Posts Tagged Jesus

Glen Benton: Activist or Anti-Christ?

Glen Benton Christmas Sweater

Some of the people we view as great Americans have spent the better part of their lives being derided and defamed, only to later be discovered as incredible human beings.  Harry Truman was a wildly unpopular President who was viewed as incompetent by many in the press.  Today, he is viewed as one of the great Presidents of the modern era.  Muhammad Ali was once believed to be a draft dodging, loud mouth braggart who was disgracing the sport of boxing and America itself. When the “Sportsman of The Century” lit the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta, there was almost no mention of that.

There are some people just like this in our world today.  One such man inhabits the world of heavy metal.  This local hero, defender of humanity, and social activist has sat quietly in the face of persecution for many years. That man is Deicide vocalist Glen Benton.

Most of Glen’s early works, much like those of Henry David Thoreau, focus on the abuses committed by the dominant religious system in America.  In a world racked by grief and suffering, Benton posed questions like “How can you call yourself a God?”  He also passionately revealed the mistreatment of God’s followers in his work with potent lines like “God is the reason we live in dismay, it is his will that this world is suffering”. After this intense period of anti-religious activism, Benton was directed by his own ethical compass inward to a more gentle period of his life.

Benton, Bunnies and Babies
Thus began his “furry adoption phase”. He began by adopting a few baby bunnies. The more bunnies he adopted, the bigger his heart swelled. At one time, the Benton house was home to over 300 baby bunnies.  He adopted many other animals included wounded llamas, lemurs and aardvarks, but it was the bunnies that he forged the deepest connection with.  This led to the most musically awkward phase of Benton’s career.

In 1994, Deicide tried to release the album “Cute Little Bugs” which was rejected by the record label and later re-recorded the next year with different lyrics as “Once Upon The Cross”.  The looming threat of commercial failure in the midst of soaring rabbit food costs was a wake-up call to Benton. He got back on the anti-God musical bandwagon in order to continue to support the incredible collection of animals who relied on him for sustenance.

The next major event in Benton’s life is still shocking to many. On a gloomy late December morning, he received a knock on his door.   When he opened it he found a young orphan left in a basket on his doorstep with a note that read simply “Jesus”. Benton, who could have easily eaten or sold the baby, instead committed the next years of his life to raising him, feeding him out of a bottle, and even going so far as to suckle him from his own teat. As he grew older, Jesus began eating sugary cereal, watching cartoons, and collecting Pokemon cards. In those days they were one big happy family- Benton, Jesus, and all 300 of the cuddly bunnies. He recalls that Jesus was just like any other normal kid, and that he often left crayons in his pockets which would melt in the wash.

Benton and Jesus
The mixing of Jesus and the bunnies under one roof is how our modern Easter tradition came about. We can all thank Glen Benton for that. However, when Mary and God, the child’s rightful parents, returned to claim him, Benton lost a bitter custody battle and had to say good-bye to young Jesus.

Years later, Jesus was arrested and crucified by the Roman authorities for shoplifting.  He still blames God for allowing the death of his young friend.  Had young Jesus stayed in Benton’s care, the two would still be happily sitting on a couch watching episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba.  Things turned out far differently.  Still haunted by those terrible memories, Benton has spent much of the latter part of his career singing about Jesus’ unfortunate death.

This was a dark and distressing period for Benton. He sought to make a strong statement about the injustices God had committed against his once foster son. He burned an upside-down cross into his forehead as a constant reminder of the grave injustice that had been committed. This act, while viewed as completely insane by some, has earned him the occasional comparison to the Buddhist monks who set themselves in fire in protest of the South Vietnamese government in the 1960s by those who understand Benton’s commitment to social justice.

Since that time, Benton has been busy teaching a young generation not to die on crosses or listen to their idiot parents, even if they are God. He has constantly been portrayed in as negative light by the media, having been called the everything from a terrible influence on America’s youth to the Antichrist. The truth is, Benton an activist in the mold of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Sean Penn.  More than anything, Glen needs our love and understanding. Compassion for The Caco-Daemon is a non-profit group that has been started to collect letters of support and affection for Glen and his important cause.  They are currently accepting handwritten cards (preferably in crayon) to encourage Benton to continue his fight.

Cards can be mailed to:

Compassion For The Caco-Daemon
PO Box 2204
Gresham, OR 97030

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Supreme Court Finds Moment of Prayer Before Atheist Concert To Be Unconstitutional

Florida death metal band Atheist thought they were doing the right thing for their community.  They had been scheduled to play a series of concerts during lunch at local elementary schools throughout the Tampa/Clearwater area in order to spread the appreciation of music and the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  However, on Thursday, the US Supreme Court upheld a law that prohibits prayer during metal concerts on public school grounds.  In effect, this means that Atheist and other faith-based death metal bands are no longer allowed to pray before concerts at public schools.

