It is an incontrovertible fact that, to make a splash, a new blog must begin with a controversial discussion. A theological blog should specifically begin with a fire and brimstone condemnation of some significant theological misstep in the Christian media. To accomplish such a feat, some unknown pastor, or a previously unnoticed phrase in a footnote in some pop-Christian-living book, or a blog that beforehand had no circulation outside of the author’s 20 Facebook friends, has to be dredged up and brought into the limelight so it may be punched silly.
I was coming up dry.
I concluded, with the lack of any obvious contemporary controversies to stir up (Sarah Palin’s waterboarding-baptism comment? Please, that was so 24 hours ago), it is best to take a stab at deconstructing the bad theology of my childhood and pick some retroactive fights – for the good of the Church, of course.
So, I begin with the hit song and still-after-all-these-years-regular-earworm, Big House, by the Contemporary Christian rock band, Audio Adrenaline. Despite its deceptive simplicity, this song represents a highly dangerous theological construct.
Let’s try a line-by-line, shall we say inductive, approach to the work. Now, be forewarned. This analysis shall be, admittedly, rather heady. But dangerous ideas are important, and must be handled with all seriousness and depth.
So let’s give it a shot.
The song begins:
I don’t know where you lay your head
or where you call your home
I don’t know where you eat your meals
or where you talk on the phone
Here, the songwriter clearly offers a tongue-in-cheek, first person, presentation of someone operating out of a postmodern, relativistic, mindset. The fictional first-person character attempts to deconstruct the meaning of space, routine, and basic personal knowledge of acquaintances. The careful listener will realize that the song is setting us up for an ironic twist.
I don’t know if you got a cook
a butler or a maid
I don’t know if you got a yard
with a hammock in the shade
The tongue-in-cheek fantasy continues, and questions of the obvious oppression of the capitalist meritocracy are raised. We wonder if the singer is a Marxist? Or is he a more moderate critic of industrial-abuses-gone-domestic; an Upton Sinclair of Bible-belt suburbia?
I don’t know if you got some shelter
say a place to hide
I don’t know if you live with friends
in whom you can confide
I don’t know if you got a family
say a mom or dad
I don’t know if you feel love at all
Again, concepts of community and family are put under the microscope, and deconstructed. Chauvinist nationalism, by no means an extinct dinosaur of the 19th century, is here (ironically) provoked and questioned by the narrator pretending to tease the ‘you’ to consider their desire for primitive community and family.
but I bet you wish you had
The knife has been stuck in and twisted. The ambiguous, previously dehumanized ‘other,’ is now brought to the forefront. They are still not given dignity or personhood, in fact their thoughts are dictated by the songwriter, but they are now the stumbling block for this postmodern worldview. The singer sees in the other a longing for reality, for absolutes, that draws his existential meandering to a startling halt. S
Come and go with me
to my Fathers house
Come and go with me
to my Fathers house
But here the pro-Christian apologetic is dropped. The pre-chorus offers what is, at first blush, an evangelistic message. But to one who has taken at least one class on world religions, it sounds like some sort of eastern incarnationalism, with the ability to cycle in and out of ‘my Father’s house,’ (heaven).
It’s a big big house
with lots and lots a room
A big big table
with lots and lots of food
A big big yard
where we can play football
A big big house
Its my Fathers house
And we must here weigh, however, how the songwriter has thrown ‘the baby out with the bathwater.’ Despite the prescient critique of contemporary postmodern secularism in the faux-critic of the first verse, there is a reverse problem here. The untrained eye may fear that this is subtle universalism. But the problem goes deeper. The critique of family, community, and economic categories has been taken too seriously. This utopian vision implies a complete obliteration of all identity-markers. There is no room for anyone’s oppressive maleness, or (particularly) oppressed wommanness (as evidenced by one specific emphasis on ‘football’). This ignorance of diversity reinforces oppressive structures that put down all but the group in power.
Ibidibidee bop bop bow whew! yeah!
Need I say more?
Ah, that was refreshing. Finally something I could sink my teeth into. A robust blogosphere-worthy analysis that raises many key theological concerns, and hopefully draws the reader to realize the theological lines that should be drawn in their life and in their reading.
Indeed, this reveals how blogosphere is a place of remarkable intellectual discourse that avoids nitpicking, the artificial creation of controversy, and certainly has nothing of un-nuanced, partisan name-calling.
Except that it doesn’t.
Above, I’m (obviously) having a little fun; poking at the often frivolous nature of contemporary discourse (which I fit in with quite well), especially in social media. Time and time again, I find myself wrapped up in the bizarre, scary, dehumanizing world of social/internet media, and the unproductive realm it can be: Where intellectual discourse becomes a game of smoke and mirrors, and success (‘hits’ and pennies from Adsense) comes from mining for pointless pieces of controversy, and the flaring up of petty arguments, and ad hominem attacks. I have been a part of it, in my own small way. I vent, I critique without nuance, I serve my self and my ego through social media and let my digital world become more real than it should be. And in this, I accomplish little for the things that, at the end of the day matter most to me (or should matter most to me): the proclamation of the Gospel, the good of the Church, and Christ-like service to others.
I’m burnt out on our age of infinite critique. Especially this weird overlap of the television and social media age, which creates an environment in which it is not even actual ideas that are subject to exhaustive critique, but sound bites (or their tweeted-equivalent). I certainly do my share – after all, what was my playful discourse above but an insensitive critique of critics? Old habits die hard. But in the end, it’s draining.
But I love to write, I love to think about ideas, I love to offer opinions and arguments for the betterment of thought, for the Gospel, for the good of the Church. I love a good debate. I can do the whole postmodern-critic thing and it’s not always bad.How this is all to be balanced in our brave new world is a strange adventure indeed. But I want to keep trying. I want to get back to basics: Loving the Lord, loving others, and telling the Good News. By no means does this mean avoiding controversy or critique. And a lot of missteps will be made along the way. But it means an attempt at reordering my principles. It means learning how to put Christ first, and me second.
And it requires having the discipline to know when to take a break from it all and just go eat lunch. To have the humility to realize my voice doesn’t have to always be sounded. To have the faith to realize that God’s got the whole world in His hands, I don’t. The Church will be just fine, indeed much healthier, if I don’t sound an alarm at every hint of something I don’t quite like. I should probably go get a hamburger, feed a poor man, and say my prayers, instead.