Posts Tagged ‘sex and religion’

Born-Again Broadway: We’re Gonna Altar Your Mind

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Parts of Nicholas Dawidoff’s article “No Sex. No Drugs. But Rock N Roll (Kind Of)” sound like something straight out of Footloose.  Rock n roll was “the devil’s music.” It lead young, impressionable boys and girls astray from the virtues of Christian tradition. As the article suggests, Christian music (in varying genres) acted as a foil for some popular that promoted somewhat “unsavory” topics that Christians might have objected to.  “Instead of singing about boys, bikinis, and bourbon, Point of Grace gets ’em with hope and love,” Dawidoff says of Point of Grace, a popular Christian band.

As the article suggests, music has a powerful grasp on the mind.  The message that some secular songs have may promote negative thoughts and feelings.  The temptation of “women in tight dresses” was daunting when listening to secular music.  But as the article suggests, rock n roll was (and still is) about provocation.  That can be said for the secular music we listen to on 99.3 as we cruise through Fredericksburg.  It seems like lately all we get is Nicki Minaj calling a girl a “stupid hoe” on the radio or DJ blasting lyrics like “I’m gonna smack it.”  At least Bruno Mars is currently begging his ex’s new boyfriend to buy her flowers and hold her hand, but that’s about as much romance as we get on the radio at the moment.

Girl, you make me feel like I’m locked out of heaven.

But while hip-hop and rock n roll are definitely provocative, I would argue that Christian music can be too.  And I know Christian music tends to get a bad rep because it’s not hip or cool to like Jesus or go to Mass, but much like a particularly fiery sermon, a song calling for the listeners to come back to God and stay strong together against temptation can be provocative as well.  These types of songs can provoke self-reflection and encourage listeners to turn back to God and away from sin.  The article also suggests that secular rock n roll was more about confrontation than comfort.  Christian music comforts listeners with promises of God’s love and eternal life, but warn that a sinful life can take you away from God.

Even Broadway has gotten in on it.  What about Godspell, which was made into a film in the 1980’s?  Like the Christian music genre, which tends to aim towards young adults who may be more easily influenced by secular messages in music, Godspell modernizes the Gospels and creates a more youthful, circus-like take on the Bible.  While many of the songs in the musical celebrate Christ and love and friendship, some numbers are a bit more tongue in cheek.  Turn Back Oh Man is probably the best example.  This provocative number (morally and sexually provocative) cautions that no one knows when Jesus is coming back as judge: “Turn back, oh man/Forswear thy foolish ways/Old now is earth/And none may count her days.”  In other worlds, “ya’ll best be ready.”  This catchy and fun song may be engaging to a younger audience because of its slinky melody and thinly-veiled innuendos, and still carries the message that all Christians need to be on their guard and make sure that their souls are ready for Christ to come again.

Godspell might have been hip during the 80s, but Christians are still trying to get their message out to younger audiences who continue to evolve in a pop-culture world.  That’s where Altar Boyz comes in.  This much more recent show is basically a “concert” performed by a fictional Christian pop band called the Altar Boyz: Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan, and Abraham (“He’s Jewish!”).  Not only do these boyz sing about their calling to save the souls of their audience members through pop songs and choreography performed in skin-tight outfits.  Whereas Godspell focused on the Gospels rather than current events, the Altar Boyz take on the issues of religious tolerance and even (gasp) homosexuality:

Well, kinda.

It seems like more and more, the problem of engaging youths in Christian tradition continues to be relevant and difficult.  Kids don’t want to go to church.  They don’t want to hear some old guy get behind a pulpit and tell them all the things they are doing wrong.  Teens want to move forward, and in some ways, they want Christianity to move forward with them.  That’s where Christian rock comes in.  Christian rock modernized the Bible and made it more interesting to listen to.  The messages in a church sermon and in Point of Grace’s music are the same, but the medium is completely different.  It seems like the goal of this Christian rock n roll genre is to get a song with a wholesome message stuck in teens’ heads so that they’ll be promoted to do good works rather than get slizzard.  And while the lyrics of a Christian rock or hip hop song may seem white-bread and sanitized, if you can pair it with awesome choreography and some beat-boxing, you can immerse your listeners in God’s word without them even realizing it.

Or, at least get a Broadway show out of it.

Girl, you float my ark.

Girl, you float my ark.

Spectacular, Spectacular!: Sensationalism and Maria Monk

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Whenever I go to the grocery store, I am overwhelmed by all the magazines and little newspapers that litter the check-out aisle.  Among this week’s headlines:




As usual, the National Enquirer only reports the hard-hitting news stories.  Sensationalism is all over the media.  Every trial (take the Casey Anthony case for example) gets blown up on both sides of the argument.  Even if there is only one scrap of truth in an article, the public eats it up.  The public loves scandal.  Trashy journalists appeal to the lowest common denominator of readers, the gullible sort who eat up drama-infused articles like they were Red Lobster cheddar biscuits.

Sensationalism has been around a lot longer than the National Enquirer.  Way back when, some Protestant ministers decided to rile up some rumors about the Catholic Church and its practices in nunneries, all wrapped up in a straitjacket and labeled “The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.”

According to these awful disclosures (which, mind you, were discredited quickly), Catholic nuns were in the habit of killing babies born in the convent, having sex with priests, and imprisonment of other nuns.  This text builds and builds, fabricating scandal after scandal.  For anyone who loves drama and thrills, Maria Monk is a dream come true.  I’m pretty sure if they made a sensationalized musical of it, it would go something like:

Just take out the epic love triangles and singing sitar and add infanticide and rape.

But then again…

Here’s the thing to remember: Things are not always what they seem.  Maria Monk didn’t even write these disclosures but guess what?  People ate it up.  Even if you didn’t believe what she wrote, you can’t get out of your head the image of the nuns dragging one of their own to be smothered by a mattress.  Sure, it’s not real, but that’s how sensationalism works.

An easy example is a horror movie:

images (2)


No, scarier:

images (3)


Better.  So a bunch of kids start seeing this guy Freddy in their nightmares.  Freddy starts killing them in their dreams, so the kids try to stay awake to escape him.  Now, we all know it’s impossible for something in a dream to kill you.  But after watching this movie, there were a couple times I caught myself thinking of Freddy Krueger and his knife-hands and it scared the bejezzus out of me.  I know it’s not real, but when something plants a seed on your mind, it’s hard to weed it out.

I think that’s the biggest issue with Maria Monk.  We know it was written by a bunch of dudes.  But they go through such lengths to make it sound believable.  They describe, in great detail, the apartments of the nuns, the horrors that happen, and in some passages, they even say, “You may not believe me.”  They set up the text so that if anyone said, “Hey, that’s not how the convent looks,” Maria Monk would answer, “Oh no worries guys, it might have changed and I’m a woman and frail so obviously I can’t remember everything!”


No matter how true or horribly false a story can be, if a writer is good, the public will buy into it.  National Enquirer is probably the best modern day example, considering it started in 1926 and it’s still going.  People are still buying it because people love a good story.  And that’s what Maria Monk’s awful disclosures are.  They are good stories that are easy to read and easy to imagine.  In the case of sensationalism, sometimes the difference between fact and fiction is a hard line to draw.