Tag Archives: more

In which we establish that rock ‘n’ roll is from the devil… sorta.

So you’re driving down the road, scanning the radio for a decent song and you come across “holy, holy, holy.”  Must be a worship song, eh?  Not the way you might expect.  Let’s see what happens if we put together a little mashup of three tunes you could have heard on the radio this week.

“Somehow baby, you broke through and saved meimage
You’re an angel, tell me you’re never leaving
‘Cause you’re the first thing I know I can believe in
You’re holy, holy, holy, holy
I’m high on loving you…
You made the brightest days from the darkest nights
You’re the river bank where I was baptized
Cleanse all the demons
That were killing my freedom
Let me lay you down, give me to ya
Get you singing babe, hallelujah
We’ll be touching, we’ll be touching heaven” (“H.O.L.Y.” by Florida Georgia Line)

image“I should’ve worshipped her sooner
If the Heavens ever did speak
She is the last true mouthpiece
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
‘We were born sick, ‘ you heard them say it
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life…
No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
Amen. Amen. Amen” (“Take Me to Church” by Hozier)

“Roll the windows down and turn up the dialimage
Can I get a hallelujah
Can I get an amen
Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya
When I play the highway FM
I find my soul revival
Singing every single verse
Yeah I guess that’s my church” (“My Church” by Maren Morris)

Now there’s a lot we could say about these songs.  Right off the bat, they are all three catchy, the kind of songs that get stuck in your head for hours.  They are clever, using the unexpected metaphor of the sacred to make ordinary earthly loves and freedoms seem transcendent.  And that’s nothing new — since Herbert and Donne were writing in Shakespeare’s day, English writers have done the same; pop singers, too (Madonna, Bon Jovi) have been doing this for years.  We could make a good Public Service Announcement that if you play these songs backwards… wait, you could just play them forwards.  But humor me for a minute.  Let’s dig a little deeper and ask why.

Why is it that church — church, with its pews and organs and tiny wafers — is a go-to analogy for passion and ecstasy?  Why do songwriters want to subvert traditional worship and replace it with something else?  Why is it that human beings are so prone to worship in the first place?

It does get a little old, I’d imagine, to come up with a fresh metaphor for a love song.  Love is a rose, a dance, fireworks, a waterfall.  Love is super awesome.  How do you say that in a new way?  So writers, reaching for the highest, the ultimate idea to represent this mind-blowing human experience, turn to God.  Hallelujah.  But is that the end of the story?  Anthropologists argue about why exactly the belief in the supernatural is so pervasive around the earth, but clearly there is a human impulse towards worship.

Back in 2001, Thomas T. Clegg and Warren Bird put out an insightful little book called Lost in America.  They postulate that all people have three basic desires: for transcendence, significance, and community, and prove their assertion with a lot of fascinating statistics about what makes us tick.  They say, “Everyone, at some point in life, wants to know God — to know the mystical and the divine, to solve the dilemma of life’s God-shaped vacuum, and to know the great beyond.”  They point out some of the top-grossing movies of all time:  Star Wars, E.T., The Sixth Sense, Independence Day.  We might add all of those Batman movies, Harry Potter, even Indiana Jones.

It’s like the old preacher postulates in Ecclesiastes, “God has set eternity in our hearts.”  We have a built-in longing for something… more.  To borrow a lyric from Switchfoot, “There’s got to be something more / Than what I’m living for / I’m crying out to You.”

So you’re a lyricist and you’re reaching for words that get to that longing, that transcendence — what are your options?  Life is a highway, a party, a song… or life is sacred, holy, a beautiful mystery.  There is no more epic story than the imagination and creation of the world, the sacrifice of a King for all of humanity, and the ultimate vanquishing of evil.

December in particular offers up a smorgasbord of soundtracks for life:  you might be rocking around the Christmas tree, letting it snow, or roasting chestnuts.  Or you can lean into the wonder:  the holy night, the miracle in the manger, the creaky old shepherds privy to a celestial flash mob.  Trade in the mundane for the mystery this year.

Take me to church.

