A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lifehouse Everything Skit

34 comments:

Sara said...

Okay, any women out there in the blogosphere? Ever feel undesirable, not worthy of love, or undeserving of pursuit? Lets just soak this one in. The God of the universe has pursued us! Even if we have never felt passionately pursued or desired...we are and have already been.

ktismatics said...

I watched the first couple minutes -- is it a parody of something that everyone in the evangelical world already knows? Is this song well-known? Mostly it creeped me out -- that dude in the priest suit seems like kind of a perv.

Emily said...

It's a Lifehouse song. ("secular" music produced by a Christian group)

It's not really a parody. It's just people acting out one way to view how God/Jesus (the guy in white and red) saves us. The dancing at the beginning with Jesus and the girl seems to represent the girl walking in Christ.

When I first started watching, I was thinking, "Oh, no. Not another one of these." But it was good. Good selection.

ktismatics said...

Okay, knowing this is presumably a popular song helps -- the "Christian young people" in the audience would get it. So I watched it again, all the way through this time. I don't know -- maybe I'll just walk away quietly.

Beautifully Profound said...

It's kind of creepy that you picked this song. It's been my song for Mik for a long time. I thought maybe it had some Christian connotations. Anyways, I posted the lyrics I think last year or the year before. I probably should have gathered that from reading them. I suppose the skit was good. It got the message through at least.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: I don't know -- maybe I'll just walk away quietly.

Speak, friend, and share thy thoughts.

ktismatics said...

In brief, it made me uncomfortable, and not because I came under conviction, as I believe the phrase goes.

Melody said...

I had the same reaction as Emily, sort of a, "Why oh, why would Jon put this on his blog?" at first but ah, it actually ended up being kinda sweet.

I don't think it's supposed to be convicting, ktismatics. It's more of a "These things distract us from God and we can't/don't see him anymore, but that doesn't mean he isn't there," deal.

chris van allsburg said...

YES! Jesus saves us as we struggle against our sin in this present evil age. The church slowly gains victory, the kingdom advances and Jesus interceeds for us. Praise God for our intercesso. Well done!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yet it is interesting to me to observe the girl as she becomes more estranged from Christ and more entangled with the "world" that she has to struggle and fight to get back to Christ. They picture an intense struggle to break through those in the world who have put up a barrier between her and Christ. The point being that she cannot simply wait for Christ to show up.

Now, I don't want to suggest that Christ is powerless to just break through the wall, however, I do appreciate the perspective of this skit because my own experiences and observations confirm that sometimes we have to engage in an intense battle to break the hold that the world has on us. This is often the case in addictions, for example.

ktismatics said...

This video served as the basis for family entertainment, discussion and disagreement this morning over breakfast -- so as a stimulus for interpersonal engagement it was effective.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Do tell!

What were the positions of the Vicar and my favorite Emo girl!

ktismatics said...

In brief, the Vicar teared up both times she watched it, whereas EmoGrl thought it was creepy, racist and too representational.

ktismatics said...

Oh, I forgot: EmoGrl also thought that Justin Timberlake doesn't work as the God figure.

Beautifully Profound said...

I had to watch it a couple of times too. The first time I definitely felt it was a bit creepy, but then I ACTUALLY watched it again, it's really a fantastic portrayal of things that can lead you away from God and how the pressures and stresses from those things can lead you closer and closer to edge of Hell. And how if you want to end or at least alleviate some of those stresses the Lord will help you through all of the turmoil. It is worth the fight in the end.

chris van allsburg said...

Yes. I have to admit, my best friend--who is a worship leader, not much of a student of theology, and likes songs such as "Days of Elijah," (which my wife and I laugh at and disdain) sent me this video a week ago. Afte a few seconds, I thought, "Oh boy. Here we go again. More thoughtless entertainment--how symptomatic of the mile-wide-inch-deep church in America.

But--after watching it, I was in tears. The drama was an incredibly accurate portrayal of our struggle against sin. The music went well with it too and had the desired, emotional effect.

[Oh Man! My wife just gave me a wiff of our baby's fart. Ugh!]

Anyway--keep the faith, everyone. Christ awaits. In the mean time, he intercedes.

ktismatics said...

