the history lives through us

i have a confession to make that may surprise you: i like hip hop. i’m not talking about the junk that took over in the early part of the century or anything that can be labeled with the word crunk. (side note: punk goes crunk on the other hand was actually pretty entertaining.) true hip hop, in the opinion of an overweight 26-year-old white kid from a redneck suburb who is currently listening to a city and colour radio station on spotify, is a story set to a beat. it’s true poetry. when done well, hip hop can tell a story better than any novel could ever dream of.

a few months ago a friend of mine told me i should listen to macklemore. they said he was a great writer and was putting out really good music. my reaction was quick and simple: you mean that dude that wrote thrift shop? he writes good stuff? my friend assured me that thrift shop was nowhere near his best stuff so i checked him out.

to my surprise, macklemore was really, really good.

after a few listens through his newest album, i decided to look up some of his previous music that isn’t on the radio. i found a mix tape called, “the unplanned mix tape” and immediately fell in love with it. the way that macklemore, real name ben haggerty, tells a story through music is incredible. the track entitled “the town” was a song that instantly sent me back to high school and college when i would drive to random clubs, churches, and basements listening to my friends play music that only we cared about.

i kept listening and really enjoyed what i was hearing. then i got to a song called “church.” i listened to it once. and then i listened to it again. and then i listened to it with the lyrics in front of me. and that’s when i had an idea:

the gospel according to…

it was that song that inspired this entire writing series/project. as i listened to it and really started diving in, i realized that this was a dude that was nailing the voice of my generation when it came to the church. there were some things that he was spot on about but there were others where he missed the mark a little bit.

over the next few days, maybe even a week (there’s no telling how long this could get), i want to look at the good and the bad from this song. i want to point out the places where macklemore nails down the truth but i also want to expose the places that are just a little off.

to be fair, before i break down the good and the bad in this song, i’ve got to give credit where it’s due. the first verse of this song was from geo, better known now as prometheus brown. he wrote the parts that i’m going to look at today and over the next day or do. with that said, let’s jump in with the first four lines of the song:

stand up, sit down, stand up again
morse code sent to god, are you listening?
he must have been too busy fixing other s—
no call, no response shows the opposite

unfortunately, i think this is the opinion of the majority of my generation. they went to church as a kid but now that they’re on their own, they think church is nothing short of boring and pointless. every sunday they woke up, got dressed in clothes that were uncomfortable and went to sit in hard pews listening to old men in suits yelling about how the world was going to hell and they were too if they didn’t quit doing bad things.

that’s my story. by the time i was 16 i was done with church. i liked jesus but i couldn’t stand church and liked christians even less. every week was the same thing: the music would play. the choir would walk in. we’d all start singing songs that i didn’t understand. we’d sit down and the choir of twenty would do their best to replicate a song originally sung by a choir of hundreds. that’d be followed by an old guy in a suit making a really awkward transition to the offering and then someone would sing a “special” song while the rest of us sat there and stared at them. then another old guy would preach for an hour followed by an altar call that could last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. when that was over we’d go eat at a buffet or mexican restaurant and then we’d do it all over again the next week.

it was the same thing every week and yet i never saw people change. i heard all about this life changing god but never saw actual life change. this jesus dude must’ve been too busy fixing things at another church because, from my spot in the back row on the left side in front of the sound booth, there wasn’t much being changed.

the difference in my story and the story of so many my age is that in the midst of the darkest time of my life, i found a church that was what church was actually supposed to be.

they cared about me from day one.

they looked and sounded like normal people and not people stuck in the world of 100 years ago speaking a language that made no sense to me.

they were actually real.

i’m just guessing here, but i’d bet that the church that geo went to as a kid was a lot like the one that i went to. the music may have been different and i’m sure the skin color of the people was different, but at the end of the day it was gibberish that made absolutely no sense to him.

if we want to have any chance of showing how amazingly awesome jesus is to people who don’t know him, we have to break free from our routine. we have to stop speaking in secret codes where we “fellowship” with each other and are “covered by the blood of jesus.” those things freak people out.

those things freak me out.

what would our world look like if we were real, if only for a week? what would it look like if we pulled the veil back and let people in to see the real us? the us that doesn’t feel “blessed” every time we tweet. the us that is scared because our kid is sick and we don’t know how to fix it. the us that is barely holding it together because our marriage is a wreck and we are tired of fighting for it.

i get why we don’t do that. i understand that we want to focus on the positive. i realize that, even though everything around us is going wrong, we still must choose to worship god. i get that and i know that. i’m not advocating that we all air our dirty laundry, but i also don’t think we need to be putting lipstick on a pig.

geo’s point was that god must have been busy fixing things somewhere else because he never saw things change where he was. if we refuse to pull back the veil and be real, no one will ever be able to see the change that god is doing in our lives.

the truth is life is hard.

jesus, while amazing, never promised that life wouldn’t be messy.

we have to be a people that show others that the only way through the mess is with jesus leading the way.

we can’t do that without first acknowledging the mess.

this week, acknowledge the mess. don’t neglect what god’s cleaning up and the work that he’s already done, but let someone in on the part that’s still messy; that’s still getting cleaned up.

there’s an entire generation of people who are willing to listen if we’d just bring them into the conversation.

say your prayers and take your vitamins.

have a nice day.

-jonathan

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