Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I Have Learned from Henry Rollins #1

I firmly believe that Christians should know the people they are sharing their faith with, and by this, I don't mean a solid relationship is necessary.  I mean that Christians should have a clue about the person's cultural background, hobbies, interests, and enjoyments.  Paul in Acts 17, mingled in the marketplace and he learned and observed the people of Athens.  When they asked him to share his beliefs on the resurrection, he was able to connect with some of them by quoting their own poets, making references to a good aspect of their current worship, and also was able to directly address their current philosophy.  

I love that Paul didn't just quote the Bible with the men of Athens.  In fact, he didn't quote the Bible at all.  He just quoted their own poets!  

I love to watch movies and listen to music to hear the poets of the world, to learn from them, and inevitably I get something back from them that actually benefits my Christian faith.  I also learn more about how to communicate with others my beliefs through the current culture. 

Henry Rollins - Photo taken from here.

A favorite singer of mine (if you'd call him that, I do, and he's so much more btw, such as an author, actor, and TV host), Henry Rollins, has taught me a lot.  He has a heart for helping others and he is also brutally honest, and calls things the way he sees them.  I want to share with you some of what I have learned from Henry which I like to use when sharing my Christian faith with others.  

From an album he released called, Weighting, comes the following lyrics from "Miles Jam #3":

I want to see all the straight lines go crooked
So I know they’re real
I want to see you screw up
So I know you’re real
I want to see you bleed
So I know you’re there
I want to see you fall
So I know you’re human
Cause everything is too slick, too bright
The lines are too straight
It’s too right
Nothing ever fails
I need you to remind me of your mortality
I need you to remind me of my mortality
I want to see the colors fade
I want to see the shine fall away
I want to see a mistake
I want to see a mistake
I want to see a great fault or catastrophe
Because it’s too straight, it’s too slick, it’s too right
I want to see the cracks
I want to see the fault lines
I’m tired of hearing the word causality
They should just say . . . death.
I’m tired of hearing the word virus
They should just say. . . plague.
Because the life’s are too smooth too easy.
They don’t use the word failure enough
Cause everything’s not alright, and I’m tired of being strung along.
And in my weaker moments, I almost believe it. 

What I love from these lyrics is the call to truth.  Things in this life are not peachy, perfect!  Humanity makes an attempt at hiding the pain, problems, suffering, and death.  Individuals make an attempt to appear perfect, so they can be accepted and loved by all!  We wear mask to conceal our flaws.  And you are not allowed to point out the faults, because then you'd be the problem.  Especially, in today's politically correct environment, no one is a failure anymore.  

Rollins, an atheist (from all that I have heard and read from his own words), sees through the facade and calls for honesty.  As a Christian, I have to applaud him and I take this to heart in my life witnessing for the God I believe to be real and true.  How often do Christians show their faults?  How often do people who are not Christians get hit over the head with the law, being called a sinner in need of grace before the Christian takes the time to know what the person already believes about himself or herself!  What if, what if, they already know they're broken, know they need help?  Heaping more law and brokenness on a person in that situation won't be helpful. 

Listening to Rollins, I see that he wants honesty.  I ask myself how honest are many church congregations, or Christians, with their sinfulness. To an outsider looking at the church, what would they see?  Would they see that the church is a bunch skewed lines acting as if they are straight?  Do they see humble, repentant people?  

I just read from Death by Church by Mike Erre:
"I think He [God] hasn't given up on us, His church.  I think He is calling us to reexamine some things and reshuffle some priorities, but more importantly, He is calling us to wake up.  To not just point to our shiny, happy megachurches and Christian bookstores  and tell ourselves all is well.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we really started addressing the things that plague the church - things like pride, infatuation with power and influence, narcissism, idolatry, greed, envy, and hypocrisy."
Reading these words from Mike Erre, made me think about Rollins' words, "Everything is too slick, too bright. The lines are too straight. It’s too right."  Do Rollins' words apply to the church, just like Mike's words?  Rollins sees through the smoke and the mirrors designed to hid the faults; he sees the cover-up, and what he really wants is to see the real you, the real me.  

So for Christians what can we take from this?  I take that for some people who are not Christians what they really need to see his open honesty.  They know their mortality, they know their faults.  They don't need us just to jump into the conversation saying they have problems and they need God.  They want to see us admit and bare our problems and our vulnerability.  Besides, the Christians are called to do this, to bring sin into the light.  We need to be messy in the church, and I don't just mean a generic confession of sin at the start of a sermon.  Hypocrisy is a big claim against the church by non-Christians, and I don't think the problem is really hypocrisy, just a lack of admitting our own faults and the ways we as a church of hurt and burned others.  

As a Christian apologetic, our first defense, in some cases, might need to be simply apologizing for our misrepresentation of Christ and for hiding our sinfulness as if we were sinless and had no problems ourselves.  

Blue Like Jazz (Limited Edition) 

There's a great chapter in Blue Like Jazz that shows this apologizing apologetic put into action.  

Death by Church: Rescuing Jesus from His Followers, Recapturing God's Hope for His People (®) 

Mike Erre also writes an entire chapter on this approach in Death by Church called "Jesus Wept: Apologies and Apologetics".

WeightingAnd of course I must add a link to the Rollins Band CD Weighting, which contains the jam I quoted.  I'll have to warn you though, it's not his best CD.  It's certainly a release that is best for fans of Rollins. 


  1. Hi there !

    It was great to read a post like this, for I'm an atheist and a Rollins fan as well. I think you just grabbed the main point, Rollins is talking/singing about all the way: that to be better is to be honest, be openminded, stand against racism, and any kind of discrimination. If you do all of this you can make the world a little bit better, either you are a believer or not.

  2. Reggie,

    Thanks for sharing. I'm a massive fan of Rollins and the Rollins Band (both renditions of it). I plan on writing more of these on Rollins because I get so much from his work that helps me in my Christian faith. I just saw him speak in LA. If you haven't seen one of his spoken word shows, I'd recommend checking one out some time.


  3. You just confirmed a word I was given. Thank you.