All Things Shining is a Wicked Book Indeed

Dreyfus and Kelly (D&K) connect their book, All Things Shining, with Melville’s book, Moby Dick.  Right underneath the title on the cover is a little image of a whale and Moby Dick is referenced throughout the book and they devote a full chapter to Melville’s whale tale right before the concluding chapter.  In All Things Shining, D&K lament that today’s secular age is remise of sacredness – missing all the shining things of a sacred world.  Their claim is that the lives of Homer’s Greeks and the Christians of Dante’s time lived lives rife with meaning in a bright and shining world – unlike our world today, which is an abyss of dark nothingness (nihilism).  Melville has shown D&K the way back into the bright lights of yore through Moby Dick, the book that Melville recognized to be a “wicked book,” but one that left him feeling as spotless as a lamb after having written it.  (143)[1] The “evil art” of Melville is rather obscure in his writing, and he might not have even consciously known what the wickedness was that he had written, and even D&K who seem to know exactly what the hidden evil of Moby Dick is struggle to clearly name it as they sift the lives and motives of the characters on the “hunt for the mighty sperm whale.”[2]  The way forward as discovered by Ishmael in Moby Dick is to find your own polytheistic truths and live in them in joy and in sorrow. (188)  Though D&K try to hide their malevolence in lengthy, rambling, quote-filled chapters, they directly call for an all-embracing dive into an old-school life of polytheism within our modern, technologically driven age.  They give this invitation void of any moral compass besides one’s own passions and subjective standard of morality.  I sense that what D&K have written is far more wicked than what Melville wrote because they directly call us to surrender ourselves to the gods – to be carried away (whooshed up) by them to wherever they want to carry us before the drop that will inevitably come as the sacred wave crashes. (220)

Mastodon Leviathan Album 2
This image reveals more of the complete picture of Mastodon’s Leviathan album that is a concept-album based on Melville’s Moby Dick

 

This “whooshing up,” D&K say, is when “[t]he most important things, the most real things in Homer’s world, well up and take us over, hold us for a while, and then finally, let us go” (200).  The name for this in Homeric times was the word physis which “was the name for the way the most real things in the world present themselves to us” (200).  D&K consider this whooshing up to be the sacred breaking into our world and shining for all to see and they explain that “[w]hen something whooshes up it focuses and organizes everything around it…” so that “everyone understands who they are and what they are to do immediately in relation to the sacred event that is occurring” (201).  Of course, the best that they can come up with as an example in our modern age is sporting events, when some player does something unimaginable during play… I guess I’ve just never been whooshed up when watching others play sports.  I have had such wooshing experiences at live rock shows in small clubs (when a crowd wide mosh pit erupts in unison or everyone’s face melts at a guitar solo that must be from the rock gods on high – though I’ve never had this moment at an arena or large festival show though – only small, shoulder to shoulder club shows, so I can kind of get what D&K are talking about in terms of responding in a way without thought to the physis overtaking the bystanders).

D&K’s focus seems to be on the wooshing that takes over a group of people as one individual in their midst is wooshed up by the gods.  They do not entertain the individual being struck by the sacred in a moment of isolation in nature (maybe floating in the middle of lake under the star lit sky) or while reading a book or watching a movie alone or laying on the floor listening to an album start to finish with headphones on and eyes closed – these are the times that I am overcome the most by a force outside myself that I could recognize to be sacred.  I don’t quite understand why their focus is on all things shining in crowds – apart from sports giving people a communal meaning their main wooshing up example was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech on the National Mall.

This group response is where their evil really lies… because they have no absolute and objective standard of morality in their polytheistic endeavor.  D&K admit that there can be madness in the crowds, but they say we must be courageous and leap in to experience this polytheistic path. (220)  They understand that things can get turnt[3] “in new and more shining and meaningful ways” or maybe… “Sometimes, by contrast, one dances with the devil” (220).  Because we’re just getting wooshed up (overtaken by a force of the gods) in their paradigm of finding meaning, they explain that it is “[o]nly by having been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and [after having] experienced the dangerous and devastating consequences it has, does one learn to discriminate between leaders worth following and those upon whom one must turn one’s back” (220).

