Lightning Crashes LiVE

 

It seems that our culture in its ever increasing narrative against anything biblical and supernatural must be something that should be doubted, if not scoffed at. Take the recent discovery that Lebanese ancestry share 90% or more of their genetics with the Canaanites, who biblically, were considered to be arch-enemies of the Israelites. The Israelites were commanded by God to exterminate the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-18). The opportunity commonly seized by journalists is to show that “science” yet again disproves one of the many claims of the bible. In this case that the Bible has wrongfully claimed the Israelites wiped out the Canaanites; three examples can be found here, here and here.    Journalists, more than ever, have been attacking straw men and have lacked serious rigour in their reporting (all this is aside from the endless fake news propagated by mainstream media). Although the findings of the genetic lineage with modern Lebanese people and the Canaanites are indeed fascinating, there is a small problem. The Biblical account regarding the Canaanites does not lay claim that all the Canaanites were exterminated, since they survived Joshua’s invasion.  The first chapter in Judges lists areas in which the Canaanites persevered. Judges 1:30-32 states that:

Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor. Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out.

Thus, all the recent journalistic pieces about the Canaanites being exterminated are just patently false according to the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. This is all to say that the narrative against Biblical claims is pervasive and is found everywhere including newspapers, documentaries, TV shows, lecture halls and even song lyrics in popular bands such as LiVE. The attacks on Christianity are so widespread that they find themselves in verses of songs. Let me first explain who LiVE is and their connection to the spiritual in general and Christianity in specific.

For anyone, familiar with the band LiVE, the title of this piece is a play on words.  “Lightning Crashes” was a hit single by LiVE in 1994. It is a song which brought significant attention to LiVE.  This song, among others, from the album Throwing Copper, catapulted LiVE into the limelight for a number of years.  They have enjoyed a successful musical career since then. LiVE has been active for close to 30 years, forming in 1989 and continuing until the present, with only a 3 year hiatus from 2009-2012; the lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk had left the band for 7 years to pursue a solo career. The other members of LiVE (Chad Gracey, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Taylor) joined members of Candlebox (lead singer Kevin Martin and guitarist Sean Hennesy) to form The Gracious Few.

On July 14, LiVE was set to perform at Ottawa’s annual Bluesfest. After a long day at work and a session of tennis, I had made a last minute decision to attend the show.  I parked right in front of my alma mater, the Dominican University College, and made the ten minute trek toward the Bluesfest venue; throughout the walk it was raining. It was pouring rain by the time I had purchased my ticket and gotten into the concert area.  I had seen LiVE three previous times, twice at Bluesfest and once in Hull, Quebec, at the Robert Guertin Centre, each of their performances were always tight instrumentally and vocally; they’ve also always exuded high energy. They started off the concert with their hard-driving hit song, “All Over You,” also from the album Throwing Copper. They continued with two songs from their 1991 album, Mental Jewelry: Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition) and Pain Lies on the Riverside.  At the conclusion of the second, the rain had significantly intensified; to the point where water was flowing several inches high from where I was standing.  Despite holding an umbrella, my shoes and the rest of my clothing were completely soaked at this point. The show was cut short in the middle of their third song since lightning “crashed” through the amplification.  Subsequently, the main stage was closed and a red emergency message appeared on screens throughout the Bluesfest grounds urging people to leave calmly. Only two and a half songs were played and the show was over.

The inspiration and real motivation for writing this piece is to offer a reflection upon the second song that LiVE had performed but first it will be worthwhile to examine their progression since the time it was released (1991).    Taking a look at a couple of songs written over 9 years after will help in discerning this progression.  Take for instance, the lyrics to the song “They Stood up for Love”, a track off of their 2000 album, The Distance to Here, which at all glances, seems to refer to God’s immanence and transcendence. One could make the case that the lyrics contain hints of panentheism in the two larger verses below, which some Christian philosophers and theologians have been attracted to in recent years:

I give my heart and soul to the One

We spend all of our lives going out of our minds
Looking back to our birth, forward to our demise
Even scientists say, everything is just light
Not created, destroyed but eternally bright
Masters in every time, Lord in everyplace
Those who stood up for love down in spite of the hate
In spite of the hate

Who put the flower in the barrel of that gun?
Who lit the candle that started the fire,
Burnt down the fortress, the throne?
Who could house all the refugees in a single shack
or a lowly bungalow?
Who lives in a different dimension, free from the struggles we know? …

 

