In our time popular music and music videos are springboards for daily life theology. By daily life theology I do not mean rarefied explorations of religious themes undertaken by formally trained scholars, but rather the simple activity of trying to figure out what the hell life is about, and can be about, in the thick of life. For many people in the world this activity takes place in, not apart from, what the X Ambassadors present as the jungle in the video below. The jungle is the chaos, sadness, vitality, struggle, tension, hypocrisy, darkness, anger, angst, creativity, and hint of light in urban life. Watch the video; it says it better than the words I have just offered.The X Ambassadors (also stylized XA) are an American rock band from Ithaca, New York. Their members currently include lead vocalist Sam Harris, keyboardist Casey Harris, and drummer Adam Levin. Their songs include "Renegades", "Unsteady, "Jungle," "Lowlife," "Don't Stay," and "Joyful" -- all offered below, I have watched and listened to all of them, and then imagined a person who somehow combines the various sensibilities of the songs into a single vision of life, a single theology.
"I'm a renegade running wild and free, willing to meet whatever challenges life presents; but also a little unsteady, with demons in my life, some of my own making, Seduced by these demons, I harm others and myself. They are my inner jungle. Don't stay with me if you fear they'll kill you. Still, even in this jungle, I have a yearning for joy. Indeed, I declare joy - against the demons while partaking of their energy. The joy I seek is relational: I want to love and be loved. But it is also the simple joy of being alive, and it pulls me forward. Inwardly, pulled by the possibility of joy (is this God?) I like to dance. My desire to dance and clap, to keep with the rhythms of the music, is another part of who I am as a renegade. I am alone in a certain way, but I am also with others. I want to be with others in healing and healthy ways, in ways that help care for them when their are vulnerable. You might say I am a relational renegade: a rebel with a cause. That cause is love and justice. I dance from the hope.
Please understand, I am not saying that this theology is that of the members of the band. They may or may not find themselves sympathetic to the sentences above; although the philanthropic work of the band suggests that, for them, "love" is more than a satisfying relation with another person, but also social justice, I am saying that this theology is a perspective that can be evoked by their music and their videos. You might call it an "existentialist" theology, because it highlights the journey of the individual, but also a "relational" theology because it carries with it the hope of mutuality and communal joy. I would also call it a process theology, because it presents life itself as an ongoing process of becoming, lured by possibilities for mutuality and joy, while influenced in ways both positive and negative by the conditions of life and the powers of the past. It is process theology in still another sense. It carries within it the hope of creative transformation: of dancing and declaring our way into love, despite the demons. The demons (addictions, resentments, confusions hatreds) are the enemies of our better selves, and yet they (the demons) also contain energies that can be transmuted into love. And how does this transmutation occur? Here the music of XA offers a hint but not an answer: embracing the risk, and indeed the vulnerability, of joy, understood as a place in human life where earth meets heaven, even in the jungle. For process theologians like me, the lure to joy and the hope for love and justice is God, and it's danceable.