That final statement is brutally wicked.  Was Germany whooshed up by Hitler?  Um… Yeah.  But what if Germany had won the war?  Would Hitler then have been “the devil” when we know that the victor writes the history books?  Were many whooshed up into a violent frenzy during the multi-day LA Race Riots?  Um… Yeah.  Was the violence, arson, and looting justified?  Who gets to decide and why?  Were many whooshed up when they followed Jim Jones into his Kool-Aid suicide massacre?  Um… Yeah, and many realized they danced with the devil, but the doors were blocked by gunmen and it was too late to find a different partner to woosh them up into a new and shining dance.  Was Ishmael and the others whooshed up by Captain Ahab’s fanaticism to kill the beast?  Um… Yeah, but only Ishmael survived the whoosh!

The people who got whooshed in the examples I just provided were people who, according to D&K, hadn’t yet “acquired the skill” to let themselves “be overwhelmed” by the gods yet possess the “discrimination” to keep themselves from getting “drawn in by the rhetoric of the fanatical and dangerous demagogue” (221).   But remember, there is no way to “acquire this skill” until one has already “been taken over by the fanatical leader’s totalizing rhetoric, and experienced the dangerous and devastating consequence’s it has” (220).  An “evil art” indeed.

What D&K are selling is still essentially nihilism, which is what they are trying avoid, since they recognize nihilism fails to provide meaning in life.  They don’t et that their pitch is still nihilism.

By what standard is one to know if he is dancing with the devil or with the gods?  These whooshing forces were never all good in the Greek pantheon of the gods.  And since D&K aren’t really asking us to accept the Greek gods as being real, again I’ll ask the question but in a slightly different way, by what standard are we to judge what is good and what is evil?  The standard is one’s own opinion.  We can pick and choose what we follow..  In the end, this is still nihilism, a nihilism that has each man be his own god… because it’s truly each individual person who gets to say what whoosh is right and what whoosh is wrong, or if there is even a whoosh to be had at all.

What happens when there are two whooshing parties who come into direct contradiction with one another in terms of who they are and what they are to do and they each consider the other party to be whooshed by the devil?  Well here, we just landed back at what D&K want to avoid, sitting in the contemporary world with “no ground for choosing one course of action over any other” (15).   They offer that there are many gods that can whoosh us up and let us see the shiny good things as they really are, but we’re the final judges of what is shining or not.  Since we’re still the judges of what is right and wrong and what is sacred and shining in the D&K model of finding meaning in life, they’re still dealing the Nietzsche pill of being free to do what we whilt, which I prefer to label as Anton LaVey chose to name it – Satanism.  And in this label, we get the grandest understanding of how evil D&K’s book is – All Things Shining – because as Christians we know that Satan dances among us as an angel of light.  (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Satan deceives through telling lies, but his lies are tricky to recognize, because they’re steeped in truth.  In other words, his lies come to us in partial truths.  It is in this sense that I do try to approach all things as shining.  Every worldview and every culture and every religion and every zeitgeist has some elements of truth within them – I’m rather certain of this.  Christians would do good to point these truths out from time to time.  Since Christ’s claim is true that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), then all truth is God’s truth, no matter where it is found.  Where truth is found, declare it, use it, put it in its full context of which it is fully and directly revealed from God in the Bible.  The Apostle Paul did this when he quoted the philosophers of the Athenians (Acts 17).  We can do this too, but we must realize that when we seek the shiny things in life in this manner, we must always cling to the truth of Christ so that we are not deceived into the lie that all is one, and one is all, and that all that glitters is gold.[4]

The nuggets of truth that I am referring to that permeate all of the world are reflections of the Creator within his Creation.  In the Christian account of everything the world is now fallen from its very good original state at creation, but that does not mean that all is now evil within it… there is much that is good and much to be enjoyed and praised and thankful for within God’s world.  Through man’s natural knowledge that there is a God, known from what he has created, from God’s law written on the hearts of all men, and from God’s love for all of his creation in which he showers both the righteous and the wicked with good gifts in this temporal realm, the sacred things of beauty and truth bubble up all around us.  It is in this sense that I highly appreciate D&K’s call for us all to develop the “skills for responding to the manifold senses of the sacred that still linger unappreciated at the margins of our disenchanted world” (222).  It is here in the margins that I have seen people tend to embrace and enjoy the full freedom of being who they want to be, being their own god creating their own little kingdoms, and with their creative juices unstifled by the restrictions and conformity of society they really do shine and stand out among the herd, and people are drawn to such whooshed up individuals and they find their identity and meaning in such communities.   From my Christian perspective, they are letting the image of God that they bare (as broken as it may be) shine as they show off their creative abilities and flair, as they reflect their Creator that they may not personally know in the slightest.

