Tuesday, May 22, 2012

MitchWords: Part Eight

Sometimes I don't really feel like a Christian. No, not in that "I'm not morally or behaviorally correct enough to be considered a Christian" kind of way. I always feel that way. I'm incredibly self-analytical and always judging myself as harshly as possible. Someone once questioned if I'm a good enough person, or Christian, to be writing a blog about Christian theology. Of course I'm not! I am well aware of my sins and faults which I will always struggle with. In my own mind, I am the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 11:15). But if we waited until a pastor or preacher was 100% perfect and sinless before we let them get behind the pulpit, a sermon would never be preached on this earth again.

No, that's not what I mean when I say I sometimes don't feel like a Christian. What I mean is I don't always feel like I'm the stereotypical Christian I'm supposed to be when I claim to be a Christian. Spirituality has never been my strong suit. Devoted prayer and worship has never come easy to me. This can make one feel rather out of place when they grow up in a Pentecostal tradition. Now, I'm not critiquing expressive worship. Indeed, I rather enjoy attending enthusiastic worship meetings. I'm just usually the reserved guy standing at the side, hands in his pockets, taking it all in.

What usually gets me excited about God, though, are the details, intricacies, and problematic quandaries of Christianity. There is a certain feeling of joy when I ponder the absurdities of the faith. In general I am admittedly a nerd. I know more about the Star Wars universe that takes place beyond the movies than most people probably do about the stories contained within the 6 main films. It only makes sense that I would apply this same obsessive fascination with obscure minutia to my faith. If I feel like I don't fulfill the role of a Christian particularly well, maybe I better embody the notion of a Christ-nerd.

Realizing the relatively limited Greek vocabulary and phrases in Mark can turn the familiar Gospel into an enjoyably hilarious read. But you can't think the Gospel of Mark is funny! You must be reverent of scripture! I am reverent. I am a nerd. I am only irreverent about that which I am most reverent of. One of the best parts about my love of Star Wars is the Robot Chicken parodies of the franchise. The knowing jokes, references, and clever skewering only increases my fondness of the idea that is Star Wars. Is it really blasphemous to incorporate this natural personality trait with my belief in God?

Clearly, this is my own personal collapsing of my faith and fandom into a singular entity. Typically, these two realms are strictly delineated. Nerdism is the fanatical celebration of pop culture. Organized Christianity traditionally evades, avoids, or outright condemns pop culture. Never the twain shall meet.

But they do. In my world they meet often. If you asked me what music I like, you'd get a fairly weird answer. My music collection is an odd blend of Contemporary Christian, modern worship, and nerdcore. One genre sings passionately about God, the other sings and raps passionately about the loves of nerd culture. Why wouldn't I listen to both? Why would I not listen to songs about Boba Fett, Poe's The Raven, or Donald Glover for Spider-Man?

Though I may listen to these musical genres interchangeably and find inspiration and joy from both, they never really collided as my own faith and fandom had. That's what I thought until recently when I randomly heard a song by nerdcore artist MC Lars titled "Francis Bacon Slashed the Canvas." The first time I heard the song it was playing in the background and I paid only casual attention to it. And then at the end of the song I heard a familiar voice and I became extremely confused. The voice I immediately recognized felt out of place because it was transcending the gap between these two musical genres I greatly enjoy. The voice belonged to John Reuben, a Christian hip-hop artist who I have seen in concert a number of times.

MC Lars! You got God in my nerdcore! Or, alternatively: John Reuben! You got nerdcore in my God music!

