In this post I am launching a new series titled “Songs Jesus Would Sing.” This series is borne of my general sense of alienation from contemporary Christian music coupled with my deep affinity for music played “out there in the world” and a recognition that much of that “worldly” music conveys themes which are profoundly spiritual and consistent with that moral vision which Christians call the Kingdom of God.
For some reason, this pericope from Mark 9 has stubbornly remained in my mind:
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
In this series, I want to focus on songs that reflect a kingdom perspective whether the artists are intentional about it or not (and most are not). In cases like that, our proper response should be to fan that flame because “whoever is not against us is for us.” And the incredible thing is that the Kingdom of God is working in ways far beyond the narrow confines of our personal ecclesial existence.
The examples I will provide in this series will be unapologetically from my musical canon. For example, my knowledge of new popular music since Y2K is meager at best. I can’t name a single Beyoncé song, and I’m quite happy about that fact. At the same time, I have tickets to see “The Who at 50” in concert next year. (It was supposed to be this year but Roger Daltrey’s illness postponed the concert by six months; perhaps it should be redubbed “The Who at 51”.)
I will seek songs for the series which are (1) relatively obscure (i.e. they were never hits) or (2) relatively surprising (i.e. they were hits but not, at first blush, what you might call “kingdom material”) or (3) both.
As an example of (2), see my article “Wise Words on the Crazy Train,” which focuses on Ozzy Osbourne’s song “Crazy Train.” I was raised in a subculture that taught me to think Ozzy Osbourne was a step away from the embodiment of the anti-Christ. So how surprising it was to listen again to his most popular song and realize it gave voice to a profoundly Christian perspective.
The series will be exploring other songs in this vein which capture the vision of the Kingdom in surprising ways outside of the typical musical accompaniment of a Sunday morning service.
So stay tuned…