The wacky music teenagers listen to

When I was a confused, impressionable teenager, I dabbled in something of which I’m now not particularly proud: christianity.

(Yes, after an extensive process of considering each of the world’s religions and evaluating them on their merits to determine the one most likely to be right I conveniently happened to pick the religion that was dominant in the country in which I lived.)

I read the bible – all of the “New Testament”, even the nasty ravings of Saul/Paul and the incoherent babbling of whoever’s mushroom-induced hallucinations resulted in the book of “revelation”; even the “Old Testament” up to about Isaiah. (Admittedly I sort of skimmed through the book that’s a list of people begetting other people.) I attended one of those modern churches where they appeal to lonely young people by pretending to be their friend… for Jesus. You’d go along on a Sunday evening and they’d have a guitarist and a band and play upbeat songs about the Lord, about Jesus, and about how everything is just so awesome when you’re a Christian and don’t worry about those other people because you’ve got friends here and also you’re right and they’re not. And I had a tape for my Walkman of catchy pop/rock style songs by an American evangelical singer named David Meece.


Even christians could look cool in the 1980s.

At some point these songs ended up as digital files in my mp3 collection (he did write catchy tunes, seriously) and the other day some of them came up on shuffle. And I listened to the lyrics and realized not just how naff, but how insidious and creepy they really were. How they promote the ludicrous view amongst many christians that they are somehow persecuted when anyone questions their privileged status in our society or reacts unfavorably to demands they be forced to live according to the christians’ arbitrary rules. How nasty is the whole tone of revelation dreaming, with its undercurrent of you’ll be sorry you disagreed with me when you’re burning in a lake of fire while I’m ecstatic in heaven.

This is from a Meece song called “The Unknown Soldier”, intended, I suppose, to reassure young christians worried about looking like tossers to their peers:

See him on the campus, as he studies with his friends,
They mean no harm, they laugh, and call him “preacher” now and then,
His words are few, he saves them ’til he’s home and on his knees,
That’s where he’s a warrior; and he fights to see them free.

They call him “preacher” when he preaches at them! That’s like the mean kids who tease you! The kids who make you feel small, and weird, and kooky. But don’t worry! Really, you’re a “warrior” when you’re whispering to “God” in your bedroom later begging “God” to do good things. You’re cool. Don’t let them get to you.

(I do love the particularly sad music that accompanies the second line.)

He’s the unknown soldier, the unsung hero, the brother on the street,
He’s the unknown soldier, the holy warrior who will never sound retreat,
He’s your unseen comrade, and his triumph will be sweet,
He’s the unknown soldier…

Yes, your social suffering is just just like the usual meaning of “unknown soldier” – the soldier who is literally killed on a battlefield and is never identified. Because our hero – YOU, silly – will never “sound retreat”, in the sense of stopping talking quietly in secret to an invisible friend who never replies. (But who’s real, honestly! They’ll see. His “triumph will be sweet”.) You’ll forsake minutes of sleep in order to reassure yourself that you’re going to come out on top, eventually, somehow. And even if they don’t respect you yet, the omniscient, omnipotent ruler of the Universe is mightily impressed by your submissive worship.

There’s been no bloody torture, no burning at the stake,
There’ll be no published memoirs, no memorial for his sake,
And no one calls him “martyr”; his blood has not been shed,
Still, in combat he’s been faithful in the little things instead.

The very little things.

While we’re on the subject, I’m reminded of something my religious comrades never managed to adequately explain to me. Why, if God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator and ruler of the Universe, is He so insecure? Apparently He needs constant praise and worship, and if you don’t give it to Him, He’ll consign you to eternal, unimaginable torment as punishment.

There’s a word for that sort of behavior. And it’s not exactly something I’d find easy to praise or worship.

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14 responses to “The wacky music teenagers listen to

  1. Splatterbottom

    You could always move on to newer greener religions, maybe take your iPod and join the persecuted Occupiers. There are probably a few preachers down there. They have pretty good hymns too – We Shall Overcome, The Internationale and The Red Flag. Or maybe some Billy Bragg, after revolution is only a T-shirt away. And don’t forget to memorise your Lemony Snicket quotes so you can randomly blurt them out thus giving the appearance of being “deep”. (Hint: don’t try this last one in front of grown-ups – they’ll just laugh at you.)

  2. That’s some Grade A trolling there SB.

  3. Ooooh, the christians don’t like it. They REALLY DON’T LIKE IT! Watch out, Jeremy!

  4. *Applauds*

    Anyway, onto the subject of the post.

  5. (Hint: don’t try this last one in front of grown-ups – they’ll just laugh at you.)

    You mean people who, despite being in their late 50s, use terms like “Dimocrat” and enjoy trolling?

