Thursday, March 31, 2011

Justification Songs, or, On Lutheran Rastafarianism

For our Lutheran Confessions class here at LTSS, we were asked to create an artistic representation of what the doctrine of justification means to us. That's right. Art project theology - which is actually quite fun considering some alternatives. Anyway, before the green-eyed monster threatens to floor you with jealousy, I thought it would be fun to share my contribution.

Believing that the doctrine of justification is not so much a deposit of propositional truth as it is the name we give to the entire story of God with God's people, from the creation to the calling of Israel to the salvation of the world through the God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew, to the sending of the Spirit into the church's life in the new creation which continues to this day and until the End, a story which is different than others in that it is true, and that it includes us, I sought to re-tell this story in a mode that is congruent with what this story seeks to evoke: worship. As Robert Jenson beautifully remarks at the conclusion of his Systematic Theology, "in the conversation God is, meaning and melody are one. The end is music." By Christ's death for sinners, we are reconciled into the fugue that is God's life with God's people. This is not a punctiliar occurrence, but our very life with God and with one another in Christ's body, the Church, completed by the Spirit in our midst.

We receive our identity, then, not from ourselves, but from another. Which is why, for my project, I sought both to depend on another for my form, while also emptying that form of its content and re-imagining it from within the story which encompasses our world. Also, I simply couldn't find the inspirado to be original, so I pirated a melody. Bob Marley's Redemption Song is, in fact, a good vehicle for this, in that Marley's Rastafarianism sought to perform such a re-imagining of the existence of African-descent peoples under the cultural and economic captivity of a colonial regime, thus identifying with the Exodus, and, proleptically, with the Resurrection. I have simply baptized Rastafarianism's narrative from within Conessional Lutheranism - not because I don't like it, but because its not "my story." Anyway, the whole point being, the Gospel is never spoken to us in a vacuum, but is always contextual, always in-breaking and transforming the culture into which it comes, while also renewing that culture even as its expression is shaped by the hearers to whom it is uttered. This is the logic of justification extended into missiology, as well as unfolding into the new life, which is the gift given in justification, hence leading to sanctification and action.

Or, its just a blatant but highly intentional ripping off Marley's classic "Redemption Songs." Its super cheesy, and yet, somehow, it fits. Maybe a youth group will find it hip one day - maybe Bob is up there singing it right now, or maybe one day, I'll get to teach it to him...I hope I get dreadlocks in heaven...

Justification Songs
(adapted from Bob Marley’s “Redemption Songs”)

O Jesus was a rabbi
A Jew from Palestine
As Mary’s Son was One of us
As God’s Own Son divine

And my hand was made strong
By the grace of the Almighty
For while I was still a sinner
Christ died for me

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom
They’re all we’ll ever have
Justification Songs
Justification Songs

Emancipated from Satan’s slavery
Let the Spirit renew our minds
Have no fear of demonic enemies
None of them can stop the Kingdom’s time

How long will the wicked profit
While we stand aside and look
There is a new creation
It’s time to live out the Book

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom
They’re all we’ll ever have
Justification Songs
Justification Songs

1 comment:

  1. I think that's a really neat project they had you do. I have to admit that I did have to sign the song out loud; nice work changing the words. I like it.