If I had been younger when record companies began putting warning labels on albums and tapes, responding to pressure from the Parents Music Resource Center and others, I'm sure I would have responded like almost every teenager I observed while working in a record store. The "Tipper sticker" served as a beacon, telling them which albums to buy. Only very rarely did I observe this attempt at censorship (some associated with the PMRC openly hoped their approach would lead to album bans) go in the other direction, with the sticker telling "concerned parents" not to fund a purchase. It did reveal some significant ethics and intelligence lapses within the United States Senate. In that respect, the sad spectacle delivered some nominal value.
Different Drummer: Frank Zappa
Whether the Sunday School calendar should follow the school year, including a dormant period for summer months?
I won’t be howling at Reverend Moon. The latest from Jakob Rehlinger, the Different Drummer on IC 103: The Thriller Is Gone, sounds like a lost delta blues recording from a parallel universe. Consider this the other side of the crossroads. It is part blasphemy and part apocalyptic visions with a significant overlap.
Reverend Moon doesn’t flirt with blasphemy here. Flirting implies an unfamiliarity, a method of getting to know you. No, most of the tracks on Coyote Gospels are intimate apostasy.
I know. I have ranted and railed at apostasy when I encounter it within the church. Situations like the “Jesus tells us to hate” crowd outside of Chick-fil-A a couple of years ago (this week) come to mind. I won’t howl at Reverend Moon, though, because he is singing from the other side of the tracks. There is a difference between cleaning up my own house and presuming to walk in another man’s shoes, especially when he hasn’t offered me the footwear and I have serious doubts about the fit.
Another reason is the nature of art. Rehlinger became the second Different Drummer with a Halloween focus, following Edgar Allan Poe in the first year of the podcast. The Moonwood CD released at that time, The Strength of The Pack is The Wolf, and The Strength of The Wolf is The Pack, crowded out Alfred Hitchcock and others under consideration. From the start, Inappropriate Conversations has given artists a great deal of room to express radical ideas, noted in IC 22: Art and the Strange Bedfellows.
Describing Coyote Gospels as a blues album is too restrictive. Reverend Moon manages to simultaneously provide the consistent tone I’d expect from someone like Louisiana Red, but there are atmospheric touches that connect to the music of Moonwood and, less so, Babel. The songs sound consistent without sounding alike, and this may reflect the writing itself spanning 20 years and cutting across three decades.
“Deeper Down” describes the musical palette best.
There ain’t no blues that ain’t been sung
It’s the same twelve notes for the old and the young
For that reason, I’ll be addressing the lyrics more than the music on this review. Ironic warning: the album contains no explicit language, none of the magic words are conjured here, but it still could have carried a warning label back in the day. I intend to look back at the Parental Advisory era in an upcoming Inappropriate Conversations podcast, and Coyote Gospels has come just in time to summon those memories.
Among the memories: in college I wrote a screenplay for a silent film that I was certain would get an R-rating without depicting any nudity, overt sexual situations, drug abuse or violence. I described it as being restricted just for being weird.
is bookended by its most apocalyptic tracks. “Old Graves” sets the tone.
“Apocalypso” ultimately distorts that tone with a grumble that reminds me of Tom Waits. "What’s he building there?" Ideas, so let’s look at a few.
The seven sins, they ain’t the why
But they’re the how –
The End is Nigh
Think about it. The suggestion is that we won’t be judged for the sins we commit, but through them. I hesitate to use the word blasphemy too loosely, and this verse is among the reasons why. Most of the time anti-clerical commentary – and there is much of that – is a bit like graffiti or a one-liner. Those who raise doubts about religion tend to do so like a heckler. Few are this profound and direct.
There’s no one upstairs pulling the strings
At least no one who cares, not that I’ve seen
You may as well sing like no one is listening
Because no one is listening
If I were Roman Catholic, this song would hit me even harder. Thank God I’m not. There is plenty of punch here for a Protestant to take.
“Satan, Hear My Song”
We built a new Sodom and put it online
We’re rivaling Babel one condo at a time
We’re stealing from our future
Blind to the theft
When the meek inherit
There won’t be a damn thing left
I know enough about Reverend Moon to confidently doubt any belief in Satan. That isn’t the point, though. The fact that the singer doesn’t believe there is a Satan to hear his song is probably more nihilistic than the words I’ve cited here.
“Drinking With Jesus” gives me the opportunity to prove my point about the concept of explicit language having little to do with word choice.
My father’s priest took me in
And my true education did begin
New tribulations and brand new sins
He left them dripping off my chin
I believe we are still in a place where non-Christians are angrier about sex crimes committed by clergy than so-called “defenders of the faith” and that is tragic.
