Monday, October 02, 2006

Losing My Religion: That's Me in the Corner

I was asked by another blogger (Jim Jordan) to comment on the 'Losing My Religion' lyrics and I thought that was a great idea. I am a fan of REM and this song's title really meant something to me when I began to write this blog, so here's my take on the song.

Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)

(a) Life is bigger, It's bigger than you, And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to, The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much, I set it up

(b) That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion

(c) Trying to keep up with you, And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much, I haven't said enough

(d) I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

(e) Every whisper, Of every waking hour, I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you, Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I've said too much, I set it up

(f) Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me to my knees failed
What if all these fantasies come flailing around
Now...I've said too much

(g) I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream...just a dream

(a) Life is bigger than any of us and this is what causes our search for something outside, greater than us (Ex: God). The person admits they are not you and their search is their's. The lengths to get to know God are numerous for anyone but they are met with 'distance' by people within religion (can't relate to them and their rules). They feel they can't reveal too much about themselves to the religious (fear of judgment or being told all the answers) but they still wonder.

(b) My take on the chorus is 2-fold. Firstly, the person who 'hears' us has their doubts justified by those in the 'corner' (the congregation) and those in the 'spotlight' (the preacher) - it's all 'mere words' in a structured system. Secondly, I used the title because I empathize but also because I am 'losing my religion' - (1) casting off old religious structurism's and (2) the faith I love has become something useless in society (a lot of talk) with little action (I challenge it).

(c) The hopelessness of the individual to meet our high expectations (ex: perfectly sinless or rules based system) and they become unsure of their own faith. Leaving them with no recourse for action or any voice within the church, 'they say too much, they never say enough'. They see the problem but cannot handle being left voiceless in a 'don't question God' system.

(d) The people can see us trying or 'putting on the show' but they cannot relate with it. We laugh we sing and we seem so damn happy...what about those who come to the church not that way? I can see their problems with relating to a bunch of 'happy all the time' clones (almost fake to them?).

(e) Again the person is trying to live up to the rules set for them by religion (ex: prayer and repentance) and they are trying to obey (as hard as they can). They are watching you to see if they can find the little bit of answers they cannot seem to find in religion (since you have been there longer and may know more about the system). In all their mis-connections within religion they feel 'hurt, lost, blind and foolish'...like they missed a mark or something. Again saying too much can work against you in the system and in these doubts 'the religious' feel they have to somehow correct you.

(f) In the final part the person feels they have gained nothing from religion. They ask us to consider this religion as failed, even a fantasy...due to the fact they only got the hint this was all 'faked and contrived' (a systemic way of viewing God failed this individual). At this point the individual admits 'they've said too much' and this will not be tolerated within that system.

(g) It was all just a dream, a dream they feel has no validity in their personal life. The system failed them and they feel it's more 'a dream' than a reality.

I am not saying I agree (by no stretch) but I empathize with the views being expressed. A lot of people lose their trust for a rules-based system that tells them who/what/where/when/and why about God (like there is no mystery). The religion that is so sure isn't at all, they can't relate to someone struggling (system vs. personal touch). I don't think my faith is 'a dream' but I can see how someone can get there, in pure dis-illusionment with the church and it's 'do's and dont's'.

It seems like anyone that says 'God said this...' or 'God taught this...' or 'God told me...' can pretty much put anything after those sentences and how can you dispute it? God said it! A lot of people are using God's name in 'vain' and feel they have the right to invoke His name when they feel questioned (a total cop-out). They use God as someone who backs their idea's and to provide them with a 'self-righteouness'. That's the essence of this song. The right to question someone'e beliefs as possibly, not quite what it seems. I am in this role with mainstream church at the moment, wanting this ideal but seeing ideals so clamoured in the system that questioning the doctrines/dogma's is questioning God also. Basically, how do you get around that? Easy. Leave altogether and forget you questioned. But that's also irresponsible and changes nothing in the system that will forget you just as easy. Quite the conundrum. I'll err on the side of questioning.

16 comments:

Jim Jordan said...

Bravo! Good work. It does see that "religion" failed this person (Mr. Stipe, I presume). He can't ultimately justify this chimera. The answer is not in religious activity but whether we nurture a relationship with God.

