Saturday, December 15, 2007

South City Midnight Lady

Sometimes when I listen to Christian responses to atheist attacks, I think I hear something like fear. If not fear, at least worry. Bear with me while I tell you about a Very Earnest Christian Song and then a song about a drifter and a prostitute, and I'll tell you why I think the worry about the neo-atheists is unnecessary.

The Doobie Brothers were a little bit before my time, but I always did like good music, and I wasn't a "current or nothing" snob; some really good music was written before I was old enough to notice, or even before I was born. The Doobies were a rock band whose members were Christians. Now, compare two of the Doobies' songs: "Jesus is Just Alright" and "South City Midnight Lady". On the surface, "Jesus is Just Alright" is the more Christian song. It's about Jesus. But it's awfully defensive in posture and awfully lukewarm in its witness to Christ (much like some of the current responses to the militant atheists, but I'm getting ahead of myself).

"South City Midnight Lady" is about a drifter and a prostitute. It's also a beautiful and powerful song with a theme of redemption. The song paints a picture of the drifter in the middle of another hopeless night at the end of another hopeless day.
Up all night, I could not sleep
The whiskey that I drank was cheap
With shaking hands I went and I lit up my last cigarette.
He looks over at the hired company for the evening, a prostitute -- and sees that she has fallen asleep. And all the sudden his hopelessness fades away as his heart begins to care for another human being. He has a tender moment that changes everything in his eyes:
I saw you sleepy-dreamin' there all covered and warm.
South City Midnight Lady
I'm much obliged indeed
You sure did save this man whose soul was in need
I thought there was no reason
For all these things I do
But the smile that I sent out returned with you.
I would contend that "South City Midnight Lady" is a more deeply and profoundly Christian song than "Jesus is Just Alright", because Christianity is at its strongest when things are hopeless, and our message for humanity's despair is that God's love is deeper. There is no situation so hopeless as to be beyond redemption.

God has stacked the deck: all good comes from him. So whenever anyone reaches out for good, they are reaching toward God whether they know it or not. God has woven his love into the fabric of all human relationships, woven his goodness into the fabric of the universe. From Satan's viewpoint, even the most desperate and debased of human relationships (like a drifter and a hooker) is in constant danger that someone will succumb to humanity as it was meant to be and actually love each other.

It's like the classic Christian philosophers said: all evil is a corruption of good. The devil is on borrowed territory. All his best weapons are precarious ones, always just an inch away from being redeemed.

I'm not saying I know the future of the new atheists. I'm not saying I know whether religious freedom will last or whether it will be taken away in the blink of an eye. I'm saying there are constants in the world just because God made it, and that one of these is that all good comes from him, therefore he will never be entirely lost or forgotten. And therefore the enemy plays only with borrowed capital, constantly at risk that someone will look up and see the good and see its source.


P.S. an after-thought said...

I read your sentence, "There is no situation so hopeless as to be beyond redemption" about 2 minutes after reading an article on Yahoo news entitled "Juvenile serial killer remains in prison."

In faith, I agree with you. But there are instances in this life that challenge that faith.

Drew said...

I think that there is a lot of fear in responses to atheists. There is also this desire to "prove" Christianity on the same grounds that atheists require in order to satisfy their doubt. What I try to convey to Christians is that the only thing you can do is talk about how you came to faith and then what you have done in response to it. If you are fearful that what they are telling you about your faith is right and you might be delusional and harmful to the world after all, that is your opportunity to re-examine why it is that you first came to believe. Not a bad thing to do and perhaps it is the approach we all ought to have with prayer since it requires us to be completely humble and realize our limitations.

To borrow Jesus' metaphor of the house built on sand, it seems like for many their faith is built like a wobbly stack of Jenga blocks. Their fear is that with one block removed, the entire thing will fall apart. If that is true, then it is high time to reexamine your faith anyway!

P.S. an after-thought said...

I agree with Drew that it is too easy to have a faith built on what we've been told rather than on examining the Bible, our experiences, and thinking about all of this. Not that we should base our faith just on our own thoughts and experiences, but there has to be "supporting evidence" for most people to have strong faith.

I've had lots and lots of visits from the JWs through the years. I learned from that early on that I didn't know why I supposedly believed some things taught in my church. This was a positive challenge to me to read, study and pray.

But when it comes down to people to people contact, the best thing is to "tell our own story."

Weekend Fisher said...

P.S.: "Juvenile serial killer remains in prison." Ouch. The parents have to be wondering what they did wrong. The kid has probably given up on himself long since. Back in 30 A.D. (or so), the guys being executed next to Jesus were probably lost causes. One of them looked up and realized that the guy dying next to him could save him. The other thought that was the most ludicrous thing ever ...

Weekend Fisher said...

Drew: "What I try to convey to Christians is that the only thing you can do is talk about how you came to faith and then what you have done in response to it."

I'm interested to hear more how you'd go about it. The reason is that the churches I'm affiliated with would take a very different approach: tell them about Christ, especially the cross and the resurrection. I've heard that there are those who put much stock in personal testimony. I'm curious what that would look like and how you've seen it play out.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

P.S. an after-thought said...

This is so horrible that it makes one think that some people are just damaged goods right from the start.

Regarding relating to people without faith: from my observation only: some groups do a better job at this because they seek to develop a relationship with the person and go out of their way to help the person, thereby giving themselves an avenue to share their own story. My background (yours too??) by contrast, well, we seem to wait for people to come to us, to come into the building, and then, maybe we share the head knowledge, the theology.

Different strokes, etc. but I think that when we show by our actions that something is meaningful to us, then it comes across as more meaningful to others.

Bre said...

How do you know she's a prostitute? He cares for her from the start, and he might simply be going through a rough patch economically, financially.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

I think when she's described as "South City Midnight Lady", that is the tipoff that she's a prostitute. That would be really unusual way to describe someone you know, but a fairly obvious way to describe someone picked up on a street corner at midnight.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

scooter said...

lol, just ran across your blog after googling South City Midnight Lady! I agree with your comments and would even suggest that Jesus would as well. The New Testament is full of references to prositiutes, liars, and thieves, and Jesus had encounters with them and the Bible even uses those encounters as illustrations. Remember the woman at the well? or the woman who was abotu to be stoned?
Nice writing there my friend, I'll hope to see more in the future!

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey, good to meet another Doobie Brothers fan. Thanks for the encouragement.

Take care & God bless

carla said...

One of my favorite songs.. The verse, "You sure have saved this man whose soul was in need" touches my heart every time I hear it.

We have all experienced pain, loneliness and isolation.. and yet on the other side there is usually someone offering a hand up, smile and compassion ....The last verse is, "But the smile that I sent out returned with you" I believe we all have the opportunity to become 'angels' unaware.

Weekend Fisher said...

I love that part too.

That's a hopeful thought you had there, about us being "angels" unawares.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF