We were on the way to my IV treatment when I received a flash of insight. And started laughing. System of a Down was playing on the radio and the next song that came on–by Linkin Park–completely validated the comment I made to M.
“Anyone who believes that youth and folks our age don’t understand traditional Christian vocabulary like sin, redemption, forgiveness, atonement, etc. doesn’t listen to modern metal…”
I’ve got to say that most of the music I listen to: Zeppelin, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, VNV Nation, Metallica, Apoptygma Bezerk, Audioslave, etc. is religious music. It’s not necessarily *Christian* music, but it engages the fundamental issues of faith, doubt, meaning, and existence. And it often borrows traditional Christian language to talk about these issues.
Just thinking about my musical tastes, most of the music I like has two fundamental characteristics: it’s dark, and it has at least a touch of the psychedelic. It’s dark because it’s searching for answers and meaning and has come up short; it’s doubt moving to despair. In a similar way, I see modern psychedelica as mysticism searching for its source. It knows that there’s something true and real beyond the purely material but is still in search of what exactly its true center is.
In a sense, this is what Eusebius understood as preparatio evangelica. He used the phrase in connection with the Old Testament and with certain forms of Classical philosophy and poetry—they set up the culture to be receptive to the Christian message. I see in the music I hear the same searching for which the Church has the answer.
The main missional difficulty is that more often than not both the musicians and those who listen to their music have heard a Christian message and rejected it—or at least the version they were exposed to as adolescents (which is when I’m guessing most decided the Church had nothing to offer…). And to be perfectly honest, the version I was exposed to as an adolescent was pretty shallow and didn’t answer my big questions. What I do find significant though, is the pervasive presence of the traditional Christian vocabulary to discuss and address the big questions.
An invitation to a more adult version of the faith that doesn’t pretend to be able to give all the answers, that takes seriously mystery and the mystical, and that utilizes the traditional language embedded in the traditional liturgies really does have something to offer…