In this way, all things are shining for a time.  Apart from God, however, there is no light – only darkness.  And God’s patience is running out.

 

[1] All parenthetical numbers are references to the page numbers within All Things Shining by Dreyfus and Kelly that was published in 2011 by Free Press.

[2] A line I stole from the epic song, “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain.

[3] Slang for “get really wasted and have a ton of fun” according to Urban Dictionary, but I’ve heard it used by many in Gen Z to refer to something very akin to getting whooshed up in a communal sense (and it sounds so much more lit to get turnt than to get whooshed).

[4] “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin lyric reference.

Metallica – “Broken, beat, and scarred. We die hard.”

“Broken, beat, and scarred.  We die hard.  What doesn’t kill us, makes us more strong.  We rise, we fall, we get up again.  What doesn’t kill us makes us more strong.  Broken, beat, and scarred.  We die hard!!!”

Some pretty intense lyrics if we think about them.  They come from the Metallica song, “Broken, beat, and scarred.”

metallica

When I read the writings of the apostle Paul and hear about his flogging, stonings, and imprisonments, I think that I surely haven’t suffered much for my Christian faith.  Despite all of Paul’s persecutions he kept rising up again.  Forget John McClane – The Apostle Paul knew what it meant to “Die Hard.”  I have not yet shed blood for my faith in Jesus in Christ.  I might never do so, but the words of Paul still ring true for me and all of us when he says that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope doesn’t disappoint us.

Yet, I know I complain a lot about my present sufferings.  I think most of us do.  But here, coming from Metallica, I am reminded that what doesn’t kill us makes us more strong.  I think of Paul when he said, “When I am weak, I am strong.”  When he’s weak, he has no choice but to cling to God!  When he is holding on to God, then he is strong.

One complaint against Christianity is the problem of evil and suffering in the world.  It’s easy to say “what doesn’t kill us makes us more strong” when it’s simple sufferings, broken arm a bad breakup, but what about genocide, rape, a four-year old with cancer.  We tend to want to wave our fist at God!  What’s your problem???  Why didn’t you stop this.  We can’t see the good that can come from it.  What loving Father would allow such a thing to his children – stronger – yea right!

The answer lies in Jesus.  Being God, perfect and sinless, he still suffered.  He suffered on our behalf, because of our shortcomings.  It lies in God’s patience with us!  Does he want pain and suffering for us – no!  But he allows it.  If he were to intervene now, what would that mean for everyone who doesn’t know him.  He is patient in his return, waiting for more people to come to repentance?  It’s his will that no man should eternally perish – sadly, we are set to face a physical death as our exodus from this life.  The answer won’t satisfy everybody and I hope and pray that I stand firm in the faith and trust God’s plan of redemption when the worst of the worst hits my life.  In the end, at Christ’s return, those of us who died in Christ will be raised to new life with bodies that will never be broken, beat, or scarred.

100. Songs of Protest and Apocalypse


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Black Sabbath Lyrics Vol. 2 2

For episode 100 of Reconnect, Andy interviews Joe Bongiorno, about his illustrated rock lyric book, Black Sabbath The Illustrated Lyrics, Vo1. 2: Songs of Protest and Apocalypse.  Bongiorno’s book explains the lyrics of Black Sabbaths’ 2nd album, Paranoid.  Some listeners might be shocked to hear about a Black Sabbath themed episode of a podcast dedicated to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and if that is the case, please go back to episode 68 where Andy interviewed Joe about Volume 1.

Bongiorno explains how Paranoid is a collection of songs that are “ultimately polemics infused in the discourse of apocalyptic literature (with implications both ancient and modern), there is the every-present reminder that there is hope and a greater purpose at work.”

