A Good-Bye Letter

[[image:sixfeet.jpg::right:0]]Over the last few years of my life I’ve begun to start looking at this world in a much different way. It’s been the first time where I have been able to hold the truths of the world around me AND my spirituality in the same hand. Much of my life there has been a partition between what was my every day life full of real moments and this other vision of what a religious life should look like. Growing up I waited for this religious picture to clear up but after sixteen years or so, it never did. This is not to say that I deserved and clear picture or that there even IS a “clear” picture for any of us to truly see. But I was told that it’s out there. I should expect it. I should be seeing it. “Where is it?” I would be asking myself. I would hear language like “chosen ones” or “elect” and I was beginning to sense that they weren’t talking about me. Then there was this last straw of being in the junior high group at my church where they proceeded to show us a video called “Hells Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll”. If you haven’t seen this, you should. It’s really funny. Imagine for the Daily Show fans out there, that the whole thing is just one long “moment of Zen.” It basically chronicled the evils of the whole music world ranging from Whitney Houston to Bruce Springsteen to XTC to Phil Collins and all the obviously “satanic” people like Twisted Sister, AC/DC…..you get the picture right? The most outrageous commentary was that Bruce Springsteen’s amazing song “I’m On Fire” was about pedophilia because there was a line that read “Hey little girl, is your daddy home?” I mean, I was in junior high, still drinking a fair amount of the conservative Baptist flavored “Kool-Aid” and even I knew that it was all total bullshit. It felt wrong. Something inside me said, “That’s just not right. What’s the point of all this?” I didn’t know it at the time, but it really was a tipping point. On that day, my radar was switched on. I began to realize that this world just isn’t black and white. We can no longer run from the black. It’s here, now, a part of us whether we like it or not. Even with the MTV and local rock radio station turned off and the rated “R” movies unseen, it was still there, like it’s here today. We can’t escape it. What was the need to point out the “evil” in a Whitney Houston song? The real evil would be how damn cheesy it is but not because of any deeper, theological reason. It all came from just assuming the worst of somebody. If a lyric could in any way be stretched to mean something that falls outside this narrow theological view of life, then that artist was “evil’ and “dangerous” for me to be exposed to. This video fed an incredibly damaging idea to us that if someone has communicated evil, then they were not worthy of being appreciated in any way, shape or form. It’s so damaging because deep down, all of us know we communicate evil on a daily basis. So by the logic of this video, we are just alone, trying to figure life out without the help of others. It makes no sense. Later on, by the time I was Sixteen, I had officially taken down the partition between the “real” and “fake” compartments of my life. At the time I really didn’t know what it meant to do so. It just had to be done. It wasn’t easy or fun, but it was necessary.

Not until a few years ago did I start processing how to view the “truth” in the world around me. I was exposed to this idea that all truth is God’s truth. Anything we can identify as “true” was from God. If it was true, God was in it. No matter where it was found and no matter how small, this truth was of God. If it was found in an R rated movie or a rock song, it was still God’s truth. Now, I am no longer conflicted about taking ownership of truth outside of where it is to be “expected”. This isn’t to say that I have this accurate “truth” radar where I can discern all “real truth”. I just mean to say that I am open to seeing a possible truth God may be revealing to me in an unexpected place. Test everything and hold on to what is good. (where have I read that before?) And to respond to my friend John: Yes you can find truth in the Hells Bells video, but it’s still more funny than true.

One television show that I’ve come to love dearly over the last few years is Six Feet Under. If you are not familiar with this show, I guess I could say that it’s not exactly a Focus on the Family “favorite” to show the kids after dinner. It’s dirty, messy, heartbreaking, beautiful, dysfunctional, maddening, surreal, profane, spiritual and, best of all, full of both darkness and light. The show is based on a family that runs funeral home. It deals heavily with death and inevitably with the hardest questions one could ask about the human experience. The answers are never clear-cut or easy and that’s the beauty of the show. It may not pass the Focus on the Family “decency” standard, but in my eyes, it’s the most spiritually deep show on television. It doesn’t put on a fake smile like everything is ok and easy. It dives deep into issues that we are so afraid to look in the face. It reminds us that at any point, we can just keel over and die. It reminds us that everything is not what it seems. It reminds us that we are all complex, hurting people who are trying to find healing. This may sound really weird, but it’s moved me closer to an understanding of how God has created me. It honors life by exposing its fragility. It nudges it’s viewers to really deal with those issues that are eating away at a life peacefully lived. My favorite exchange of the whole series is when a woman has lost her husband and asks the funeral director, “Why do people have to die?” and he answers, “To make life important.”

