages are more disparate. And for a young man trying to battle through continuous religious identity politics, it was a beacon in the night that showed me that I was different from all those Joshua Tree-loving Christians.
Here's my two-take tribute to "Do You Feel Loved?" that I recorded this summer.
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