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Radiohead vs. Coldplay: A Study in the Purpose of Music

In the nineties, two bands emerged from the UK as distinguished and fresh to the music scene: Radiohead, led by Thom Yorke, and Coldplay, led by Chris Martin.  I became entranced with both of these leaders growing up.  I have seen both in concert, where I realized quickly how similar they were.  Besides visually looking alike, the leaders of the two bands play the exact same roles.  Both of them write the lyrics and music for their bands.  They sing the lead parts during the songs and play acoustic guitar or piano during them, as well.  The direction that these two musicians take their bands in often follows the same path.  They have both experimented with electronic, ethnic, hard-rock and non-lyrical music on their band’s records.  Although Yorke and Martin share similarities in their musical style and life-related characteristics, there remain significant differences between them in these regards. These similarities and differences lead to the discovery of two core needs in humanity that music is meant to provide.

My favorite Radiohead

Thom Yorke is angry, and his lyrics are almost always acutely poised for attack. Teeth showing, claws out - songs are often based on world issues such as materialism, poverty, war, and government corruption.  Other times they are more personal, but with weighty, often dark overtones: they focus on the deterioration of relationships, insanity and the emotional absurdities of humanity. The names of songs like “Knives Out” and “I Am a Wicked Child” are good examples of his style.  The music he writes is tense and serious due to the usage of distorted minor chord combinations.  His music exerts a pessimistic view of the world to most, and to others a strong desire for it to change, or to change it themselves, from its corrupt state.

My favorite Coldplay

Chris Martin’s music is unfailingly uplifting and romantic.  The names of his songs show their optimistic nature; such as “Beautiful World” and “God Put a Smile upon Your Face”.  They give feelings of hope to the listener.  His music incorporates major chord patterns, causing the mood of his songs to be light-hearted.  Lyrically, his focus is on the love that he has encountered throughout his life and the beauty found in daily situations.  Martin’s music is cheesy to some, but most perceive it as enjoyably catchy and emotionally appealing.

Thom Yorke has many mysterious and haunting characteristics.  He has an injured left eye that stays half-shut, giving him a look of being consistently demented.  He wears the color black in most concerts and public appearances and is seen in photographs with a snarling look of malcontent.  Yorke seems to take life seriously, and his music as very personal.  During concerts, he is known to yell at audience members if interrupted and lose his temper if a song does not go as he planned.  His music is a close reflection of his life characteristics. 

The life of Chris Martin is content and joyful.  When in public, he and his band are seen wearing bright colors and big smiles, proving their attitude to be cheerful.  Martin greets his audience with praise and gratitude after every song.  When a problem occurs on stage, he is better known to laugh and move on than to be upset or stay stuck in the moment. He dances around on stage in every show, smiling and laughing, like it is the best day of his life. These characteristics are played out in the overall optimism of the songs he writes. 

Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Faces of Martin and Yorke overlayed

Although they have several similarities, Chris Martin and Thom Yorke prove to be contrasting in several significant ways.  The fact that they share a fan base seems confusing.  The explanation is that the differences they have apply to different aspect of the listener’s lives.  I, like other fans, enjoy these two bands because of some qualities they share, but also for the characteristics that they differ in greatly.  One is yin, the other yang. One is a glass-half-full perspective (a theme Martin explores in his song "Glasses of Water") and the other half-empty. The question this dichotomy introduces is imperative to understanding the purpose of music: is it to simply get us through the day? Is it here to provide a rose-colored lens to look through, or to divert our focus from the everyday problems we all are so aware of to the mystery and beauty of what is all around us that we might be missing? Or is the purpose of art to magnify the hidden issues? To snatch the wool from our eyes, rip the bandaid off, and make us feel something real in a raw, untempered delivery. Is music meant to sustain us or to change us? To cheer on to our play of life or to chide us as our biggest critic. Is music here to bolster a life all about working in the harsh, cynical yet remarkably productive New Yorke, or vacationing in the sublimely ignorant and peaceful Lake Martin? Well, I like New Yorke and Lake Martin, and I need both. I need the rough streets to chisel me down to being a life that's worth living, and the other to soak in the warmth of all that's worth living for in life. Music needs both. Humanity needs both.