James 1:27 - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The religion that the songwriter encountered was the one polluted by the world, the religion that's supposed to make you feel better about yourself.

There are probably a lot of interpretations but that's mine. REM has a way of seeking to provoke thought rather than simplifying things. They write like poets.

kevin beck said...

Great post. Losing religion might just help us find God. He who finds his life will lose it and he who loses it...

Why is it so common to want a "special revelation" about what is concerning my ego, while ignoring what God has already said? Feed the hungry. Serve the poor. Love your enemies.

Keep questioning!

Soul Food Dude said...

(comment from my Barth post)
Hey Societyvs, good to see you again.

"So faith is a cornerstone but that alone is not much. (even love is rated higher by Paul - but the greatest of faith, hope, and love (charity) is love)."

Yeah, I agree, and so far I'm pretty sure that Barth agrees as well. He described faith as the ground, the beginning, of the life of faith. It is creative, and out of it comes love and hope and service, etc.

"But faith is a decision. We have to choose to be faithful or not to have faith at all."

I agree here too, and I'm positive that Barth does. However, Barth calls this decision of faith a decision both made by God and by the person. It is fully under the person's consent, since it is their willful transformation, yet they have been moved here. At a distance it might look like a paradox, but I think experience shows this to be true, at least in my life and the lives of other Christians I know.

Barth is adamant that any decision made by a person that is simply an attempt to find God will fall back upon itself in failure. There must be an answering to a call, and in hearing the call, there is the believing that this call actually IS from God. Barth also, I think, states that this call is like a pull, and it is powerful, and eventually leads those called to repentance, even though repentance is their decision.

"but Paul mentions even 'faith' comes from hearing about something - he says the 'word of God'."

Yes! This is exactly Barth's stance. Barth loves talking about the Word of God, and he seems to think that it is revealed to us solely in scriptures. He does not equate the word of God with the Bible, rather he equates Jesus with the word of God, and the Bible is the word inasmuch as it relates Jesus to us...same goes for preaching.

I think this is what Barth means by God instilling faith in us. He does it in a very mysterious, indirect way, so that choice is involved.

But the main point I got from this excerpt was that if we conceive of faith as anything that is even slightly possible to boast about, we conceive of it wrongly. I've kinda come to some similar thought as these from Barth, just before I read this passage, which made this kinda funny and exciting.

Basically, I think faith cannot itself be a work in anyway. Faith cannot be an attempt to remold our own minds, or focus onto some proposition in a particular way. These are all just feelings and concepts, and as soon as we think that this is all that faith is, it collapses. Faith is more like a personal relationship, I think. I simply trust that you're there, otherwise I wouldn't be writing to you. I don't know for sure, but I step out as if it's true. Yet it's not just action, rather action is the fruit of it. There is a steadiness inside me that came from no effort of mine that says, "Yes, there's somebody behind the screenname 'Societyvs.'" I faith in God is like that. When I speak to him, I acknowledge that he's there, and I feel in my gut that he's there, and I didn't put such feelings there. This relationship started really with me saying, "God, if you're there," and in that case, it was something of a crying into the dark, but the movement in my soul that brought me to that point was immense. It was no superfluous decision. It just flowed right out of me. This is what the decision of faith looks like to me, or should I say decisions.

Soul Food Dude said...

Hey again, another thought...

you said, "But faith is a decision. We have to choose to be faithful or not to have faith at all (ask atheists)."

I'm not sure I can ask the atheists, for if faith is a thing that is known only by having it, then that means that atheists don't know what faith is, so they cannot choose against it. Either that, or they have it and don't know it, and instead they are speaking out against something called "faith" which is not what Jesus means.

I think it's important to meditate on whether nonbelievers really understand what belief in God is. I think many have and do all too quickly declare that nonbelievers DO know what faith in God is, because their interest is in preserving some precepts about human freedom, the choice of faith, etc., which in turn seem to be used to blame people.

And by "blame," I don't merely mean to attribute the wrong's origin to a person, but to declare them beyond help, to declare redemption to be impossible for some, and such a stance seems to me to cut short either the power of Christ, the love of Christ, or the majesty of Christ, or some combination of those. But I have digressed. :-)

It seems to me that faith is impossible without the apprehension that Jesus really is the Way. And therefore, so long as a person rejects Jesus, there seems to be room to wonder whether she ever apprehended the true significance of Jesus. And there sure is a heck of a lot of talk of lack of knowledge and understanding and of blindness of the wicked. Then there's Peter talking about believers forgetting what they have been taught, and as a result, falling into sin again. Hmm...I don't hear many pastors today talking like this...