In their album Paranoid, Black Sabbath challenges us to consider the nature of war, evil, depression, addiction, and the failures of transhumanism.  They warns us against aligning ourselves with Satan, and instead point us to hope in the supernatural king that will take earth under his wings.  As Bongiorno demonstrates that the imagery of Geezer Butler’s lyrics is knowingly derived from the Bible, it becomes clear that Black Sabbath’s album Paranoid is calling us to repentance, a turning from a sin and a turning to God and the salvation that he alone can bring.

Show Links:

Joyous Wolf

The Royal Publisher of Oz

Black Sabbath The Illustrated Lyrics

Geezer says his lyrics come from the Bible!

Episode 68 – Andy’s first interview with Joe

68. Supernatural Horror in Music

>> Listen to the Episode Here! <<
(Right click and “save as” to download the mp3 file)

Or listen in iTunes.

sabbath-lyrics

Joe Bongiorno is the owner and operator of The Royal Publisher of Oz.  He serves as the guest for the 2016 Reconnect Halloween Special to discuss Supernatural Horror in Music, the subtitle for his book, Black Sabbath The Illustrated Lyrics Volume 1.

For many Reconnect listeners, it might come as a shock that a podcast dedicated to sharing and defending the Good News of Jesus Christ has an entire episode devoted to the lyrics of Black Sabbath, much less a Halloween special episode, however, Bongiorno took a surprising approach on how to start his eight volume anthology.  Even before the inside title page, publisher information, copyright listings, ISBN numbers, and table of contents, the first words are from the Bible.  Bongiorno chose to start Black Sabbath The Illustrated Lyrics by quoting, Acts 26:17-18: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn away from darkness to the light, away from the power of Satan and to God.”  This is not what most people would think about to describe a rock n roll band, and certainly not what they would first think of for Black Sabbath.

Bongiorno shares the distinctions between supernatural horror and natural horror and explains examples of supernatural horror within Black Sabbath’s first album.  The horrors and consequences of the occult are revealed, a Christ-like figure emerges as a wizard that demons fear, the devil woos a woman he loves (or is it all deception?), while the wicked world spins on a man receive omens in the sky that he ignores to his and our peril, while all along at the center of the album, the “wall of sleep is lying broken” as the “sun shines in, you have awoken.” There is hope.  There is light.

The centerpiece message of “Behind the Wall of Sleep” contains what Bongiorno thinks is the underlying philosophy of Black Sabbath’s full body of work: “Now from darkness, there springs light.”  Over, and over, and over again, light triumphs over darkness in the metanarative of Black Sabbath’s lyrics.  Paul echoes this sentiment pointing us back to creation and the renewal of man that comes through Jesus Christ: “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Show Links:

Black Sabbath The Illustrated Lyrics

The Royal Publisher of Oz

The Star Wars Expanded Universe Timeline

Black Sabbath Live in Paris 1970 (Full Show)

The Highway to Hell and the The Stairway to Heaven

I saw an image on a friend’s Facebook wall.  It was shared from a radio station’s page, presumably a rock station with the references to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.

highway vs. stairwayI decided to share it to my Contradict – They Can’t All Be True Facebook page.  To stick to the basic theme of the page, I typically share posts that demonstrate some sort of exclusive statement or contradiction or inconsistency within religious teachings, worldview thinking, or moral codes.  I thought that the image of a highway versus a stairway are very contrasting by nature.  One is typically flat, wide, and fast, whereas the other is typically narrow, ascending, and not fast-going.  Their destinations were also very different.  The fast tract leads to hell.  The steps lead to heaven.

Bionically speaking these places are exact opposites.  Their natures, though both eternal, are contradictory.  Hell is a place of unrest.  It’s a place of fire that cannot be quenched, yet it’s also a place of total darkness.  Agony and misery belong for eternity for those in hell, and there is no hope… just despair.  (Matthew 25:41, Matthew 8:12, Revelation 14:11, Luke 16:24, and 2 Thessalonians 1:9 to list a few verses)  Heaven is a place of eternal rest.  It’s a place of peace.  A place where we will see the Lord face to face.  There will be no hardships, no suffering, no evil, no death.  The glory of the Lord shall light heaven forever.  (Revelation 22:4, Revelation 7:16-17, and Revelation 21:23-25)

From what we know in Scripture, the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ.  (John 14:6) Those who believe shall have eternal life and those who do not shall be eternally condemned.  (John 3:36).  There is no other name than Jesus’ by which we can be saved. (Acts 4:12)  With this in mind, all roads besides the path that Christ provides must lead to hell, that is if the Words of the Bible are true, which I most certainly do believe to be the case.