A good number of local politicians and parents have denounced the decision, which shocked most legal experts who are used to the government letting people get away with anything they want as long as they invoke the name of the Christian God.  Members of the band Atheist are particularly outraged by the Court’s ruling, which they believe prohibits their constitutionally guaranteed right to pressure young school children into conforming to wildly absurd community standards.  According to Atheist drummer Steve Flynn, “if music can’t be used as a tool of forcing children into the belief that every mistake they make could potentially earn them an eternity of torment, what’s the point of even playing?”

Atheist has been known for their outspoken Christian beliefs over the past few years.  They refuse to play concerts on Sundays and have been known to throw Chick-Fila sandwiches at anyone wearing satanic black metal shirts or mocking Tim Tebow’s throwing arm.  They played several fundraisers earlier in the year for Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and have even dedicated their song “Faux King Christ” to Moral Majority Founder Jerry Falwell at a concert in July.

The Court has not been shy recently over taking cases involving religion and heavy metal.  Last year, they ruled 5 to 4 that members of the band Deicide can be forced to do the Pledge of Allegiance before concerts in spite of the fact that they are Jehovah’s Witnesses and their faith prohibits saluting secular symbols.  In a landmark case back in 2008, they ruled that the black metal band Watain was prohibited from throwing out non-Kosher animal parts into the audience during concerts taking place in a synagogue.

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On An Easter Egg Hunt With The Cancer Bats

So there I was, participating in that most shameful American rituals, the Easter Egg Hunt.  Swarms of children knocking each other over, screeching at the tops of their lungs in the desperate hopes of laying their greedy little mitts on as many plastic eggs as they possibly can.  The whole exercise functions as a wonderful metaphor for American style consumer capitalism.  A bunch of wild-eyed humans released upon an uneven field with the goal of filling their baskets with as much stuff as possible.  Sure, everybody gets something, but those who are bigger, stronger, faster and, most importantly, start at the front of the line tend to get more.  All the while, this being a function of one of the local mega-churches, crackpot religious explanations are given for nearly everything.

“You know who really put these eggs out here, son?  Jesus Christ.  See, he works through us.  Remember that when you are eating those Skittles,” muttered a used car salesman looking church elder with game show host hair.

It was around that moment that I realized that if I didn’t put my headphones on immediately and listen to something angry I was going to tear my shirt off and run around howling like Lon Chaney.  These were the exact conditions under which I came into contact with the new Cancer Bats album “Dead Set On Living”.

I should admit up front that this hardcore punk metal hybrid thing never really did much for me.  Around the time Hatebreed and Converge were coming out I was busy trying to prove to the world that I was so metal that unless it came out in Europe, was from a band that had been around since Carter was President or had been approved by at least six members of the Central Committee that I couldn’t be bothered it.  It is really a shame, because I missed some pretty intense music and probably would have been easier to be around had I been a tad more open-minded.

Listening to the driving groove of the opening track “R.A.T.S” while watching a husky five-year-old girl rip an egg out of the hands of some pigtailed three year old seemed particularly fitting.  The whole scene was menacing.  The tone of the album helped me imagine the children turning into brain-thirsty zombies.  Somehow, instead of the eggs being filled with the sugar-laced, sunshine of God’s love, they were contaminated with some CIA tested drug that morphs children into predatory beasts.

The Cancer Bats singer Liam Cormier takes some getting used to.  He’s of the high pitched death wail school, which usually makes me a bit edgy.  It gets better as the album goes on, particularly because he offsets it from time to time with an almost David Lee Rothian snarl.  The guitars are what really what grab you.  They tend to create short, punchy, memorable riffs that carry you endlessly forward and flow from a nearly bottomless pit of energy.  About three listens to this record are all you need to be thirsting for it every second of the day.

Meanwhile, the kids began to get this panicked look around the time they realized the eggs were nearly gone.  Something like the expression they’ll have in twenty years when they are sitting in their car waiting to get gas for three hours.  I cranked the music louder steeling myself for some sort of toddler riot.  I knew I could handle a few of them, but if the whole group turned on me they’d tear me to ribbons.  Finally, mercifully, the eggs had all been collected and the mob was redirected with little violence towards a sea of bouncy castles in the church parking lot.

The whole experience was perplexing for me.  Here I was, surrounded by all that is supposedly good and right with the world. Except every bit of it felt dirty and degrading.  The only thing that seemed remotely moral to me was the driving rhythm of the music in my headphones.  I sunk into a moment of genuine despair as I realized that I might never be able to reconcile my values with those of my culture.  Maybe I was an alien.  Maybe I was simply wired wrong.  Would I ever be able to understand how people could find joy in moments like this?  Then, out of nowhere, my beautiful three-year-old daughter took my hand, looked at me and smiled.  And everything was okay.