What I hear today is, "Well, it's their choice. So long, suckas!" There is a lot of war mentality going on, and not much reconciliation mentality, as least where I live. And I can't imagine how an attitude for reconciliation can emerge without first barring the temptation to "right people off" as beyond help.

Hey (sorry 'bout this comment's length), I thought I'd just update you on some thoughts about Christ and history that I've had lately...

I think there is weight to what you said about Mark writing his theology back into the gospel, with that centurion's remark as a possible example. I certainly think the writer of John did something of this sort. But still, I think Mark is trying to get something across, when he has the only visible cause of the centurion's remark to be the sight of Jesus breathing his last. What does Mark mean by this? If Luke is right, and the centurion actually said only that Jesus was surely innocent, then what was Mark's intention of changing this? Or if this more the result of a "telephone game" effect, then what did the writer of Mark think of this point in the story? Surely, he had an opinion, no?

Without backing away from what I've said previously about this subject, I have to say that I am aware of your concerns about idealism. I am pretty much downright cynical about idealism. And I am about realism too, inasmuch as realism is another idealism, that is, more or less the worship of a concept (which realism can be). But if we seek the real, meaning we want real contact and communion with God, and not just self-manipulation in mind and heart, then there MUST be some kind of belief that something OUTSIDE us has communicated to us. And I agree, more than I let on (I was in tension on this), that history is important.

Just as I believe in a history of my wife, and a history of our relationship, I believe in a history of God communicating to us. And I learn of my wife's past and her love for me, not by trying to make myself believe, but by listening to her and engaging her. In the same way, I listen for and engage with God, and in this, I depend upon a response from him.

Over the last few days, I suspended much of the idea that I need a historical Jesus, and this idea ate at me. Jesus is the point through which I, according to what I see in faith, engage with God. Jesus, I think, is God speaking to me, and that is, the Jesus that I have been confronted with, who is both in the gospel stories but who also leaps out of the pages and grabs me deep inside.

So I cannot deny this Jesus, and I engage him as if he is real, trusting that he is real. And the reason why I trust lies heavily in my belief that people like Paul and Peter and John really did see something in Jesus. They themselves were confronted by a real Jesus, and it was revealed to them that this Jesus was the face of God.

I don't see why I NEED to believe in actual physical resurrection, but I Do very much need to believe that such people were confronted by Jesus, in some form. The apprehension that he was alive and well, and so risen, that he was with the Father and would come again at the last day, and also that he would simultaneously be with them in their journey, is something crucial to my faith. I don't need to decide for myself whether Paul saw a real fleshy man on the Road to Damascus, or just heard a voice, or just KNEW in some hard-to-describe way, that Jesus was real and risen and present and full in the glory and power of God.

All this is summed up pretty well in what Karl Barth says (I'm not a Barthian, though :-)... The Resurrection is the apprehension that Jesus is the Son of God, that he is Lord over the earth, that history finds it meaning and destiny in him. If a physical event was necessary to get this revelation going, then that is fine. But the resurrection, the true power of it and its true essence, take place wherever the Spirit convicts a believer of the divinity and power of Christ.

Again, wow, sorry about the length.

peace,
Jathan

Franklin Ledgerwood said...

After reading your post I had to go dig out my REM CD and listem to this song.

Soul Food Dude said...

Good post!

Maybe the system really does need to be scrapped, though. Maybe the system, insofar as its main objective is to remain a system, will always dampen (or worse) the gospel.

Perhaps it's the people outside the system who can form the body of Christ. Or perhaps the body of Christ is in the system, but being strangled by the system, and needs to be released. If the gospel is a cure, is fulfillment, then a local church is supposed to be like a hospital. Right now, I see a lot of people in "med school" who have no ambitions to ever "graduate." A church takes healers and healed. To be a healer, on must of confidence in what one is doing. To be healed, one must have confidence in the healer's confidence. And then, it will be revealed by the amount healed whether the 'healers' are healing at all.

