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February 25, 2013

The Sex Pistols Sermon

by Brendan

In church yesterday, Fr. Richard began his sermon by talking about the Sex Pistols’ 1977 album Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, specifically their song, “God Save the Queen.”  (The album also features such songs\provocations as “Pretty Vacant,” “No Feelings,” and “Anarchy In the UK.”)

I was of course surprised to hear anything about the Sex Pistols in St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, and then even more surprised as he read us the lyrics to “God Save the Queen”:

God save the Queen;Sex Pistols

Her Fascist regime

Made you a moron.

and so forth.  I commented to him after that he was smart not to haveed play us the song, as that might have resulted in the congregation running from the room, screaming, hands over our ears (well, not me — I actual own the album, have listened to it quite a few times, though not lately).  The music is rough, primitive, and harsh.

So we’re in church talking about the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” considering the lyrics — where is Fr. Richard going with this?  (Mentally I’m reviewing the Scripture readings from a few minutes before, trying to see how they could connect with the Sex Pistols.) Well, the point of the sermon turned out to be Nihilism, and how Nihilism is an understandable outgrowth of people’s lives not going well, of despair related to such horrors as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, war, legal troubles, marital problems, etc.

Then we took up the case of Abraham, the subject of yesterday’s Genesis reading.  By Chapter 15, where we were, Abraham had been asked by God to pack up and move everything, which he did, not once but twice, and has finally managed, though a stranger in a strange land, to accumulate land and cattle.  But Abraham is childless, and what’s the good of land with no descendants to give it to?

At this point, God makes what my pastor called an “absurd” promise to Abraham, that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars He instructs Abraham to go outside and observe.  And Abraham, instead of coming up with objection after objection (I’m old!  My wife’s old!  We’ve been failing to have children for years!), believes in God’s promise, and his belief  “is reckoned to him as righteousness.”

So two responses (at least) are possible to the conviction that there’s no hope for the future: one is the Nihilism of the mid-to-late 20th Century, which probably began in the 19th Century with Friedrich Nietzsche and continued through Existentialism up to the Sex Pistols in the 1970’s.  And the other response is Abraham’s: to believe that God is taking care of him, even though he can’t currently see it happening.

Brendan’s Quick Guide to Existentialism: Every time Sartre looked at an oak tree, he felt like throwing up.  (Only one possible response to an oak tree.)

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