Monthly Archives: October 2012

Musings of an Aging Rocker

This past Friday night I got to see Queensryche in concert on the Oregon coast and really enjoyed the show, even though they have parted company with their original singer and only played material from their earliest albums, which I wasn’t all that familiar with. But as I sat in the small venue (1,300 people, tops) waiting for the show, and then getting into the music once they started playing, strange thoughts began to surface concerning the odd relationship between being in my mid-fifties and rock music.

When I was a kid, which includes high school and beyond, all that I ever really wanted to be was a rock star. I remember jamming to the radio before the Beatles came out, which was about a thousand years ago. I grew up with the rock of the 60s and 70s, and my love of the music did not die even during the commercial excesses of the 80s and the artistic boredom of the early mid 90s. It seemed that in every decade there were bands that I liked and music that I loved, all of which featured loud guitars, aggressive drum beats and often throat shredding vocals. In the days of my mis-begotten youth I was a frequent concert goer and saw a lot of great bands, but I am forced to confess that Queensryche was my first concert in roughly 20 years (that was Alan Jackson at the San Antonio Sea World, and prior to that it was Christian rocker Darrell Mansfield in late ’87). Not much has changed, really.

That’s not entirely accurate. I have changed, and far more than I had previously realized.

The first thing that struck me was how many of us in the audience Friday night were getting a bit long in the tooth, and I found it rather amusing to see long-haired fifty-somethings pogo-ing along with 80s metal while twenty-something girls danced in the aisles. Someone once said (I don’t remember who, but I suspect that it was some aging rocker or another) that rock ‘n’ roll is ageless, that it is a matter of what’s in your blood and spirit rather than what’s on your birth certificate, and I suppose that’s true; after all, look at all of the bands that are still recording and touring after twenty and thirty years, or worse, a full half-century like the Stones. But over the years I’ve come to see that a lot of that energy behind rock comes from youthful vigor or just plain ego and aggression. Well, my youthful vigor got left behind somewhere and the Lord and I have managed to knock my once monumental ego down quite a few notches.

To tell you the truth, I’m glad that I never did become a rock star. Oh, I could have, of that I am certain – I can sing fairly well (others’ assessment, not mine) when in the mood and I have taught myself guitar and drums to the point where I know that if I really played a lot I’d get pretty good. So it appears that the natural talent would have been there, but where I went wrong (or right) was in putting the cart before the horse: before I actually became a rock star I partied like one. Which right away means that it would have been likely that I would have died young like so many did, or ended up broke on the streets or in a psychiatric hospital somewhere. Sure, the money would have been nice, but there is a lot more to life than having piles of cash, and the same goes for the fame and adulation that goes with being a famous musician. And besides all of this is the fact that I had I actually gone down that road and survived I would not be the person that I am today, which means that I would not have the faith that I do now.

Oh, I still enjoy rockin’ every now and then, but I’ve found that music has greatly diminished in importance in my life. My tastes have also changed quite a bit, and these days you are just as likely to catch me listening to Sarah MacLachlan as you will Metallica. I still pick up the guitar on occasion, but I don’t play a lot because there doesn’t seem to be much point in it; after all, at my age there doesn’t seem to be much possibility of getting into a good band, and I still have just enough rocker pride to not allow myself to get drafted by some outfit playing thirty and forty-year old covers of the famed bands of the past. Besides, these days I’m too busy reading and studying, praying and learning, working closer to the land and listening to the still, small voice to get bogged down in what would assuredly be fruitless enterprises.

Besides, I may still go to a concert now and then. I haven’t seen Marillion yet even though they’ve been at it for thirty years, and who knows, Darrell Mansfield may come through the area. But I do know one thing: you won’t find me doing the pogo or dancing in the aisles.

But I just might have a big smile on my face.

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Filed under Dave's Little Quirks, Music

Pulpit Freedom Sunday

My, how quickly another month has gone by – I didn’t realize just how long it had been since my last post! I’ve been tossing around a few subject ideas and trying to decide which was the most important, when something on the news today caught my eye and I decided to have an opinion while it was still timely.