Let's be real: Radiohead is a way better band, musically. Chris Martin even has hinted at wanting to sound like Radiohead at the beginning. From Rolling Stone: "At last night's free Coldplay show in London, frontman Chris Martin joked that his band's song "God Put a Smile on Your Face" sounded an awful lot like Radiohead's "2 + 2 = 5." "Sorry, we shouldn't be talking about plagirism," he joked. "Ignore that!"" Elsewhere Martin said "Sometimes I feel like they [Radiohead] cleared a path with a machete, and we came afterward and put up a strip mall," he says. "I would still give my left ball to write anything as good as OK Computer." 

I say all that because, guess who played at the Superbowl and who didn't? Most people know Coldplay and not Radiohead. I think that is revealing. Most people want an IV of Coldplay music, and would rather ignore Radiohead music. They would rather keep the wool over their eyes, stay in that cushy, ignorant, sunny place and never face the hard facts. But music has more to offer. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (as I said, I love Coldplay - the best concert I've ever been to by far), but let's listen to something that is musically incredible while emotionally and intellectually challenging. If you have never listened to Radiohead, go with Chris Martin's suggestion: start with OK Computer. If you are a Radiohead...head...that thinks Coldplay is cheesy: get out in the sun a little - maybe start with Viva La Vida. I think Radiohead and Coldplay are like Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, protons and electrons, your mother and her smart phone: they can't live with each other, but they can't live without each other either. They are equal but opposites. They need each other.

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And Who Is My Neighbor?

Daniel:

Our friend Janell has spent the last month with us. We have had some amazing journeys to DC and NYC for New Year's Eve. The adventure she is about to start is one we sadly can't go with her on, but we can send her off with a bang.

Janell is going to the front lines of the Syrian Refugee crisis to the island of Lesbos, Greece with Adventures in Missions, alongside Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross and the UN. Lesbos is receiving the highest number of refugees daily, the trip there you might have heard on the news where dozens have died just in the past month. Convicted by the crisis, Janell is heading over to help the refugees, being one of the ones picking shivering children out of the overpacked life-rafts, threatened by hypothermia or starvation; wrapping many in NASA blankets; shuffling many quickly to the Red Cross medical tents. We were thrilled when she decided to go, helped her setup an awesome new website (www.janellking.wordpress.com - click to see how to support her as well), talk through travel details, and pray with her as she discerned the next steps in support raising for the trip. We couldn't wait to see the support for her by her friends and family to send her off well.

But that's not really what happened.

I'll let her jump into the details below.


Janell:

I remember the image like it was yesterday. Do you know the one I’m talking about? The image of the little boy’s body washed up on the shores of Greece. Do you remember the waves of outrage the image caused at the atrocities happening in Syria, and how quickly people moved to respond? No? Most people don’t.  The news of ISIS and terrorist attacks and the waves of fear of the refugees have long swept over the images of death and suffering experienced by the people of Syria.

I've been sharing about my heart for the refugees to friends, family members, and complete strangers. The response has been surprisingly negative. The first response usually looks something like this:

“I mean.. You can help them just as long as they don’t come here.”

“That’s so sad. Those muslims are dangerous though.”

“Why would you do that? There’s enough people here in America that need help. Why go all the way over there helping THEM?!” 

A short video on the Syrian refugee crisis

“We can’t help them. They will bring their religion and their oppressive antics over here. America is already over-run by foreigners. They don’t belong here. Tell them to go to Asia or something.“ 

“Girl, do you have a death wish? You can’t go help. It’s too dangerous.”

“America needs to stop playing big brother. It’s not our problem to help. They got themselves in this mess, let them figure it out.”

I’ve spent the last 6 years traveling the world, experiencing a plethora of different cultures, religions, beliefs, and ethnicities. I’ve lived amongst the poorest of the poor, held their dying children, whispered love into the thrown-away, abused and neglected children of society, listened to stories of those infected with HIV/AIDS (as well as genocide victims, survivors of rape, widows, etc.), watched as revival gangs bloodied each others bodies, prayed for miracles of food when feeding hundreds of starving people, and experienced first hand what a drought looks like and how precious water is.

