Tag Archives: ideological christians

Jesus and the Top 40

Jesus_is_Just_Alright

“And the three men I admire most, The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, They caught the last train for the coast The day the music died” Don McLean American Pie 

Back in the 1960s to the early 1980s God was not absent from the Top 40. In fact back then it seemed that even non-believers were okay with Jesus. However by the late 1980s and early 1990s much of that good feeling had died away. Few artists would take up songs with spiritual or religious themes, especially those of Western Christianity after that, unless they were artists who cloistered themselves in the self licking ice cream cone and ghetto of the Contemporary Christian Music industry. That is sad because many of these artists are quite talented but through the separatist tendencies of many churches and “Christian” publishers these artists seldom ever break out. Some like Amy Grant have, but she is a rare exception and she has been rejected by many in the church who in her early years were devotees.

I guess that some of the reasons are that many artists had little religious background and for many of those who did their religious experience was negative. This is an indictment of the church if you ask me, both mainline churches and Evangelical churches. Part I am sure was that many churches, be they “liberal” mainline churches or “conservative” or “fundamental” churches lost any real sense of a God that transcended severely political, ideological or doctrinal beliefs that regular people could relate to. As Pope Francis noted about “ideological Christians:

“And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

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But back in the 1960s to early 1980s quite a few artists included references to God and Jesus in their music. In fact even if they were not believers themselves they were at least aware of the ideas, concepts and traditions of faith and included them in often unique ways in their “secular” music.

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Here are some of those songs.

Doobie Brothers: Jesus is Just Alright http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwbGjzF3mB0

Kris Kristofferson: Why Me Lord http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtQOY-0sViQ

Norman Greenbaum: Spirit in the Sky http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cXrEPNvRO8

Ray Stevens: Everything is Beautiful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlwfGh-SVXw

Petula Clark: I Don’t Know How to Love Him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiBmvy0nR8g

ZZ Top: Jesus Just Left Chicago https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN69GC2amTg&feature=player_embedded

Jesus Christ Superstar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGYi1qJkb0M

Don McLean: American Pie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0Y_XRiJsCI

Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge over Troubled Water http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-PNun-Pfb4 and Sound of Silence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCNwgzM2rQ

David Bowie: Word on a Wing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-ojMnEEmU4

Sister Janet Meade: The Lord’s Prayer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bd4iJkNCaZ8

Godspell: Day By Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PjfBQjJT8

Cat Stevens: Morning has Broken http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWd3skb-Rw

Ocean: Put Your Hand in the Hand: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI1DiddWCKs&feature=player_embedded

Paul Stookey: The Wedding Song (There is Love) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1v84WKC6Pg

Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cJhIu8PUFI

Some of these songs are true hymns or Gospel songs, others based at least loosely on the life of Jesus or scripture. Others are the artists interpretation of faith or of something that was a part of their experience of God and faith. This doesn’t mean that the theology in all of these songs was good, but it does show that faith regardless of its lack of perfection can still be an important part of life in the public square.

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My hope is that new artists whether they are believers or not will rediscover the more transcendent and eternal dimensions of life and faith. I hope that they will be able to separate the knowledge of Jesus from the more ideological and moralistic aspects of faith and re-imagine the transcendent parts of life which have over the last 30 years or so for the most part disappeared from popular music.

Why me Lord, what have I ever done, To deserve even one, Of the pleasures I’ve known

Tell me Lord, what did I ever do, That was worth loving you, Or the kindness you’ve shown… Kris Kristofferson “Why” 

Enjoy and hopefully be inspired.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Whoever Exalts Himself: The Snare of Ideological Christians

self-righteousness

“Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. 

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.  The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 9-14

Pope Francis astounded the catholic, and much of the conservative Christian world last week when he commented in a homily that Christians who had allowed their faith to become ideology had a “serious illness.”

The Pope’s comments would not have been so remarkable had so many Christians not have surrendered faith in Jesus for barren ideologies.

