What rock’n’roll and the Bible have to say about conservatism

John-Lennon-john-lennon-34078983-1024-768There was a time when devout fundamentalist Christians went on the attack against rock’n’roll. In the early 1960s, stacks of records by The Beatles were raised high and burned in public places. The Boys were disclaimed by Christians because John Lennon said, and we quote: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

What Lennon was saying about those “thick disciples” missing and twisting the message of Jesus was true. That has all come true. Christianity as a religion has vanished on many fronts, and shrunken as well. It has not disappeared altogether in large part because it has divided into two lopsided groups. On the Right are massive numbers of thick disciples still clinging to the twisted version of theology that dumps the Christ who resisted the authorities of his day to make the point that scriptural literalism should not be turned into law. On the Left are people trying to convey the moral truth of the Bible in rational terms. But that takes work, and as a result, attracts less of an audience as a rule. People simply don’t like to be asked (much less forced) to think. It’s the conservative approach to life: “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” they say. “It’ll all work out in the end. God is in control.”

But what if he’s not? What if we’re supposed to play a major role in all this. What if we’re supposed to do what the Bible actually says, and bring the Kingdom of God to life in principles, morals and actions that put that plan into effect?

People try, but too often they mistake rules and regulations for the principles, morals and actions God might want from us. That was the problem Jesus saw at work among the chief priests of his day. He called them to account for their methods, and it pissed them off as badly as a high school principal whose authority in the lunch room was called into question.

Genuine call to faith

The genuine call to faith as expressed by Jesus in the Bible was revolutionary stuff. But on the surface, it did not seem to work out so well for Jesus. The man that served as the symbol for a radicalized Jewish faith was crucified for claiming a father-son relationship with God. He was hunted by the priests who considered statements like that to be the ultimate blasphemy. And yet today, many people proudly proclaim themselves Children of God. How is that different than when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God?

Well, it is those types of semantics that have turned Christianity into both an expansive religion and a withering source of pain for the human spirit. In alternating patterns, the Christian narrative has been controlled by the same brand of authoritarianism to which Christ most objected. It just keeps coming back, and has only been liberated through time by the brave grace of men such as Martin Luther. It may be time in this day and age for a new Reformation, to take back the liberal origins of its mission.

Rock’n’rollers

Christ and Luther were the rock’n’rollers of their day and age. They busted down walls of conservative thought by introducing liberal new ways of conceiving the world. But in every case, and with so many martyrs, it is conservative authoritarians who fight their cause and do them in.

Liberal thinking is simply not welcome among those that see themselves as protectors of a “higher order.” What they are actually protecting, in most cases, proves to be their own personal power and authority. And when questioned, they grow mighty threatened when the truth of their manufactured circumstances is revealed or brought to their attention.

Martin-Luther-King-Jr-1280x800-3When Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived on the scene to question of both religious and secular authorities about the nature of civil rights, social justice and America’s military adventures, he was vilified by conservatives of his time. The ignoble J. Edgar Hoover tracked his every move. Hooever also tracked other civil rights activists including President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby. It’s no coincidence that all three were eventually murdered inside the decade of the 1960s. That’s how murderous authoritarianism works. These are the same forces that killed Jesus. If authoritarianism cannot dominate the conversation, it gets its way through brute force and murder.

CQVsQ1bUEAAecjrWorse than that, conservatism sometimes travels in banal fashion, such as the likes of Dr. Ben Carson, the black candidate for the Republican nomination whose theology and logic was so confused he was not fit to tie the shoes of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet today’s conservatives could not tell the difference, and some flocked to that vacuous man just because he held up signs that said, “I’m a Christian.” The shallowness is breathtaking. But not unexpected by any means. Conservatism loves short answers and shallow thoughts that seem to hold the truth in a nutshell.

Social rebellion and how it actually works

During the 1960s, the music known as rock’n’roll began taking on political subjects. The music was rebellious because the 1960s were rebellious times. One can more readily imagine Jesus Christ walking into Woodstock to address the crowd of 100,000 people than one can imagine him entertaining invited guests at some crystal church playing supposedly holy music in the hills of California.

