Keep Calm and Carry On

Apparently, I like to begin my blog posts with a confession.  I just think it’s a good way to clear the air.  Anyway, today’s confession is that I love cheesy music.  I like “cool” music, too (Mumford and Sons is cool, right?  I don’t even know anymore), but I also love a good, cheesy song, with a nice beat.  For example, I am always happy when Kris Allen’s “Live Like We’re Dying” comes on the radio.  It’s peppy, it’s upbeat, and it’s a great reminder that life is short and that we need to make the most of it.  The other day, I heard a song with a similar premise.  It’s a song by an artist called Pitbull (as I just found out while googling it), and the chorus says this:

“Tonight I will love love you tonight
Give me everything tonight
For all we know we might not get tomorrow
Let’s do it tonight
I will love love you tonight
Give me everything tonight
For all we know we might not get tomorrow
Lets do it tonight”

See how it’s similar?  Both songs are written in light of the premise that life is short–that “For all we know we might not get tomorrow.”  And thus, Pitbull advises, the best course of action is to,

“Grab somebody sexy tell ‘em hey
Give me everything tonight
Give me everything tonight
Give me everything tonight
Give me everything tonight.”

Now, you may notice there are some obvious differences in the content of the two songs.  Granted, Allen’s advice is a little vague, but basically, he counsels us to examine our lives (“start thinkin’) and to “turn it all around” instead of “throw it all away.”  Given his well-known religious beliefs, it makes sense to interpret the lyrics in the light of our need to follow Jesus and live “life to the full” (John 10:10).  On the other hand, Pitbull advises the listener to drop all social inhibitions and to embrace mindless hedonism.

It strikes me as I listen to these songs that you can tell a lot about a person by seeing their reaction to the idea of imminent death.

You can tell what’s important to them.  You can see the heart of their beliefs.  You can see which of their ideals are real and concrete, and which are merely abstractions to be dismissed when push comes to shove.

The first song, for example, holds onto ideals in the face of death.  The second one seems to let go of all of them.

Which do we do?

Our current culture seems to be obsessed with our imminent doom.  As an American and a Christian, I am forever hearing that my way of life is in danger, that the foundations of my country are in peril, that my economic system is collapsing, and that my religious freedoms are eroding.

Maybe they are; I really don’t know.  Or maybe all generations are so fearful.  I don’t know that, either. I’ve only been on this earth for 31 years, so I can’t tell you the atmosphere of past generations.  I only know that since the beginning of my memory, I have heard these predictions of doom from teachers, preachers, politicians, and others.

I guess I’ll see the truth of these predictions soon enough.  In the meantime, I am fascinated by the reactions to the idea that we might lose everything we’ve ever known.  In particular, I’m intrigued (and often saddened) by the ideals that we Christians are willing to shed when “push comes to shove.”

When we are threatened with dangers from every side, real or perceived, we find out what we truly believe in, and what we are really capable of doing.  In those times, we face the temptation to compromise our Christian ideals for what Lee Camp calls “the idolatrous conviction that our survival is more important than any other value.”*  We face this temptation as we talk about politics, online or in person.  We face it when we decide whether Ephesians 4:2 and 4:29 are real truths to be observed or whether they are irrelevant to something as “important” as an upcoming election.  We face this temptation as we think about our country at war and what behaviors we will support as Americans.  We are rightly appalled by the idea of countries who torture their citizens and who seem willing to use nuclear weapons if they had them…and yet, do we also support torture and joke about “nuking them all and letting God sort them out”?  We are faced, in other words, with the temptation to become like that which we oppose.  We are faced with the temptation to throw out Jesus’ fairly clear words and to instead become more like our enemies.  We are faced with the temptation to use the weapons of the world and to try to drive out Satan with Satan.  It doesn’t work.  All it does is make the fight irrelevant.  If there are no more good guys, then what does it matter who wins?

