Yes, perhaps I’ve got classic rock on the brain–(all the time, 24-7)– but our readings this week definitely brought to mind some famous songs…and I’m not talkin’ Y.M.C.A. These songs, while perhaps seemingly frivolous at first glance, actually represent how closely religious and secular views of society resembled each other and– dare I say it?– influenced each other.
First of all, we have the Evangelist’s side of things: Don’t Stop Believin’. This rock anthem, brought to you by Journey, seems religiously based at the outset: “Don’t Stop Believin’/Hold onto that feeling,” namely, faith. (This also ties to Journey’s equally-amazing song, Faithfully…but I digress.)
Evangelists of all ages and both sexes urge the Chicagoans to hold fast to their faith in the increasingly secular city in which they live, as the Red Light District expands and venereal disease creeps into the homes of dutiful middle-class Christians. Evangelists are especially quick to criticize prostitutes and those who run from domestic, middle class lives, such as our victim/protagonist? in this Bon Jovi tune, Runaway. Indeed, it seems that this era is full of stereotypes of the woman who runs rampant with promiscuity, poisoning Chicago’s streets with her sexual availability and rebuttal of societal rules. However, equally potent is the girl evangelist (who, admittedly, hits the scene a little later) from “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” who seems (and seeks) to embody a little messenger Angel in the urban slums. In the end though, it always seems to come back to Girls, Girls, Girls!
However, these so-called “religious” messengers are often young and impressionable themselves, and if we take a look at the lyrics of the Journey songs especially– and both of these are lyric vids, just so that you can indeed look at the lyrics if you’re unfamiliar with them, you’re welcome– we can see a sense of loss and displacement on the part of the youth, and something that deviates quite starkly from matters of churchliness:
“A singer in a smoky room/ the smell of wine and cheap perfume/ for a smile, they can share the night/ it goes on and on and on and on/ Strangers waiting, walking down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night/ Streetlight people livin’ just to find emotion, hiding somewhere in the niiiiiiiiight!”
Now, to me this indicates a certain youthful helplessness, which Joiner hits on in Chapter four, saying how the Christian men of Chicago’s younger generation struggle due to “not measuring up” to their father’s “masculinity,” and yet trying to avoid their mother’s “feminized Christianity” simultaneously. Seems like they’re caught in quite the bind, which may lead them further into vice…and lead them to singers in smoky rooms, wine and cheap perfume.
I really do think that the evangelicals of this time fully believed in what they were doing (and preaching)– but that didn’t keep them from suffering from the Stranglehold in which Chicago’s corrupt capitalist society bound them. At the end of the day, all they could do was keep Takin’ it to the Streets and, most importantly, Livin’ on a Prayer.