On “Resurrection Day” Reverend Moon shares a conversation with Jesus. It could have been the most upsetting song in the collection for me, personally, if it didn’t remind me of a concept I shared about the burden of bearing sins in a poem called “Tithe.”
Reverend Moon quotes Jesus, “I’d love to wear your guilt but it don’t come in my size.”
Some of the songs in this collection had been previewed online, before Rehlinger had chosen Reverend Moon for the artist name. I recall one Christmas taking the lyrics to the song “God Culture” quite seriously.
Too young to consent
Unable to escape
Don’t call it immaculate conception
Your God committed rape
One of the reminders I consistently give to Christian Fundamentalists is that we cannot apply the standards of morality 2,000 years ago to our current age. Women speaking in church is one example. Committed LGBTQ relationships is another. I may be able to use the song "God Culture," or at least the idea behind it, as an example. If we applied our current ethical standards back 2,000 years, then there isn’t anything hypothetical about finding statutory rape in the nativity story.
Finally, I’ll give Reverend Moon a final quote from the song “God Don’t Love Us (Like The Devil Does)”
I’ve heard they say that Jesus saves
But he waits until we’re in our graves
I’ve gotta wonder just what it’s worth
If we’re not saved from this hell on earth
While visiting York Minster on a United Kingdom trip earlier this year, I saw a collection box for a program called Christian Aid: We believe in life before death.
Among the conflicts over Rob Bell, particularly his book Love Wins, was the Christian obsession with afterlife. When Christians make the purpose of existence all about heaven and “getting in” and others being “left behind” and Jesus being limited in many ways by fundamentalists’ understanding of “no one comes to the Father but by me” … well, it calls to mind whether most Christians believe in life before death, or only after.
Of course, I find several moments of Coyote Gospels uncomfortable. Unlike the Moonwood recordings I mentioned a couple of years ago, the unsettling quality of Reverend Moon comes mainly from the words and not the music. I don’t believe that discomfort is a bad thing. When questions are raised that call comforting answers to mind, then the dissonance is a good thing.
I believe that Jesus does not wait to save until a moment of death. Jesus did not believe that heaven and hell were elsewhere, ethereal, beyond human experience. The central message of numerous parables was that the kingdom of heaven was among us – then and now. The more Christians ignore what Jesus taught, though, the more Reverend Moon is right to point out the hell we are all making on earth.
My first experience of Arachnidiscs was on the publishing side. Rehlinger had written several mini-books, and I bought most of what was still in print. I also contributed to one of those writing projects. I mention mini-books because there is a best way to buy Coyote Gospels by Reverend Moon, depending on how supplies last.
The cassette, divided by sides for a First Sermon and
Second Sermon, comes with a digital download and some memorabilia. To me, the
most important part is the 20 page 5×8 perfect-bound lyric book.
On a recording where the words are paramount, let’s just say that we tend to think of scriptures in written form, whether we accept the apocalypse they present or not.
Gameplan for upcoming Inappropriate Conversations
- Freedom of speech didn't translate into "freedom of song" in 1985
- Truly respecting elders includes remembering, challenging, and building upon their foundation
- Taking Christ out of the closet of Christian homophobia by opening the scriptures
Walk The Earth will address new questions, too
* Whether the Sunday School calendar should follow the school year, including a dormant period for summer months?
* Whether faith can abide superstition and where to draw a line between the two?
Friends have recently called to my attention that I've insufficiently emphasized the most important of my human relationships. It is true. One reason is trying to keep some private things private. Another is that I forget how a passionate lifelong romantic partnership is, perhaps, strange. I'd never want to take anything for granted though.
Note: I could have gone without the explicit language tag -- arguably -- but it's a practical joke on my wife to have this Inappropriate Conversation labeled that way.
Different Drummer: David Sanborn
Whether the concept of "home church" is necessary or merely particularism?
A century ago in sermons and speeches that would become My Utmost For His Highest, the current sad state of Christianity was described aptly with the question, "Are you loyal to Jesus or to your notion of him?" by Oswald Chambers. We see the problem when Christians openly dispute the things Jesus said, or when popular versions of Bible stories don't match the "inspired word of God" and those obsessed with Biblical perfection fail to side with the inerrant text. Chambers might say that we are guilty of siding with what we believe without much regard for God's will. If this is true of individuals, it is certainly true of organizations and groups -- no matter how we may defer to their "religious beliefs."
Different Drummer: Oswald & Gertrude Chambers