In the midst of these fears, I want to tell my fellow citizens in God’s kingdom to Keep Calm and Carry On.  I have loved this slogan, used briefly by the British in World War 2 (according to my five second research via Wikipedia), ever since I first heard it.  It really encapsulates something I love about stereotypical “British” behavior: the idea of staying calm in the face of disaster, of not panicking.  Sometimes, when I hear dire predictions of what is going to happen to this country if so-and-so is elected or such-and-such law is passed, I just want to look at my the doomsayer and say, “That makes it all the more important that we do not compromise our values.  We cannot throw out the words and teachings of Scripture.  We must continue to strive to imitate Jesus in all that we say and do, just as we always have.  Keep Calm and Carry On, my friend.”  I mean, really, if we really are on the brink of some sort of major collapse, do you want to go out looking just like your enemies?  Let’s do it like Jesus and die right.  

In the face of the fear of losing everything, let’s not take Pitbull’s approach and throw out all restraint, trusting our survival instincts to guide us into truth.  What really strikes me about the Pitbull lyrics are how hopeless they are.  There are no ideals behind his song; the lyrics don’t reflect a belief in anything. And I honestly think that same thing when I see Christians (including myself) act in ways that are totally worldly…and then act like those ways are justified by our extenuating circumstances.  When I catch myself wanting to fight fire with fire, I often have to stop and think, “Am I really that hopeless?  Do I really have that little faith in the power of Jesus’ words?”  It’s the sad truth that, according to my actions, I sometimes am that hopeless, and I sometimes do have that little faith.

Instead of the Pitbull approach, I want to take the approach of the Mumford and Sons lyric, which tells us to,

“Hold on to what you believed/

In the light/

When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight.”

In this tense election year, we will inevitably discuss and examine what is best for our country, both internally and abroad.  My prayer is that we do this in a way that doesn’t negate our beliefs in Scripture.  My prayer is that we continue to live lives of love…real, self-sacrificial love.

My prayer is that we Keep Calm and Carry On.

*Quote from:  Camp, Lee.  Who is my Enemy?  Grand Rapids:  Brazos Press, 2011.  91.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. A bit of a side-thought in this. Is EVERY election really “the most important of our lives?” You know I am interested in politics. But no matter who wins this coming November, my life is unlikely to change much. A blogger I read has a continuing joke series that begins, “They told me if I voted for John McCain ______ would happen.” Whether the punchline is invading Libya without asking congress, Guantanamo still being open, the unemployment rate at 9%, or whatever, the joke still works… and proves that the new boss is about the same as the old boss. And the next new boss will likely be about the same. That’s one more reason I like to say that I’m not really a Republican, I’m a monarchist. Those of us who are believers would do well to recognize that our politics ARE NOT our religion, or shouldn’t be.

    Reply

    • I agree COMPLETELY. You know my thoughts on fear-mongering, as well as my general skepticism toward predictions of our impending doom. But I did want to acknowledge that people really do feel that way, and that even those very strong concerns/fears are not reason to compromise the teachings of Jesus. It’s honestly easier for me to do because I don’t feel as threatened. For people who really do believe that their very way of life is in danger, it seems like it would be a bit harder to even be civil, much less be Christian.

      Reply

  2. I cant come up with any super intelligent to say besides ..I agree 100%.

    All this only increases my overwhelming need to sit down with you a cup of coffee ..shall we make date, say next week?! 🙂

    Reply

  3. Posted by Ivy on January 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Kim, your blog is such a blessing to me. And, it did make me laugh to see the lyrics from a Pit Bull song here. I agree 100% as well, and it gives me a lot of comfort knowing that at least you 3 ladies agree too. Elections STRESS me out, and to be honest, I am dreading November. In summary, and to keep this from turning into a lengthy rant, they stress me out because I do not feel the love. At all. Love usually seems absent from non-Christians and Christians alike (of course, not all…just a lot). The big problem with that, is of course that we as Christians are called to love.

    I’m trying to read through the Old Testament right now and am currently in the days of Joseph, and let me say – um wow. The days of Abraham/Jacob/Joseph, etc were scandalous. It makes me think of the “imminent doom” that we are facing, and that we’re living in a perverse nation – it’s nothing new. I mean, men offered their daughters to a group of men, had babies with basically any woman that walked, brothers sold brothers into slavery, etc! I guess it helps me put things in perspective – and keep calm. The wickedness doesn’t keep me calm, God’s presence in it all does. Without God’s presence, I’m FREAKING out. But, God’s got this. We (I) need to stop stressing and OBEY. We aren’t to judge, we are to love. I am speaking to myself more than to anyone else here – I have an almost constant inner battle with making judgements about others, not to mention worrying. We (I) need to just obey God and love Him and others day after day after day. Not worry, obey. Not judge, LOVE.