Pope Francis is no stranger to this. In Argentina where he served as a Priest, Bishop and Cardinal he saw this type of faith from ideologues of both the political left and political right. The conservatives were those who saw faith as something to buttress their standing and place in society condoning the heavy handed methods of torture, intimidation and murder used by military dictatorships. On the left he saw theologians and pastors who had embraced Liberation Theology who went beyond all the good things brought out by that theology and joined hard lined Marxists in a political struggle. Both sides in Argentina’s culture wars had a part in politicizing and turning the Gospel into ideologies which only used Jesus as to buttress their agendas.

Because of this he is probably a bit more understanding of the havoc that ideologues claiming to be Christians can do to the redemptive message of the Gospel. In the passage from Luke I cannot help but see so many of the ideologues that masquerade as ministers in our American society as the Pharisee.

Since many have not read or hear what the Pope had to say I am copying some of that homily here:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

… “The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances  the Church from the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh? Already the Apostle John, in his first Letter, spoke of this. Christians who lose the faith and prefer the ideologies. His attitude is: be rigid, moralistic, ethical, but without kindness. This can be the question, no? But why is it that a Christian can become like this? Just one thing: this Christian does not pray. And if there is no prayer, you always close the door.”

“The key that opens the door to the faith,” the Pope added, “is prayer.” The Holy Father warned: “When a Christian does not pray, this happens. And his witness is an arrogant witness.” He who does not pray is “arrogant, is proud, is sure of himself. He is not humble. He seeks his own advancement.” Instead, he said, “when a Christian prays, he is not far from the faith; he speaks with Jesus.”

Today’s Gospel lesson from the lectionary was the passage from Luke quoted at the beginning of this article. It really is a remarkable passage. It is so  because Luke notes that Jesus is talking to people who “were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” 

This is the mark of an ideologue and zealot regardless of their ideology. The sad thing is that when those people claim to be Christians that it does great damage to the faith, the Gospel and the witness of the people of God. One of the major reasons noted by a Barna Group survey in 2011 as to why young people were fleeing the church was that “Christians demonize everything outside of the church,” that “God seems missing from my experience of church” that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” that “church is like a country club, only for insiders” and that they cannot “ask my most pressing life questions in church.”

Others have noted that many outside the church feel that Christians are selfish and not interested in those outside the church, are self centered and judgmental, and are unwilling to develop true friendships with non-Christians.

It is amazing when you think of it. I for one remember my days in Evangelical Churches where if you talked about someone that was not a member of the church that people would ask “are they saved?” That always bothered me because I had a lot of friends that were Christians but not Evangelicals, from mainline, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. likewise I had friends outside the church, people who were non-believers, agnostics, atheists or members of other religions. I saw them as friends and people, but inside the sheltered and isolated cloisters of Evangelicalism they were less than fully human.

The words of Jesus to those he addressed in this passage from Luke are much like so many of us who claim to be Christians.

I have to admit that I still struggle many times with faith and that I get nervous when I see Christians appear to have no regard for others. Maybe it is because I was treated rather shamefully by Conservative Christians who I thought cared about me who when I experienced a faith crisis abandoned or even worse attacked me. Likewise when I was 12 years old and my dad was serving in Vietnam I had a Sunday School teacher tell me that my dad was a “baby killer.”

So I have experienced the Christian ideologue attack from the left and the right. Neither time did I like it and I hate to say that I have little tolerance when I see it.  Thus I try very hard, despite my own theological, philosophical and political leanings to treat people as I would want to be treated. Thus I have friends that range across the entire political and religious spectrum. I also probably have some enemies across the spectrum too, but it is not because I want to be.

I have become enamored with Pope Francis. I do not agree with everything that he says, but that being said I find him to be authentic and human, a man who I can not only respect as a religious leader, but as a human being. I would never want his job or for that matter to be anything more than a Priest, Chaplain and academic and in doing so care for the people that I serve as a Priest, Chaplain and teacher, as well as those who I meet in the places that many Christians would never enter.

I do hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because I certainly don’t mean it to be. I guess it is just because I have seen so much wrong done in the name of Jesus that I want to call attention to it without being an ass or being harsh.

So tomorrow begins a new work week. School continues as does the World Series and my Joint forces Staff College Softball league. This coming weekend I will be heading up to Gettysburg as part of a staff ride.

Have a great week and don’t forget the Gospel and the people that Jesus seems to care about.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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