Might one safely posit that this performance stands up better as a worship aid than as a work of art?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I have to agree with Emo girl on the fact that one thing I also noticed was that "evil" and "sin" were most often represented by people who were black. I think that was a bit unfortunate.

K: Might one safely posit that this performance stands up better as a worship aid than as a work of art?

What is art?

ktismatics said...

Okay, since this video remains the most current post here at Theos Project, I'll continue. I feel almost ashamed to admit that I found the video repulsive in nearly every way possible.

The God-figure seems more like a conjurer. Even after I was alerted to the serious intent of the video I thought that the man was the Serpent, seducing Eve with his tricks and offering her the forbidden fruit. But then the boy shows up, and it becomes clear that he rather than the priestly figure is the source of evil in this story.

God in this performance isn't just an abstract force of goodness; he is a person: stereotypicaly male, white, older, even bearded. Likewise the girl at the center of the struggle: she is a person. So while one could contend that each of the evil-bearers on the right side of the stage merely symbolizes a kind of evil, the story setup encourages the viewer to regard them also as individuals.

Collectively, as a group of people, these evildoers don't only offer an alternative to the personal God -- they actively prevent the undecided from reaching out to God. They constitute a kind of violent social force that exists outside God's reach, presumably outside the church. And, as Jonathan and the emo girl, observe, these outside sources of corruption are dark-complected. It's hard to contend that this merely a coincidence, since the last, most evil evildoer, the suicide guy, wears a black hood. His individuating features are obscured, leaving us with only his blackness. And we also observe that, in the big tussle, the bad crowd rips off ambivalent girl's black shirt to reveal the white t-shirt underneath.

Left to herself, the girl would be satisfied with God, inside the church, but the world pulls her and restricts her freedom. As if these worldly behaviors -- drink, sex, suicide -- are so patently gross they would offer no allure if the worldly mob wasn't actively reaching out and dragging individuals into corruption. By implication, any godly person behaves corruptly to the extent that the worldly crowd is able to reach them and pull them away from the left side of the stage, the church, where God provides the fun and wholesome entertainment.

As it turns out, God must intervene actively. In a grand triumphal climax, God overpowers the entire crowd of violent evildoers, physically restraining their corrupt influence over the girl. While God acts protectively rather than offensively, it's clear that he's able to kick their asses. They are enraged at their impotence as the girl, freed from their grasp, sinks to her knees is grateful worship. At the end the viewer wonders whether the time is right for the godly good-doers to rise up and prevent the evildoers from forcing themselves on the innocents.

In my last comment I suggested that maybe this video worked not as performance art but as a worship aid. But I think the art is there, playing on the collective unconscious of the audience. In my view it's not just bad kitschy art; it's fascistically immoral art.

Can I get a witness? Anybody?

Daniel said...

This reminds me of the time two missionary friends, Markus from Germany and Joseph from Nigeria, visited a conservative Church in our area as part of a ministry team and switched the stereotype: Joseph playing Jesus in the skit, and Markus playing the devil. They were hounded out! It was to be expected, so they were being a little naughty. It still makes a good story, behind the joke burns disgust for racism in the Church, whether blatant or (not so) subtle.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: The God-figure seems more like a conjurer. Even after I was alerted to the serious intent of the video I thought that the man was the Serpent, seducing Eve with his tricks and offering her the forbidden fruit.

Yes. I thought that too. I thought, at first, that the guy in the robe represented Satan, especially when he offered her fruit.

Interesting to think through this issue of metaphor and symbol. There is debate about whether metaphor/symbol is universal and connected to experiences that we all share as human beings or, alternatively, whether metaphor/symbol is a product of cultural-specific conditioning. I don't know that I have a good answer to that, but in the case of the present video I think it is quite clear that seeing a man offering a woman fruit is a metaphor/symbol for the fall of humanity via Eve. A symbol of original sin.

Ktismatics: Left to herself, the girl would be satisfied with God, inside the church, but the world pulls her and restricts her freedom. As if these worldly behaviors -- drink, sex, suicide -- are so patently gross they would offer no allure if the worldly mob wasn't actively reaching out and dragging individuals into corruption. By implication, any godly person behaves corruptly to the extent that the worldly crowd is able to reach them and pull them away from the left side of the stage, the church, where God provides the fun and wholesome entertainment.