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Dissecting CARCASS’ “Heartwork” – Fifth Incision…Embodiment

This is the fifth in a series of articles analyzing the lyrics from the 1993 Carcass album “Heartwork”.

Embodiment

I bow down your precious icon, deity of self-suppression

This effigy of flesh, corporeal christi, nailed

In submission to this false idol, seeking deliverance

From this spiritual hierarchy, downward spiraling, a corrupt throne

Of repression and guilt

Our will be done

Thy kingdom burn

On my knees, before this tormented flesh, in irreverence

In communion with this parasitic host of virtuous divinity

This imperious creed bears testament to the failures of our morality

Righteous durance is our cross we bear in stations

In stations of the lost

Our will be done

Thy kingdom burn – thy kingdom burn

Our will be done

From your knees arise

By your own hand, your god you scribe

The earth shall inherit the meek

Your god is dead

Bound down, in God we’re trussed, foul stature

Icons embodied in flesh, we nail

In servitude to deities fashioned in our self image

Shadows of eternal strife cast by those who serve

Serve a crown of pawns

If up until this point you weren’t sure how the band Carcass feels about religion, Embodiment states it completely and in no uncertain terms. The song is an outright renunciation of organized religion, Christianity in particular.  The lyrics bubble with hatred and scorn for the self-annihilating principles that they believe mark the Christian outlook.  I don’t share the disdain that the band feels for Christianity, but the force of the language used in their argument is highly compelling.

The song’s central argument is that Christianity is an advanced form of slavery.  They make the case by dismissing the existence of any fathomable God and assuming that the goals of religion are to allow those who are in power to continue an unfettered hegemony over the practice of free will.  Where some people see peace and comfort, Carcass perceives control and subjugation.  Certainly, some of their argument is legitimate.  There are plenty of historical examples of the misuse of religion to advance the selfish ends of a tyrannical elite.  However, the song fails to address much of the comfort and solace that it has brought people for over 2000 years.  Further, it would be facile minded to simply assume that the self-abnegation at the core of Christian thought is completely a bad thing.  The giving up of one’s desires to benefit the community is on many occasions, inside or outside of a religious context, beneficial towards the human race as a whole.

In spite of the problems the argument presents, the language with which the case is made is striking.  The core belief in the song is contained in the beautifully efficient and devastating pun “In God we’re trussed”.  By taking an expression found on American money and perverting its message, Carcass is able to make several critical points.  First, the use of a religious phrase in an economic context effectively links the agenda of today’s Christianity with the pursuit of financial gain.  Then, they take the phrase and change trust (an act of faith) into trussed (to be tightly bound or in this case completely controlled).   Essentially, they argue here that while you may choose to subvert your needs for the Church it will not extend you the same courtesy and, worse, it will take your belief and use it to hoodwink you into giving up your possessions and your liberty.  In their eyes, it is the greatest hustle in human history.

What is truly lost for believers is contained in the heart-wrenching expression “the earth shall inherit the meek.”  The original phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth” is an appeal to the Job-like masses that give so tirelessly but ask for little in return.  They suffer in silence, but at the end of the day, they will be rewarded…or so the story goes.  The good and humble people will come to control the earth and the wicked will be cast from it.  The subversion of this expression contains allows for a very troubling message to be presented.  If you suffer in silence and do the right thing your reward will be the grave.  Death awaits us all and those who are pious and righteous are rewarded with the same eternal darkness that await those who pillage the world blind.  There are no rewards in this life or any other for those who follow the words contained in the Bible.  The meek will be buried right alongside those who engage in a Dionysian life of personal excess and unabated greed.  The ground cannot tell the two apart.

If this argument is legitimate, it presents us with chilling questions about how we should live our lives that goes beyond religion.  If there are truly no consequences for our actions, why not do whatever we want?  Those with the most material, at the end of the day, are those who have benefitted most from a purely material world.  If all that is promised to us for a good life is an eventual death, what is the motivation in living a justly?

I believe that the truth or untruth of God’s existence need not bear on whether someone acts morally.  If every word of the Bible is true and God’s existence is exactly as portrayed in Christianity, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  If every word of the Bible is false and Christianity is an unholy scam perpetrated by on the masses by ruthless power mongers, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable.  The reward of living a just life is simply getting to live a just life.  That’s all.  The earth may inherit the meek, but at least the meek can lessen the suffering of those around them.  Nothing else is promised and nothing else is certain.  TS Eliot eloquently summarizes this principle in his poem “Choruses From The Rock”…..

All men are ready to invest their money

But most expect dividends

I say to you: Make perfect your will.

