Rage and Righteousness in Bulls on Parade

I’m a church-y guy. There you go: full disclosure… cards on the table. I love the church. I think the Divine is best experienced in the church. BUT… there are definitely times when we in the church miss the heart of the Divine.

Ever listened to Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” with an ear for the what the lyrics mean? There is imagery of rallies and pageantry in the song. A parade, afterall, is something to behold, isn’t it? It’s an event to inspire through spectacle.

Rage Lyrics 1

“But what does the spectacle inspire?” questions Rage Against the Machine (“RATM” to their friends… which now include you).

Rage Lyric 2

Perhaps not what should be inspired: homes and shoes and the things of necessity. Instead, an insatiable hunger for the consumptions of war is inspired. Zack de la Rocha’s chants and screams through “Bulls on Parade” call the listener to attention in recognizing our tendencies to invest heavily in that which is not most necessary… or important… or right.

Do you think God ever screams out like Zach de la Rocha?

My first exposure to RATM came in similar fashion to many others’: I saw the “Freedom” video on MTV. Immediately I was drawn to the anger communicated through the band’s music. They thrived on their anger. It sounded like a righteous anger. I wanted to be angry like that, too… to have such a strong sense of righteousness. I wanted to scream for freedom like Zach did at the close of “Freedom”.

But back in 1992, I was a middle-classed white teen living in John Hughes-land. I had very little to be angry about. In fact I was convinced that the need for Americans to protest anything had been laid to rest a decade before. I was quite comfortable in my acceptance of the pageantry of power.

The church grows comfortable in pageantry, too. RATM’s call to wake up from the illusion of spectacle sounds a bit like the prophets of old, calling for attention to the necessities of shoes for the needy and homes for the homeless…

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The danger for the church is to invest more heavily in the parade and pageantry than in the shoes for the needy and homes for the homeless. And here, perhaps, RATM calls us to attention, too, in remembering the words of the prophets.

Do yourself a favor and watch through to the very end… and see if you don’t feel like screaming for freedom, too…

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