Image of the Invisible

I went to a concert the other night and had an interesting moment.  Before I tell you the band though, I want to share a few of the words from one of their songs.  Maybe you’ll know it, maybe not.  It goes:

We’re more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can’t let go
We are the image of the invisible

We all were lost now we are found
No one can stop us or slow us down
We all are named and we are known
We know that we’ll never walk alone

Though all the world may hate us, we are named
Though shadow over take us, we are known

Raise up the banner, bend back your bows
Remove the cancer, take back your souls

There is more to the song but you get the basic theme and message.  During the performance, I had an interesting feeling come over me and my mind was turned to something I hold near and dear, my testimony.  I was surprised because I was listening to Thrice, which by no means is your typical Sunday music, and the words were not delivered delicately but rather in a chest pounding anthem chanted by both band and crowd.

Religious music has always been something powerful to me but I defiantly have my own taste.  As a missionary, even though my mission presidents allowed other music I really only listened to mo-tab or an arrangement I came across of piano and violin.  There was a common theme though, hymns.  Contemporary religious music has never really done it for me when they have really moved others (Mindy Gledhill might be the exception but it may be because she is one of the nicest people ever).  Music praising God with a rock guitar riff or flowery vocals fills straight off the Billboard charts seems kind of weird to me.  Makes me think of a Simpons’ episode that said something to the effect that by simply replacing “baby” with a word referencing God turns a song from pop to religious.

I think there is a big difference between a religious song and song written by someone that is religious.  For instance, Image of the Invisible never directly addresses a deity, though the phrase comes from Colossians 1:15.  If you know what he is talking about, the song’s meaning is all that much more but if you don’t, it is still a good song with ideas that seem to have universal appeal.  Religious music doesn’t even necessarily need to be written by a religious person.  Likewise, religious people don’t have to write religious music, though belief can and does permeate their concepts and lyrics.

I guess when it comes down to it, faith when conveyed through an indirect manner has a special sort of sincerity, almost as though it happened naturally.  A lot of religious music that I have heard hide nothing and thus leave little to be discovered.  Now I mean no offense to anyone, once a song takes hold in your heart it becomes much more than sound waves and just like taste buds, our ears are all unique and distinct.  We all interpret differently which makes the wonderful idea of “variety” possible.  I have just found that I like the nuance, the subtly that comes from a “religious song writer” rather than a “religious song”.  The song takes me on a journey and if I like where I end up then the song usually stays with me.

I testify that we really are named and known.

Jake

PS- Image of the Invisible has an amazing music video (which can be seen here).

Image of the Invisible

4 thoughts on “Image of the Invisible

  1. Wommis says:

    Thrice is pretty awesome. And I think the topic is really fascinating. I know that I have gained some cool insight from songs that you wouldn’t typically say are “religious” songs.

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  2. Recently I started a conversation with a friend on FB who I told about Linescratchers. He is a musician who is involved in devotional music, but usually in a more “classical” style. Typically, I enjoy devotional music more when it is done in older or more traditional styles and with older or more traditional instruments. I’ve wondered why that is. It could be that really explicit treatments of religion just lend themselves better to the older forms of music in a culture.

    When I was in high school a friend of mine lent me a lot of Christian heavy metal CDs. I enjoyed some songs or some parts of songs, but never really got into the whole thing. Part of it was that it was just too weird for some guy to be growling about Jesus in front of distorted guitars and blast beats on the drums. But I can feel energized and uplifted when listening to other music with really loud and fuzzy guitars and aggressive drums.

    I can listen to the Danielson Famile and get teary-eyed at “Good News for the Pus Pickers.” Once I wrote out a quote from “Alone” by Low on the whiteboard when I taught an Elder’s Quorum lesson.

    And I remember reading something that Peter Gabriel wrote about the song “In Your Eyes” – that he was aiming for the kind of ambiguity he found in Senegalese love songs: they can be addressed to another person or to God. I’ve always considered Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” a song obviously addressed to God – at least, it sounds like it to me . . .

    There’s U2, of course. Doug Pinnick related in one interview how he heard one of their songs (I think “Gloria” from _October_) and thought: “The dog! He got away with it!”

    But explicitly religious songs that make use of more current popular styles usually come across to me as . . . opportunistic, for lack of a better word. As if trying to re-package religion for the young crowd, instead of letting religious conviction really percolate into music that has to come out whether it becomes popular or not.

    One day on BYU campus the Soapbox hosted a debate about this kind of thing. I wish the university archivist at the time had videotaped it. (Maybe I’d better send the current archivist an email . . .)

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  3. Charles, that might be one reason we still use the King James Version of the Bible. I think in our minds, older forms of English seem “higher” in a way.

    I have been attempting to write faith-based music lately but trying my best to avoid the pitfalls usually associated with such music. It’s been difficult, but I look to Alan Sparhawk as my guide. We’ll see what happens.

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