Category Archives: Mockingbird

Everybody Loves Free Music

Derek Webb is at it again.

Remember back in ’06 when that dude went off the deep end and just started givin’ away his music? Yup – we got the entire Mockingbird album for as cheap as free. Webb is now involved in a similar gambit, and this time has several other artists along for the ride.

On NoiseTrade.com, you can download Webb’s album The Ringing Bell for free by spamming telling three friends about the site. Or you can “pay what you want” – and let the downloading fun begin.

I found the site a month ago, when Webb’s album was available along with one or two other unknowns. When I checked today, however, it seems the download options have expanded to over 25 artists, including well-known artists like Sandra McCracken, Waterdeep, and Sixpence None the Richer.  Looks like fair trade music is catching on. Take a look.

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Mockingbird: The Postlogue

The SuqWell, I have finished up what I had proposed to do several months ago. I have thought through and posted commentary on Derek Webb’s album Mockingbird. It was a good exercise for me. As I already make an attempt to listen to lyrics in whatever song I am listening to, this discipline caused me to listen and interact with what was being said. It is easy to hear words and pasively listen. So much of our culture has been shaped by music, it is uncanny. If you look around at the trends in our society, I think you would probably see the music culture blazing the way with either songs or interviews with those artists.

Pertaining to our evangelical context, so much of the music is fluffy and light-hearted. It is like cotton-candy. It is bright and nutrition-less. Sugar no fiber. What I have appreicated about Webb’s music is that he does not shy away frmo difficult topics. He has jumped into the deep end of politics intersecting with theology. Unlike so much of our theology-less music you buy at your local Christian bookstore, next to the Precious Moments Bibles and Veggie Re-Interpretations, Webb has pressed on us and asked us to think about why wevote for who we vote for. It is one thing to be pro-life. It is another thing to know why you vote pro-life. So many have jumped on the bandwaghon because ti is the right thing to do. And it is! But they could not give two good swats at why it is wrong to abort a child. Unfortunately all of our John 3:16 posters will only strike out in the political circle.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Webb’s album. I did not feel like he was ever being a wanna-be prophet. Rather, he challenges us to THINK. Why is there so much confusion as to whether Creed or Lifehouse are ‘Christian’ bands. Could it be that our criteria for music is so low? That is, we hear someone mention “God” and we assume that they are a Christan band. Are we grasping at the wind so that we can be cool in the music arena. And when men like Webb push against the status quo we label him a blemish rather than a friend. At least his music is giving a message. Far from grunting and throwing in some ambiguous statements about eternity, Webb gets in your face and asks you to give a reason for the hope you have within you.

While I disagree with Webb’s proselytizing of pacifism, it is not without warrant. There have been plenty of theologians who have espoused such a view. The main argument I have against Webb’s pacifism is the fact that when Jesus taught his disciples to love their enemies, he was speaking to his disciples, and not the world’s discioples. When we are commanded to turn the other cheek in forgiveness, as a model of Christ who did not revile when he was reviled. One of the beauties of the Christian view of politics is that the government is a gift from God for the meting out of justice in a fallen world. If there were no retributive justice for those who raped, murdered, lied, etc., then the world would implode. The rod of the government is wielded for the protection of the righteous and punishment of the wicked – a foretaste of that glorious day when the saints will be vindicated.

When Webb says he will speak out against a rod not wielded well, he is right. However, governments that are capable will be held accountable for the sin they left unpunished. That’s right. Large, strong governments that look the other way when dictators’ sons rape and burn women will be held accountable for what they did not do. There will be a reckoning. I do believe on many levels that what has happened in the Middle East has been due to poor planning. I am sure that there was plenty of planning, but I don’t think there was planning in accordance to the territory that was invaded. That is, there was a misnuderstanding of Sunnis and Shias. That’s enough for now, I am trying to finish up my interaction with Mockingbird, not give a strategy for bringing about justice per se.

I continue to be amazed at Webb’s vulnerability on the mic. I am sure that even in his vulnerability about pride, he has to guard against the pride in being vulnerable. I know my own heart and am sure it is there for him as well as it would be for me. It is a struggle for those who are in the business of teaching God’s Word (and that is a role I think musicians are in) that sounding provocative and edgy can be a way of ponying up to our own pride and greed.

We are reminded by Webb that Christian love is naything but boring…it can be downright tantalizing.