Jesus spoke of a broad road that leads to destruction. He says that many enter through it.  (Matthew 7:13)  I think the many religions of this fallen and depraved world make up the lanes of this massive highway to hell.  Jesus also spoke of a narrow road that leads to heaven. He said few find it.  (Matthew 7:14)  Elsewhere Jesus speaks of a great wedding banquet to which many are called but few are chosen.  (Matthew 22)  From Jesus’ words we can see that it does appear that many more will be in hell than those in heaven.  Simply looking at the number of Christians in the world compared to the number of non-Christians, this certainly appears to be the situation.

To further support the Biblical nature of this radio station’s image, Scripture does speak of a “Stairway to Heaven”.  It’s found in a dream that Jacob had at Bethel.  (Genesis 28:12)  Jesus later references this dream and places himself into the dream as the “Stairway to Heaven.” (John 1:51)  In other words, Jesus is the “Stairway to Heaven”.

Based on the Word of God, I take the stance that it is a fact that there’s a “Highway to Hell” and a “Stairway to Heaven” and as their descriptions imply, many more will take the highway.  Though these are song lyrics, it doesn’t mean they don’t echo the truth of Scripture in some ways.  I shared this image on Facebook and then wrote this blog post to encourage us to consider the road we are on and to note that there is still time to change the one you’re on if it’s the highway.  And if you are on the stairway, it’s time to start inviting more people to Jesus.


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“You will die!” – One approach to Christian Apologetics

Dear readers, whoever you are.

This isn’t exactly what one usually would consider when they think of defending the Christian faith; the statement, “You will die.”  It’s not pretty.  It’s not nice.  We try not to think about it.  We try to push death out of our minds.  That’s why they call them casualties and not deaths!  That’s why they call them viruses, or the bird flu, or the swine flu, and not plagues! (Paraphrasing Henry Rollins) We don’t want to think about death!

To quote the Black Sabbath song, “After Forever,” “When you think about death do you keep your cool?”

Well to quote the song more, “I’ll be prepared when you’re lonely and scared at the end of our days.”  The answer in that song by Black Sabbath of course is “Jesus Christ is the only way to love.”

I know a pastor who sets up shop at university campuses.  He shares the good news of salvation with people.  However, if a person rejects the news.  If they are complacent, if they are ambivalent, he challenges them to consider the alternatives… what if there is no God, then you die and you are in the ground.  What if there is a God?  And you have rejected him? What if that God is Jesus?  What then?  Are you so sure… do you keep your cool when you think about death?

He told one student, “Well, just remember you are going to die.”  And the student left the conversation at that, but came back to him a month later and said, “Do you remember the last thing you said to me?”  The pastor did not.  The student said it had troubled him ever sense talking to him.  He finally came face to face with his own personal death, and was he so sure… was he so certain that he would be reincarnated as his faith taught.  The pastor shared, “Jesus will save you from that death. He paid for all of your sins.”

Part of apologetics is just properly explaining the Christian faith, and God’s Word can be divided into two camps, Law, and Gospel.  God’s Law shows us that we are sinners, that God’s wrath is upon us and that we justly deserve his eternal punishment.  God’s Gospel shows us our savior.  To learn more about Law and Gospel, click here.

So, you will die.  Worried?  Well, maybe you shouldn’t be complacent?  Don’t put off considering what lies beyond this life.  To be fair, I’ll say look to all religions, but I’d recommend looking to Christianity first, and I say this because it is objective, read 1 Corinthians 15 to know what I mean. That passage will show you the center of the Christian faith.  It will tell you where the Christian faith stands or falls.  It will show you that you are a sinner and that you will die for those sins, yet it also will show you the good news that Jesus died for sins, was buried, and on the third day rose from the grave as according to the Scriptures.

For more on sharing the Gospel on a college campus using a table-top evangelism style approach, listen to Reconnect Episode 6: Contradict – Campus Evangelism.

>>>Order Andy Wrasman’s book, Contradict- They Can’t All Be True.<<<