Of Penguin Dreams & Stranger Things

I am a Pedro The Lion/David Bazan fan; that's just how it be. For those of you familiar with his work, you know that It's Hard To Find A Friend is a fantastic Christian album of betrayal and redemption. So are the EPs he released just after that album, and of course that EP on Tooth and Nail he released so long long ago. Then came Winners Never Quit and Control...both "concept" albums that traced one story. Winners told the story of a man, a bad man, who had grown up in a home of hypocritical religion...and by the end of Winners he completely abandons even the pretenses he held on to in the beginning of the album. It is a beautiful work, and I was so impressed when I heard it; there are many songs on the album that, if played in isolation, would have made many Christians angry at him. The story, although it ends in despair for the man, so completely affirms God's sovereignty that I fully expected the follow-up album to be a tale of redemption.

'Cause you can have a Christian story with a desperate ending, but there'd better be a sequel, know what I'm saying?

And Control was another great story, but if anything, man, it just drove you down with the emptiness of the characters' lives. In the penultimate song, Of Priests & Paramedics, there is a priest who tells all the mourners at a funeral to give up on hope and go home...and I wondered...could that be David Bazan?

Bazan's not on a Christian label (fine by me, most of 'em are owned by MegaMusicMonster anyway), but there's a not small contingent of semi-emo Christian kids who call him a "Christian artist." He says he's a Christian...so where's the redemption?

A fellow fan and I had talked about Pedro and the redemption quandary (there's a good band name: The Redemption Quandary)...and I recently got an e-mail from this friend, who managed to bend Bazan's ear for nearly 1/2 hour before annoying him, which for this guy is pretty good. Here's an excerpt from that e-mail:

then i brought up the fact that, at the show at sasquatch i had asked him about his comments that i had read on the internet. the one where he's commenting on control and says, "without that end-of-the-rope scenario, there's no room for redemption." at sasquatch, i asked when redemption was going to come, and he responded, "it's coming, it might not ever happen in a pedro album, but it's coming." sooo...at the show in spokane, i explained that his answer seemed a little ambiguous and was wondering if he would expound. he graciously did so. he told me that, the way he looks at it, israel spent thousands of years in anticipation of christ and redemption, and in thier sin, and so he's not really in any kind of rush to get there. then he said that one of these days it'll happen though, he said that he'd have some big burst of inspiration and it'll just happen! pretty sweeet eh?

After reading that I still had a few caveats and questions, but I'll take it: Bazan's writing an epic poem about despair and redemption. I'll take it.

All of which brings me to the film I saw last night.

Finally got around to watching The Matrix: Reloaded (when I say "reloaded" I feel like following it up with a pum-pum-pum-pum! Like this: "The Matrix...Reloaded. Pum-pum-pum-pum!"). There was a lot of talk about the original being a very Christian story, and although the details now elude me (really obvious character names notwithstanding), I could see exactly what the talk was about.

I know I'm late to the party when I say: having seen the sequel, you can throw all that talk out. I know it; just let me unload.

But it's not because of all the symbolism etc. that I throw that stuff out. If a Christian had written the first two films with the dialogue as is (I say dialogue 'cause the wife and I had to skip a scene last night), you could have the last film seal the deal with the fall of syncretism/paganism. No problem. And wouldn't it be cool to have a small remnant be redeemed to grow and repopulate the earth?

The reason it's not going to be a film that tells a Christian story is this: the guys who are making the film are new-agey dips: they're not going to want a fall of paganism. They're just trying to establish some sort of gnostic-generality-universe...it makes 'em seem smart.

I mean for goodness' sake, there in the Special Features' "Making Of" section there was Cornel West (Cornel West!!) on the set, saying how Zion is a symbol...a symbol that there is always hope, no matter how dark things get, there's always hope. Hope for who, for anybody? Man...if the likes of Cornel West is comfortable with your film, I'll tell you this, you don't have no gospel film. You've got a lie.

The reason it's not going to be a film that tells a Christian story is this: people write these stories. The company you keep says a lot about you.

So you have the original Matrix...a movie with an obvious Messiah story comin' right at'cha. Fine.

You have an album like Winners Never Quit...a prodigal son story without the return.

What's the difference between the two? One may owe much to Christendom's artistic past, but the other is written by a man who embraces the gospel. That's it. That's the difference.

It doesn't pay to look for Christian overtones in pagans' work. Of course they'll be there. There are Christian overtones in the fact that some pagans have happy marriages and actually want children. There are Christian overtones everywhere. It's called common grace.

If, instead of Christian overtones you want a gospel story, go find a gospel believer...it's makes a difference, little bit.