Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sinéad's Theology

A good chunk of my favorite music to listen to comes from the good folks across the pond in Ireland. Of course at the top of my list is U2, but cohabitating with Bono and the boys you'll find Van Morrison, The Cranberries, Clannad, and Enya. And then there's Sinéad O' Connor. Her voice to me at times has that haunting wail that I seem to just associate with Irish laments. Last June, Sinéad came out with a new 2-disc album called "Theology." The whole thing is completely original music and how is a seminary student to pass up a CD with a title like that?!

On her website about the recording she comments about the influence of prophetic scripture on her lyrics: "I read Isaiah and took the lines from it that I liked and adapted them so they rhymed. My desire was not to use anything that perpetuated the myth of a God character being angry and aggressive."

This probably sounds very strange to those of you who aren't accustomed to reading stuff from the liberation or feminist theology camp, but I've had the opportunity to interact with that kind of writing and when I come across these comments, my first reaction is always, "huh?"

How can you say that God is not angry or aggressive when you read things in the same book she was looking at such as Isaiah 5:25 where it says: "Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still."

Or, Isaiah 9:17, "Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still."

Or, Isaiah 54:8-10, 16-17, "'In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,' says the Lord, your Redeemer. 'This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you. For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose. I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

It is texts like these that make it extremely evident that God is an aggressive God of anger but is also a God of deep, compassionate love. Yet, I do understand that we all come to the text with presuppositions. So if you come to it with a system of thought that begins with the proposition that God is whoever you want him to be, or the proposition that Christianity as we have it is the result of a patriachal-dominated tradition where the "truth" has been manipulated by men to fit their chauvinistic desires, then you'll come to entirely different answers in your exegesis.

Yet, all that being said, the CD is worth listening to and enjoying for her incredible talent. It's also fantastic to see her exploring the issues and wrestling questions, even though not providing any answers: "'Theology' seeks not to offer immediate answers or a universal panacea; but instead provokes timely and thoughtful questions from an artist who is still pushing herself and inviting her audience to come with her."

The most interesting lyric I want to leave you thinking about is this from "Out of the Depths":
I've heard religion say that you are to be feared,
but I don't buy into everything I hear
And it seems to me that you're hostage to those roots
that were made by religion and not by you.
And I'm wondering whether you'll ever get yourself free.

It's so clear that along with everyone else, Sinéad is longing for untainted religion. Yet when we present the Faith we have, it must be separated from the system of religion that has been developed over the millenia by corrupted sinful men. It won't be until the Judgment that all the wrongs of history are avenged, that the curse is lifted, and things are then the way they're supposed to be. Until then, as C.S. Lewis put it, "Nothing is yet in its true form."

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