My journey across the world has shown me that we cannot take our privileges for granted, nor should we let these privileges be an excuse for not responding to injustices all around us.  I have also learned that we can learn so much from those who are different from us. 

I have friends of all kinds of religions - friends whom I deeply love and respect. This blog is specifically for my brothers and sisters who call themselves believers of Jesus, although I hope in some way this speaks to everyone.

To me, the response to the refugee crisis is a simple one. I’ve been confused and so heart broken over America’s response to love those who need help- especially the church. 

I’ve attempted to uncover some biblical truths for those struggling with compassion and empathy in hopes to bring understanding to our mandate and response as believers. Take a look at what the Father tells us to do:

1. Love Refugees As Yourself

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

2. Leave Food for the Poor and the Foreigner

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

3. God Loves the Foreigner Residing Among You

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

4. The Sin of Sodom: They Did Not Help the Poor and Needy

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. (Ezekiel 16:49)

5. Do Not Oppress a Foreigner

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

6. Invite the Stranger In

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)

7. We Were All Baptized By One Spirit

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

8. Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)

9. Have Mercy on Your Neighbor

He asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)

10. Jesus Calls Us to Love our Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:43-45).

11. Jesus Was a Refugee

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

Jesus chose to walk this earth, not as a King, Chief Priest or wealthy landowner, but as an undocumented child refugee to Egypt. 

If our Lord deliberately chose to identify Himself with refugees, we should not be too quick to overlook the significance—Jesus was in solidarity with those fleeing persecution.

 There is a chance that some of those who seek refugee status have some connection with violent radicalism. What then is your response to an enemy? On this, Jesus is very clear… Love your enemy.  You can argue that this is naïve. You can say that it is unrealistic. But you cannot argue that Jesus called you to something different. Jesus showed us how to love our enemies - not seeking to preserve His life, but to lay it down. Are you willing to pay such a high price for loving like Jesus?

Now is the true test of our faith. Will we also care for immigrants, refugees and foreigners, or will we turn our backs, saying it’s too hard or too dangerous?

The world is watching. Will the church rise up in this hour to be true love in action? Will we model the radical love Jesus asked us to live by? Or will we sink back into fear, discrimination, hate, racism, and war? 

What will you choose? 


Daniel:

This blogpost wrecked me, as I'm sure it did you. It got me thinking about how we see people far off and different, and make compromises in reasoning for why to not help. Why to not see them as our neighbor. But let's do an experiment: look at the story of the Good Samaritan one more time, with some substitutions of the current situation in Syria, modernizing the parable of Jesus a bit. I'd like to title this experiment...

What Could a Modern Good Samaritan Look Like?

"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Bible? How do you read it?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A Muslim was going down from Syria to Greece, whose government were robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a politician was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a humanitarian aid worker, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Christian, as he journeyed, came to where the muslim was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, providing medical care, food and warm clothing. Then he set him on a boat and brought him to a new country and took care of him.  And the next day he took out his credit card and gave the number to the customs & immigration office, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, charge it to my card.’  Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

[Adapted from Luke 10:25-37 / Changes in italics]

What if the Syrian Refugee is our neighbor? Are we walking on the other side of the road?

Our call as Christians is to the marginalized. The inconvenient. The illogical. Will we answer the call?

Scripture says that the good samaritan looked upon the man and had compassion. 

Janell is selling T-Shirts that have the word "Compassion" on them. They look awesome. If you would like to help Syrian Refugees in a tangible way, support Janell by buying one of these t-shirts here, or donating directly through her website here.

 



 

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Bovine Inspiration: Freddie the Cow Escapes the Slaughterhouse

When my friend Janell told me about a cow escaping a slaughterhouse in NYC two days ago, the idea was at first hilarious (the image of this cow running wild through Manhattan in my head), but then afterwards I felt strangely inspired. 

This guy made it out. And he was scheduled to be slaughtered THE NEXT DAY.

