Red Letter (single) + backdrop


I'm releasing the song "Red Letter" from my upcoming Dining Womb EP. Initially I thought I'd keep this song to myself, as I do with many things religious or political. I tend to avoid conflict to keep everybody happy. If you're familiar with the Enneagram, I'm a number 9 with a 4 wing (peacemaker and individualist). My desire to avoid conflict generally results to some degree of withdrawing from life (I highly recommend checking out this personality system). But in the spirit of openness I'm beginning to inch out of my closet.

"Red Letter" stems from my long history with the evangelical church. I grew up a Lutheran and through social circles wound up in the non-denominational realm ("fundamentalism on rock-and-roll," I heard it on a Pete Enns podcast). Without getting off topic (although I'd love to get off topic sometime) I'll stick to why I called this song "Red Letter." It's in reference to certain versions of the Bible that used red ink to identify the words of Jesus. 

Since my youth I often found these red letters to contradict some of the loudest voices of the mainstream evangelical church. I never connected with the Jesus who sits on the advisory board of the Department of Defense, who drops bombs on enemies (yes that includes covert drone strikes), who chants at the courthouse steps against the minorities and the oppressed, who writes policies that prioritize the wealthy, who advocates the importance of walls and rules with the iron fist. To me this all sounds like a Messiah we've created in our image... like a totem pole, or a Zeus, or a Lamborghini. 

It always seemed to me that Jesus was more of a threat to those in power, not uniquely on the side of those in power. He posed a threat even as an infant! (i.e. King Herod ordered the death of all baby boys in Bethlehem, just in case that little Jesus was in the litter). From what I've read (and I'm being sincere here), Jesus taught about returning hate with love, about welcoming the stranger, about not living by the sword, about forgiveness. His teachings are often at odds with our power structures. They would not be a good template for sustaining America's role as the global superpower. 

Basically I'd love to see an end to the idea that God is on one particular side of a two-party political system. This is classic tribalism, classic dualism, classic Rome. What if the church had a louder voice for the people than the party?

As I've reached a grown-up status (maybe?) I've returned to the tradition of my upbringing. Much of my 20s were spent deprogramming my mind and my spirit from doctrine, dogma and our other king rational thinking. The words of Jesus make me more awake, more compassionate, more engaged, more thirsty. They remind me that the imaginary lines I drew as a kid between me and my sisters really were, well, just imaginary. 



Joey English1 Comment