Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sabbath Sunday: That Old Time Religion

The funny thing about Sabbath is that they could do a tune whose lyrics read like a Mike Huckabee sermon, yet still sound like they are channeling Azathoth. That's a talent.

But when I was a kid, listening to Sabbath didn't seem to clash with my religious marathon weekends (temple on Fridays, Mass on Saturdays, dawn-to-dusk Methodism on Sunday), nor did my comic books or my Penthouse magazines. I was trapped in the Dreamstream and it all seemed to make sense to me.

I always felt a kinship with artists like Marvin Gaye and Prince who could sing a wickedly lacivious number one minute and then rip into the most heart-wrenching Gospel tune you ever heard the next without missing a beat. So I felt like my religious longings were vindicated by "After Forever," since to my young mind the Spirit World was filled with horror and lust, just as much as it was filled with love and tranquility. Living in a messed-up place like 70s Braintree, where parents left their kids unprotected and unsupervised, sexual predators ran rampant and one had to navigate an open-air drug bazaar every morning on the way to school, you had to make your own sense of the world. Jesus dwelled in a constellation of other forces- both dark and light- and raging contradictions were taken for granted.

But through it all I discovered that the edge of the two planes- where Light and Darkness mingled- is the place of true religion. This is why comfortable suburbanites spend so much of their time worrying themselves over the darkness and depravity of the demimonde: the light of Jesus is more clearly seen in the Dark Night of the Soul. It's the best of both worlds- you get that adrenaline rush from the wickedness of the world and that beatific glow from the promise of salvation. This is why the old mainline churches are dying- by downplaying the old fire and brimstone obsession with sin, you deny yourself the orgasmic promise of redemption.

It's also why all the negative social indicators rank highest in the Bible Belt.

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