This is a good point. The video definitely portrayed the girl as a victim. While I certainly think that this is possible in some instances, I think your point is a bit more true to experience, which is that we make choices to indulge in destructive behavior.

As I mentioned before, however, I did appreciate that the video did not just show the Jesus/God character as merely snapping his fingers and dropping all of the negative influences and forces. Though I believe in God's power to do so, I also see that we often have to fight and engage destruction head-on.

K: In my last comment I suggested that maybe this video worked not as performance art but as a worship aid. But I think the art is there, playing on the collective unconscious of the audience. In my view it's not just bad kitschy art; it's fascistically immoral art.

I think that art can be a part of worship - an aid to worship. Whether the art is "good" or "bad," I suppose, is a matter of taste. Whether it is appropriate to worship and truly "aids" worship I imagine is also a matter of taste.

Back at your blog I believe you also mentioned that it was both "fascist" and "immoral." Do you base this solely on the fact that the bad guys have dark skin complexion? A kind of racial fascism? Or do you also see a fascism at work in the attitude of the church to the world?

ktismatics said...

It was on this blog actually that I said the video is fascistic and immoral. There are several prominent features in the performance that I'd regard as fascistic: the sense of being victimized, the externalization of evil, the threat that this external pollution will corrupt those on the inside, the sense of impending violent crisis, the glorification of holy warfare against the external enemy justified as a self-protective measure. Don't you think the non-Christians would be offended by how they're represented here?

ktismatics said...

On my blog I brought your YouTube clip into a discussion about Marxist aesthetics, in which art is subsumed under politics. I don't think it's a two-step affair -- first evaluate political correctness, then evaluate the artistic merit -- but rather an integration, where art is of value to the extent that it serves the larger political agenda. In this context Marxism also offers a distinctive aesthetic critical stance whereby, for example, the glut of TV crime shows reveals a will to violence against outsiders driving the law-and-order American culture. Then I said this:

"The Marxist critique kind of reminds me of an evangelical aesthetic, where orthodoxy of belief is part of the beauty. I just flirted around a discussion of a YouTube performance of an evangelical nature that I pretty much found abhorrent, whereas every one of the believers was moved by it. I’m not sure if the art has to pass the political-religious test before it can be judged on its artistic merits, or if the aesthetic sensibility is so thoroughly immersed in the belief system as to be a kind of politico-religious aesthetic in its own right. I think it’s more the latter, because I don’t get the sense from the believers that, yes, the art is kitschy and fascistic, but the religious message is uplifting. Rather the whole thing tends to mix together.

"Debord (Marxist founder of the "situationist" movement in France) subsumed aesthetics under politics. In such a politicized aesthetic just showing capitalist Americans as pigs and exploited Cuban workers as heroes takes you halfway home to good cinema. Or in evangelical circles showing a Jesus figure saving the girl from immoral companions already signals good art. On the commercials, TV programs here seem mostly to be about murderers, usually sex murderers. “Oh my God” as a bit of dialog signals good drama. I think there is something to the Marxist and evangelical critiques, whereby a certain set of story components, types of characters, action sequences, etc. must be incorporated into sinful capitalist cinema if it’s going to attract an audience. Sex and violence is part of the formula, along with a machinelike police apparatus that eventually gets its man. As an analyst you’d have to acknowledge the barely-latent misogyny and sadomasochism driving this sort of story. The prototypical American moviegoer is a man in his twenties. What comes onto the market isn’t just shaped by the audience’s tastes; it also shapes their tastes through sheer repetition. This is capital’s conscious manipulation of unconscious desires that are widespread in the target population. Do guys like De Palma or Tarantino just naturally veer toward these mass tastes in an artsy-fartsy way, or do they just build films that are going to draw the target audience? Which is worse?"

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes. I was referring to the discussion on your blog where you said it was "fascist and kitschy."