Yes, Jesus went out to people in the country, where the message was closely connected to the earth and communicated through organic parables that talked of trees and grass and mustard seeds. He preached about being baptized in the water of life, and of being the light of the world. None of these things is found inside a crystal palace.

Lennon and Jesus

John Lennon recognized all this in advance. He knew people were hungry for unmitigated messages about their soul and their lives. He was concerned that the dull disciples of the world would be left to rule the place if authoritarian thinkers were allowed to dominate the discussion. And so, much like Jesus, he boldly challenged the conservatism ruling the social culture of his day. John Lennon was also later shot, as we should recall, by a fan jealous of the fame and magnitude of the man. Crucifixions happen in many ways. We’re only a few decades removed from Lennon’s death. And while he was no Christ figure, that’s too soon to tell how much significance his words might hold in the future.

What Lennon did was challenge perceptions, just like Jesus. .And yet, the Beatles Revolution song did not propose complete chaos to replace the existing social order. Instead, Lennon wrote that he was out to change the way people thought about the world, but not throw away social institutions altogether. This was the same methodology of Jesus Christ, who insisted that Judaism should not change one whit of scripture, but that it depended on how you THINK ABOUT IT THAT COUNTS.

Both wanted a revolution of consciousness. And here are the lyrics.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out…

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

Give unto Caesar

Jesus accepted that money due to Caesar was a necessary aspect of citizenship in Ancient Rome and beyond. But he suggested that coveting the rest, or using it for selfish reasons, was the root of all evil. Money, in that case, would come to possess one’s heart. He advised wealthy people who really wanted to seek the Kingdom of God to give away their money and truly seek their purpose in the world. But many could not. Or would not.

gettyimages-461656522-e1436299461791And so the dichotomy exists over the worship of money to this day. And America has a presidential candidate who weakly claims to be Christian, yet who clearly worships money, and himself.

And to illustrate his covetousness, The Donald’s campaign illegally co-opted the Queen song “We Are the Champions” to use as a motivational tool in his campaign. The band quickly told him to cease and desist. Many rock’n’rollers have done the same thing with politicians over the years. There is even a full floor dedicated to the use of rock music in politics at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. One of the display’s videos clearly illustrates the illegal mis-use of rock music by politicians, most of them conservative.

Born again where? 

Who can forget the tone-deaf idiocy of Ronald Reagan’s campaign illegally using the Bruce Springsteen song “Born In the USA?” The lyrics clearly indict the burgeoning yet blindsiding neoconservative ideology so boldly flaunted by Reagan. Here are some of the words:

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
End up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A., I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A., born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man said “son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “son, don’t you understand”

It was a song written about the disenfranchisement of the middle class by the entire military-industrial complex and the wars it fought to enrich those able to leverage that dynamic to their own means. Forget that Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, a general in World War II, warned against the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Republicans in the early 80s were all for go-go growth whatever that meant. The Gulf War in the early 1990s and the Bush II Gulf War in the early 2000s were simply executions in the collective denial of good sense by neoconservatives.

They never understood that “Born In the USA” as an anthem was meant in ironic fashion. It was not a celebration of all things that make America great, as the Reagan campaign numbly intended to use it. And sure enough, Reagan went on to fulfill every aspect of the darkly predictive lyrics of Springsteen’s song by busting labor unions, foisting the ugly cynicism of “trickle-down” economics on the nation, gutting environmental laws and conducting illegal military-industrial activity in the scandalous Iran-Contra affair.Those were evils all Born In the USA. They’ve gone on to poison the rest of the world as well.

Reaganomics was the same thing as pissing on the backs of blue collar workers and telling them it was raining. Reagan also branded ketchup a vegetable even while his wife introduced an inanely simplistic anti-drug campaign called Just Say No.

How ironic that a few years later, the highly capitalistic operation known as Nike, Inc. would introduce a marketing campaign that said “Just Do It.”

