God on the Radio / by Andrew Fairfield

Dear friends,

I find listening to the radio in the car to be pretty much endlessly amusing, no matter how awful the music or talk show may be. I like getting exposed to so many subcultures and genres, taking the pulse of how people talk and think in half a dozen different groups within a few minutes. Of course, once you’ve listened to your millionth self-righteous breakup song or sappy love song, you start to feel like you know where they’re going with it.

Imagine with me that you’re listening to one of those love songs, a woman singing about her lover and how he cares for her. Maybe it’s a country song all about jeans and saddles, maybe a pop/hiphop song all about champagne and dance moves, or maybe a folk song all about fields and flowers. Whatever the imagery, just as the singer really gets going about how awesome her guy is and how he showers affection on his beloved, we find out it’s all for nothing; she’s just using him.

Suddenly the song swaps perspective: The betrayed lover starts singing, whose gifts and affection have been taken advantage of. What should he do? It isn’t a clichéd love song anymore, but a clichéd breakup song about dumping a cheating, lying, cruel and ungrateful partner, a song of bitter triumph, where he takes back everything he gave-- no more fancy cars, no more nights on the beach.

And then comes the final twist… this has been a political song the whole time! It’s been about America who has turned away from her principles despite being showered with all the best jeans, champagne, and flowers. Instead she has chosen a path of bloodshed and misery; an economy, foreign policy, and culture based on violence, and the God that gave so abundantly will now take everything away.

That’s what it felt like for the people of Jerusalem when they first heard the lyrics written down in Isaiah 5:1-7 (click here). It was a sophisticated use of the “ploughing in the vineyard” imagery out of popular love songs to offer a cutting critique of the social and political choices of the nation.

So the next time you hear a sappy love song on the radio, think of God’s love for the children of Israel, for the people of America, for all nations. And the next time you hear an angry breakup song, think of God’s bitter disappointment at the suffering and death we cause because of our fears and power struggles.

Told you the radio was endlessly amusing.

Grace and peace be with you all this week,