  6. Why, if God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator and ruler of the Universe, is He so insecure? Apparently He needs constant praise and worship, and if you don’t give it to Him, He’ll consign you to eternal, unimaginable torment as punishment.

    Aren’t half of the ten commandments god saying “worship me and only me”?

    Narcissist much?

    And it’s not exactly something I’d find easy to praise or worship.

    I’ve never been religious, but I have read the bible, even all of the old testament. Oh boy, how anybody can worship that evil f*cker is beyond me. Even if I somehow become delusional enough for somebody to convince me that a deity made the universe and that deity is Yahweh (a.k.a. the god of Abraham), the nasty shit he’s said to have done is not something to approve of let alone teach your kids about.

  7. Hmmm … do I listen to Billy Bragg or David Meece … hm, what to do, what to do …

  8. I did hear a very good defence of prayer quoted from an orthodox rabbi in the US – his feeling is that God is omnipotent, and therefore does not require prayer as such, but that if it makes people feel better for doing it then he is pleased because that’s how he “designed” it. Obviously I’m paraphrasing but I thought it was a pretty neat idea.

    But I’m still an atheist.

  9. I am rather disturbed to find I remember that David Meece song. My copy was on vinyl though, and I didn’t own a Walkman.

  10. Splatterbottom

    In music you should always favour the talented, and not worry too much about their ideology, which is as likely as anyone else’s to be flawed. And if you want to listen to good religious music start with Bach. The devil doesn’t have all the good tunes.

  11. J S Bach wrote brilliant music which happened to be religious.

    As I heard one church organist say: “We need less church musicians and more musicians in church”.

  12. “Apparently He needs constant praise and worship,”

    And your money!

  13. jordanrastrick

    even the nasty ravings of Saul/Paul

    Paul certainly has his issues. Perhaps you’re referring to the likes of 1 Corinthians 14:35?

    If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

    But its certainly a bit of a stretch to characterise his entire body of work as “nasty ravings”. I mean, that same epistle famously has the immediately preceding chapter, 1 Corinthians 13.

    And I’ll admit to being slightly puzzled by your choice of “Saul”….

    I attended one of those modern churches where they appeal to lonely young people by pretending to be their friend… for Jesus.

    Its pretty awful, and IMO un-Christian, if the members of these churches were outright faking friendship and had no real desire to connect to you as a person. There are definitely some congregations out there in the wide world that might have some elements of this; but I’d be curious to know how you can be sure the relationship was dishonest in this case.

    And I listened to the lyrics and realized not just how naff, but how insidious and creepy they really were.

    Naff, I can totally agree with. Insidious and creepy? If the lyrics you go on to quote are supposed to be a prime example, again, I think you’re stretching.

    While we’re on the subject, I’m reminded of something my religious comrades never managed to adequately explain to me. Why, if God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator and ruler of the Universe, is He so insecure? Apparently He needs constant praise and worship, and if you don’t give it to Him, He’ll consign you to eternal, unimaginable torment as punishment.

    It sounds like your religious comrades needed to buff up on their apologetics. Even the evangelical stream of Christianity you’re describing has a theologically consistent answer for this. God does not need praise or worship; He is self-sufficient. But he does want it, and its morally right, given the nature of the relationship between Him and creation, for people to give it to Him.

    Also, failure to “constantly praise and worship” God does not guarantee a person goes to Hell even in those denominations that are seriously focused on both those things. Except one or two Fred Phelps types in the States somewhere, maybe.

  14. narcoticmusing

    I’ve been to my share of evangelical churches and Jeremy’s description of hollow, false friendship offerings sound pretty accurate. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is accurate for more traditional churches whose congregations will either ignore you or legitimately be interested in connecting. For the Hillsong types, it appears that if you don’t mindlessly giggle and join the crowd without question and can’t be converted to their way of thinking (regardless of if you are a born again convert) you are discarded pretty quickly. My experience is that they don’t think much and don’t like those who do. Many share my experience but I concede that there are likely equally many with different experiences.

    Why, if God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator and ruler of the Universe, is He so insecure?
    That isn’t the biggest question Jeremy, it is: If God is the all loving father, why is he such an abusive asshole? Seriously, if God was a real father, his children would be removed by child protection. Smiting? Teaching the constantly faithful Job a few lessons, for what? Kicks? Sending Satan to a pit of fire for the crime of loving God too much. Creating a nature and then asking everyone to deny that nature and then punishing them when they do with: floods; smiting fire from the sky that destroyed entire city: more floods; plagues; locusts. Seriously, he so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, and yet, he’d destroyed the world and murdered that many people, how does killing his one son make up for the blood on his hands?

    [Prepares for the spear in the side.]

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