Southern Man

The other notable clash between rock’n’roll and conservatism that deserves examination is the lyrical battle between longtime rock’n’roller Neil Young and the Southern man band known as Lynyrd Skynrd, who seemed to have no budget for additional vowels.

Young’s song Southern Man lyrics contained lyrics recalling slavery and the rampant racism that continued across America’s southland:

Southern man, better keep your head
Don’t forget what your good book said
Southern change’s gonna come at last
Now your crosses are burning fast

Southern man

I saw cotton and I saw black
Tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern man, when will you pay them back?
I heard screamin’ and bullwhips crackin’
How long? How long?

Stung by the truth of these lyrics, the Skynryd band shot back with an apologist set of lyrics that were meant to be defiant.  Yet they still confessed and affirmed the very qualities of stubborn reticence about which Young accused the South in his original song. In other words, the conservative position of the Skynyrd lyrics typically missed the real point, which was “Can you change?”

Sweet Home Alabama

Big wheels keep on turning

Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the south-land
I miss ‘ole’ ‘bamy once again
And I think it’s a sin

Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around any how

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the Gov’nor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Now a certain man named George Wallace served as Governor in the 1980s, and his position on race relations was never really clear. This is what the blogger Charles H. Dean wrote about the time period following the murder of four black girls in an Alabama church bombing during Wallace’s reign:

George Wallace“From that point on I think he manipulated the white middle class on race,” said Lewis. “But was he a racist? Was he a segregationist or was he just using race to win elections? I don’t think we will ever know because we don’t know his heart.”

Now it is worth noting that Wallace was a declared Democrat for his political aspirations. Yet the Republican Party so grew to admire his success in winning votes in his Southern State by plying racism, they copied his methods. And so, Ronald Reagan and his crew leveraged dog-whistle racism into a political strategy, and over the next decade, turned most of the South into Republican country by courting racist voters. It was the work of the Devil, but it worked.

Meet Donald Trump

That methodology closely resembles the candidacy of a certain controversial candidate now running for President of the United States. That would be Donald Trump, who has refused on multiple occasions to refute the claims of racists or deny their support when clearly racist support groups and individuals come out in his favor. This complicity may, in fact, be a contributing factor to getting the man elected.

And just like the weak-ass excuse given by the supposedly stalwart band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trump chooses to shrug his shoulders and deflect criticism and blame about these matters by claiming it is his right to free speech, even if that speech is hateful in nature.  This is all done in order to avoid the hard questions about his actual views.

Country music and Bible beaters

This is the history of so much country music as well, which for so many years leveraged the sad, sick pattern of broken marriages, faithlessness, drunkenness and hard life on the road as American values. And to put it in rock’n’roll terms, that is really fucked up thinking. Country music traditionally sides with conservatism in America, which likewise is the progenitor of some really confused, backwards, anachronistic and equally fucked up thinking.

And just as conservatives seem incapable of reading or understanding the basic meaning of words in rock songs, or the defeatism in old style country music, they likewise can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that Jesus castigated his own disciples for their failure to grasp the meaning and purpose of his parables. Matthew 15:16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.

Bible beaters seem to miss these indictments of literalistic thinking and shortsighted interpretations as if they don’t even exist. But they do. And it’s time they be held accountable for the true and earnest damnation of their dull ways.

Get the hook

One of the basic methods of creating great rock music is to establish a “hook” or a central theme around which a song is built. The hook is often repeated, thereby delivering a catchy or memorable lick or lyric that catches attention and brings people to the song.

But even Jesus’ disciples did not “get the hook” of his parables at times. The dullard brains of his supposed avid supporters demanded constant repetition and lessons so that they would be prepared in some fashion to carry the message of Christ to the world.
A kick upside the head

Even more striking, it took a blinding lightning flash to the head of the Apostle Paul to convert him from an ardent persecutor of Christians into an elegant communicator of timeless principles.

And let us not forget that many of God’s most faithful servants were avid murderers and genocidal heroes, zealots of the foremost kind even while in service to the Lord. But even God had limits, and told King David at the end of his life, when David was asking the Lord if he could build a temple in his honor, God said, “No, you have too much blood on your hands.”

