All the sniffling midwestern kids

I’ve spent the last two years thinking about the Festival of Faith and Music.  When I heard about it two years ago, some rumor that Neko Case and Emmylou Harris were going to share a stage and talk about the ways their art interacted with their face, my interest was piqued.  I spent too much time in Baton Rouge trying to think about music and trying to think about culture and trying to think about Christianity and being terrified to even consider it.  I told someone this weekend that I loved rock ‘n’ roll way before I started trying to love Jesus, and no one ever told me that the two could possibly have anything to do with one another.  

Rock ‘n’ roll is a big, flailing, and imperfect thing and it doesn’t get any more perfect when it tries.  It usually takes something like The Hold Steady — a bunch of dudes who know all of the stuff in the last sentence — to do it right.  It’s not about fashion, and it’s not about trying to look cool.  It’s such a strange thing, because the moment something gets bigger than its circle, it gets turned into a fashion and into something that people try to adopt.  The Hold Steady’s starting to feel that right now (or at least their fan base is), and I don’t really know what they can/should do with it.  The scene has gotten bloody, and it’s getting bloodier.  

But that’s the thing I’m thinking of these days, this sense that this music that at one time meant something to me is starting to fade again.  And while there may be some whose reaction is to say that that’s the Holy Spirit convicting me…I don’t buy it.  I cannot change who God made me — and I shouldn’t even want to change who God made me — and, quite frankly, I’ve never been more convinced that I’m in His arms than I am when I’m paying attention to the music around me.  When I’m doing this thing, to quote Chariots of Fire and pastors everywhere, I feel His pleasure.  

But that feeling fades, you know?  Some nights it’s just entertainment, and some other nights it’s work, and it all seems to fluctuate with just how cool I’m trying to be.  I didn’t start dancing at Lupe Fiasco until I stopped worrying about the dude-bros around me who were more interested in being fuckedup and crowd surfing than they were in paying attention to what was going on.  There’s so much happening, but we’ve made it all something to be bought; a hoodie of a certain pattern tells us whether you like hip-hop or indie rock, and now that we’ve settled that, I know exactly how to judge you.  And myself.  In my skinny Levis.  

The same thing’s true with my faith. I’m a pretty good manipulator, having been an only child and not yet ready to see that I’m not God’s only child.  I’m good at acting like I’m a damn good Christian, and while that certainly has implications for the world around me and the work I do, it has much larger implications for the way I relate to God.  You can’t turn that shit off.  And that’s what it is.  It’s shit. 

There’s peace in honesty, and it folds in and compacts upon itself in concentration until it’s so compact and rich that it just might explode.  

 The Festival of Faith and Music.  There’s so much else to think about, to unpack — so many new ideas to consider, new music to figure out how to enjoy — but for now I’m more concerned with learning how to be honest again.  Leonard Cohen said “There’s a crack in everything; that’s where the light comes in.”  Irony almost killed me; maybe it’ll dry up and crumble and crack.

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