68. Supernatural Horror in Music

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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.

“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.<<<

Reconnect 15. Christian Freedom, Eucatastrophes, and Rock ‘N’ Roll

>>>Episode 15 – Click here to listen! Right click to download.<<<

Listen in iTunes!

First Reconnect July Fourth Special!  Andy discusses the concept of “Christian Freedom” with Pastor Samwise Praetorius (Samuel Schuldheisz) by addressing the eucatastrophes of fairy stories and the Gospel connections that can be made with rock songs.  They both share their top three favorite rock songs to use for sharing the Gospel. If you don’t know how that’s possible, you need to give this episode a listen. 

Reconnect Episode 15Listen to Episode 15 Here.

Videos of Andy and Pastor Sam’s favorite Rock ‘N’ Roll Evangelism Songs:

Please listen to episode before watching these videos of our favorite rock songs to use when sharing the Gospel.  I’m keeping the song titles and bands a secret on this page to not spoil the fun when listening to the episode.  We’d love to hear your feedback on our approach and song selections.  If the linked videos are ever removed, please send me an email at andy@contradictmovement.org to notify me.

Andy’s third favorite rock song for evangelism
Andy’s second favorite rock song for evangelism (the studio version is better but here you can see the drummer in action)
Andy’s top favorite rock song for evangelism

Sam’s third favorite rock song for evangelism
Sam’s second favorite rock song for evangelism
Sam’s top favorite rock song for evangelism

Other Episode links:

Pastor Sam’s blog: E-nkings
Pastor Sam’s congregation’s website: Redeemer Lutheran
“Faith and Fairy Tales” by Pastor Sam
1517 The Legacy Project

Metallica – “ONE” (Not appropriate for Christians – WHAT?)

I’ve been taking a trip down memory  lane listening to music from that I listened to from the mid 90s to early 00s. Mostly the songs that were released during that time frame, from bands like Staind, Flaw, Linkin Park, Rage Against the Machine, Stereomudd, Systematic, Saliva, Puddle of Mud, and Godsmack, of which most of these bands are no longer playing, or virtually irrelevant, just rehashing the same stuff without being as good as their first albums.  And these are far from my favorite bands, and I can’t praise all of their songs lyrically or musically.

Somehow, I landed on Metallica, listening to the some of the songs off Death Magnetic, and I thought, how does this new CD sound compared to their pre-Black album days.  It seems like they were trying go back to their pre-Black album days on a lot of the songs, so I listened to the song “One” to hear the differences.  And I seem to think the Death Magnetic album is as good or better for them playing that style of Metallica music, but man, “One” is one amazing song.  I’m not sure exactly why, but it was always my favorite Metallica song, I think because of its progression from starting with melodic picking of single notes with a long running lead solo over it all until finally exploding into a fierce rhythm of power chords that actually fit the story of the song!  And maybe that’s it, I like that the song has a story to it and it makes me think a little, or a lot depending on the mood I’m in at the time.

And thinking of this song now, for me, mostly it just brings me back to a high school Sunday school class.  Our church had a student intern who was with us for just one year as he was preparing to be a Director of Christian Education (essentially a youth pastor in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod).  One of his classes had us go through and write the lyrics to our favorite non-Christian song.  Not being one to usually sing to songs outside of church settings or memorize lyrics since I’m usually listening to the music and prefer it most when there is no singing but just axe-slaying being done, I could only come up with the lyrics to this one Metallica song, though it wasn’t my favorite song at the time.  So I wrote down, what I could remember of it:

imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute Horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body, my holding cell
Landmine has
Taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Leaving me with a life in hell!
Oh please God help me.
Help me.

This is the image of the "One" in the song,  from the official video for the song, the man who lost his arms, legs, sight, speech, and hearing from war.

This is the image of the “One” in the song, from the official video for the song, the man who lost his arms, legs, sight, speech, and hearing from war.

We then had to go around the room, taking turns reading our lyrics.  After everyone read their lyrics, the intern leader would ask why we listen to it and proceed to tell us all the reasons what we are listening to is not God pleasing and we shouldn’t listen to it.  He then told us of a bunch of Christian bands we should listen to instead and explained that after none of us could produce a “good” song to listen to that wasn’t Christian we should only listen to Christian songs.

For my song, he had no clue what the song was about in its full lyrical story.  He wanted to know why it would be at all God pleasing to hear a song about a guy who has lost everything and is living in hell.  I told him how it was a song that magnified the horrors of war and that it should make us think twice before rushing for bloodshed, and it should make us think of those who have suffered tragically in war.  I told him that it was a song about a guy who lost all his limbs, hearing, sight, and speech from a landmine explosion in war.  I explained that it made me think more about what it means to have life, and it makes me thankful for what I do have from God and that at any moment it could be taken from me if God wills it.  And I added, that the guy in the song recognizes that he needs help, and that the only person who can help him is God!  So what’s so wrong with that?  He didn’t like my explanation of why I would listen to the song… but I forget what he said in reply. I just remember that the song was still rejected as completely inappropriate for  a Christian to listen to.

What do you think?  Should Christians only listen to Christian music?  Is it evil to listen to the music that I have been listening to this week?

I think there are some guiding principles one should take when listening to music like this, and mostly, it’s read Romans 14.  If it’s unclean for you, don’t make it unclean for everyone else.  And it it’s clean for you, but not for another brother or sister in Christ, then don’t subject them to the music, don’t flaunt it in front of them.  Maybe some would argue that I’m doing that with this post – what do you think?

As for the song “One”, I think what I draw from the song is good.  It makes me think of others who are suffering, physically, emotionally, and through isolation, and I think of how Jesus is the only one who can help them, help them in the way that they need, just as he was able to help the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  And how does Jesus reach them today?  Through his church, through his Word and through the sacraments.  Not sure how a guy who can’t hear, see, talk, or move will get God’s grace through those means, but I trust that God is not bound by any means!