catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 8 :: 2003.04.11 — 2003.04.24


Apocalyptic liberation

Embedded in the vocabulary of a particular group of people, a word that once had one set of meanings often can acquire different connotations altogether. All it might take is for this one group of people to start using the word in a particular way long enough?and loud enough?for the word to become associated with those folks, ultimately becoming the group?s own possession. In such a case, the word can lose its original significance, thus becoming the property of a new system of meaning.

Though this is a very common phenomenon in the long life of a word, a danger can arise if a good word finds itself in the hands of the wrong regime. Endangered by totalizing forces that reduce the scope of language to absolutes and fundamentalisms, a word?s rich significance can become entrenched in a logic not its own. When taken captive in this way, such a word may not be able to shake off oppressor connotations without help from a liberating force.

For Christians, one of the words that must be reclaimed and put back where it belongs is ?apocalypse?. For too long, this word has been used to mark the end of time-and-space reality, which will surely come?any day now. This particular definition of apocalypse suggests one need not think too much about what will surely be left behind—the earth and all unbelievers—but one should instead cast a holy gaze to the sky where Jesus will put an end to life on this planet.

In order to combat this escapist view of the Christian?s task, David Dark asks us to turn our gaze back to earth, where God?s apocalyptic work is going on right here, right now. Dark?s book, Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons and Other Pop Culture Icons

allows apocalypse to show itself in the flesh as an end-times aesthetic that continues with as much force today as it did in the days when Christ walked the earth. By devoting chapters to Flannery O?Connor, The Simpsons, Radiohead, The Matrix, The Truman Show, Beck and the Coen brothers, Dark is able to show what apocalyptic means in today?s cultural context.

The apocalyptic evidences itself, Dark explains, as an epiphany that occurs when ?The real world, within which you?ve lived and moved and had your being, has unveiled itself.? Apocalyptic ?creates an unrest within our minds,?shows us what we?re not seeing?(10). It does not allow the complexity of life to be neatly categorized or summed up conclusively. ?Its job is to reflect, in a deeply liberating fashion, the tensions and paradoxes that constitute our understanding of reality?By announcing a new world of unrealized possibility, apocalyptic serves to invest the details of the everyday with cosmic significance while awakening its audience to the presence of marginalizing forces otherwise unnamed and unchallenged?(11). Apocalyptic ?cracks the pavement of the status quo?It irritates and disrupts the feverishly defended norms of whatever culture it engages?(12). If I may paraphrase: apocalyptic is the rock in rock?n?roll! It breaks in on the established way of doing things, shedding an end-times light on kingdoms that will not last forever.

By displaying the apocalyptic in rock music, films, television and story, Everyday Apocalypse makes room for artists whose work is often excluded from certain sacred circles, presenting a convincing case that radical engagement with culture is not only permissible for Christians, but is the genuine thrust of Christian life. Taking the apocalyptic nature of Christ?s message as a given, the book asks its readers to recognize the implications of apocalypse for all of life. If we are called to follow Christ?s apocalyptic example, then the artist must be included as an important player in the work of the church.

Perhaps as much as Calvin Seerveld and H.R. Rookmaaker, David Dark articulates the value of the artist in these last days. His proficiency in all things pop culture and literary allows David to present ample evidence for those who aren?t quite ready to give themselves over to the laughter of the Simpsons or the oddities of Beck. In his introductory chapter, David gives a foretaste of what?s coming when he uses jazz as an apt illustration for apocalypse.

Wynton Marsalis describes classical music as ?harmony through harmony? and jazz as ?harmony through conflict.? When we bring this way of putting the matter to the Bible, we find little in the way of classical music and plenty in the way of jazz, especially in the passages categorized as apocalyptic?whether it?s trees clapping their hands, stars falling from the sky, bloody red moons, or crystal seas. It?s as if the new world on the way requires constant rearticulation to best bear witness of its freshness and new-every-morningness, perpetually straining forward to what lies ahead. At its best, jazz itself?gives voice to the groaning universe anticipating a new day. This is the business of apocalyptic. (13)

Dark sees God?s doing where many Christians fail to look. While some Christians are busy taking offense, Dark tries to make room for what?s coming, for what continues to come in apocalyptic endeavors of fiction, film, music and television.

Everyday Apocalypse reminds us to keep our lamps trimmed and burning, remaining vigilant watchers and listeners for God?s kingdom that is coming here on earth.

The kingdom of the world is becoming the kingdom of God, and it doesn?t depend upon our acknowledgement or faithfulness to it within our highly-charged present. It?s coming anyway. It is and was and is to come. We have the privilege of watching and praying and noticing in the glorious meantime, especially in what appear to be the unlikeliest of corners. To reimagine now is our work and our pleasure. Look harder. It is at hand. (26)

We can surely take up such a task with confidence after seeing it performed so effectively here in this enormously important book.

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