We are challenged to live a consistent ethic of human life – a reference to a 30 second musical interlude I did not comment on until now. That is, we must be indicted for listening to sermons that give us ten ways to be a more successful Christian when there are ten chapters of Scripture we are ignoring. We will be held accountable for sitting in our newly renovated sanctuary while the inner sanctum of our lives is full of dead men’s bones. While we start the latest building campaign and there are poor men around the corner we are not reaching out to, we will be held to give a reason such oversight happened. May God help us to live such an ethic where the words we listen to and speak are overflows from our lives as a church and Christian.

The Full Series:

Mockingbird: The Album & A Dialogue
“Mockingbird”: A Dialogue
“A New Law”: A Dialogue
“A King & A Kingdom”: A Dialogue
“I Hate Everything But You”: A Dialgoue
“Rich Young Ruler”: A Dialogue
“My Enemies Are Men Like Me”: A Dialogue
“Zeros & Ones”: A Dialogue
“In God We Trust”: A Dialogue
“Please Before I Go”: A Dialogue
“Love Is Not Against the Law”: A Dialogue

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“Love Is Not Against the Law”: A Dialogue

Bacchus Temple

This is a powerful song. We have just moved from the love expressed between mutual friends and lovers, and now we are in the harder place of loving our enemies. The main reason I am not a pacifist has to do wth my distinguishing between private and public life. While I know that you cannot separate the two – they will alwys be intermingled – we still need to distinguish between the cords that are tied together. Teh command that Jesus gave to his discples is that they love their enemies. When someone slaps you, you do not return in kind. You replace a curse with a blessing. This is the freedom the Christian has from the way the world operates. We are not slaves to avenge ourselves and our rights/rites. That’s right, I said ‘rites.’ As Christians we cannot expect to have our convictions embraced ni a culture that worships the creature. When we decry the injustices of being made fun of – some of it is rightly deserved mind you – we look more like a pagan than a Christ-follower. “Hey, you can’t do that to me.” Why not? How soon we have forgotten our Lord’s words when he told us that we will be persecuted. Paul’s words to Timothy, “All those who desire to live a godly life will undergo suffering.” The righteous shall enter the Kingdom of God through violence, that is as through fire. 

So we must have an uncomfortable tension. We do not rock the vote for a Christian nation. It will never happen this side of the consummation. Nor do we sit on our backsides talking about how awful the world is. We have to get our hands dirty if we are to be light in the darkness. We are going to have to get fleas when we play with the dogs. Who ever said that the most righteous thing was to be flea-free?   

 (vs. 1)
politics or love
can make you blind or make you see
make you a slave or make you free
but only one does it all
and it’s giving up your life
for the ones you hate the most
it’s giving them your gown
when they’ve taken your clothes
it’s learning to admit
when you’ve had a hand in setting them up
in knocking them down

(chorus)
love is not against the law
love is not against the law

The Church’s politics must be martked by love. However, we don’t turn a blind eye to sin. We shine light upon it and call people to repent – even as we kneel in repentance. Unfortunately love for man alone will set anyone free. It is love for God that will free men from sin. It is a dissatisfaction for the injustice that rides people’s backs. The last stanza, for me is the most convicting. How many times I am slow in admitting I am wrong or have had a hand in unrighteousness. The things that I have propagated the most may be the things that I am most unaware of. That is, as a middle class white man I have so much more privilege than a man or woman of another race. By virtue of my parents and circle of friends, I will not have to worry about things if my world crumbles. 
 
I am not advocating scoffing at said blessings. Rather, I thank the triune God for them.However, I am also sobered by the fact that I should give my unrighteous manna to those who are hungry. I Rather than being content with the obesity of blessing I find the blessing of the wealthy man who gave away twice of what he had taken. One of the things that we, the materially blessed ones, must remember is that everything we have received is a gift. We did not earn these things.

Whether we like to admit it or not, and it may make a puddle in your march to glory, we need to look out for those in need. Too mnay times we have bought into the lie that the government and social welfare is the replacement for the church. Instead, of just ladling soup and patting people on the back, we need to re-adjust our vision of ministry to the poor. We need to think through how we might be able to bless the poor.