More, Please

Seems to me there are two ways to handle the Thanksgiving feast this week without gaining a million pounds: there’s the less plan and the more plan.  The less plan says less fat, fewer carbs, no fried food (hello, exploding turkey fryer!), and for Pete’s sake, no pie.  The other plan says more.  Give me a bigger glass of sparkling water with lemon, please.  I’ll take seconds on the salad.  How about another scoop of apples?  Then, when I am cheerfully filling up, I’ll try a little of everything else.  Just a taste, mind you.  No need for a Pike’s Peak pile of potatoes and gravy, I’m already full!

I was thinking about this the other day, how every time I browse the internet I see a dozen new things I ought not eat, a dozen new ways I’m doing something wrong.  There are articles on why I’m vacuuming wrong, why I’m exercising wrong, why I’m parenting wrong.

Lots of people live by the less plan.  There’s a strict list of no-nos, what not to buy, how not to cook.  And it’s not just less sugar, less butter, less wheat.  It’s a don’t list that expands to cover practically every aspect of life.  No mess, no disrespect, no waste, no intolerance, no pollution, no hate speech, no racism, no sexism, no immigration.  Even more radical is John Lennon’s prescription:  no greed?  No possessions.  No war?  No countries.  No hell?  No religion, no heaven.  Imagine — it’s easy if you try.  It’s a radical vision — strip away anything negative from the world.  Improvement by amputation.  But what a narrow vision!  It’s pessimistic, joyless.  And to achieve it we must erect epic fences, for freedom allows the possibility of epic mistakes.

We see the vile things floating downstream, so we head upstream.  At first we try a filter, but when that doesn’t work, we dam up the whole river.  If there is a possibility that ugly things might be said, we mandate silence altogether.  If one bad apple spoils the bunch, we outlaw fruit.  But the less plan doesn’t make anything better, not really.  It just cuts down on some of the bad.  And it’s like that whack-a-mole game — no sooner do you whack one than another pops up.  Our less-than virtues just expose more flaws, one after another.

Take tolerance.  It is imperative in America that we tolerate one another, no matter our differences.  Carefully we litigate less offensive language, less stigma, fewer restrictions.  But what an anemic ethic!  Imagine a Valentine that said, “To my sweetheart — I tolerate you.”  On the inside it might add, “I tolerate your bad habits, your frequent offense, and your morning breath.  Heart.”  Love sees your tolerance and raises you a hundred-fold.  It’s the more, please plan.  Instead of not disrespecting, love appreciates.  Instead of not taking, love gives.  Love may speak a difficult truth, challenge a flimsy excuse, or encourage real change.  But love patiently, kindly, believes the best, hopes for better, goes the distance.

What if we pursued a bighearted, generous approach to life — celebration and joy replacing caution and disapproval?  That’s grace.

Undeserved, overflowing, above and beyond goodness.  As opposed to religions of self-denial and the politics of squelching, grace looks for opportunities to surprise with abundance, to bless with lavishness.

What if we quit our silly diets that gradually restrict what we eat to, well, not much of anything, and instead gave thanks?  What if we learned to delight in what is really good for us instead of outlawing all that might be bad?

What if we learned to be “more, please” parents?  To replace, “Kid, don’t hit your brother,” with “let’s blow your brother away with generosity.”  Instead of “hey, no ______,” we’d say, “hey, be courageous, be kind, don’t settle for less than awesome.”  What if we replaced skimpy tolerance in our homes with love, rich and full?

And what if we prayed “more, please” prayers?  Not couching our requests in bite-sized pieces, the easier for God to feebly answer, but the upping the ante every time?  To say, “God, I was going to pray X, but you are an infinite God.  Help me to dream bigger.  Help me to ask for X2.”  Because ultimately that seems to be the root of our problem.  We serve too small a God, too untrustworthy.  How can we forgive when He might not uphold justice?  How can we extend freedom when He might allow anarchy?  How can we accept good gifts when there might be bad repercussions?

Mark Batterson writes that we must pray bigger, bolder prayers, we must worship a bigger, bolder God.  If I continually whittle my prayers down to the size of what I think I can reasonably accomplish, I forfeit the wonder of seeing God do the impossible.  Why settle for a less-than life?  Batterson says, “When imagination is sacrificed on the altar of logic, God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him.  In fact, the death of a dream is often a subtle form of idolatry.  We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without his help.”

God asks us to take the leap, dream big, relish life, laugh more, and give thanks.  Maybe this Thanksgiving we can make a step in that direction.  Pass the pie.fontcandy