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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Climate Change News: the Gulf Stream is OK

For several years scientists have feared that the melting of land-based ice in Greenland would interrupt the flow of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico toward Europe. This could potentially cause severe winters and or even a regional ice age in Europe. At the beginning of Holocene, approximately 10,000 years ago, the melting of the land-based ice in North America disrupted the Gulf Stream enough to cause an ice age in Europe for centuries.

In 2003 one study detected a freshening of the Gulf Stream, a decrease in salinity that was seen as indicator that the meltwater from Greenland was having an effect on the ocean current. Since then, several other studies have suggested much the same thing. Fortunately, new research has found no overall change in the flow of the ocean currents in the Atlantic. This is good news, though some researchers say it may simply be a matter of time before start seeing an effect.