Popular Music on Christianity in the United States: Christianity's Failure to Love

Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview
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Popular Music on Christianity in the United States: Christianity's Failure to Love


Jeremiah Cataldo

Drew University, Madison, NJ

Abstract

According to some popular musicians in the United States, Christianity has been used to justify exclusion, oppression, and death through its practices, beliefs, and doctrines. Such justification runs contrary to the fundamental bases upon which Christianity is founded. A religion based upon love and acceptance, the musicians claim, should not justify the aforementioned; either Christianity redefines its doctrines and their acceptable uses, or society must reject Christianity's championing of fundamentals, such as love, defining these fundamentals in ways truer to their own nature.

Introduction

[1] In September of 2002, Disturbed, a band whose previous album, The Sickness, dealt with the immanent ills of society, released their follow-up album, Believe. According to D. Draiman, Disturbed's lead singer, the album and the specific track, Prayer, were responses to comments from clerical figures such as Jerry Falwell blaming the September 11, 2001 attacks on gays, lesbians and feminists. 1 "In particular [Prayer] is about the clergy's reaction to 9/11," says Draiman. "Instead of consoling their flock, people like Jerry Falwell and Oral Roberts chastised them and used the situation as a means of empowerment, saying it was our own fault because we're a decadent and promiscuous people." 2

[2] What frustrates Disturbed is noteworthy. Christianity bases itself upon a belief that God is a god of love; however, this so-called god of love apparently does not love everyone. As voices speaking from the sphere of Christianity, Falwell and Roberts cast the onus of September 11th's tragic events upon those they believe outside the love of God-in so doing, they define who is in and who is outside of this love. While in theory they would not disagree that God does love everyone, in truth, only those who find their names on the appropriate membership roster authentically enjoy this love. Everyone else, it would seem, is expendable: for blame, to bear the burden of evil, and to be used as object lessons for the "righteous." Moreover, they believe that gays, lesbians, and feminists are products of a society not in sync with God's divine intention for it. Disturbed reacts to this conclusion. Religious belief founded in love should not demand a worldview negating society and individuals within it. Such a worldview already sets in place the parameters for exclusion; it divides social existence into those who endeavour to materialize divine intent for creation and those who are stumbling blocks hindering materialization. Because divine intent is the ultimate goal of creation, as the worldview goes, removing those hindrances and stumbling blocks ultimately benefits creation. Christians, therefore, bear a divine responsibility to bring about such removal. When Christians fail to do so, God will react, to discipline and to teach a lesson.

[3] Disturbed is not alone in their frustration with Christianity and its various voices. This investigation will set musical lyric into conversation with academic work to demonstrate musicians have important voices of criticism that should be heard by Christianity. Collectively, their voices call for Christianity to reevaluate its beliefs on society and to faithfully practice the very doctrines-e.g., love-that are fundamental to it. One should also note that for any variety of reasons-be it the length and format of the song, an incomplete understanding of religion, among others-some musicians quoted show a tendency to reduce all Christianity into a single, analyzable bloc. Without doubt, Christianity exists a complex and multifaceted religion; one cannot reduce it to a single refutable element. To be clear, these musicians are not presented to dispatch Christianity but to offer external perspectives of reaction and critique. Where these voices are important is in their experiences of Christianity (in whatever form).

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