(vs. 2)
are we defending life
when we just pick and choose
lives acceptable to lose
and which ones to defend
‘cause you cannot choose your friends
but you choose your enemies
and what if they were one
one and the same
could you find a way
to love them both the same
to give them your name
(chorus)

This ‘privilege’ is what Webb is keying on when he says we can’t choose our friends…But we choose our enemies everyday. On second thought, perhaps Webb is saying that all men are supposed to be our friends. In this way we cannot choose them.Either one works nicely. Too many times in the name of social justice for the unborn we have forgotten social justice for the less fortunate who have had their voices muted. That is, if both parties were pro-life it should be harder than we assume on who to vote for. What if the one issue were gone? How would you vote? Have you thought of all the implications of a libertine or minimal government? Do we blanket common grace on humanity without relaizing that without proper governors, the rich will eat the poor? Just questions…

But the Christian life is more than just pursuing social justice isn’t it? Isn’t it the ability to love the one who ignorantly hates you? Isn’t it being able to bless the cursing asses (for those who are taken back by my language, see Num 22.23-34). To give our name is to share with those around us that we have long looked past. It is breaking bread and calling our neighbor friend. It is sharing the Gospel with our neighbors intentionally so that they, too, will be called friends by our King Jesus.

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“Please Before I Go”: A Dialogue

181832373_c89fdf5613.jpgAt first blush this song seems a little stronger than we would like. In fact, my first reaction was “Hey, we shouldn’t equate love with drugs! That doesn’t sound right.” And then I remembered that this is language from the Bible. Better than flimsy Harlequin romance. We are reminded that love is better than wine. There’s honey underneath our love’s tongue. There is a agrden that deserves exploration. There is grace as we stand naked before each other and feel no shame.

What beauty there is in biblical love…

I have been hearing a song lately that does a great job of defining ‘love’ from the dictionary of our culture. “Take a Look at My Girlfriend” by Gym Class Heroes defines love in terms of infatuation. It dies off after the mystery is gone. You date someone, trampse through their garden and leave. Oh how weeds have overtaken such a view. The fellow in the song speaks about his new girlfriend who is so very special – she has porcelain skin, has her own ringtone, can mesmerize him with inaudible hours on the telephonie. And he makes this stunning remark, “And if that ain’t love, then I don’t know what love is.” That’s right, our world does not know what love is.

It is giggling and arguing and hugging and being sanctified. It is standing before your best friend, naked and unashamed as Adam and EVe were in the Garden. And in such a way this is a foretaste of being known and seen by the glorified Christ when he returns to reign forever in the New Heavens and New Earth. It is being infatuated one day and being flustered the next. It is being speechless because of gratitude and then because you are so upset you don’t know what to say. It is allowing someone into your world long enough that they see clearly that you are a sinner. They see that you are rude, selfish, deceptive, in need of redemption. Oh, God give us a fresh vision for vulnerable commitment.

Remember, may the breasts of your wife satisfy you at all times! The Bible is not a prudish book…When we read it’s pages, we soon realize that we are the prudes. We relaize that we are the ogres who have wriongly defined love and expected a certain kind of ‘love.’ There is unabashed passion in the Scriptures. What a far cry away from those who think that it is a list of don’ts. So much of it is a list of DO. Quit squandering your existence on boring drink and women and fame. What a waste! Quit leaving your dreams of knowing and being known at the door of your sinful sanctuary. Read the Bible and be ravished and embarrassed at your frivolous view of life and love.

(chorus)
kiss me once more, please, before i go
kiss me sweetheart, and i won’t go no more

‘cause i feel a little drunk
like a man who just can’t get enough
and there’s just one thing that can cool my head

(chorus)

like an addict to his fix
so am i to your sweet lips
the wife of my youth, my drug of choice

(chorus)

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“In God We Trust”: A Dialogue

I like the way that Webb has used such an Americanized term and turned it on its head. I have seen a couple of state license plates with this phrase. I have seen a bumper sticker that says “Keep God in ‘Bless America.’”

My first question is: “What God do you trust?” or “What God do you want to bless America?” The name God is taken in vain because people use his name but do not have any content to fill it. They have made his name as hollow as a chocolate easter bunny. So many people speak as though they know God, but when you get into the mess you find out that their ‘god’ is themselves. He makes no demands on anyone. He is not worthy to be obeyed. He is here to make me feel good about myself. Etc. May the triune God have mercy on us!