I say: take no thought of the harvest,

But only of proper sowing

It is our station to care for one another to the best of our abilities regardless what the truth of the universe is.  To love without condition is the greatest gift we could bestow on our world no matter what the terms of our existence are.  Any philosophy that brings us closer to that ability, be it religious or atheistic, is worthy of our respect and consideration.

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How Could Hell Be Any Worse?

From a distance, it really looks like Cleveland

Lately, I have found myself more and more interested in the Christian idea of hell. Maybe it’s the awful chill of winter.  Maybe I’ve been listening to a bit too much black metal.  I’m not quite clear what has put me on this mental course, but I have spent a good amount of time thinking about what it would actually be like to be in hell.  I don’t even really believe that hell exists.  I am not completely against the idea, but I accept that I have no way of possibly proving its existence or non-existence to myself, so I just figure I’ll find out after I die.  That is not the part that really interests me.  What I want to know is what, assuming that hell is real, would torment a human for eternity.

In the Book of Matthew, we are warned to “be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  To be honest, I find this quote a bit odd.  This implies that we take our body with us to hell.  If this is true, one must wonder what that thing in the casket back there on earth is.  Is that a wax replica of us at the funeral while the real body goes to hell?  Is your body snatched out of the coffin and sent to hell the minute you enter the ground?  (But then, what happens if they dig you up?) Does God duplicate our body and send that one to hell while the real one is on earth?  Is the body I am currently in an illusion and my real body somewhere in the ethers waiting for judgment?  In that case, can I blame the illusion body for the sins committed on earth?  After all, the earth body did the things I am getting sent to hell for.  As the eloquent, renowned philosopher Silkk The Shocker once said, “It ain’t my fault!!!”

If it is just your soul in hell, that opens up another can of worms.  I can specifically tell you that the conditions of hell would be awful on my body, but I can’t predict what extreme heat would do to my soul.  No part of the Bible mentions the soul having nerves, so why should we expect that it would feel pain in the way the body does?  If it is physical, it is capable of feeling physical pain, but I have not often heard the soul described as a physical thing.  It is usually thought to be a spiritual entity independent of the flesh.  Most descriptions of the soul are of the ghost in the machine variety, where the soul is a non-physical being that steers our body around then hops out when the body is no longer sentient.

In order to move forward with this line of questioning, I’ll pick the most likely scenario, which is that the soul just recreates your body once you get to hell.  There is no reference to this happening in the Bible, but this explanation gets my body in hell, which for the purposes of this argument, is where I want it.  Then, we run into another problem.  Revelation says that you shall be tormented “forever and ever”.  If hell is supposed to be eternal, how can the body and soul be destroyed?  I mean, once you are destroyed isn’t that it for you?  If the torment of hell is supposed to be eternal, how can it be that you are destroyed?  Revelation refers to hell as “a second death”, but what happens after the second time you die.  Do you continue to go to new hell after new hell?  Do you die and wake up again?

Let’s assume that my body and soul are now in hell which is described in the book of Revelation as being “the lake of fire and brimstone”.  I think that would be really terrible…for a while.  The thought of an extended amount of time in extreme heat is an awful thought.  20, 30 years would be gruesomely terrible.  100, 200 years would be worse.  But, after some point, wouldn’t I just get used to it?  I mean, the thought of eternal fire is terrible, but eternity is a long time.  My immediate reaction would be a period of unbridled misery.  But, after a while, wouldn’t I forget what normal earth temperature felt like and become hardened to the torrid warmth? After a period of time, wouldn’t I get used to the pain?  I don’t think this would happen right away, but we are talking about eternity here! Even if time is different between hell and earth, there has to be some point where a person accepts their surroundings, no matter how miserable.

To understand this phenomenon, imagine a thought experiment where from the age of 15 to the age of 100 a person named Bob was awakened by a right hook to the face thrown by Mike Tyson.  Day after day, Bob is waylaid by a vicious shot the skull from the former champ.  The first 10 or 20 years of this would be awful, but after some period of time wouldn’t Bob simply adjust and accept the beating as the way things are supposed to be.  Bob would be able to brace himself and would build up a tolerance to this sort of abuse.  Any brief survey of history would lead one to believe that humans have the miraculous ability to adjust to nearly any set of awful circumstances.

Another problem with hell as it’s currently constituted is that going to hell actually removes one of the most dreadful aspects of being alive…. death.  In hell, one doesn’t really seem to have a rational reason to fear death.  The terror that humans feel from never knowing for certain what the afterlife is has been removed.  Dying in hell would be a relief to many who are stuck there.  Endless, painless silence would seem to be a good deal better than eternal torture.

There are some basic structural problems with the idea of hell that I cannot quite reconcile.  I’d like to believe that whole thing is just an idea created by humans to scare people into doing good, but maybe that is not true.  However, if it is real, you have to question its effectiveness. I really have to wonder if it is the most efficient possible use of a sinner’s afterlife.

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