Firstly let’s admit that this is a beautiful song. Reading the comments on the youtube page and you can see lots of people are side tracked by Jay’s looks before looking closer at the lyrics.
I’m not sure if Jay Brannan is trying to get himself shot, blown up, killed or generally have his albums burnt in the street or just have his concerts picketed. (Please don’t be confused, I’m not suggesting that anyone actually do any of those things. And I think part of my point is that there are some religious fanatics who’d use their faith as a pretext to do those things)
And as someone who’s heading to Israel later in the year I’m starting to test out further how I feel about various issues. I don’t think one holiday with me is going to solve issues but I think seeing and feeling first hand will help me wrestle with the ideas. (Wrestling is a great metaphor for faith, it shouldn’t be simple, shouldn’t be easy, it’s blood, guts and it’s complicated. It’s also a trope for Islam, Judaism and Christianity.)
The chorus of the song goes thus:
“cuz virgins don’t have babies
and water isn’t wine
and there’s a holy spirit maybe
but she would never rent a room with walls built by mankind”
For me miracles are complicated. I don’t have any trouble with some of the freaky Biblical miracles. Plagues on a nation, fair enough- and if you look each plague relates to an Egyptian God or Goddess, clever that. Water into wine, virgins giving birth, dead people living, leprosy being healed and the list goes on. I gave a perspective on miracles happening now here: http://tiny.cc/benblog
I like the fact Jay calls the Holy Spirit by the feminine. That’s a nice little touch but the point of the Holy Spirit being the Holy Spirit is that she does “rent a room” within us. That’s the whole point of her being a comforter, an impartation of the divine. She comes in us, despite us being imperfect, jars of clay and makes something ordinary extraordinary.
“mary and mohammed
are screaming through the clouds
for you to lay your goddamned arms down
rip your bigot roots up from the earth and salt the goddamned ground”
Now, here’s where I start to worry a little. I know a little of Islam and I know that Jesus appears as a figure in the Koran- isa. I don’t know if Mary turns up at all and I’m not sure how Christians or Muslims would feel about putting either/both characters in “the clouds”. Brannan is going to set up that there’s no heaven, no hereafter. So it’s M&M are just figures in the clouds, characters from a book (or in the case, books).
He’s also, I think, tarring all religious/people of faith as bigots. And I know some wonderful, wise people of awesome faith who challenge the status quo without having to tool up and shoot the crowd. My friend Chris came to Greenbelt with me and had some of his boundaries pushed. We listened to a few talks by Peter Rollins (who is an energetic genius who’s on something and I want a few grammes of whatever it is- Kirkegaard probably)
He then goes on to talk about Athena and Zeus and freely admits “this story’s clearly bullshit”. Wars were waged in the name of Athena and of Zeus. Careful, or we’ll slip into the dissertation I wrote on Ancient Greek religion and mythology with specific relation to ideas and notions of the household and the city state (referencing the Oresteia closely).
On a bleak note Brannan warns listeners that “no one’s coming to save you“.
I guess if there’s no heaven and it’s just Outer Space then the idea that no one’s coming to save me and I need to save myself and those around me from turning the world into a living hell. It wouldn’t be a blog post from me if I didn’t mention a quote from a play or something I studied donkey’s years ago that gets nudged by something I’m currently reading or listening to. In Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, the not so good Doctor meets Mephistopheles and asks “Where is Hell?” and get the reply
“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it./ Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God,/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,/ Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/ In being deprived of everlasting bliss?”
Love it. We’re not running the risk of making the world hell, we’re already there. Which, I think, should make us all pause. I like the song, I’m just not sure I like all the philosophy is espouses. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have an artistic merit.
Or is a song just a song.