Now for the song:

in God we trust
and the government is on His shoulders
in God we trust
through democracy and tyranny alike
in God we trust
He uses both good and evil men

An indictment, perhaps, on the fact that so many people who claim they believe in God’s complete sovereignty fall into the mire of fatalism. That is, good things will happen, bad things will happen. God’s in control. Therefore, I don’t want to be an activist. I feel the angst Webb is feeling, but I think it is misdirected just a tinge. In other words, there are those who think that their god is giving them the thumbs up no matter what they are doing. In the name of God they think it is alright to blow every foreigner they see. They think it is alright to shoot the people whose culture is unintelligible to them. They think that the western culture is the messiah of the world. They cry freedom – but it is a freedom that Adam desired in the Garden. They cry for the right to do as they please and claim they are right based upon nothing other than their desire to rule others.

in God we trust
so we fight for peace and He fights for us
in God we trust
even when He fights us for someone else
in God we trust
even when He looks like the enemy

Again, Muslims cry that Allah is going to grant them eternal life while Redneck Rick says that his god drives a bigger truck. For a decent commentary on our plight where god is made in man’s image read Talladega Nights Jesus. I don’t think Webb believes that Allah and the Christian God are the same – as so many naive people do. If he does, then I must adamantly disagree. One would have to claim that God is schizophrenic to say that he has revealed himself in both religions. You cannot have triune God and a transcendent tyrant. The revelation in the two religions are diametrically opposed to one another. Rather than a far off, whimsical god as the Muslims claim, Christ revealed the Father and is, in fact, God. We worship three persons, equal in essence.

in God we trust
even though our hearts are bankrupt
in God we trust
for more than just the value of our dollar bills
in God we trust
but there’s no gold behind these notes of reserve

Oh, I really like this flip. We certainly do have the appearance of religion, but our hearts are far from the Lord. We wear our Sunday outfits, but have never taken a shower. What kind of God does someone worship when they say they want to give him praise for te record album that just glorified fornication, blasphemy, and sloth? What kind of god is this? Our god is too small . Did you notice the flip? We trust in God more than the value of our dollar bills…but they are not intrinsically worth ANYTHING. Sure our wallets are full, but we are too full of ourselves to know what it means to carry a cross.

in God we trust
even through our great presumption
in God we trust
even though He favors no nation-state
in God we trust
even when the blessing is a curse

“Guard me from presumptuous sins” (Psa 19.13). We have winked a blind eye to sin and presumed that God has done the same all in the name of love. Blasphemy. It is slander against his name of justice. For anyone that thought otherwise, let me tell you plainly, the United States of America is not a Christian nation. It is not merely by the fact that it is replete with gross sin. It is due to the fact that there never can be a biblical nation-state as we live in the City of Man.

May we never forget that the blessings that have resulted from a feigned Christianity, actually Deism, are blessings. However, such hollow autonomy without retraint is a curse. During the time of the judges in the Old Testament, everyone did as they saw fit. It was a curse, though they had unbridled passions. Those passions quickly threw them off before 8 seconds ticked. They were trampled by the rodeo clown. And so all those who mistake the blessing of freedom as a license for sin without accountability will be trampled as grapes…making the wine of God’s wrath complete.

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“Zeros & Ones”: A Dialogue

293790155_8476465585.jpgOkay. I’m going to land somewhere as to what I believe this song means. And the place I land is somewhere between two interpretations – because I think this is what Webb is trying to with intentional ambiguity. Let me know if you think I am in the ballpark. Again, I invite Webb to make any comments to throw me a bone here.
(vs. 1)
this was real
oh this was what you’ve all come to see and feel
but i’m starting to doubt my reality
‘cause it does not last long
once the cash is gone
(chorus)
eventually all of this must become zeros and ones
everything, everywhere, everyone, zeros and ones

So much of the entertainment industry is fabricated. Whether it be romance where the good-looking man has just the right line with just the right smile. Whether it be a drama where everything works itself out in an hour-long program. Or a song that within 3 minutes spreads out the insides of a man and resolves the tension by the bridge. In a society where our issues are resolved on the surface with smiley faces and saline-induced eyes we have lost the raw nature of life. Instead of getting messy in our neighbors lives we get more involved in the latest Desperate Housewives episode.
God help us that we live plastic lives so that real life is just a commercial. Death is not mourned, just patted on the back and we are told to go on. We live in our latest CD moaning to the travesties of falling in and out of love while our neighbors’ marriage is crumbling.
(vs. 2)
i’m in love
oh i love what i can convince you of
‘cause i’m a prophet by trade
and a salesman by blood
now i’m dying just to be
a filtered, sub-cultural version of me
(chorus)

Again, we love the honesty of Webb don’t we. He shows us the struggle of an artist. Feeling like you have to sell your life in order to eat bread. This is the second play on words: in order to sell albums you sell your life. If you don’t make number one, then you are a zero. You claw along the race with the Juddses (the music equivalent to the Joneses). I get this interpretation from the line that he is a prophet by trade and a salesman by blood. He has to sell in order to eat and yet he wants to prophesy to the calloused culture around.
The “filtered, sub-culture version” I wonder is related to the song “This World” where the Christian sub-culture is critiqued as having so many trinkets and treasures but nothing that we need.
(bridge)
my blood is red
dripping on a page
if i’m brave enough to cut myself
but the more it sells
it thins my blood
(chorus)

