Vicarious Christianity?

Rooted in Hope, Called to Justice

I’m a big fan of the band Tool.

However, they are not what you would call a “Christian band”.

So, why do I listen to them?

I listen to them because they are proficient musicians who write songs with complex rhythm structures, haunting melodies and emotionally raw lyrics.

Through their music, they ask tough questions, express deep lament, and wrestle with issues of faith.

These things resonate with my Christian imagination because these are themes that are explored throughout the book of Psalms (for more on the Psalms, be sure to read Walter Bruggemann’s “Psalms and the Life of Faith“)

In their song, “Vicarious”, Tool raises an important question about our culture’s fixation with violence.

Listen to some of the lyrics:

“Eye on the T.V., ‘cause tragedy thrills me”

“It’s no fun ‘til someone dies”

“We won’t give pause until the blood is flowing”

“We all feed on tragedy; it’s like blood to a vampire”

“I need to watch things die – from a good safe distance”

“Vicariously I live, while the whole world dies”

These are tough lyrics that force us to open our eyes to the ways that we have been blinded by our culture’s addiction to violence.  On television and computers screens, violence and suffering easily become spectacles for our entertainment.

Although Tool raises the prophetic question about our complacency in the face of violence and suffering, unfortunately, they retreat into despair and cynicism, unable to imagine an alternative to our fallen world:

“Credulous your desire to believe in angels in the heart of men/The universe is hostile/so impersonal/devour to survive/so it is/so it’s always been.”

As Christians, we echo the question raised by Tool and we lament the brokenness of our world where suffering and death seem to have the last word.

However, unlike Tool, we do not pull away in despair, resigned to the assumption that this is simply the way things are, unable to imagine that the impossible is indeed possible.

As Christians, we are rooted in the promise of God – that he will never leave or forsake us, assured that our love of him is never in vain.  We are rooted in the hope that God is doing a new thing, a new thing that started with Jesus’ resurrection, a new thing that will liberate us from evil and will restore the fullness of life.  This hope prompts us to participate in God’s mission to redeem and renew the world.

We are called to continue to work of Christ – to be his hands and feet – to bring justice and shalom to our broken world.  We do this in and through the gifts given to us by God – through our relationships, through our studies, and through our vocation.

We cannot live vicariously, resigned to despair as we watch the world die, because we are rooted in hope – the hope of the resurrection that death does not have the last word and that suffering will end; the hope that God is faithful to his promise to bring healing and wholeness for the cosmos.

We are called, here and now, to bring God’s future into the present so that all may share in our hope that “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).

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4 thoughts on “Vicarious Christianity?

    1. Henry,

      I would suggest that if you haven’t already that you preview Tool’s music on YouTube – it can be quite intense at times, musically and lyrically (and the artwork in the albums is often intentionally disturbing).

      That being said, their album “Lateralus” is a good place to start.

  1. “We are called, here and now, to bring God’s future into the present so that all may share in our hope that “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).”

    luv it.

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