Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Every Day Is [Not] like Sunday

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Every Day Is [Not] like Sunday

Article excerpt

Zachary R. Smith

Abstract

The secular experience of Sunday in the rhetoric of rock 'n' roll (sex, drugs and subversion) proves Eliade's formulation of the profane readily encapsulates with the term's popular understanding. As David Chidester articulates, rock 'n' roll is often viewed as "the antithesis of religion, not merely an offensive art form, but a blasphemous, sacrilegious, and antireligious force in society." In the same way that Christianity sought to differentiate itself from Judaism, so too does rock 'n' roll seek to make ground from the traditional terms and Puritanical values with which Christianity regularly deals. As in most attempts at differentiation, the differentiator can never escape those fundamental commonalities it shares with the differentiated. Judaism and Christianity, for instance, differ most dramatically in practice and belief, but share a similar discourse. Despite the concerted efforts of some to categorically separate the two into diametric oppositions, Christianity and rock 'n' roll share certain fundamental qualities which, as Chidester advances, ultimately render the relationship between the two ambivalent; "rock 'n' roll has appropriated some of the elementary forms of religious life," and so has religion, particularly Christianity, appropriated some of the elementary forms of rock 'n' roll. The relationship between the two, then, will prove as complicated and as strained as the relationship between Christianity and its antecedent, Judaism. Just as Sunday stands out as a site of differentiation between Christianity and Judaism, a battleground upon which claims to religious meaning are contested, so does Sunday serve as an access point into the nexus of Christianity and rock 'n' roll, where the significance of the day, and by extension the legitimacy of the respective traditions, is alternately contested, conferred, and confirmed.

[1] An Amazon.com "Song Title" search of the "Popular Music" category reveals that, within the parameters of the site's searchable stock, the titles of 9161 songs contain the word "Sunday." The combined total of song titles containing other days of the week amounts to 15321, with Saturday, weighing in at 5857, as the leading contender for Sunday's reign. Sunday, therefore, represents over a third of all songs titled after days of the week within the Amazon database. While there is little scientific soundness about this method of inquiry, it is more than adequate to demonstrate the overwhelming presence of Sunday, above all other days, in pop music. Despite its preeminence, the contemporary significance of Sunday does not originate within the sphere of popular music but rather within the annals of early Christianity. In Christianity, Sunday observance has accrued a mythological, ahistorical quality, positioning its origins in a nebulous eternity outside of ordinary time, and by extension beyond scrutiny. However, as Samuele Bocchiocchi elucidates in his From Sabbath to Sunday, the origins of Sunday observance in the Christian tradition are entirely temporal, and furthermore political; immanent rather than transcendent. An examination of the interplay between secular and sacred conceptions of Sunday will reveal that the pop cultural significance of Sunday is in large part a reaction to its uniquely political and frequently unexamined meaning for the Christian tradition.

[2] In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade pays incomparable amounts of attention to the notion of "sacred time," the necessary counterpart to the more regularly discussed notion of "sacred space." For Eliade, sacred time is functional; an exercise in world-making. Sacred time, as constituted by ritual and liturgy, marks the reactualization of those processes that occurred ab origine, those divine irruptions of creativity which are both responsible for constructing existence and imbuing being with meaning. Sacred time is less a commemoration of those primordial processes as it is a return to them, a plunging of existential meaning into the Lazarus pit of atemporality, at once recreating the world, reforging time, and rendering humanity reborn. …

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