The story that caught my eye was regarding the observance of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”, which has been going on for several years now and has apparently been growing in popularity. This observance is a reaction to a law signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson back in the 60s which states that for churches or non-profit religious organizations to keep their tax-free status they must eschew endorsing political candidates or making political statements during church services. This law hasn’t been much of an issue over the years and apparently the IRS has never been called upon to enforce it; it would probably have been forgotten about without the churches deciding to protest it on one Sunday out of the year. Now I confess that I don’t know everything about this particular law and its history, or lack of, nor do I know what prompted a number of churches to start observing “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”, but naturally, that is not going to keep me from having an opinion.

It may surprise some of you to learn that I disagree with the whole notion of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”.

Now before you reach the premature conclusion that I have somehow lost my mind or decided to become a lackey of the State, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not believe that the government – at any level – has any business telling any church what it can or cannot preach during its services. I personally believe that when government starts getting away with dictating to any church what to teach we are all getting on a very slippery slope leading to the dilution or corruption of doctrines and the moral and spiritual degradation of the flock. The content of a church sermon should be left to the discretion of the clergy and the patience of the congregation, not some bureaucrat at the IRS or any other government agency.

So then, Dave, tell us what’s so bad about “Pulpit Freedom Sunday”. Okay, I will.

I believe that the whole purpose to a church sermon is to educate and encourage the congregation in the faith which they profess, not in the dissimulation of political platforms or exhortations to vote for a certain candidate. I believe that when the clergy of any faith starts preaching politics instead of their gospel they are doing a disservice to their flock, and especially in today’s increasingly anti-Christian society that is a disservice which most believers can ill afford.

When the apostle Paul wrote his famous letters to his young friend Timothy, he exhorted Timothy to spend his time teaching the believers and unbelievers around him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not who to support in the Roman government. In fact, nearly the entire New Testament teaches that all believers should be tolerant and forgiving, that we should love our enemies, and that we should avoid all divisions and controversies. The Gospel is one of love and unity, not discord and divisiveness, and if anything is a source of discord and divisiveness, it is politics.

Look at the history of the last two thousand years. Even before the emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, the pulpit had become a source of discord and bile in the name of division – not always, but for a large part. Throughout the succeeding centuries, whenever the Church has become a player in the political arena things have gone badly for the stature and moral fiber of the Body of Christ. But especially in the present era we have seen the pulpit become a platform for politics. For at least thirty years the older, “mainstream” denominations preached “liberation theology”, which was little more than a religious mask applied to socialism and liberal ideology; for nearly as long, the evangelical movement in Christianity has joined forces with conservatism, for good or bad, and I believe that alliance to be the main encouragement for the whole “prosperity” heresy. Even avoiding the religio-political excesses of other faiths, it becomes clear that when the pulpit becomes a platform for political advocacy it adversely affects the mission of the Church, which is to bring unbelievers to faith in Christ and then to instruct and encourage them in that faith.

I guess that part of the problem is that, even today, a vast multitude of people believe that their religion can bring about an era of peace and prosperity for everyone; that by using their faith they can bring the Kingdom of Heaven about here on earth. I’m sorry, but any attempt to do so is doomed to fail. Humanity is too corruptible and divisive. Only God can bring about a truly peaceful world at the Second Coming of Christ; anything less than that is a dangerous fake.

Do I then believe that Christians should not take part in the political process? Not at all. As citizens of this nation and as believers in Christ we have the moral obligation to vote our conscience for the candidates we feel best reflect our values and who would best serve the interests of our nation or community. I also believe that the social structure of a church can be a great forum for discussion of the candidates and issues among its members – on the side. We as believers must not forget that the first and foremost mission of any Christian church should be the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and that the pulpit should be used for that purpose.

‘Nuff said!

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Filed under Faith in the 21st Century, In the News, Politics...Ugh!