Recently I went to an amusement park in Minnesota with my young cousins, and as we were entering the place so were about 300 teenagers wearing these t-shirts. With their advertised commitment to endure hardship, one might imagine they had come to test their Spartan self-restraint, observing in silence while us non-combatants ran around having fun, but no, they were there for the same reason as the rest of us: to ride Steel Venom, Wild Thing, and Renegade. Like the roller coasters, whose names terrify but are ultimately quite safe, these teens seemed mostly pretty normal and sweet. Still, there’s something not so sweet about making the war metaphor central to a characterization of the life of faith. I don’t think they’re subversively challenging our valorization of war so much as taking it for granted and reinforcing it as a mark of toughness. Also, what about peace, love, gentleness, joy?
Does my undying allegiance to Sade’s “Soldier of Love" make me then a hypocrite? No, because Sade has been kicking R&B/soul/soft rock ass for thirty years,* and the song has lyrics like "I’m at the borderline of my faith / I’m at the hinterland of my devotion / I’m in the front line of this battle of mine / But I’m still alive / I’m a soldier of love…I am lost but I don’t doubt."
The faith I’ve experienced is most often like Sade’s: at the borderlines and hinterlands, where I have to trust in being lost.
*Unfortunately not all posts on the R&B Church blog will include a meditation on an actual R&B song, but no one can stop me from doing it occasionally.
- Neil Ellingson