Implied in this is the struggle Webb has, as an artist, to not be some Mello-Yello version of what he wants to say. That is, with so much of the Christian music these days sounding like mainstream evangelicalism (and selling platinums) it is hard to not give in to that so you can buy your wife a new guitar.
I appreciate Webb’s music so much more than the cotton-candy, bubble-gum thoughts so prevalent on Christian radio waves. May God continue to sprout up men and women who challenge our everyday assumptions so that we learn better what it means to take up our cross daily.

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“My Enemies are Men Like Me”: A Dialogue

206452026_447006f518.jpg
This is probably the song that set men against Webb’s political push through song. The tune itself is slow and contemplative – a good fit for the song. By virtue of this, the words are that much more poignant and bruising. In light of the wars in the Middle East – in which the United States is the scapegoat by all those who oppose war, this song hits hard.
I have been thinking about our position in the Middle East – as pertains to war. In so many ways the wars in the Middle East are like hog-tying. We know there is an objective – stop the terrorists. Yet, how do we define the terrorists? What is more how does a nation differ from the mandate to forgive your enemies?

(vs. 1)
i have come to give you life
and to show you how to live it
i have come to make things right
to heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

(pre-chorus)
because i would rather die
i would rather die
i would rather die
than to take your life

Not much to say here other than the bitter irony of the cross. Jesus came to give us a more abundant life by being slain at the hands of Roman soldiers. The abundance does not come by way of Lexus or gold. The benefits rendered by the Cross would be diminished if they were equated with such paltry wealth. The blood of Jesus is trampled upon by men like Creflo Dollar and cronies who make the Christian life a parade of materialism rather than a procession of death (2Cor 2.14-16).

Let it be said that the Christian life is much more than majority evangelicalism in the United States lives. It is more than being good throughout the week – if good is defined by avoiding sin merely. The Christian life is going out to the highways and by-ways and compelling the drunkards and prostitutes to come to the banquet spread for them – though they have done nothing to deserve it. It is realizing that we are not the physicians. We, indeed, are sick men who must have an intravenous supply of Christ welling up in our hearts through his Holy Spirit. Broken vessels we are. Fragile clay pots.

What is more…a Christian realizes that God has every right to take his life. He is not his own. Not only did God have every right to smite us with sickness – due to our rebellion. But also, God continues to bear that right since we were bought at a price. Those who belong to Jesus realize that he died in our place. On the cross, our sin was crucifixed with/in him.

(chorus)
how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

As Christians we must protest the sword if it is not wielded well. The Lenin-Soviet Union, Hitler’s Reich, Mao’s Massacres. Yet, the sword is still in the hands of the government. When Jesus commanded his disciples to turn their cheeks, he was speaking of forgiveness – not a literal turning and invitation to smite again. Jesus himself did not offer the other cheek in such a staunch interpretation. He rebuked the one who slapped him: “Why did you hit me?” He had done nothing wrong. We must forgive. How? More on that in another post (I want to write another post that explains how and upon what basis Christians forgive).

We are to kill the ones we are supposed to love when they kill. That is, I don’t kill by my own vigilante justice. Rather, the governing bodies above me dictate where justice should be meted out. This is due to sin that reigns in men’s bodies. God has given us institutions like government as a gift of common grace to guard from hell-ward justice.

(vs. 2)
peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

Not exactly. Peace is brought about when injustice is squashed. The wars we see are foretastes and foreshadowings of the final battle that will cleanse the earth of sin and distribute perfect justice. True righteousness will only reign when God’s enemies are decisively put underneath King Jesus’ feet. In other words, without men being given justice in this life we can expect no peace.

Imagine, if you will, the Hussein brothers being asked to stop raping and torturing women. Ridiculous! They were representations of evil in this world. The only way to bring about beauty is by wiping off the filth.

(bridge)
when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

This is sadly more true than I would like to believe. Economically speaking, the rich get richer. Venture capitalists and middle class Americans who love cheap gas are the ones who love to hear of wars and rumors of war.

This is why the church must be more than a country club. If it is true that the poor get poorer. The church must come alongside these poor and show them how to make ends meet. If we are the church constituted by the Lord Jesus, and evidenced in the book of Acts, we will share with all those who have need.

May God grant us the grace to live life like Christ…

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