Saturday, December 27, 2008

Peace on Earth: A Matter of Faith

Susan Werner: Together


On her album The Gospel Truth, Susan Werner wrestles with the question of religion. Much of the album is angry or bitter. The songs detail the hypocrisy of those preach hatred in the name of God, politicians who use religion to justify their wrong-headed policies, and also tell of Werner’s struggles with her own religious upbringing. But these struggles, and this venting, are not the last word. Werner concludes the album the song “Together”. Although the lyrics include the words, “if there is a God”, the song is nonetheless a prayer for tolerance. Coming at the end of this tumultuous album, it represents Werner’s reconciliation with her feelings about faith; she renounces the trappings of faith as she originally encountered them, but she holds to the moral values that her faith embodies.

Tracy Chapman: Heaven‘s Here on Earth


By contrast, Tracy Chapman’s songs have never revealed any doubts about her faith. She has detailed many personal struggles, as well as political actions, in her work, but these have always seemed like spiritual statements. “Heaven’s Here On Earth” makes this explicit. Chapman makes it clear that she does not wait for the Lord to provide a better life in the next world; rather, she believes that God expects us to make this world the best it can be for all who live upon it while we are here.

I do not presume in this post to offer any judgment as to how anyone should conduct their spiritual life. I merely wish to present the contrasting views on the matter of two artists I greatly admire. It is for each of us to decide which path is the one we will walk, (perhaps, none of the above). But it does seem to me that each of these songs is, in its own way, a prayer for peace.

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