I got into a semi-fight with my parish’s adult RE director a few years back. I was taking his excellent class on the Church Fathers and enjoying it very much, when he illustrated some point about objective good and evil by using the example of rock music.
Take a good look at my profile picture. I’m not an aggressive kind of person. I let people cut in front of me in line and don’t say anything. Librarians intimidate me. Meek and mild, I’ve got that down. But when this man (who does an otherwise amazing job, have I mentioned that?) equated rock music with objective evil, as though it were an unassailable truth, something snapped in me and I could not keep my mouth shut. Open went my lips and out came tumbling such eloquent arguments as, “blaaargh….language of the angels…layers of sound…Christian music is simplistic…and stupid….I like Pearl Jam!”
He was not convinced.
I wish, now, that I could go back in time and introduce Mumford and Sons into the equation, because then there could be no argument. They are so clearly on the side of the angels that many music critics (especially European ones, hoo boy!) dismiss them out of hand. They are so rock-and-roll that tons and tons of people are swept up in the music and find themselves praying before they even know what is happening.
That last part is not a joke. I’ve seen Mumford and Sons live twice now, and both times I was struck by how like an old-time tent revival the concerts were. (I’m a Steubenville grad, from the time before the big tent blew down, in case you were doubting my tent-revival cred.) Both times I would look around and see half-drunk frat boys, professional-looking young women with their Trader Joe’s insulated bags tucked under their Target picnic blankets, and dopey teenagers all, in unison, throw their hands to the heavens as they belted out wholeheartedly lines such as:
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be
And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck
And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again
Dude. It’s amazing. And I’ll tell you what, it feels much more wholesome, much more genuine and healthy, waaaaay less creepy than some actual tent revivals can feel. Looks fair, but feels foul* comes to mind when I think about some religious gatherings I’ve witnessed, and the Mumford and Sons experience is the Strider to that Black Rider. Looks foul – look at all these sinners! Is that one high? He totally is, and that girl’s thong is sticking out- but, but…look how drawn they all are to the idea of calling on a higher power to transcend where they are right now. Look at my own hands, also raised.
It gives me hope, about humanity in general, that all these people who would not consider themselves religious-sort of folk, all these people who – at least to me, sitting judgmentally on my own Target blanket, do not look like they’re trying all that hard at life, yet are irresistibly drawn to this band and their call to Something More.
Mumford and Sons new album comes out tomorrow, and as I’ve already heard five or so of the new songs live I feel perfectly comfortable in recommending it heartily. It’s good music in the fullest sense of the term: not perfect, but honest and full of heart and touching on life in a way that everyone, seriously everyone, can relate to.
*If you don’t recognize this reference, shame on you.