Friday, May 11, 2007

The Neon Bible

Neon Bible

One of the final student-presentations in my Ezekiel class included playing a pop song I had not heard before, a song called "The Neon Bible" by the Montreal alternative band, Arcade Fire.

The song depicts the world as a dystopia, where everyone follows a "Neon Bible." The class had quite a good discussion of what the song might mean. I've copied the lyrics below. What do you think?

Does the Neon Bible represent the Scriptures when they are misinterpreted? Some in the class, rather, saw it as a symbol of our modern shallow and hedonistic culture, where self-absorption is the rule and fast food reigns. Instead of God, we worship that which is close, immediate, and manageable--the golden calf. I note that the blog "Heartache with Hard Work" (click here) writes, "Neon Bible. Holiness is corrupted, transcendence is made material, and all that which we ought to value is burned on the altar of our own sanctity. In that context, this song is the true rebirth, the resurrection of our own beliefs and desires."

In this dystopia, what is wrong is said to be right. You cannot see clearly, because hope and pain look the same. The culture is poisonous, so "don't lick your fingers when you turn the page" of the Neon Bible.

One major thing that strikes me in the lyrics is the theme of light. The Neon Bible gives off poor, dim light, so that you can't tell hope from pain. The golden calf gives off a "light," but it is laughable. In contrast, the song itself, in its dystopian and apocalyptic quality, tries to shed some real light on contemporary western culture. So too, biblical apocalypticism, such as that in the book of Ezekiel that the course studied this semester, the focus is on revelation---shedding Heaven's light on our world. The texts in Ezekiel, like this song, do not show us mundane, empirical reality, but reality from God's point of view, our world the way that God sees it.

Here are the Lyrics to the "Neon Bible":
A vial of hope and a vial of pain
In the light they both looked the same
Poured them out on into the world
On every boy and every girl


It's in the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is right

Take the poison of your age
Don't lick your fingers when you turn the page
What I know is what you know is right
In the city it's the only light
It's the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is right

Oh God! Well look at you now!
Oh! You lost it, but you don't know how!
In the light of a golden calf
Oh God! I had to laugh!

Take the poison of your age
Don't lick your fingers when you turn the page
It was wrong but you said it was right
In the future I will read at night

It's the Neon Bible, the Neon Bible
Not much chance for survival
If the Neon Bible is true


To hear a sample clip from the song, click here (Amazon.com). Or, if you have iTunes running, click here.

2 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

Stephen,

I preached last Sunday on Revelation, and I used the first line of the Cormac McCarthy book Suttree to capture the same "Neon Bible" quality of Western culture. It seems that writers of post-modern apocalyptic abound, as our cultural sages work overtime to capture the existential malaise which characterizes our common life. Someone told me recently that we really do still remember how to be human, at the moments that matter in hospital rooms and at funerals. I'm skeptical though. In a culture where people are spiritually formed by Grey's Anatomy, and Desperate Housewives, the prognosis doesn't seem good for us. Thankfully,Ezekiel and John of Patmos are there to remind us that a bad prognosis is the first step towards a glorious salvation by God. What good is hope, if it isn't in the face of a bad prognosis? Thinking about these things leaves me always saying, "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!"

Sun May 13, 12:25:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you for the comment, Patrick! ---SLC

Sun May 13, 07:35:00 PM GMT-5  

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