I don't want to over-simplify what you are saying, but does much of this have to do with the Christian conception/theology of "the world." In the Gospel of John "the world" is in stark opposition to Christ and the truth. Christ and truth are interchangeable (14:6) such that a rejection of one indicates a rejection of the other. Jesus says, "Do not be surprised if the world hates you. It hated me first." These kinds of statements lead to something of an separationist mentality that has permeated conservative Christianity in the U.S. until recent days.

Yet, when we view the life of Christ as a whole we find that he associates with "tax collectors and prostitutes." These would be the kinds of folk usually labeled as "of the world." Yet in the Gospel of John the religious establishment/institution really seems to represent all things "worldly."

Ultimately, I do find a great deal to agree with you in this area. We must recognize that each moment presents choice. As Bultmann says (via Heidegger), each moment is an opportunity for becoming - that being has potentiality. Bultmann also equates "the world" with Heidegger's "They." Is it possible that "the world" as represented in the video might be equated with "the they"? Would this make the video less offensive or fascist in your view? The reason I ask is that it seems to me that we all must oppose something, and to be downright honest, I think we all have to oppose some group of people, whether it is "The They" (Heidegger), "the world" (Jesus), or "the Crowd" (Kierkegaard).

ktismatics said...

I take it you've been reading Heidegger and fellow travelers. "The they" for Heidegger has more to do with your current post about experience inside the collective. Busy-ness, idle talk, averageness, entanglement in everydayness -- these are the kinds of words Heidegger uses when he talks about "the they." It's the subtle drift away from authenticity that he has in mind.

In contrast, the video you posted is about the outsiders, the "them-versus-us," the external source of internal corruption. It's a fundamentalist idea of Them -- drunks, whores, killers, God-haters, etc. And again, it's clearly people who set themselves against "us" -- those who want to hang out on the left side of the stage with God. For Heidegger, in contrast, the enemy is within: "the they" = "the us." Isn't that how you read it?

One has to wonder about whether Heidegger was able to acknowledge that they = us. He did, after all, become a committed Nazi seeking to purge the homeland from the corrupting influences of the non-Aryan Other.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I have heard some commentary on Heidegger that his notion of authentic self was eventually extrapolated into a national sense - the authentic nation. So, it is hard to know how to take Heidegger. He was, after all, committed to fascism on some level. And that was something of my point, I suppose.

Perhaps this is why Jesus attacked the religious authorities of the day. They were "They" working from the inside to suppress the extraordinary and to institute teh average, thereby closing off true religious passion in the name of religious duty, form, and function. ("You put burdens on men." Also cf. The Grand Inquisitor)

But back to the video....

Question: Do the DWs ("drunks, whores, killers, God-haters, etc.") represent all of those on the outside? And hence a suppression of the Other? Is it true that it is purely an us-versus-them? Or is it possible that these represent only those who have the desire to make the self conform to the normalcy of averageness? In the Gospel accounts the religious authorities sought to suppress the extraordinary and to burden men so as to assert their control and power. In this sense they can be seen as encouraging the "They" even to the point of killing those who represent a threat to status quo. Perhaps that is what the video is representing? The authentic self-hood of the girl is a threat to The Crowd or "They," and hence there is an effort by the DWs to make the girl abandon her quest and conform.

ktismatics said...

Good luck with that one. The religious authorities in Jesus's day were pushing traditional and exclusive us-ness, legalistic morality, refusal to associate with drunks and whores, etc.

ktismatics said...

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness ? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever ? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols ? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: Good luck with that one. The religious authorities in Jesus's day were pushing traditional and exclusive us-ness, legalistic morality, refusal to associate with drunks and whores, etc.

But that's just my point. As soon as the establishment thought that it had drawn a clear line of demarcation to separate "us" from "them," Jesus broke the barrier. This also carries over to Paul, whom you cite from Corinthians. For in Christ, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) And, "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." (Colossians 3:11)

On the other hand, do we not have terms such as, "good influence" and a "bad influence"? Are there not certain people that might make you feel uncomfortable if your daughter started to hang around with them? You may not restrict her freedom (or maybe you would, who knows?), but regardless are there not those who would make you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps you begin to notice a dramatic change in attitude and outlook that "concerns" you. She begins to hang out with some guy your own age and announces that she is dating him. What if the guy was "creepy"? What if your wife thought he was repulsive? Could you still say, "Look, we don't want to do an 'us-them' kind of thing here, so let's be all-inclusive and give this thing a chance."? More to the point, could you say that without feeling deeply disturbed and uncomfortable?

