I watched “The Brit Awards’ last night and saw a new band called ‘The 1975’; charismatic singer, catchy pop tunes etc. They won an award and looked very proud!
But I’m reliably informed, (the gift of teenage children), they have received criticism for looking ‘Emo’ (moody, angsty, sullen) whilst not sounding it. The Emo look is all about black nail varnish, black eye-liner, messy hair, black clothes.. but the 1975 are singing happy pop tunes… the outrage.!
So I was watching their latest video ‘The Sound’ with my children the night before, and we laughed at the fact that throughout this rather arty video and enjoyable tune, there would be occasional flash cards repeating some of the more negative criticisms they received in previous years;
‘out of tune’
“there is no danger in this music at all”
“pompous arena synth pop”
‘bland monotone beats’
Trying too hard”
“Do people really still make music like this?”
“they’re essentially making robotic Huey Lewis tunes”
So what’s going on? a promotional video which displays some of their most withering criticisms?
Well it’s a tough world this pop business, and a lot of criticism comes to bands trying to work towards a successful career. Criticism can be pretty devastating.
But equally devastating can be taking those same challenges and rolling them over, subverting them and showing the weakness and shallowness of the criticism, as one commentator, Emma, on YouTube says;
“this, ladies and gentleman, is how you deal with hate”
So why discuss these things at café eucharist, what about the God bit?
Well I’d suggest that we all face challenges in our lives; and across the UK we are also facing huge challenges to the way the world is. We cannot ignore global inequality, environmental destruction, poverty and desperation in our own neighbourhoods. We also see the rise of a pernicious right wing agenda in global politics, and the persistence of un-reason-able terrorism.
The world feels dangerous, and it is.
But what is our response? Can humour offer something to break the deadlock of us/them politics, can subversive satire reveal a new way of seeing, lampooning the hatred of those who would want to shut others down, (like the band).
When we celebrate the Eucharist we are celebrating God’s subversive resistance to hate. The crucifixion is not God ‘fighting fire with fire’, it is not shutting down our borders, it is not the domination of any worldview.
Instead it is the final joke, the biggest satire; God allowing the flood of hate to flow, and yet respond with love. The crucifixion is God’s joke on the powers which want to belittle and subdue, it is the force of love which laughs at the violence,, sees through the sword waving and says ‘you are still loved, for love is stronger than all of these’.
Jesus joked so many times in these ways, lampooning the prejudice of those around him, creating absurd images of logs in eyes and naked people in court. and the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15.21) described as a dog; we can imagine Jesus and her wryly observing each other as they satirise the prejudice of those around them.
So what do we do? How do we respond? Looking for ways to avoid confrontation head on, we can subvert the logic of conflict; looking for humour and laughter as a way to humanise and to de-escalate the conflict, means we don’t fight violence with yet more violence.
We must resist, we must engage, we must stand for justice and for a renewed, hope-filled vision of the world… but let humour and satire fund our struggle, let it reveal the absurdity of the voices that wish to divide us. Humour can be powerful; deflating privilege and power. It has always been, but we may need it now more than ever ..
Thank God for satire!
(Talk given at Cafe Communion – 23 Feb 2017)