How did this happen? How did these two collaborate on a song? It mystified me that these two rather obscure music genres that I loved would combine. It felt like this song was made specifically for me. It was like if someone started writing a blog about theology in graphic literature (wait a minute!). Another song on his album Lars Attacks! gave some insight into MC Lars' new found interest in the Divine. A verse from the song "Super Scope" goes:
Almost died in a wreck on the highway
Black ice, Minneapolis, trailer sideways
But Frontalot and I and the crew survived
So there must have been a reason I was still alive and now
I wanna rap about God though it might seem odd
when the rest of my songs don't really
But now I've got some realness to bring
I can't be like "Hold up, don't wanna look silly"
So much negativity before I found divinity
The love I see He gives to me now it's all positivity
Admittedly it's victory, this enemy inside of me
is silent now, the demon sleeps, I see the light and now I'm free
And people see the novelty, but actually I be more deep
Cause every time I rhyme and speak on every track and every beat
I'm channeling this clarity, I feel alive apparently
And this is how I'll always be with G-O-D inside of me
Please don't misunderstand and think I'm saying nerdcore in general references the Divine. Instead, it is typically laced with profanity and obscene references to sex, drugs, and advanced mathematics. This added to my surprise of discovering this development. But really, I shouldn't have been surprised at all.  In the song "OMC," mc chris says, "Now nerds are trendy, they call it geek chic. Nerds never noticed, they were on their PC's." The geeks that were bullied in junior high are now the ones leading and directing postmodern cultural trends. This whole blog is dedicated to the idea that instances of pop culture are filled with theological themes and references. Nerds are the creators, purveyors, and consumers of pop culture. A collision between Nerd and God is inevitable.

I am not alone. My ideas seem a little less crazy and a little more acceptable when I see other instances of nerd interests and theology collaborating. And that is one of the many things that inspire me to keep doing what I do.

And then there's Adam WarRock.

Now, Adam WarRock doesn't rap about the intersection of God and comics. He just really loves comics and raps about them. I share his passion. I really love comics and I write about them. But beyond our shared passion for graphic literature, I also like WarRock for the story behind his music.

Eugene Ahn used to be a lawyer. In his spare time he combined his love of music and comic books to make songs about comics and release them on the internet to whoever would listen. Calling himself the "Internet's Foremost Comic Book Rapper," Ahn began to make a name for himself under the pseudonym Adam WarRock. And then he realized making songs about comic books and pop culture was far more fulfilling than being a lawyer.

And then he did something crazy and stupid. And I am so glad he did. Ahn quit his job as a lawyer to pursue a music career full time. He abandoned a lucrative and respectable career to follow his passion of making rap and hip-hop music about comic books. WarRock himself said, "From a logical standpoint, I believed I could be more successful as an indie musician than a lawyer, if you take gross income out of the equation."

I love that quote. I love that mentality. I love that idea. Our society judges success largely on financial circumstances. Happiness, enjoyment, and passion don't really play a role. But what if, like WarRock, we take money out of the equation. How many "successful" people would we still consider successful? How many "unsuccessful" people would we lift up and praise for doing something they enjoy?

In another post, Adam WarRock wrote this comment, "The closest thing that’s ever made me believe in a Higher Being is this: every time I am absolutely down in the dumps, not confident, despairing over my decision to do this, every time I think I need to start trolling job openings and thinking of a future, I get an email from someone. I’ve gotten the longest, most heartfelt and sincere emails of my life from total strangers, people who tell me that my music has helped them, that it means something to them."

This is where Wednesday Theology and Adam WarRock intersect, though he likely doesn't know it. This blog is an extension of my Master's thesis I wrote in seminary entitled Wednesday Theology: Theology and Language in Graphic Literature. Dude, if you ever read this, I want you to know that out of all the countless hours I spent in the library basement typing away at that paper, at least half of them were spent with earbuds pumping your music straight into my brain. Adam WarRock's love of comics expressed as music propelled my own love of comics expressed as a thesis. And it was the most brilliant eighty pages I have ever written. So far.

Whatever amount of success this Wednesday Theology idea may encounter, whether financially or not, I'll always owe a debt of gratitude to Adam WarRock for the inspirational lyrics that urged me to press on. His latest album, You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?, is amazing and I plan on listening to it often as I pursue upcoming projects.

Nerds and Christians are both devotees to their own particular passions and ideas. It makes sense that they would occasionally overlap.

At the beginning I said I sometimes don't feel like a Christian. That still holds true. If you were to ask me if I was a "good Christian," I respond with a "no." I'm rubbish at it. I am well aware of my own faults and failings.

Well, I must be pretty good at being a Christ-nerd, then, right?

No, I'm fairly rubbish at that as well. It is a tragedy how much Greek and Hebrew I've already forgotten. There only seems to be one niche area in which I excel, and that's talking about theology in comics. Fortunately there are people out there that want me to talk about this more.

So if I'm rubbish at being a Christian and a Christ-nerd, what in the world am I?

I'm Mitch.
Bitter. Sarcastic. Handsome.

Thank you.

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