Nov 18, 2010

Is Heaven here on earth?

One of my favorite musicians is Tracy Chapman, that poet of compassion and craftsman of earthy music who I am pretty sure has had the same dreads for the past twenty years. She is probably one of if not the very first artists I've ever danced to (in my mother's arms as a baby). I love the way she can bend her voice and mold a phrase of melody, but I do not agree with her world view. 

To sum up, Chapman's philosophy seems to be a New Age-y kind of humanism. A do-good, cultivate your karma, have love in your hearts, protect Mother Earth kind of man-centered philosophy. In my estimation, it is not especially what this philosophy is made of that is problematic, but what it lacks. The mission to do good and be loving is one we should all keep in our hearts, and it should also be a priority to take good care of the beautiful planet on which we live (as long as we don't begin to worship it). 

More troublesome than Chapman's implied pantheism, though, is that she doesn't recognize one of the most important truths on which right philosophy is built: that humankind is inherently flawed. That the human race is a depraved, fallen, and ultimately doomed population in need of a supernatural Saviour.  

So when I had my iPod on shuffle today, and this song came on, it started my wheels turning on these things again, which is one of the reasons why I keep it in my queue. While I am a strong believer that we ought to be discriminatory and deliberate about the content of the music we listen to, I think this song is of use to me because it reminds me not only to pay attention to what I am listening to, but to remind me of the Truth.

Here are the lyrics. My reactions are interspersed in red.

Heaven's Here On Earth
by Tracy Chapman

You can look (but you won't find?) to the stars in search of the answers
Look for God and life on distant planets
Have your faith in the ever after
While each of us holds inside the map to the labyrinth (self-esteem boost!)
And heaven's here on earth (really? where?)

We are the spirit the collective conscience (oh boy)
We create the pain and the suffering and the beauty in this world (that is true, but probably not in the sense she means it. We are not the authors of either suffering or beauty, but the agents)
Heaven's here on earth

In our faith in humankind (be careful)
In our respect for what is earthly ("Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" -Col. 3:2)
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding (what about our unfaltering believe in the peace, love, and understanding of God? Apart from Him they have no power.)

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise
Of ordinary people leading ordinary lives
Filled with love, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice
Heaven's in our hearts (God works through people, but there is no Heaven in the human heart by a long shot. The human heart is sinful and imperfect. If it weren't we wouldn't have to be looked at naked and groped in the airports)

In our faith in humankind
In our respect for what is earthly
In our unfaltering belief in peace and love and understanding

Look around
Believe in what you see
The k(K)ingdom is at hand (Right!)
The promised land is at your feet
We can and will become what we aspire to be (we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but I don't have much enthusiasm for what a lot of people aspire to be)
If Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief that truth is divinity
And heaven's here on earth

I've seen spirits
I've met angels
I've touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I've been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven (a hope against all reason, unfortunately)

We are born inside the gates with the power to create life
And to take it away
The world is our temple (pantheism)
The world is our church (more pantheism)
Heaven's here on earth

If we have faith in humankind
And respect for what is earthly
And an unfaltering belief
In peace and love and understanding
This could be heaven here on earth (why can't we all just get along)

So the tone of this is quite cheery and hopeful and uplifting, like a big ra-ra "let's go out and heal the world by having faith in humankind" kind of pep talk. But it's actually quite empty in substance. How long have we been hearing this message? And what do we have now? A world scarier, darker, more evil than it has ever been before. I'm not holding out much hope for humankind on this one. I'd much rather see people recognizing their own incapabilities and looking to the all-powerful for the solution. It is probably one of the easiest decisions, and certainly the most attractive, that can ever be made in this life. When so much of eternal significance hangs in the balance, why do we insist on doing it ourselves?

Interestingly enough, if you listen carefully beyond the lyrics to the music, you might hear what I detect: a melancholy note of foreboding.

Incidentally, and also very interesting, I believe that Tracy Chapman's face is one of the most open, serenely soul-beautiful faces I have ever seen. Watch the video below.


Cathy said...

Right on!

"When so much of eternal significance hangs in the balance, why do we insist on doing it ourselves?"

She also sings ...

"At this point in my life
I've done so many things wrong
I don't know if I can do right
If you put your trust in me I hope I wont let you down
If you give me a chance I'll try
You see it's been a hard road the road I'm traveling on
And if I take your hand I might lead you down the path to ruin
Ive had a hard life Im just saying it so you'll understand
That right now, right now,
I'm doing the best I can.

Although I've mostly walked
in the shadows
I'm still searching for the light."

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

I like her singing also.

Jason said...

Thanks for showing another way how the "world view" "Mother Earth" religion can be thrown at us without anyone noticing it. I loved the comments to the lyrics.

To answer the question, "is heaven here on earth", no, they are two differant places and earth is but God's footstole (Isa 66:1 Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool....)

Priscilla said...

Exactly, Jason. Thank you for sharing that Scripture; it is spot on.