Thursday, December 06, 2007

Militant , Hilarious Discontent(part 2 of Jewish Violent Sexy Prayers)

"Militant , Hilarious Discontent(part 2 of 'Jewish Violent Sexy Prayers')"

When a coveted Rolling Stone magazine review of a record includes the phrase "Not since the Clash..." one quickly surmises that such an artist is no slouch, or one-hit wonder..

Though the band in question, Chagall Guevara (brainchild/brainstorm of "the other" Steve Taylor) was tragically short-lived, and was in a sense a one-record wonder (for reasons completely unrelated to deep "Maybe that's why country music sucks"
for the rest of that story) it is the next phrase of the review that unpacks the timeliness and timelessness of their extraordinary gift:

"Not since the Clash has a group so effectively turned militant discontent into passionate rock & roll..."

The case could be made that "militant discontent" is the only valid motivation for anything we pray or do!

...As in militant discontent with the world as it is; church as it is found; status quo and system-as-usual. "Intercession" Walter Wink offers, "is spiritual defiance of what is,in the name of what God has promised." How can one look square at injustice, or into the eyes of a child with AIDs, and not militantly and discontently defy such circumstances to bow to Jesus and justice' pacifistically demanding and violently commanding the Kingdom show up on earth as it already is in heaven. Yanking the power of the future into existence now!

And unless that righteous and militant discontent and inteceding defiance is coupled and energized by humor, it will backfire or bommerang.



Full disclosure of thesis, and full Rolling Stone quote; note that the prophetic punch and punchline is in the final phrase.

"Not since the Clash has a group so effectively turned militant discontent into passionate rock & roll and still maintained a sense of perspective and humor, however black."

Some observations on that loaded last phrase:

Perspective IS humor.


ALL of God's humor is black.


And only humor can turn militant discontent into passionate and compassionate rock & roll....and action.

Chagall's Steve Taylor, of course, has long history with expressing himself (and his holy discontent) effectively via the mediums of humor and satire in speaking as/from/to the church.
It has, expectedly, been a costly ride. They stone prophets and comedians, you know.
At times, Taylor rode the genre to its inevitable (il)logical extreme to make a point; completely incarnating the message in a McLuhanesque and rabbinic form and format. One album was banned in Christian stores partly because one song title began with the word "I." The system didn't get the point that Taylor singing "I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good" did not mean he ever literally blew up an abortion clinic to protest the violence done there. In the video (watch it here) for the song, Taylor hilariously becomes the obssessed ice cream truck

driver who gleefully blows up clinics. It too was banned... ..which means he was faithful and successful.

He used holy humor to ironically incarnate militant discontent. And bring a prophetic word to himself and the church. As most readers here will connect, Bono dressed as the devil was a classic example of such a risky but necessary approach. As Bono once had to ask a squeaky Christian: "Have you read C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Latters"?

I fear we have not.


We need to re-read such as we drive our ice-cream trucks smack into the temple courts of
humorless religion-as-usual.

How did the church get so humorless?

Don't answer that.

Eugene Peterson already has.
Read it and weep/laugh/drive:

"Sex and Drugs in Church: Peterson on Why the System Can't Care"

"Most of the greatest rabbis were jovial... Before beginning a shiur, a learned discourse on some legal or theological topic, it was common custom to make their audiences laugh."


Among the trio of contemporary resourcers reminding us of how huge and relevant are lessons of Hebrew and rabbinic mindset and worldview, the least known (unfortunately)
is Orthodox rabbi, bussinesman (and...of course, talk-show host) David Lapin . The other two, I hope you already know, are Rob Bell and Ray VanderLaan. Please read and wrestle with these three. (A quick qualifier here that all three of these wonderful teachers have at times committed reductionism; for example, importing back into Jesus' day rabbanic traditions or sayings that may not haveyet existed fullblown then. Ben Witherington is a skilled , respectful and "friendly critic" of these detours) .

It was Rabbi Lapin I quoted above on the often-overlooked connection between rabbinic teaching and humor.

He also reminds that inherent and embedded in the very spelling and etymology of the Hebrew word for humor/laughter is the concept of this!...."militant discontent." Humor, by definition and design, is given by God for us to execute "spiritual defiance" against system norm and normal. Jesus as rule breaker is certainly the Prototype here.

Maybe this is why Lewis proposed that "Joy (laughter is the serious business of heaven." Why let hell have all the fun....and the business?

Lapin bexegetes:

"Basically, when one is miTZaCHeK (incarnating the Hebrew term for laughter), he or she is acknowledging a rupture of the natural, customary order.... In other words, the heart of laughter is a violent contrast with the natural..side of outrageous rupturing of fundamental norms. Such a rupture can be outrageously good or outrageously bad."

Did Jesus laugh and crack a joke ("Hey, did you hear the one about the moneychangers....") during his temple tantrum?

