Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.

June 1, 2005

I’ve been getting some emails asking me about “His Truth Is Marching On,” asking me if I’m a Christian.

The backstory of “His Truth” is that I wrote it in the immediate wake of 9/11. Hence the title being a lyric from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”–though I meant that as a bitter reference to the war that seemed inevitable to me.
The first line, “They say that God is great,” is a reference to the Muslim prayer, “Allahu Akhbar.” Literal translation, “God is great.” And I kept thinking about the old hippie Christianism, “God is Love.” My beliefs about God shift constantly–my view is that a rigid idea of God is impossible, that the nature of God is unknowable–sometimes God is music, or the spirit of humanity–even sometimes, often in troubled or scary times, God is that personified paternal Christian God that I was taught as a child–and oftentimes God is love.
So I was struggling with a belief in God in the face of 3,000 painful deaths a mile from my apartment. And struggling with how to have faith in a world exploding with murder over supposed faith.
I wanted to say that God can be a huge part of your life without being a fanatic. What fanatic, Christian, Muslim, or otherwise, is really compassionate? The God I struggle to have faith in is all about compassion.
I grew up an ambivalent Lutheran, but I’m not exactly a Christian. I’m fascinated with certain aspects of Christianity. I love Sam Cooke/Soul Stirrers records, the passion and the fervor of that Gospel. I love the Rev. Charlie Jackson’s “God’s Got It,” a fantastic groove that I recommend to all and sundry, atheists included!
And the first line of the Book of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” What a gorgeous little puzzle that line is! And the Book of Revelations and the Psalms (though they’re very cruel poems seemingly written by a poet suffering from bipolar disorder).
There’s a lot about Jesus that I really dig. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That strikes me as absolutely beautiful. That central Christian idea of God turning himself into a human and volunteering for human suffering is so moving to me.
But the repression, rigidity, and backwards moralism of fanatic Christians is disheartening to me, and ugly a lot of the time.
It struck me as sad and fascinating that an Amazon reviewer, railing against Haughty Melodic, said, “He even has a song about how much he loves God! What the fuck?!” It’s fucked up to me that to believe in God is to be on the wrong side in the culture wars. Why the fuck do we let the Republicans lay claim to God?!
Spirituality adds tremendous meaning to my life. It waxes and wanes–I need both reverence and irreverence in my faith. The line that seems most significant to me in “His Truth” is I’m fucking starved for love. I’m not pious.
A guy wrote to me this morning asking me not to elucidate my intentions in writing “His Truth.”
He wrote: “I’m hoping against hope that you don’t actually compose a journal entry about your Christianity. The question is much more intriguing than any answer can be. Does anyone really want to know what Bill Murray whispered in Scarlett Johanson’s ear at the end of Lost in Translation?”
Though I guess I blew it as far as that guy’s concerned, what a perfect representation of faith as I see it: mystery and irreverence.