Friday, June 15, 2007

Late Night Thoughts on Arcade Fire and Prayer


Briefly: there is a fine line between desperate, honest, yet reverent prayer to God, and the overt disbelief and God-condemning renuncation of God, to his face. In a way, one might say "fine line? what could be more disparate than a hurting soul crying out to God for relief versus a soul that renunces God?" Ah, but Psalm 88 proves the line really is fine - this psalm would be almost unsingable in churches today, even though it was once sung by the ancient faithful without sense of contradiction. If you haven't read Psalm 88, you might have an overly pretty-ified view of prayer. Now, Arcade Fire is a band that a lot of Christians are excited about (as well as a lot of non-Christians -- seriously, U2 and David Bowie both have taken the stage with these guys - the latter whose recent album is entitled "Heathen" while the former's lead singer has declared his Christian faith in increasingly overt ways lately). My question: is Arcade Fire singing Ps. 88's or are they shrugging off Christianity itself in their lyrics? Which side of the line are they on? Maybe others have settled this question, and I see no evidence that Arcade Fire's talented artists make any public Christian claims (which is fine in itself, even if any of them are Christians). Maybe the answer doesn't matter -- speaking as a true believer, these songs make sense, even if I'm wrongly interpreting them from my side of the line. Their album "Funeral" is jaw-dropping, and, as one Youtube.com post-er said, "if you dont' cry at this, you are dead inside." Overstated? A little, but not by much (though if you're over the age of fifty, I'll let you off the hook for reasons of changing generational aesthetics).

5 comments:

Ken Kienow said...

Wow - even psalm 88 aside, thanks for the post. You've turned me on to a great band. :)

Bret said...

Funeral is a great album...

Their new one, Neon Bible, has a lot of interesting things to say about religion and faith. It's more evenly paced than Funeral and doesn't have as many standout tracks, but I still like it.

I don't know if you ever found the cover article Paste magazine did on them recently, but it's online here.

I'll lend it to you sometime...remind me.

Bret said...

Well, since this is still the most recent post you have up, I'll add another link I just ran across today:

Click of the Light / Start of the Dream, Paying attention to Arcade Fire.

nick nesbitt said...

if listening to them on any sort of a stereo should make you cry, then how would one describe the experience of seeing them live. I have been at a loss for words for two months since i saw them in the bay area. And now for something completely different... their latest album is musically tear inducing. Tears aside the album, entitled Neon Bible, calls attention to some serious problems with how the institution of the church operates (or at least some of its denominations). Among other things, Win Butler describes scenarios of workaholism in the church that have ruined families (possible his own family). Regardless of their personal faith or lack thereof, Win Butler and his band are saying some things that Christians need to hear.Excellent post Brian.

Tim Schmidt said...

For what it's worth, I saw them at Coachella last year and they were great performers. Can't say as I thought they were anything other than a secular band, but that's just my impression. I really haven't listened to their lyrics or tried to suss it out in any way.