The last episode of Six Feet Under airs Saturday night and it will be sad to see it go. Although I could watch it for many more seasons, it seems to be the right time for the story of this family to come to an end. So I guess this is my good-bye letter to this show. RIP. You will be missed.


7 thoughts on “A Good-Bye Letter

  1. matt, that’s actually a huge theme of the show….how repression of things in our lives causes more harm than good. interesting that you bring that up. thanks for the comments guys.

  2. Oh man, I went to a Christian high-school and we were showed that video twice. hahaha. It was the funniest attempt at shutting people off to ‘worldly music’ I’ve ever seen. I remember one of the main messages of the video was that ‘if you felt wrong listening to it, it was wrong’. My question was, how would anything feel right if you’ve grown up your entire life being told it was from the Devil? I ended up doing a report on it my senior year, my superiors weren’t too happy.

  3. man… all of that from one show. Deep, brother, really deep.

    It is amazing how we think that being sheltered protects us, when in reality all it does is delay the inevitable.

  4. This post wasn’t as jumbled as you thought it was … good thoughts on many things here bro. I never have understood the “need” to point out such evil either, especially when there is so much suffering and hurt that could be attended to already. Peace.

  5. First off, I hate it when people leave really long comments, as if this is their blog:

    What you talked about in this post is so true to the conservative Christian experience. I got into music as a young teenager, and me and my friends were digging into everything from Pantera to Beck, what was popular at the time. I knew the difference between right and wrong, and of course didn’t want to listen to anything that was blasphemous or that I felt was particularly damaging. But I would go to youth events and hear people talking out against Def Lepard and even against Christian bands that were popular at the time like DC Talk. I never felt like the music was a problem for me, and so what this did was raise some questions in my mind about my salvation, to some degree. I was kind of lead to believe that “Christians don’t do these things…” and while I could understand that when it came to murder or drug-peddling, I couldn’t see how music and movies fit into that.

    More recently, a youth minister who was a friend of ours, came down pretty hard on my band because we listed some “secular” bands as influences on our website. He even took it so far as to pretty much question our faith – and we had played for him on several occasions over the past few years. It really hurt us, and while we didn’t know how to handle that kind of violent backlash, we still weren’t going to change our minds. I’m still not sure why Christians “shouldn’t listen to secular music.” I will never be sure. That question lies over in the gray area of “personal conviction.” If it hurts you, cut it out of your life, but be aware that it may not hurt everyone.

    And on “Six Feet Under,” I recently watched the first season on DVD and will soon start on the second. It is a very powerful and morally challenging show to say the least. I agree that it deals greatly in honesty, and in my opinion it has handled the “gay” issue better than any other popular show I have ever seen. But, not for the faint of heart.

    Excellent post, sorry for the lengthy comment.

  6. the mention of def leppard brought back a memory that is a direct parallel to this post. i was “sheltered” in that my parents allowed only southern gospel music in the house. never was i allowed to own or listen to anything considered secular, but “secular” wasn’t the word for it…it was “worldly”…in other words, a weapon of the devil against the youth. a good friend of mine at the time got the “hysteria” album when it came out. as i visited him, he played the album and to my surprise, i didn’t feel dirty or used by satan…strange, i know. however, if it were not for def leppard, i may not have discovered secular music and the talented people who produce great music. without def leppard, i would not have found jimmy eat world a few years ago. i can saw that jimmy eat world has some of the most poignant lyrics to dwell on in music today…but that may not have been possible for me to discover had def leppard not put out hysteria.

    needless to say, my parents and i don’t discuss musical tastes these days. 🙂 if it offends your brother, you shouldn’t flaunt it in front of them….or something like that. 🙂

  7. Yo ern, that is the weaker brother thing you are talking about…

    Zach, good post. I remember visiting a friend’s youth group and being shown the exact same video. U grew up a rock and roll kid. One of the first picture of me is in my Dad’s arms, his 65 Lester around his neck standing in front of a monster Marshall Stack. So this video was something new to me and I never went back to that youth group and have had major qualms with that denomination since.

    Now I’m all grown and in the band WITH my Dad. Awesome.

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