I was recently told a fascinating story about a conversation between the Pope and Michelangelo. This is not that conversation:

The actual conversation I am referencing was one in which the Pope, after seeing Michelangelo’s David, asked Michelangelo “How do you know what to cut away?” The artist replied, “I cut away everything that is not David.” This is the heart of the song “Deconstruction.”

Deconstruction is not a function of a lack of faith. Nor is deconstruction a function of a mind with a disregard for (or even mistrust of) truth. It is, in fact a necessary and responsible activity of a vibrant and living faith; faith that if I shake it all down, and tear away what is superfluous, I will be left with what is essential, true and beautiful. Faith that I cannot evade the truth and that, should I sincerely seek Truth, I will either find it or be found by It.

Tearing away the superfluous can be, and often is, extremely nerve-racking. I would imagine that Michelangelo’s work near the ankles of the David, which is nearly 14 feet of solid marble, was somewhat daunting as well. Without belittling the skill and magic of one of history’s greatest artists, one might imagine that he was extremely cautious when determining what of the marble to remove in order to shape ankles that would support David’s body while remaining proportionate in relation to the rest of the piece. He cared about the piece first and foremost; believed that there was an image to be discovered.

When it comes to American culture and it’s relationship to Jesus, I believe that, similarly, there is much that is superfluous: Allegiance to a particular political platform; an extremely limited notion of the role of art; an unhealthy suspicion of science overall; assumptions about the nature of human sexuality; an assumed agreement on the preferred method of dealing with abortion; an assumed agreement with market principles or even an assumed agreement regarding the superiority of a particular economic theory; a narrowing understanding of the goal of education; the assumption that our nation is inherently “good” or at least on the side of “good”… Etc..

(As a kind of side note, the intimate relationship Christianity has with America and her ways is particularly disturbing. A christian’s questioning US foreign or domestic policy ought not be met with questions and suspicions about his allegiance to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. The fact that this happens is evidence to me that, for too many of us, they Way of Jesus and the way of America are either one and the same or so closely related that we cannot separate the two. Love for my country should not look the same as love for my God.. but that’s another blog.)

Yet just as with Michelangelo’s great piece, deconstruction of the superfluous in American culture and religious life means removing at least some that is difficult to remove in fear that the whole structure of what we have determined as Truth may collapse. But if we believe in truth as Truth there need be no fear. This is the major difference between the philosophical reality of the christian journey and the creation of Michelangelo’s David; there was a legitimate cause to be concerned that the artist’s beautiful creation could be toppled by either a mistake of his own hand or the violence of others. If I ‘believe’ in God as God and not as an Idea, I should suffer no such fear. My fear shouldn’t be that I may topple the image of Christ but instead that, in an effort to support that Image, I might bury it beneath those very ‘supports.’

Deconstruction is a necessary element in the effort to discover, from beneath the ruined and rotten corpse of cultural consumer religion, a political energy that is rooted in a desire for redemptive justice rather than party affiliation and the defeat of ‘the opposition’; to discover or rediscover the power of the teachings of Jesus; to rediscover what it in fact means to ‘be saved’, to be a ‘christian”, to even have or be a ‘soul’ at all.

The song Deconstruction is the heart of an album that I hope inspires its listeners towards a healthy re-examination of established religious, consumer and scientific world-views.


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