We made it to the moon but we can’t make it home
Waiting on a rescue that never comes, made it to the moon
But we can’t make it home, maybe home is where the heart is given up,

to the One, to the One

 

The song in my estimation contains many valuable elements for listeners to reflect upon. It has the existential cry for God, when Kowalczyk states: “But we can’t make it home, maybe home is where the heart is given up, to the One, to the One.”  It is very similar to when Augustine states in his Confessions: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” In other words, we can never fully be at peace until we not only accept the truth of Christ but align ourselves with His will which is to bring forth goodness, love, truth, justice and righteousness. Kowalczyk’s words: “We spend all of our lives going out of our minds. Looking back to our birth, forward to our demise,” reminds me of the great mathematician and Christian philosopher, Blaise Pascal’s reflection in his grand work, Pensées, where he considers the absurdity of how modern humans live their lives avoiding the true consequences of life, when he states:

I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, not what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, nor even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape (Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 11).

Thus, given the various deep existential realizations contained within the song of God’s immanence in the world and its importance to our lives, it seems that Kowalczyk and members of LiVE see the true significance of not only a personal God’s existence but also his action in our lives.

Moving forward toward their 2003 album, Birds of Pray, there are some interesting lyrics written by Kowalczyk, in the song “Heaven”, where he states:

You don’t need no friends get back your faith again, you have the power to believe another dissident, take back your evidence, it has no power to deceive… I don’t need no-one to tell me about heaven, I look at my daughter, and I believe. I don’t need no proof when it comes to God and truth. I can see the sunset and I perceive.

First thing to note is that God, evidence and truth cannot be opposed to one another, as Kowalczyk seems to indicate.  Thus, faith and evidence need not be opposed to one another.  So, although, regrettably, he seems to be expounding some sort of fideism, he nonetheless emphasizes the importance of belief in God, heaven and truth, even if what appears to be, inconsistently.  The last verse is reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ famous saying: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?)

Now, we examine the song in question that was performed at the concert: Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition), found in Mental Jewelry, an album that had some connections to various different schools of thought.  It is worth noting, that the subtitle of the song itself is quite revealing.  This would provide an inkling to the anti-Christian nature of the lyrics to Operation Spirit.  To see what I mean, here are the lyrics to the song:

Heard a lot of talk about the ocean
Heard a lot of talk about the sea
Heard a lot of talk about a lot of things
Never meant that much to me

Heard a lot of talk about my spirit
Heard a lot of talk about my soul
But I decided that anxiety and pain
Were better friends
So I let it go

Did you let it go?
Let’s get it back
Let’s get it back together

Heard a lot of talk about this Jesus
A man of love, and a man of strength
But what a man was two thousand years ago
means nothing at all to me today

He could have been telling me about my
higher self
But he only lives inside my prayer
So what he was may have been beautiful
But the pain is right now
And right here

Let it go!
Let it go!
Let it go, my friend
And let’s get it back
Let’s get it back together

I believe that this song, like much of contemporary Western culture, which is inundated with multicultural and secular pretensions, fits into an ever growing narrative that denies core Christian doctrines such as the hypostatic union, i.e., the union of Christ’s divine and human natures. Interestingly, I had never heard them perform this song live and I wondered to myself why they had decided to do so (aside from it being a single from their first album: Mental Jewelry). I also wondered to what extent Kowalczyk or the bassist Patrick Dahlheimer (who seem to be the principal authors of the song) held the position expounded within the song.  Especially considering that they have, from what I presumed (from the lyrics of songs of subsequent albums), experienced a spiritual progression in their lives.  It seemed to me that they had developed a somewhat closer spiritual affinity to Christianity since the release of Mental Jewelry in 1991.  If they were not embracing Christianity, it seems that given their progressions, this would be something, to possibly, come in the future.  A case that I tried to make with the rich content of the two previous songs from albums released in 2000 and 2003, respectively.