    Reply

    • Ivy, I relate to so much of what you are saying. I almost ended the post with the question, “So…is anyone else dreading this election year?” I didn’t put it b/c I didn’t want to sound flippant about our privilege to vote for our leaders. That said, it is so depressing to see the hate that sometimes floats around in Christian circles. I liked Larry’s reminder that politics are NOT our religion. Sometimes, I think the two get so wrapped up in each other that they seem inseparable. And in a weird way, that makes the nasty Facebook statuses and forwards even worse…

      I’m reading through the OT, also. I’m a little behind you b/c I’m using the One Year Bible, but I just got finished reading about the baby-havin’ contest between Leah and Rachel, in which they completely use Jacob as a means to an end…right down to giving him their maid servants. I mean, it is seriously messed up! And I was interrupted in my reading today, but I’m just up to the point where Jacob’s sons are about to do some major slaughter in return for the “violation” of their sister. On one level, I’m glad that they care, but on another level, I’m not sure killing 400 people is the solution. Reading the OT has a similar effect on me that it does on you. I see all the rape, incest, and slaughter and think, “Man–present day society has NOTHING on the patriarchs!” It is oddly comforting.

      And I totally hear you on the “stop stressing and obey” ideas. I spent so much of my life freaked out at the idea of the end of our world (which I kept hearing was just around the corner), that I finally got to the point I couldn’t do it anymore. I chose instead to focus on what I can do–indeed, what I’m supposed to do. No matter what happens in this world, I just remember two things:
      1. I know how the story ends.
      2. From the words of Jesus, I have my marching orders.

      So I basically just seek to follow them with all of my heart and mind and soul and strength…and leave the rest up to God.

      Reply

      • Kim, what wonderful wisdom you’ve given us again, pointing to the ultimate end as what we should focus on. And I couldn’t agree mroe that today’s society has nothing on what we read about in the OT.

        Cheers,
        Tim

        P.S. “baby-havin’ contest” – SNORT! Good thing I finished my coffee before I read that line, or my monitor would need a serious wiping down!

        Reply

  4. Kim, I love this line: ‘if we really are on the brink of some sort of major collapse, do you want to go out looking just like your enemies?” That really encapsulates the issue quite well. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll use this when the “fight fire with fire” rational raises its ugly head.

    Thanks for another great thoguth-provoker, Kim.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    P.S. I did another guest article over at Aimee Byrd’s blog: http://www.housewifetheologian.com/all-of-me/. She’s a good sport to host my stuff!

    P.P.S. I was watching Cupcake Wars on the Food Network last night and one of the bakers had a T-shirt that read “Keep Calm and Bake On”.

    Reply

    • Tim, I totally need a t-shirt like that. With the disasters that so often happen when I try to get creative in the kitchen, a shirt like that would provide a welcomed reminder!

      And I loved your post. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

  5. It has only been in the last few years that I have really taken this idea to heart and have tried to see politicians (and opinionated people in the “other” party) as those whom God loves and not as the enemy. I was brought up in an environment that was very critical of the “other side,” so it just seemed normal to speak hatefully of, well, Democrats. This was evident even in my early days of blogging.

    At some point, though, it did just seem wrong, especially in light of the teachings of Christ. Now that my eyes have been opened, I absolutely hate it when I see, for instance, a status or post from a friend on Facebook that completely slams Obama. I did not vote for Obama, and I oppose many of his ideas; however, to attack him personally (whether with jokes, false statistics, or whatever) is not only tacky and classless but also wrong. The same is true of anyone we disagree with. Certainly we can (and should) make our opinions known, and there is nothing wrong with simply stating that we disagree with someone. But, we should be talking about the issues at hand, not tearing down the people on a personal level. We are not excused from speaking in love in those situations. You’re right, Kim; if we’re supposed to be the “good guys,” then why are we acting like “bad guys”?

