Monthly Archives: May 2008

Wavelength 5/31/08

Here is the playlist for the May 31 Wavelength show.

This show featured songs by three of my favorite songwriters, Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, and Bruce Springsteen. Because of the legal restrictions I could only play three songs by each of these. The rest were covers by other people.

Quite a few came from some of the numerous tribute albums that have been put together for all three artists. One of my favorite tribute records for all artists is a pretty obscure one. Vanthology: A Tribute to Van Morrison, released by Evidence Music in 2003. It features numerous classic soul singers whose careers date back to the 1960s including Little Milton, William Bell, Freddie Scott, Bettye Lavette, and Dan Penn–as well as several younger but similar artists. I played Scott’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” and Lavette’s sizzling “Real Real Gone.” This recording is the first of Lavette’s I had heard. I since have become a big fan and have been delighted at the attention she has received for two recent albums.

I have also greatly enjoyed the 2 CD Springsteen tribute, One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen, from 1997 on The Right Stuff label. This album includes a number of Springsteen’s like-minded peers such as Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Dave Alvin, John Hiatt, Richie Havens, and David Bowie. On the show I featured Syd Straw’s take on “Meeting Across the River” and Kurt Neumann of the BoDean’s on “Atlantic City.” As well, I played a great version by Ben E. King of Bruce’s early song, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

A few of my other favorite covers from the show include Patty Griffin on Springsteen’s “Stolen Car,” Linda Ronstadt’s “I Still Miss Someone,” a much-covered Cash song, the Waterboy’s extended jam on Morrison’s “Sweet Thing,” Richard Shindell’s intense version of Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” that gets to the heart of that song beyond the bombast of Bruce’s original version, Patti Smith’s classic version of Springsteen’s “Because the Night,” John Lee Hooker’s Grammy-award winning duet with Morrison on the latter’s “The Healing Game,” Solomon Burke’s exquisite “Fast Train,” a song Morrison wrote for him, and Billy Don Burns’ heart-rending take on Cash’s “Give My Love to Rose.”

I did play one song each from my favorite albums of the featured songwriters.

When I was a teen-ager, I was not a big country music fan. But I had a friend who was, and he insisted I listen to Johnny Cash. At Folsom Prisonhit hard the first time I heard it and still does now 40 years later. And “Folsom Prison Blues” is the best imaginable opener to the show.

I discovered Bruce Springsteen when I was still mainly listening to folk music when he released his classic acoustic record, Nebraska. He followed Nebraska up with one of the greatest rock and roll records ever, Born in the U.S.A.. This record made a rock and roll fan again. The song i chose, though, “My Hometown” would have been at home on Nebraska. So I guess I still prefer the mellower Springsteen, especially when he tells such a powerful story.

I was somewhat familiar with Van Morrison’s music going back to “Brown-Eyed Girl” in the mid-1960s. However, I never really listened to Van until the late 1980s when I experienced some difficult times. A friend loaned me Poetic Champions Compose and the test, as they say, is history. I fell in love with Van Morrison’s music and until very recently when I believe he has been overtaken by Tom Waits, he was my favorite. I played “I Forgot Love Existed” from this record on the show. It may have been the most healing of the several healing songs on Poetic Champion’s Compose for me twenty years ago–and it still touches the soul.

Springsteen’s Born in the USA may be heard in its entirety here.

Cash’s At Folsom Prison is here.

Pacifism With Justice (13)

Restorative justice is a recent movement in the criminal justice arena that has sought to foster more humane approaches to dealing the offenders. This essay, “Theology and Restorative Justice,” which part of my book-in-process, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, looks at the theological and historical roots of restorative justice and how its philosophy differs from standard, retributive approaches.

Pacifism With Justice (12)

Where does violence come from? What about the desire for retribution? Are there theologies that undergird violence? These are crucial questions for constructing a theology of Christian pacifism. They are addressed in this essay,“Theology, Retribution, and the Ways of Peace”, part of my book in process: Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case.

Notes on the Book of Revelation (Chapter One)

May we read Revelation as conveying a message of peace?  One that can inspire and guide us even today?  I believe we may–and should.  In the months to come, I will undertake a close reading of Revelation testing my thesis that Revelation is a pro-peace text.  

Included here are some rough notes from my reading of chapter one.  

Pacifism With Justice (11)

The Book of Revelation might seem an unlikely place to find a theology of justice that emphasizes mercy over retribution, but here’s an attempt to present a case that this indeed is what we find. This essay, “The Justice of God in the Book of Revelation,” is part of my book-in-progress, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case.

Pacifism With Justice (10)

The Book of Revelation is not a common resource for Christian pacifists. However, it should be. This essay, “Revealing a New World: Power According to Biblical Apocalyptic.”, from my book-in-progress, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, argues that the view of authentic power portrayed in Revelation has to do with persevering love, not coercive force. The “revelation” conveyed in the Bible’s final book provides an angle for understanding power throughout the Bible.

Pacifism With Justice (9)

Most of the writing I have read that critiques Christian pacifism brings up as strong New Testament evidence against pacifism Paul’s famous passage in Romans 13 that, as usually read, calls upon Christians to obey their government. This essay, “Romans 13: An Interpretation.”, from my book-in-process Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, offers a different reading of this text. This essay focuses on a constructive reading of Romans 13, not a critique of other ways of reading it.

Pacifism With Justice (8)

Christian pacifists generally focus much of our explanatory energy on Jesus’ life and teaching, as we should. However, we should also be attentive to the relevance of New Testament portrayals of Jesus’ death for our pacifist convictions. This essay, “Christian Pacifism and New Testament Understandings of Jesus’ Death,” which is from my book-in-process, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, suggests that one key lesson from the New Testament is that Jesus’ death exposes the tendencies of three central human structures (religious institutions [the temple], cultural ordering systems [the law], and political structures [the empire]) to fuel the spiral of violence–hence, rendering themselves unworthy of our trust. These structures proved themselves to be God’s rivals, not God’s servants. Recognizing this should help human beings give their ultimate trust to God’s peaceable way, not to the violent ways of these Powers.

Pacifism With Justice (7)

If we understand Jesus to have proclaimed a socially relevant message–including a call to peacemaking and nonviolence, we need to be attentive to his social context and how he responded to it. This essay, “Jesus’ Confrontation With Empire.”, is a chapter in my book-in-progress, Pacifism With Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case. One argument I make here is that Jesus is in full continuity with much in the Old Testament that expressed strong antipathy toward the world’s great empires and understood the community of the promise to be called to offer the world a social alternative to empire as a way of life.

Pacifism With Justice (6)

For Christian pacifism, as I understand it, Jesus provides our basis with his life, teaching, and identity as God’s Son. A core chapter, then, in my book-in-process, Pacifism With Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, focuses on Jesus. This chapter, “Pacifism and the Story of Jesus,” essentially summarizes the argument of the great Mennonite theologian, John Howard Yoder, in his classic book The Politics of Jesus.