Friday, April 25, 2014

The rubble or our sins?

      Filling the airwaves over the last several months has been the song "Pompeii" by the British rock band B∆STILLE.  Not only have radio listeners (and YouTube viewers) found the song difficult to avoid, but it also featured in the trailer for the recent animated motion picture Mr Peabody and Sherman.  The music video makes clear an allegory to which the title points:  the destruction of a beloved "city".   The lyrics suggest that the destruction of the "city" is due to the citizens' being "left to [their] own devices . . . and lost in all of [their] vices".  One of the "hooks" in the song recognizes that the destruction is happening, and asks the question about the future:  "Oh where do we begin? The rubble or our sins?"
      On the one hand, there is a bit of hope suggested by the questions -- that is, the song seems to suggest that there will be survivors who need to re-create (or create anew) a new "city".  On the other hand, it seems to me, the vision is lacking.  What the song calls for is correction of the past, e.g.,  clearing the rubble, or perhaps re-using it, is one way of moving forward.  Another way might be some kind of corporate repentance.  Now I have nothing against those kinds of responses; they 
may represent some kind of way forward.  But they both seem to look back, with some kind of expectation that revisiting, and repairing, the past will turn, by virtue of the onward movement of time, into some kind of desirable future.
      Our Jewish neighbors have just finished celebrating the festival of Pesach/Passover, recalling the deliverance of Israel from its house of bondage in Egypt.  The story is familiar enough, with the dramatic passing through the Red Sea immortalized in several movies (and a theme park!).  the Israelites were free!  Free from bondage.  Yet, within a short while, that new-found freedom wasn't enough. God had promised a new homeland, and was providing the people with food (manna).  Yet they would rather return to their old land than follow the promise:  "If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this mann to look at" (Numbers 11.4-6).  In other words, a return to past circumstances was more desirable than a future with a promise       We are all, always, in the position of leaving something behind -- either willingly or unwillingly.  We are either delivered, or our "city" is destroyed.  In that situation is . . . possibility.  The song "Pompeii" wonders "How am I gonna be an optimist about this?"  I'm not sure that's the right question.  I wonder instead whether a different focus might be worth considering:  "What kinda new city might come from this?"  Our challenge is to find, and articulate, a compelling vision, one that is so strong that we're willing to leave Egypt behind, and trade cucumbers and garlic for milk and honey.  

Chaplain Gary

*The "Pompeii" video can be seen here.  A wonderful, less bleak a capella cover can be seen here.


  1. Love your last sentence; thanks for issuing that challenge....bring on the milk and honey!

    Easter Blessings,

  2. Thanks, Marianne! Indeed, milk and honey for all!