    Also (and this is the big thing), like you said, GOD IS IN CONTROL. Why do we feel like we have to get all worried about everything when He’s got it covered? Yes, we need to be informed so that we can vote in confidence. There is certainly value in discussing politics. But, we need to think and speak of things things in terms of the big, spiritual, picture.

    Reply

    • Amen, Becky. I don’t totally agree with any politician; indeed, I have serious DISagreements with all of them. And while I do think it’s important to stand up for what I think is right (this blog, in fact, is an attempt to do just that), I definitely agree that our number one priority is to show love to the world. I know that sometimes we like to get creative with what we mean by “love,” but even with all our creativity, I can’t see how some of our political discourse is loving at all.

      I also have been thinking of how our paradigms shape our perceptions. There will probably be a blog post coming where I flesh this out some more, but basically, we all have this narrative in our head that explains the world to us. Our narratives are formed by many factors, including our environment, our religious beliefs, our influences, etc., but we see everything through the lens of that one controlling narrative. If our narrative has told us that Democrats (or Republicans) are the “bad guys,” then it is often hard to see them as anything but cartoonishly sinister enemies. But the problem with those narratives is not only their inherent arrogance, but that they don’t see the “others” as people. The Christian narrative, by contrast, tells us that all people are complex, immortal souls created by a loving God. And on earth, we are supposed to be His ambassadors of love, showing all souls that they are precious to their Creator. Sometimes our narratives, and our resulting interactions, allow us to completely ignore that powerful truth.

      Good thoughts, Becky!

      Reply

      • Okay, I feel like I have to fess up and share this in light of what we have been talking about. I actually recently heard someone make a joke (more like a funny comment) about Obama, and I really did think it was funny. It was the kind of thing that, if he was one of my good friends, I could lovingly tease him with. Of course, I don’t know the man at all, so I don’t know if I can get away with laughing about it. I also don’t feel like I can share what it was because it was the kind of thing you had to be there for. But, it had absolutely nothing to do with his politics and wasn’t meant to be hateful like many of the jabs people take. At the time I just laughed, but then later I was like, “Oh crap, I just stated on the Internet that we shouldn’t do stuff like that.” It is making me wonder where the line really is. If I knew him personally, I feel like I could say the thing to his face and he would probably laugh too. But, it would have to be said just the right way and in the right context. This brings up another thing that grates against the verses you mentioned in the post: What does God think about sarcasm?

        Reply

        • To sum up my last comment, basically I felt like God was saying, “Hmm, are you sure you really believe all of what you just said?” Obviously we need to treat people in love, and most of the political jokes I see and hear are NOT said in love. However, is there ever a time or place just to blow of some steam and have a good chuckle? (I don’t know the answer to this yet.) My possible argument FOR this would be the way that friends lovingly pick on each other. But, when you’re not friends with the person, I don’t know if that counts.

          Reply

          • Great questions, bekster, I’ve wondered the same thing. For me, considering whether it’s the type of thing I’d say to a friend and expect it to be taken in a spirit of friendship is the real issue. From what you’ve described, I think your recent experience passes that test.

            Tim

            Reply

            • Becky, I agree with Tim that you should be easy on yourself about the joke. Regarding sarcasm as a whole, I’m kind of torn. I had an 11th grade English teacher who hated sarcasm and kind of turned me against it. She would say, “Sarcasm is the tool of the lazy thinker,” and to a large degree, I think that is true. She also noted that the root words of sarcasm mean something about cutting, and she spoke of sarcasm as destructive. And again, I get that.

              I do think there is a place for sarcasm, though…or is it satire? It’s just something that should be used very carefully b/c sometimes it is hard to see how it works with love. At least, that’s my experience. But again, my natural, basest tendencies are to be sharp and biting with my words, and so I have to be extra careful about things like using sarcasm.

              Reply

              • Kim, I’ve always been fascinated by sarcasm’s etymology. It goes back to Greek roots meaning to rend the flesh. Sarx is the same word John, Paul and other New Testament writers used for flesh, although it is sometimes used metaphorically and sometimes more literally in the NT.

                Sorry for going a bit off topic, but word studies are fun!

                Tim

                Reply

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