In this respect conservatives also miss the fact that perhaps times have changed. That specific moment in biblical history may have been meant to serve as a turning point from which we are meant to learn that you do not always have to wipe out a nation in order to do God’s work. By contrast, Jesus professed interest in making believers out of “all nations.” He does not say, “Go threaten or kill them to make them follow me.”

Double down

But that lesson seems lost on today’s dullheaded conservatives who not only fail to see the light, but double down whenever challenged about their militaristic ways and how it seems to conflict with their supposed Christian faith. Instantly they being waving the so-called Sword of Faith and singing Onward Christian Soldiers. That didn’t work in the Crusades and it’s still not going to work in the Middle East to this day. But that’s never going to stop the addle-headed zealots from trying. George W. Bush and his devil-may-care henchmen Dick Cheney proved that. So let’s not hold out hope or even take the chance that God is that interested in our best interests. We have to fight back when these dull yet angry disciples get try to get hold of the reigns of destiny.

Satan and his real ways

It might indeed have more impact on the zealously devout if they were confronted by Satan himself, who might get to get them to understand their direct role in corrupting the world, and by proxy, God’s Kingdom. Let’s not forget that it was the symbolic Serpent as Satan that taught Adam and Eve those prescient lessons about Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. But note the methods used by Satan to trick the two into questioning God.

From the Book of Genesis:

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

What you need to understand about this passage is that it predicts the very nature of the evils Christ would later confront in his life in those legalistic priests whose constant word games about the intentions and laws of God were always on the tip of their forked tongues.

Brood of Vipers

 Jesus branded the religious authorities of his day a “brood of vipers,” and that is no coincidence. In branding the priests of his day as “vipers,” he is communicating the frightening fact that the single Serpent of Satan multiplied into the many priests who were constantly getting people to doubt their own relationship with God by installing all sorts of rules about how to earn favor with God. See, the conservatives of Jesus’ day knew that letting people be free and liberal about their faith would result in them losing power over them. That’s the same fear that was expressed by the Catholic Church when Martin Luther questioned all those requirements to pay yourself into the favor of God. The pattern happens over and over again in history.

Yet the people doing the deeds of Satan, as it were, never recognize themselves in these characters. They unwittingly confess, as the Southern band Lynyrd Skynrd once did, that their ways are wrong. Yet they profess pride in them. “It’s our way,” they stubbornly say. “And you can’t make us change.”

Pent up racism

And so the pushback of the Donald Trump candidacy is releasing all the pent up racism and people sick and tired of being told not to call black people “niggers” and gay people “fags.” Likewise the black community needs to address its own issues with rappers branding women “bitches” and “hoes” and celebrating its own internal conflicts, reactionary gangsta life and social problems as signs of liberation. In fact, these represent reactions represent an isolationist brand of conservatism all of its own making. The rap and hip-hop community. It somewhat owns black-on-black crime, for example, and while genius on conception and execution, there is far too much emphasis on real executions to be taken as a truly serious social revolution.

That’s what John Lennon was trying to tell us all. And he was one fucked up motherfucker at times, but he was at least willing to admit his problems. Most of the world stands in denial of their complicity in this big process of dancing with the one we call Satan. And so we’ll leave you with this inspiring, enlightening set of song lyrics from Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. Read the lyrics carefully, for the song Sympathy For the Devil is not meant to convey literal storytelling, but to address by inference all the things the world has done to undermine things that are good and true and worthwhile.

But rest assured, the conservatives probably still won’t get that. It’s one of the most brilliant rock’n’roll songs every written, almost in code to communicate with people of enlightened minds and actual spiritual depth. It’s both a rock’n’roll song and an anthem to how faith gets turned inside out by the powerful and the mighty.

Sympathy for the Devil

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
(Who who, who who)

Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(Woo woo, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
(Who who)
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
(Who who, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
(Woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
(Who who, who who)

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(Woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

 

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