I have a confession to make. My name is Noel and I have been a closet Green Day fan for the past couple years. It is not the sort of thing that ministers can get together and compare notes on. I can’t mention these songs in my sermons; shoot, I can only listen to the CD’s when the kids are not in the car. (Don’t worry; I won’t hot link anything online in this post. If you want to hear anything of their’s you will have to find it on your own) If you would like to borrow their most recent album after Christmas come talk to me. I have it on good authority that Santa will be leaving it in my stocking. 🙂
Green Day are left-leaning politically, and they fall in-between the cracks when you try to define the genre they write in. It’s sort of a Rock / Punk / Pop sound with enough diversity to not completely fall into any of the above categories. Many of their songs are scathing rebukes for Nominal Christianity and sometimes the criticism find’s it’s place with me.
Their most recent album, “21st Century Breakdown” is an album-long ‘rock opera’ that is divided into three acts. A group of songs make up Act I: “Heroes and Cons”, still more make up Act II: “Charlatans and Saints”, and finally a group of songs in Act III are called “Horseshoes and Hand grenades.” This Rock Opera is set in modern day Detroit and the songs loosely follow a young couple named Christian and Gloria through the challenges of a Post-Modern, Post-Christendom, Post-‘Religious Right’ United States. Singer / Guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong has described the album as a “snapshot of the era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us, whether it be the government, religion, media or frankly any form of authority.”
Leading off Act II (Charlatans and Saints) is “East Jesus Nowhere” which satirizes fundamentalist religion and the hypocrisy that Armstrong has experienced with nominal Christians. It was written in 2006 after he attended a church service where a friend’s baby was being baptized. Organized religion is characterized in the song as vain, glory stealing, money grubbing posturing.
In it he writes,
…Put your faith in a miracle;
And it’s non-denominational.
Join the choir, we will be singing in the church of wishful thinking.
A fire burns today of blasphemy and genocide.
The sirens of decay will infiltrate the faith fanatics.
Oh bless me Lord for I have sinned;
It’s been a lifetime since I last confessed.
I threw my crutches in “The river of a shadow of doubt”
And I’ll be dressed up in my Sunday best…
Saint Augustine said, “Never judge a philosophy by it’s abuses” and with that in mind I’m compelled to point out that much of what skeptics point to as illegitimate about Christianity has to do with what illegitimate followers of Jesus have done and not what Jesus has taught. Cynics point to “selfish manipulations” and trivial fights over petty issues as evidence that Christ’s spirit is not present within the church.
Many failings that Armstrong identifies in churches are completely true; well spotted. That’s why Jesus came to earth in the first place. He suffered unjustly in order to bear the shame we rightly deserve. Jesus lived precisely the way we were supposed to live and then took the blame for everything we did wrong. That’s the gospel! Foolishness to the media and a stumbling block to Rock Stars (1 Cor 1: 23)
This is just the kind of well deserved rebuke that Jesus came to bear for us. I would reply, “Billie, I confess that I am that selfish manipulating petty, arrogant jerk that you sing about. How great is Jesus that he loves me anyway. He took the blame for this and I don’t bear it any more!”
Praise God for the Good News of Jesus Christ!