I came back to my faith thanks to music. A particular group managed to reach through my disillusionment with their sound and lyrics, and kickstarted my desire to ask questions once again.
Throughout my walk with Christ, I've found music to be an amazingly powerful influence within the Church. I've seen music help bridge different generations. I've seen entire church plants formed around specific styles of musical worship. I've seen music used to reach out of the Christian bubble and talk directly to the greater community.
But I've also seen music used in very dangerous ways, twisting and corrupting theology into an unfamiliar mess.
Where I Belong
At one point, one of my favorite songs on Christian radio was Where I Belong by Building 429. The chorus is very singable, and I still find myself humming the tune from time to time.
All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong
When I first heard the song, I didn't think much of it. I liked the tune, I liked the majority of the lyrics, and I'd belt it out at the top of my lungs while driving down the freeway.[ref]I apologize for anyone who happened to hear me attempting to sing ...[/ref] It wasn't until later that I understood just how messed up the theology presented in the song really is.
The gist is that we humans are made for another world - heaven. That what happens in this world doesn't matter because we're waiting for our savior to take us "home" to heaven instead. It was a sentiment heavily cited by those I knew deep in debt - why worry about it when this isn't our home in the first place? It was also heavily quoted by global warming deniers - if the world really is getting warmer, why does it matter since we're going somewhere else anyway?
I decided to dig into the scripture to see what the Bible actually said.
One of the singers quotes the book of Philippians as being an inspiration for the song. Specifically:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ[ref]Philippians 3:20[/ref]
The "citizenship" argument has been used by many to claim we don't belong here, but are instead meant for another world in the future. Unfortunately, they're completely off-base.
Made for Earth
In the beginning, God created the Earth and he created mankind out of the earth in order to tend the Garden of Eden in partnership with Him. Considering that the first man, Adam, was literally made from the Earth and the idea that we weren't made for Earth seems even more preposterous.
The second part of the argument above that fails is that Paul, the author of Philippians, was saying we weren't meant to be a part of the world in his letter. Instead, think carefully about who the letter was actually authored for: Roman Christians living in a colony. In the old world, when you moved to a colony you were leaving behind all you knew to live in a new place and build a new home. Your citizenship still belonged to Rome, but you were never going to call Rome "home" again.
Instead, your job as a colonist was to bring Rome to your new home. To bring in its culture, its literature, its art, it language, its government, its very way of life. With this in mind, imagine the impact of telling a Roman colonist that their citizenship is not of Rome but is of heaven. That means your home is Earth, and your responsibility is to bring heaven's culture, literature, art, language, government,[ref]The Kingdom of God[/ref], and very way of life to your new home.
We were tailor-made for Earth. This is our home, and it's our responsibility to live here and help usher in God's kingdom and reign. To say we're not home or that we're really meant for another place is terrifying.
The Scary Part
If the Earth is not our home and not our responsibility, then why does God leave us here? Why do we care about keeping the oceans clean, protecting the environment, preventing the extinction or over-predation of various species? If we treated the Earth the way people treat hotels, rental cars, or any other form of temporary property, the planet and all who inhabit it would be doomed.
God made the world and called it good. He made us and tasked us with ruling over the Earth and subduing it. How is it, then, not our home?
A Horrifying Picture
Remember we're talking primarily about music and the uniting power it holds over communities and populations. I had the opportunity to attend a Building 429 concert last year - they were performing with a handful of other groups I enjoy and I was looking forward to the entire concert.
Until they began singing Where I Belong.
The concert venue can hold almost 20,000 people, and was filled nearly to capacity. My friends and I were surrounded mostly by youth groups - various churches had sent shuttle buses to the concert so as many local youth could attend as possible.[ref]Being at the concert with my friends, all of us in our late 20s or early 30s, always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Everyone assumes we're youth pastors ...[/ref] It was a packed house - so when the band threw the words on the screen behind them and asked the audience to join in, I heard almost 20,000 teens shout at the top of their lungs:
"All I know is I'm not home yet ... this is not where I belong ..."
Singing and connecting with the music, and believing the truth behind the lyrics deep in their being. I saw a small group of people on stage lead a crowd of thousands off track with a very dangerous theology. It also made me wonder just how many bought in to the actual ideas versus how many just followed along with the crowd.