Of Popular Music and Unpopular Crime

I’m breaking my 10-year rule. This blog is not quite 9-years-old, so I’m repeating myself rather than citing. In a discussion over the recent shooting, I was reminded that I wrote something after Sandy Hook. Actually, I wrote right after a senseless shooting in Oklahoma. It’s worth another read.

Apparently, “senseless” or “random” crime bothers us more than crimes for which there is motive.  Killing someone just to see what it feels like is appalling, but it has always been celebrated in popular music.

Here I don’t speak of rap or hip hop or even rock music.  Johnny Cash sung of the man in Folsom Prison who “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.”  Jim Reeves sung of the gold miner who killed his partner because “what else was there to do?”  However, in both these songs the killer suffers, and it seems justly so.

To my knowledge Jim Reeves’ “Partners” released in 1959 and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” first recorded in 1956 but the recording made at Folsom prison in 1968 made it famous, didn’t spark a wave of thrill-killing.  Indeed, outside of wartime atrocities, you rarely hear of “waves” of thrill-killing.

Just as with the killings in Sandy Hook, too much can me made of the “senseless” “random” brutality of 3 teens in Oklahoma shooting a college student out jogging just “for the fun of it.”  Though I am loath to quote Nietzsche, he warned about gazing into the abyss because you’ll find it gazes into you (Beyond Good and Evil, IV, 146).  No matter how long you look at this terrible murder, you won’t understand it, but the more the darkness of it will penetrate you.

In the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Rich Man stares out of the abyss but Lazarus doesn’t stare into it.  He is content in and with the Bosom of Abraham. Each day has sufficient evil (Matthew 6:34), there is no need to import the evils of past days into your present.

If in Scripture we find times so abominable that a whole town would be complicit in homosexual (Genesis 19) or heterosexual rape (Judges 19), if women could be so debased as to cook and eat their own children (2 Kings 6:29), should we be surprised at the deepness of the darkness in this present evil age (Galatians 1:4)?  If Paul in circa 60 A.D. could respond to the evil days by admonishing the Ephesians to make the most of every opportunity (5:16), shouldn’t we focus on what opportunities we have rather than on the evil of our days?  They abyss is not going to overcome us; in Christ we have overcome the abyss.  Vanquished foes can be and should be forgotten.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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