All I'm saying is that there are associations in life that demonstrate that we are moving into light or into darkness. Isn't that what Paul says in the verse you cite? "...bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness..." It is a rhetorical question about what one is "bound together" with. If one is moving toward "light," then what fellowship (see "belonging"!) can one have with the antithesis?

An newly recovered alcoholic doesn't hang with his old friends at the bar. He can't. He can have no "fellowship" with them any longer. For him they represent the "darkness" of the past addiction. They represent average everydayness. They may be fine people, but for him they are darkness and would represent fall back into addiction.

Jonathan Erdman said...

As a side note, here is an interesting quote by Bultmann commenting on Nazi Germany in relation to the life of man:

"In a world which is more and more technically developed, and organized to the hilt, man is misused more and more as a means to ends, and is degraded to the status of a member in the machine of life, and so is deceived as to the significance of his life...."

Bultmann goes on to speak of man as "a political character, and capable of being directed by calculating politics."

"Man thus degraded struggles in his inmost being against the role allotted to him, and his struggling - unbeknown to himself - finds expression in his need and his urge for recognition. If this need and this urge are not satisfied, that resentment which poisons character comes into being.

Now there can hardly be any doubt that in this we have one of the chief reasons, if not the chief reason, for so many German people falling a prey to ideology of National Socialism. Modern man lacked - at least in Germany - the sure self-confidence which rests in the axiomatic belief that man on his own account has his significance and his value as a person. It is plain that National Socialism made use of just this. Just as it grew out of resentment, so it made its appeal to resentment: and spared no effort to kill systematically the last remnant of 'personality-consciousness' in order to utilize them entirely as means for its end, and to incorporate men into its organizational machine." From "Grace and Freedom" in Essays: Philosophical and Theological, 1955

ktismatics said...

I thought I posted a comment, but it seems to have disappeared. Did it get spammed? I've been having connectivity issues so maybe I lost it.

ktismatics said...

Anyhow, as I was saying...

Your quote from Bultmann reads like a defense of Nietzsche, who as you know is regarded as a forerunner of Nazism. Nietzsche regarded Judeo-Christianity as a morality based on resentment of the powerful and the noble and those who were able to pursue their appetites were. So Bultmann is saying that the Nazis were acting out of motivations that Nietzsche explicitly condemned. (Incidentally, Nietzsche liked traditional moralities motivated by "gratitude.")

I'll just have to assume that you're messing with me by proposing that the right-stage sinners are "insiders" in the church leading that poor girl astray. If you asked people to choose whether the whores, boozers and brawlers in the video were intended to represent insiders or outsiders, what would they choose? And again, God and the girl are personal, so to regard the right-siders as abstract influences isn't consistent with the rest of the show.

My quote from 2 Cor. 6 was intended to show that both the OT and Paul support the "us-versus-them" dualism exhibited in the video. Apparently you agree with Paul here, rather than critiquing this particular discourse as perhaps reflecting a fascistic bias that Christ might have been ready to overthrow. But your next post on belonging clearly assumes that such belonging can occur only among "insiders." I presume you would not pursue the sort of authentic openness and caring and belonging and love with someone who hadn't already passed the Christian insider "sniff test." Evangelical Christianity erects barriers against the outsiders, wouldn't you say?

Daniel said...

This insiders/outsiders stuff is relevant. When does one become an insider - on baptism, responding to an altar call, making it through the training programme?

What makes one an outsider?

Jesus said there will be many who say "Lord, Lord" whom he will not know. The ultimate inside/outside distinction is between the "sheep and the goats".

The parallel with national socialism is also spot on. The Nazi decided who was inside and who was outside and proceeded to enforce the distinction, similarly in Apartheid South Africa.

"Do not judge, lest you be judged. The same measure you use will be used against you."

Maximodo said...

Polish version - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT7thaXSNLQ