If the 'healers' are never sent, it must be because they don't recognize themselves as such, as capable of healing. They either never learned how to, or have been tricked into thinking that they still don't know how to, which in the end may be the same thing. A system that has growing attendance numbers as its ultimate goal will never care for the individual, and so it won't heal anyone. It will instead encourage people to believe that it still has much more crucial material to learn, which fosters doubts about one's own apprehension of the gospel, and therefore stifles the effort to help those outside the system, since the majority of those supporting the system doubt their own abilities and understanding.

A system interested purely in numbers will hog the gospel to itself, and transform it into a non-gospel. I think this is the most fatal aspect in many churches I encounter: desire for numbers.

It's a viscious cycle, because people desire numbers to confirm to themselves that they are spreading the right message, since the right message should increase numbers quickly, right? So they look to numbers to rate their message, and by that, they destroy the message, or confuse it to the point of inefficacy.

But those who understand the gospel, I think, understand that it is simple, that it does not require a lifelong membership at a local church, that individuals matter infinitely more than numbers and cannot be treated as units to be counted and collected.

SocietyVs said...

Soul food dude you said a mouthful, I will reply when I get a chance too, again great stuff!

Anonymous said...

Too tired to comment,Ill be back.

Soul Food Dude said...

Here's my latest comment from my page...

"I am not sure what that means or what the 'call' might sound like?"

I realize this can be confusing. Also keep in mind that I might be misinterpreting Barth here. But I believe what Barth is trying to say is that unless an individual apprehends by faith that God has spoken to THAT individual, that is, has communicated to that individual, no matter how indirectly, there is no "reaching God," and by that I mean communion with God. Note that this statement itself is made out of faith, since it is by faith to begin with that we think such a God is there, who relates to us in this way.

Therefore, from the standpoint of the nonbeliever, there's just some interesting things going on in the head of the believer. But inside the believer's head, there is the confidence that one is ACTUALLY relating oneself to oneself, to the world, and to God in the way that he does BECAUSE of God's (however indirect) self-communication to him.

I think Barth's getting at the idea that a call is not really a call unless the call is apprehended as a call. A sign is only a sign to a person insofar as that sign communicates something to the person, and for communication to occur, there must be receiving, perceiving, or understanding that the sign is a sign. Therefore a sign could be a sign to one person, but to another person, be a pile of sticks, or a strange pole and sheet of metal, or random markings in the ground.

When I was speaking of a 'call,' I was speaking of a call in this strict sense. Not wasted words, not shouts to a deaf ear, but actual communication, both spoken and heard, a clean line from one end to the other.

I'm really not saying anything bizarre. You said yourself that we need something that we believe to be an objective communication from God...and you said that Jesus (including his resurrection) is that mode of communication. But if Jesus does not get his message through to some, then he is not a universal mode of communication. And we indeed speak all the time of the Spirit has completing the communication, as bringing the apprehension of Jesus' significance about in the heart of a person.

"I think any independant search by any person to find out about God will result in something positive."

I think so too. But "something positive" does not necessarily mean communion with God.

"It's in our walking where boasting comes about and I am with you on this, we need to not boast about what God has made for us."

Actually, what Barth says in this passage I posted is that it is strictly impossible to boast about having genuine faith, if one understands what genuine faith is. What he's getting at is that what many call faith is not faith at all. It is works. And we can boast all we want about works, though (as you said) we shouldn't.

Jathan

chris said...

I am not a big REM fan, but I do love that song. great post. I agree with kevin, keep questioning!

Scott said...

The Dude completely hijacked this post!

SocietyVs said...

yeah me and the dude have been conversing on his site about Barth (simpson is it?) and faith (funny how they both in 'h', sounds like i have a lisph). Anyways so he think he has to post his comments here so I'll see them, which is good to do if I didn't checl him out like every other day...but I like the dude, he's the number soul brother in my books.

SocietyVs said...

In case no one knows, the last post I did (prior to this) comes from an Eminem line from the song 'My name is what...' (so the jokes on all of us as usual).

Soul Food Dude said...

Hey man, my apologies. I won't hijack anymore. But so you know, I typically reply to your comments the same day (but I guess you know that :-)

Jathan

Soul Food Dude said...

Feel free to carry on the conversation on my comments page. Ah! hijacking again! Sorry!

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