Or was he just militantly defiant; angry.

Maybe both are the same thing.

The implications of a "solemn" Jewish holiday being bathed in cathartic humor (The Rolling Stone reviewer of Chagall Guevara observes that the "black humor"of the disc is a "carthartic scream") are huge. "Rosh Hoshanna is distinguished by the repeated blowing of a ram's horn a shofar," Lapin teaches, " which interestingly enough is meant to sound both like laughter and crying."

We don't open or preach Ecclesiastes enough (Here is my U2-based plea for such a hermeneutic; and definitely read Chris Erdman here, and buy his preaching book!)). Sorrow is better than laughter; even a subset of laughter.

To directly nail the point that all prophetic intercession and intervention will be motivated and missionized by humor, Lapin again:

"Without humor and laughter, it is easy to overlook the contrast between what is and what should be. That would codemn us to spiritual stagnation-a terribe prospect!"

Does this non-Christian rabbi realizing that the "contrast between what is and should be" has been for some time and evangelical buzzword...from Amy Grant to way of George Ladd and John Wimber?

Rappi Lapin also makes an excellent case for laughter birthing not only action, but community itself; the missional brand of community that Hirsh and others would coin "communitas." Bono once spoke that "laughter is the evidence of freedom," the context of discussing their most subversive era of...well, "turning militant discontent into passionate rocknroll with black humor".

Community must be free. Which must be midwifed by rule-breaking, Egyptian-plundering humor.

And you must be in Egypt to plunder the Egyptians. And one can be in Egypt witjout being of it...

If you laugh.

Weigh and pray Beth Maynard's helpful questions about U2's "Joshua Tree":

Well, what's the book of Joshua about? It's about the Israelites' half-finished, compromised conquest of the Promised Land, demonstrating their inability to hold fast to the pure vision of Moses. And what does that half-conquest produce? A territory that has two aspects -- one of which is dedicated to Yahweh, and another of which is still enmeshed in idols, war, complacency, plunder, etc. A situation that to me echoes directly the album's original title (and its main theme of) "The Two Americas." link

Half-finished, compromised conquest seems to be the church's specialty, as well.

We need to be a bit more angry...and a lot quicker to laugh our way to freedom, communitas, and lasting change on earth.

Speaking of U2's classic "Joshua Tree," the recent twentieth anniversaryt edition has introduced us to a previously unreleased song from that era, "Wave of Sorrow," which concludes with Bono
reeling off a litany of beatitudes. As usual, he is indiscriminate (see "Hawkmoon") and thus revelatory is his rapidfire liturgical

list. Thus the phrase which to some "squeakies" borders on
bending beatitudes into blasphemy, but in actuality is a midrash on the original biblical beatitude's intent and scope"
"Blessed is the sex worker who sold her body tonight
She used what she got to save her children's life"

Pharisee alert: Steve Taylor is not in favor of blowing up abortion clinics; and Bono is not advocating prostitution...yada yada..

But that scenario is blessed...and "humorous" in that it manifests the sovereigntyof God in a hellish tragedy..

I know it doesn't make you laugh. But as a shofar should elicit, it highlights the hilarious gap between what is and could be..

Laugh so hard you cry..

...and turn your militant discontent and black humor into dancing.

For those tripped up on sexual sin, Rob Bell
"Let's talk Sex"is remedy. We have been framejacked:

"For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure. But that's only a small percentage of what sexuality is. Our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God." (Rob Bell, "Sex God," p. 42

The "full gospel" is not "Never have sex outside of marriage." But it takes a rabbi (Lappin) to enlighten us here:
You see, biblical teaching doesn;t limit itself to prohibiting incest or commanding temple sacrifices. Actually its counsel encompasses the whole range of human activity, including sex...and laughter depends on a structure of values that transcends our lives and gives them meaning. In the absence of such a structure laughter fades and dies---which is why nihilistic atheistic regimes..tended to be humorless" (p. 51)

Dear God! The church is a "nihilistic atheistic regime." That's seriously funny.
Unless we backslide into denial and "musterbation."

Stick in that Chagall Guevara CD, quick.

All legitimate, world changing intercession begins with horror, borders on having sex, and is bathed in humor.

Which is to say, one has to recognize and plunder the "militant discontent" and disconnect
by "black humor and cathartic screams" that Rolling Stone prophesied to us about.

One more review of the Chagall Guevara CD, to soundtrack our quest:

"Weaving across the broken yellow line between the eccentric and the anthemic, but urgent and aggressive at every turn, this Nashville-based guitar band recalls the salad days of a decade ago when men were men and new wave was panicky." -Chris Willman, Los Angeles Times

Jack up the panic.

Turn up the Chagall.

Let's pray.

That's funny, sexy, gently violent, and dead serious Kingdom work.

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