Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pop Culture and the Bible

My wife and I were talking the other day about how it seems that very few people (at least, in our experience) know much of anything about Jesus and the Bible. Whether or not you're a Christian, it makes sense to be familiar with the basics because of the enormous influence the Bible has had on literature and our culture in general. While studying literature as both an undergraduate and in grad school, my wife was often in the minority in being able to understand or pick out Biblical references or allusions in the novels or plays they were reading.

Sometime last year I came across a great example of cluelessness (I know, not the most charitable word, but oh well) about the Bible when reading a review of Thrice's album, Vheissu. The lead singer and songwriter of Thrice, Dustin Kensrue, is a Christian and his faith often comes through in his lyrics. The song Like Moths to Flame tells the story of Peter and Jesus shortly before Jesus is crucified. Found in the gospels (e.g. Mathew 26 or Mark 14), this story involves Peter insisting he would never betray Jesus and that he would give up his life first. Later on, after the arrest of Jesus, Peter denies ever having known him, and then remembers Jesus' words foretelling Peter's denial. Peter weeps bitterly, having betrayed Jesus' trust.

Writing for Rolling Stone magazine, Christian Hoard gives a negative review of the album. He mistakenly assumes that the lyrics for Like Moths to Flame are about a bad break-up, writing that Kenstrue makes "a romantic betrayal sound like a nuclear holocaust, vowing to die for his lover."

This is despite lines like, "Once again the bread and wine / but it seems the meanings may be deeper still this time / you surprised me when you said I'd fall away / don't you know me? / I could never be ashamed of you." The song goes on to discuss the vow Peter makes that he would die for Jesus (I will follow you / lay down my life / I would die for you / this very night), the horror when Peter realizes what he had done (and calling curses down / from my lips lies, like poison, spill / then that awful sound / the sound of prophecy fulfilled / and then I met your eyes / as I remember everything / and something in me dies / the night that I betrayed my King).

At any rate, by mistaking this story for Kensrue's personal one, Cristian Hoard misses the whole point and comes away suspicious of Kensrue's "epic pain." The whole album is filled with Biblical references, so I guess I was surprised that a writer for a major magazine would have missed it. I don't expect everyone to read the Bible if they don't care about Christianity, but I thought it was a shame that Hoard's lack of Biblical literacy negatively colored his review of the album.

6 comments:

bairdduvessa said...

heh in my non western lit class in college, only the agnostics and atheists could quote the bible, and all the christians would get pissy when we proved them wrong

Jeff L said...

Interesting. If it's a shame when people in general are unfamiliar with the Bible, it's doubly shameful when Christians are.

bairdduvessa said...

eh, to be fair i wouldn't have thought that the lyrics were about peter either, they sounded like usual rock fake emotional stuff, then again i've never heard it.

Jeff L said...

You should check it out, it's an awesome song.

bairdduvessa said...

eh maybe

Brad Wright said...

That is pretty bad, especially for a cultural critic....