I began this post a week ago and have been having trouble finishing it, but I have stuck with it because I feel like it’s important – important for me certainly. It’s got a lot of the things that have been bubbling up in my mind these days – things that I need to get out somehow.
I will often listen to music as I write and I find that I listen to all kinds of things, from worship music, to classic music, Johnny Cash, to folk to rock ‘n’ roll. I’m listening to Audioslave right now and it’s with a feeling of sadness and melancholy. Amid all the noise of the Trump administration implosion I came across the news that Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Audioslave and Soundgarden ended his life last night.
I discovered Soundgarden near the end of high school and I found it surprisingly compelling. I just wouldn’t have imagined myself being drawn to that kind of music, but I was. I remember them playing a song called Jesus Christ Pose on MuchMusic at the time and it was a really interesting song, but at the same time I wasn’t sure if it was a song that I should be listening to. It didn’t seem to be a song that was talking about Jesus in a particularly positive way.
But the guitar was so interesting. It drew me in and although in some ways Chris sounded like a lot of other Heavy Metal singers of the day, there was something different about him. There was something different about the whole band. They seemed authentic. They seemed to be doing something they believed in, rather than just putting on a show or strutting their stuff. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it was fascinating and exciting to me.
I found out later that the song was a criticism of the exploitation of religious imagery – famous people taking on a particular pose to project the image of a martyr or of someone who is above others. While it is certainly not a defense of Jesus it seems to be a pointed and legitimate criticism of a certain kind of grandstanding. I wouldn’t say that I ever felt completely comfortable with the song, but it certainly introduced me to the music of Soundgarden and when their next album came out it turned out to be one of the most creative and interesting rock abums of the time – certainly that I’ve heard.
But there was something about the music, that although honest, authentic and without pretension was a bit sad and lonely. The honesty of the music, even though I couldn’t understand what a lot of the songs were about was compelling to me. A lot of the songs seemed to be about disappointment and searching for something. It resonated with me at that time. It connected to the part of the journey where I found myself at that time.
I grew up hearing about the good news of Jesus and week in and week out I would go to church and to youth group. I would go to camp and to youth retreats and I would hear from the Bible and yet somehow I found myself feeling a sadness at times that felt far removed from the religion and the faith that I grew up with. Somehow I didn’t see that my faith and my religion was a place to find solace and relief from the things I felt at times. For some reason I didn’t understand that my faith was actually a good place to turn in my sadness and my disappointment.
I see that now. I understand it now, but I still find that I am trying to understand why it was that I didn’t see then – why I didn’t understand the beauty and the value of the faith I had grown up with. Why was I drawn more to these somber rock musicians and the somewhat melancholic and often grim view of the world that they presented? Why was I drawn more to their versions of hope that spoke more of resistance than redemption?
I remember that there were moments when I felt as if I wanted these singers I loved and revered to find Jesus for themselves. From a cynical point of view you might think that I just wanted them to validate my religion that I didn’t understand myself, but I think that even in that place of sadness and confusion I understood that there was hope in Jesus and I felt instinctively that it was a hope that these guys needed. I wanted them to find it and I also wanted to find it for myself although I’m not sure I fully understood the part about myself at that time.
I feel like I don’t fully understand the gospel of Jesus – the good news of Jesus. I know the fundamentals; I know that he died and because of that we have life, but I feel like I don’t know how to translate that into terms that people who don’t know that can actually see. I feel like so many people around me have heard of Jesus and know of Christians, but don’t really see any of that as good news. They see the whole thing as being irrelevant to their lives. I feel like I’m bringing people something they already believe to be empty and trying to convince them that it is good news…and I don’t understand how to do that, but like never before in my life I am feeling an urgency to understand how to do that.
Jesus IS good news. He really is hope. He really does bring life. Jesus could actually transform every life of every person who sees his story as being irrelevant; just the story of a good man who lived a long time ago – but how do I do that?
I don’t know what was going on in Chris Cornell’s life leading up to that night he died. Only Jesus knows for sure what passed between them in those last moments, but I find myself wondering if he knew – if he really knew the good news of Jesus. I’m sure he knew a lot of things about Jesus. He attended a Catholic school as a kid, but did he know the good news – the really good news?
As I ponder this question I feel urgently that I am sitting on the world’s greatest treasure – a treasure that is free for anyone to enjoy and yet I find myself struggling to know how to share that with people in a way that they might really see and really understand. But I suspect that really the issue is more a matter of me not having understood it for so long and being afraid of it. Maybe it’s less a case of me wanting to understand, and more a case of me knowing that I’ll look like an idiot by trying to tell people that something they believe to be empty is actually good news. Maybe if I was more willing to look like an idiot then I might start to give people the chance to hear and maybe to understand.