I became intrigued with the story. Would the cow be caught? Shot? Sent back to the slaughterhouse? Be hit by a car? Be rescued?

Maybe all of this is striking me harder because Sherei and I have been going meatless for January. After talking with our associate pastors who are vegetarian, and hearing them expose the truth of the meat industry they discovered through watching documentaries like "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix, this story is sounding more and more like a bovine miracle.

Watch the video below to see what Freddie had to look forward to if he didn't escape. Warning: this video is slightly graphic, but not nearly as bad as many others.

If I was Freddie and had any inkling as to what was coming for me. If I heard the bleating echo through the halls of the slaughterhouse, or became curious about why my living space was so small - I'd make a run for it too.

I wonder if there was an inner longing for another land in Freddie? If he believed deep inside somewhere that there were rolling hills for him to explore with fresh grass for him to eat, a cool breeze in the air, and a family for him to care for?

See I bet Freddie was a conspiracy theorist. All his friends thought he was crazy. He was convinced the life they were all living was a sham, that there was a greater existence outside those walls that they were made for. One with family. Fulfilling food. Frolicking fun. Freedom. But they rolled their big eyes whenever he brought this fantasy up, and told him to get with the program. Just keep his head down, and stick with business as usual. If he challenged the status quo...there'd be consequences.

I wonder what the cattle-lyst for his escape was? We're not told how Freddie made it out, but my guess is he saw one too many friends disappear, ate one too many bleak dry grass and cereal dinners, saw the sun peak through a high above window - just out of reach of feelings its warm rays on his cold, damp, dirty skin - one too many times, and decided to make a run for it.

Watch the video above again, and note how the cow responds to his new found freedom. He is running, half free and half frantic. He is both out of harms way, and yet not safe yet. Not fully free yet. Many have made it as far as he has, and been shot down, or dragged back into the hell they came from. He is out of the Egyptian bondage, but not to the promised land quite yet. And Isn't that where so many of us live? Delivered but not free.

I was showering this morning and noticed a sticker on one of Sherei's shampoo bottles: "50% More FREE." I laughed and thought that was the oddest thing. How can something be MORE free? What a stupid marketing technique. If it is free, it doesn't cost anything. It is either free, or it is not. Don't worry, I get what they're trying to say, but come on. Something can't increase its freeness! And then I thought of this message by Christine Caine, and how I have lived so much much of my life as a believer set free by the cross, yet not living in the full freedom of a Spirit-led life. I am receiving the living water, but in cracked cisterns that leak and occasionally run dry. Listen to Christine Caine speak to this idea at this year's Passion just a few weeks ago:

My favorite part of this story is the ending: our cow is rescued. 

This cow that was once just another number, another consumer product to be mindlessly eaten by the masses (did you know there are 100+ different cows in a single McDonalds hamburger?). But this wasn't our cow's story anymore. He was picked up by an animal sanctuary from a distant land, across the great divide (New Jersey...). He now will live 100% free. Adopted by these caring beings of a higher power, yet not of the dark powers that ran the wretched slaughterhouse. He was given a name, a place and a purpose. His name was to be Freddy, named after the lead singer of Queen. Now he is free to roam, eat fresh grass, play with friends, and sing "we are the champions my friends" indignantly looking toward the slaughterhouse he was raised in. 

He is an animal kingdom example of the kingdom of heaven; of the human soul escaping to freedom. A dairy good...I mean very good picture of what it looks like for us to wake up and realize we're in a cage keeping us from the real life, mindlessly moving forward on a conveyer belt toward death. 

Freddie was validated in his belief of a greater life. And what a peace he must live in. How appreciative he is of the life he now lives. His stories must make the other cattle of the sanctuary tremble. But his mind must wander to the other nameless ones he left in the slaughterhouse.

So what is Freddie's next move? My guess is to set the captives free.  

Check out the song "Terminal" by Jon Foreman and let's take his advice to "not let your soul die before you body does."

Check out the place where Freddie gets to live now...paradise.

 See the full video below. Long live Freddie, who inspired both man and beast.

---

Daniel Jackson 

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