Wednesday, March 29, 2006

By Way of Reminder: Subjective Experience is Inescapable

Tony Jones recommended The Hidden Power of the Electronic Culture back on Valentines Day. I decided it was a good recommendation and ordered it. I started reading it right away and then put it down for about a month or so and have recently come back to it. (I put it down because I had other things I had to do and read, not because I wasn't enjoying it.)

In the third chapter Hipps discusses how our phonetic alphabet and the printing press shaped us intellectually, regardless of what we read. It allowed us to think more abstractly, individualistically (since we didn't have to listen to anyone tell us the story, we could read it ourselves) and rationally. As a result,

This detachment (standing apart from the ideas and observing them on the printed page) had a profound effect, as it introduced the belief that we can stand outside something and judge it. In oral cultures, where there is no way to separate oneself from one's ideas, the notion of objectivity almost never emerges.
(After noting this isn't necessarily bad, Hipps continues.) However, when objectivity is taken to its extreme, it leads to the belief that we can read and discover biblical truths with an unbiased clarity of vision. We presume the Bible presents an objective set of propositions that everyone will discover if they just read it properly. This inflated sense of objectivity, fueled by printing, breeds an unfortunate and arrogant illusion of omniscience. It leaves little room for subjective experience and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Subjective experience is inescapable. Whether I know it or even like it, I read the Bible through the inescapable lenses of a privileged white American male who was raised in a Midwestern suburb. My reading of Scripture will be vastly different from that of a Latin American woman struggling in destitute poverty under the oppressive rule of a dictatorship...

This may sound like a descent into meaningless relativism, but it isn't. The fact that our subjective experience colors the way we read Scripture isn't a surprise to God. That's part of the beauty and mystery of Scripture. The stories of the Bible are remarkably adaptable to people in divergent contexts. We must remember that the Bible is not merely a collection of objective propositions...The mere fact that the Bible includes four versions of the life of Jesus tells us that subjective experience and interpretation have places in the life of faith.

I'm hoping I can finish the book in the midst of a gruelling semester at school. We'll see.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lost And Found

Some years ago I happened onto this little band called Lost And Found. Little, as in independent and only two guys in the band. (Michael plays guitar and George plays piano.) Independent as in not tethered to a major record company located in Nashville or anywhere else. They are, as my sidebar attests, the world's greatest band. Since I've gone through a brief history of my favorite records (there are more, but I got bored) I figured it's time to look at some Lost And Found records.

I could start with some real old-school stuff, like Everlastin' Alright, (which I have on vinyl!) but I won't. I'll start instead with This, which, if I recall correctly, Michael has said is their best-selling record.

This opens with Be Not Afraid, which is the first Lost And Found song I ever heard. I was at an event for youth workers from my denomination and Lost And Found were invited to play for us. A friend of mine said to me before the show, "I think you'll like these guys, but give them at least 10 minutes, ok?" Hmm. Ominous.

So they opened with Be Not Afraid. I think it was about 8 measures or so into the song when I realized, "Oh this awesome!". Hard to describe, sure, but awesome...I thought "Ramones." I turned to my friend Cary and said, "These guys are great!" to which Cary responded, "What are they singing?!??!" A few songs later they played How Can You and I said to Cary, "I think this is my new favorite band." I was right.

Favorite tracks on This:
Be Not Afraid- a brilliant little number about all the folks real (like me) and parabolic(?) who screwed Jesus over and His response to them..."Be not afraid...I've come to save and not to damn."

Stand Up and Fight- a little darker. "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, but I've met some people who are. Claiming their anger is God's will, their self-righteousness goes too far."

He's a Friend: "When the doubts that can defeat you cut your soul like the sharpest knife, do you have a friend who will feed you- not with plain food but with life?"

Baby: One of L+F's two most popular songs (along with Lions). "Somebody loves those babies, and somebody loves what we can't see and if somebody told them, maybe, those babies would be free."

Honorable mention: Harken, Cling to the Cross

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The College Years

III Sides to Every Story came out when I was in college. It was an ambitious record and mostly misunderstood, at least by the many reviewers I read. Most simply didn't know what to make of it.

Part of the problem had to do with the band finding their identity, which it took them a couple of records to do. By Pornograffiti, Extreme was beginning to shed the stupid glam metal trappings of their first record, while still being a hard rocking band. Of course when your first record fits nicely with the typical pop metal stuff, it's easy to miss the satirical nature of your follow-up. Thus a brilliant commentary like Pornograffiti can come across as another rock-n-roll record about sex.

III Sides is full of biblical allusions and straight up quotations and Am I Ever Gonna Change is essentially Romans 7. There's the plaintive prayer (not on the CD version) Jesus, Don't Leave Me Alone as well as more social commentary on race and war. The concept is of 3 sides, yours mine and the truth, (a humble premise) and musically the record is divided in three parts, with the last side incorporating a full orchestra. Gary Cherone isn't outspoken about his faith, but it comes through on this record and as usual, Nuno is impressive.

I think the lack of critical understanding and commercial success of III Sides is what ultimately led to Extreme's split. I have no evidence to support that claim, but for such a monumental record to be completely missed and misunderstood by the majority, I think was a bit hard to take. Their final record together lacked the drive and focus of the previous two. I think they were burned out.

Still, III Sides is a great record and well worth the listen.

Favorite Tracks: Warheads, Tragic Comic, Color Me Blind, Am I Ever Gonna Change, Rise and Shine, God isn't Dead

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Metal Years

The Metal Years weren't all bad.

1. Steve Vai Passion and WarfareI doubt there has ever been a better rock guitar instrumental record ever recorded. Vai is the master, the complete package. Chops, creativity, crazy good technique- it's all there. A brilliant record, this.

Tracks: For the Love of God, Greasy Kid Stuff, I Would Love To

2. Extreme Pornograffitti

Extreme's second record and a brilliant one at that. By and large the record is a social commentary on our greed and lust. Of course most people know Extreme only for their hit More than Words which was on this record. It's a misunderstood song. Most believe it's a song about a guy wanting sex, but it's not. Gary Cherone, the lead singer of Extreme explained once that it was a comment his girlfriend made to him one time. "I don't need you to say 'I love you' I need you to show me," and thus the song was born.

Nuno Bettencourt, guitarist, is amazing! His writing and playing is awesome on this record. He rocks so hard it's silly.

Favorite tracks: Decadance Dance, Get the Funk Out, When I First Kissed You, Suzie, Hole Hearted

3. Metallica ...And Justice For AllI could just as easily put Master of Puppets here as these were the first two Metallica records I owned.

Favorite Tracks: Blackened, Frayed Ends of Sanity, One

More Early Years: How Could I Forget?!?!

Okay, so it is a DLR record and as such the lyrics are generally about one subject (except on the cover tunes) and about as sophisticated as a 7th grade boy...or KISS, take your pick.

BUT!!! Steve Vai on guitar and Billy Sheehan on bass...oh my! This was my first exposure to Vai and I was simply blown away. The talking guitar on Yankee Rose, the great fills, solos and doubling with Billy on Shyboy, the awesome groove and solo on Big Trouble...just a guitar tour de force.

This was DLR's first record after leaving Van Halen and he was determined to find a guitarist better than Eddie. Mission accomplished. This record introduced me to Vai and I've been a big fan of his ever since. He's amazing.

Favorite tracks: Yankee Rose, Shyboy, Tobacco Road, Big Trouble