Sunday, July 8, 2012

This Is Ourselves

Under Pressure - Keane (mp3)

“Oom boom bah beh.”

If I had a gun to my head, and I was forced to name an all-time favorite song, “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie* would receive serious consideration.

* -- This cover version by Keane pales in comparison, but I mostly assumed that posting Queen’s version would get the DMCA monsters all up in my grill.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I taught Sunday School to high school kids. I made a mix CD with 20 songs that blatantly or subtly addressed issues of faith or religion, and I gave a copy to each of the kids. (Yes, every act under Heaven can and should be considered an excuse to make a mixtape, mix CD, or playlist.) Each Sunday we would discuss one of the songs and its connection (or lack thereof) to religion.

The capstone of the series was “Under Pressure.” More than any other song I know, it captures my personal theology, my belief in a higher power, in duty, in what goes on inside despairing hearts desperate for something to cling to.

The first verse covers the problems of life, the burdens we all carry, the calamities we all cause or suffer.

The second verse covers the personal reaction. Terror. Screaming. We’re pushed to the edge. We see a friend we trust and rely upon giving up, possibly considering suicide. Their surrender adds to our doubts. We pray tomorrow gets us out of this Princess Bride-like Pit of Despair.

We’re being kicked and tripped (or chipped). Our brains are jelly. Inside and out, it’s going from bad to worse.

Yes, I realize at this point my theology and outlook seems quite grim, but as my seventh-grade history teacher was so fond of reminding us, “You’ll never find an atheist in a foxhole.” We’re most keenly aware of and insistent upon a higher power when the shit hits the fan. We believe best when we need the most.

Then the bridge:
We try turning away from our responsibilities to one another, but it fails.
We try “sitting on a fence,” to keep from taking a side, but it fails.
We keep trying to figure out this crazy little thing called love, but what the outcome seems slashed, torn, imperfect.

All this failure drives us a little nuts.
But what choices do we have? Give it another shot or give up. That’s all we have.
And then the line worth repeating 10 times: Give Love.
Don’t worry about taking love, or about receiving love. Give love, and the rest falls into place.

And it seems so simple, so pathetically simple. So, why can’t we a better job of it? Is it outdated, a useless concept for a less enlightened time? We often tell ourselves this when we’ve given up on it.

Giving love “dares us to care” -- not demands, not orders, but dares -- for the people on the edge of the light (or night), to the people outside our circle. Tougher yet, it dares us to change how we think of and care for ourselves.

We get one shot. This is our last, our only, dance.

Almost every line in this song has a connection to Biblical teachings, especially the stuff that used to show up in red letters. Do I believe Bowie and Queen intended to write a religious song, much less a Christian one? Not remotely. But out of the mouths of babes, right? Or, as Freddie might put it...

Oom bah bah beh.
Eee day dah.
That’s OK.


Other songs on my “Sunday’sCool” CD included:

  • the annoyingly-misunderstood “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan,
  • Jane Siberry’s “Calling All Angels,”
  • “Rachel” by Buddy & Julie Miller,
  • “Poor Man’s House” by Patty Griffin,
  • “Stay On” by the BoDeans
  • “Into the Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “With God on Our Side” by Bob Dylan (or Buddy Miller)


Sara C said...

Totally wish I was in your Sunday School class. This concept is awesome, and your reading of this song is amazing. I'll never listen to it the same again.

Bob said...

I know it's amazing to consider that I also once taught Sunday School, but I did. My rock and roll text was Joan Osborne's "What If God Was One Of Us."

Billy said...

Thanks Sara. Thanks to my outside-the-box thinking on curriculum, the average number of regular youth attendees at Sunday School skyrocketed from 2.4 up to 3.1.

@Bob -- My love of Ms. Osborne's song is more because it was written by the Hooters combo of Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman. (Hyman also helped Cyndi Lauper write "Time After Time.) This song is, in my opinion, almost as frequently misinterpreted as Maclachlan's "Angel."