293790155_8476465585.jpgOkay. I’m going to land somewhere as to what I believe this song means. And the place I land is somewhere between two interpretations – because I think this is what Webb is trying to with intentional ambiguity. Let me know if you think I am in the ballpark. Again, I invite Webb to make any comments to throw me a bone here.
(vs. 1)
this was real
oh this was what you’ve all come to see and feel
but i’m starting to doubt my reality
‘cause it does not last long
once the cash is gone
eventually all of this must become zeros and ones
everything, everywhere, everyone, zeros and ones

So much of the entertainment industry is fabricated. Whether it be romance where the good-looking man has just the right line with just the right smile. Whether it be a drama where everything works itself out in an hour-long program. Or a song that within 3 minutes spreads out the insides of a man and resolves the tension by the bridge. In a society where our issues are resolved on the surface with smiley faces and saline-induced eyes we have lost the raw nature of life. Instead of getting messy in our neighbors lives we get more involved in the latest Desperate Housewives episode.
God help us that we live plastic lives so that real life is just a commercial. Death is not mourned, just patted on the back and we are told to go on. We live in our latest CD moaning to the travesties of falling in and out of love while our neighbors’ marriage is crumbling.
(vs. 2)
i’m in love
oh i love what i can convince you of
‘cause i’m a prophet by trade
and a salesman by blood
now i’m dying just to be
a filtered, sub-cultural version of me

Again, we love the honesty of Webb don’t we. He shows us the struggle of an artist. Feeling like you have to sell your life in order to eat bread. This is the second play on words: in order to sell albums you sell your life. If you don’t make number one, then you are a zero. You claw along the race with the Juddses (the music equivalent to the Joneses). I get this interpretation from the line that he is a prophet by trade and a salesman by blood. He has to sell in order to eat and yet he wants to prophesy to the calloused culture around.
The “filtered, sub-culture version” I wonder is related to the song “This World” where the Christian sub-culture is critiqued as having so many trinkets and treasures but nothing that we need.
my blood is red
dripping on a page
if i’m brave enough to cut myself
but the more it sells
it thins my blood

Implied in this is the struggle Webb has, as an artist, to not be some Mello-Yello version of what he wants to say. That is, with so much of the Christian music these days sounding like mainstream evangelicalism (and selling platinums) it is hard to not give in to that so you can buy your wife a new guitar.
I appreciate Webb’s music so much more than the cotton-candy, bubble-gum thoughts so prevalent on Christian radio waves. May God continue to sprout up men and women who challenge our everyday assumptions so that we learn better what it means to take up our cross daily.

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Less Hype. More Humility.

Please. Embedded in our consumeristic culture, there is the assumption that newer is better than older–though I prefer aged beef and cheddar to new. There is the assumption that grand and renovated and powerful is preferable to meek and lowly and weak.

The church often adopts this form of communicating in an effort to gather people into its doors. “God is doing awesome things here at Church _______.” The fact is that God is doing awesome things everyday and everywhere. He’s sustained your life. He’s given you sight and hearing and legs. And if you have none or only one of these, he’s still given you life and a mind to engage the world around you. Truly miraculous. What is more, is God not also doing something in the old, decrepit church that meets faithfully every Sunday? Is God not at work in the mundane? Is the changing of laundry and washing of dishes and working through an argument devoid of God’s presence?

I see so many churches trying to drum up excitement about the latest outreach or project, when what our culture needs is the staying power and sobriety of faithfulness in the ho-hum drudgery of going to a job you hate or a marriage that is contentious. What we need is not more hype, but more humility. More service and less heavy-handedness. We need more gentleness and less power grabs.

If we don’t, what then becomes of the senior citizen who is tired? What becomes of the baby who is sleeping? What becomes of the unemployed and outcast and burdened? They are forgotten. They are seen as less valuable because they aren’t producing the kind of energy requisite for assumed faithfulness to the disciples’ call.

In reality, we need less loud voices and red faces and sweaty brows and more silence and calmness and a deep well of contentment.

The New Economics Will Be People

So I went to a coffee shop this morning and was struck by the utter efficiency they were churning out drinks. In fact the team lead said this much as encouragement to the six other workers behind the counter.

I walked in. Smiled at the barista. Was greeted with a blank stare as he continued to froth the milk and deliver the piping hot skinny latte with extra foam to the drive-thru. I walked to the register and was passed with nary a glance…even when the team lead said “Hello.” No she didn’t look at me, but made sure that her metric of greeting a guest in the first ten seconds was met. A box that is checked. That’s what I was. A large dark roast with no room for cream and sugar. And surely there was no saccharin here. There was utility and efficiency.

In all our pandering for growth our marketing of environment is nothing more than a marketing tool. The timers and grids for efficiency have crowded out the thing that matters. The only thing that matters in products.

You see, the products that are pushed are labeled as though they were made for you. In reality, the products being sold to you have (for the most part) been made for the manufacturer. People have merely become a means to the end of bigger, faster, better.

In the new economy, people will matter more.

They won’t matter because they need to matter to grow the business. Too often companies tell you that you’re important because they want your money. They don’t want to make a difference as much as they want their new car or luxury vacation.

I want to say this loud and clear. In the new economy, people will be the end in themselves. They will no longer be viewed as a metric or a number. In the new economy, mom and pop will be sought after. Because, after all, we all know that the verbiage of how you matter to company x is just verbiage. It’s merely eliciting a response for another end.

In the new economics, people will want to matter. They will flock to the place where they are known by name. And not just to tout the “community” of an establishment. Did you notice the subtlety of that one? No, people will know your name because they know you and you matter. Your name is not known just to brag that you matter and sell the belonging you too can have if you buy your next skinny latte with extra froth…hold the pandering.

We are not there yet because executives are still measuring. Measuring people. Yet, what the new economy will have to embrace is not a spreadsheet or a graph. They will be forced to embrace people. Not to grow their graph. But to grow their own soul.

On Conformity

As much as I hate to admit it, Christians push conformity. Conformity to the wrong things. Being shaped by a group and set of ideals is inherent to being part of a group–be it Christian, straight edge, atheist. But I am speaking about and to my tribe.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of being a part of several different denominations and have seen this shadow overtaking much of the piety of its adherents. It wasn’t meant to do so.

Do you homeschool? The correct answer depends on the group you’re talking to. Do you go on mission trips? Do you adopt? Do you run around incessantly from meeting to meeting showing how you are making an impact for the kingdom?

We have steered far off course when we get away from the simplicity of the Gospel. Of a life changed and being changed by the Gospel. That is, before Christ’s ascension, he said to merely teach all that he commanded. Yet. Yet, much of our passing on of information is not what Christ taught. They are various implications and applications of what he taught. And so,

Might I encourage you to be slow in conforming to the standards? Not just of popular culture, but of the popularity of whatever group you find yourself milling about. The shadow looms to block out the sun of joy and hope. It chokes out the simple call to humble obedience to Christ, changing out a yoke that not even the teachers can bear.