The album, Mental Jewelry, seemed to be influenced by the works of Indian philosopher: Jiddu Krishnamurti’s thought who had at one point been associated with the occultist Theosophical Society; a society that was spearheaded by the esoteric and controversial theosophist, Helena Blavatsky. Blavatsky and those associated with the Theosophical Society had deep pantheist inclinations. They also denied the historicity of the gospels.  Blavatsky viewed the gospels as containing some truths about spiritual initiation – a belief of ten levels of spiritual development (Christhood is considered to be at the seventh). The following quotation depicts Blavatsky’s take on the gospels and Jesus Christ:

For me Jesus Christ, i.e., the Man-God of the Christians, copied from the Avatâras of every country, from the Hindu Krishna as well as the Egyptian Horus, was never a historical person. He is a deified personification of the glorified type of the great Hierophants of the Temples, and his story, as told in the New Testament, is an allegory, assuredly containing profound esoteric truths, but still an allegory. . . . The legend of which I speak is founded, as I have demonstrated over and over again in my writings and my notes, on the existence of a personage called Jehoshua (from which Jesus has been made) born at Lüd or Lydda about 120 years before the modern era. (H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Vol. IX, 1962: 224-5)

This explains much of the pervasive thought of some “skeptics” who deny the historicity of the existence of Jesus. Following this denial of Christ’s historical reality have been the works of Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price. In Canada, more than 10 years ago there was the book, The Pagan Christ: Rediscovering the Lost Light, by Tom Harpur (a lapsed Anglican priest) who also followed this line of thought.  Nonetheless, denial of the historicity of Jesus is something that has been sharply criticized by even non-believing New Testament scholars such as Bart Ehrman in his work Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. Here is an excellent lecture by Dr. Gary Habermas who wrote his dissertation on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, providing evidence concerning the life of Jesus and the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M

Krishnamurti’s works may have very well been influenced by this contact with the Theosophical Society who expounded that Jesus was a legend based on a Christ like archetype.

The song itself, as much of LiVE’s lyrics, relates to what appears to be a man’s existential crisis. Kowalczyk and the rest of the band members were roughly 20 years old at the time the song was released. The song itself has a self-destructive tone to it, when it states that “anxiety and pain were better friends.”  It seems as though an emphasis is being put on suffering, since the beauty of life is being consumed by bitterness.  It also represents mere angst and discontent with the Christian faith, more so than an actual argument against Jesus’ divinity. One can only speculate that perhaps, in a young man’s life, there may be anger toward Christ because of unfilled prayer.  Yet, sometimes it is what we ask for that needs to be re-examined.  Or perhaps it is a rebellion against God fueled by immoral proclivities? I know that, I, as a teenager who was straying away from his faith, once presented these lyrics to a very devout Catholic friend, who was extremely appalled that I would ever show him such lyrics. At the time, I was facing my own spiritual demons.  I was trying to justify or find comfort in my doubts of the Catholic faith; something spawned by years of secular indoctrination at the hands of an educational system where unbelieving teachers foisted their beliefs upon unsuspecting students.  Once this is combined with a pop culture that denigrates human sexuality to mere insatiable and selfish pleasures of the flesh, one need not wonder too hard why so many young people stray away from the Christian faith in high school and university. In the end, tragically, in my personal life, I was trying to wish God away in order to follow ignoble pursuits.  I was grasping at any means necessary to deny Christian truths; sometimes science infused by metaphysical naturalism was a weapon for such a cause, as were lyrics to songs such as these.  Little did I know about the devastating effects that secular indoctrination and metaphysical untruths would have upon my life. It wasn’t until much later on that I was forced to face the truth of God’s existence, Jesus’ authentic claims to divinity and the evidence for the resurrection (all of which have rich resources, written by many Christian philosophers and theologians). If anyone is interested in examining some of the evidence for these claims, they can look to William Lane Craig’s ministry website and his unparalleled book, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics. The aforementioned arguments which present a strong case for the truth of Christianity along with a set of personal experiences, lead me back to the way, the truth and the life. I had suffered from what secular philosopher, Thomas Nagel, had dubbed “the cosmic authority problem,” in his book 1997 book, The Last Stand:

My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and desiring as fundamental features of the world. Instead they become epiphenomena, generated incidentally by a process that can be entirely explained by the operation of the non-teleological laws of physics on the material of which we and our environments are all composed. There might still be thought to be a religious threat in the existence of the laws of physics themselves, and indeed the existence of anything at all, but it seems to be less alarming to most atheists. (Nagel, The Last Stand, 130-131).

One wonders if Kowalczyk and Dahlheimer and the rest of LiVE band who support those lyrics had suffered or still suffer from the cosmic authority problem. For me, it was the interplay of both faith and reason that led me away from the position expounded in “Operation Spirit”. I invite those like Kowalczyk, Dahlheimer and others, who have doubts about God and/or the truth of Christianity, to examine the philosophical, theological and historical arguments associated with Jesus’ divine self-understanding and the resurrection. That night’s incident cannot help but make me wonder, if the lightning that crashed LiVE’s concert was part of God’s providential plan.

 

 

 

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