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I have recently come to the event of defining myself spiritually. I am an anti-fundamentalist Christian, a recovering Catholic, a Liberation Theologist, as well as a longstanding devotee to the music of Black Sabbath. What can all of this mean, and what could an apocalyptic heavy metal band have to do with this?


First, as a wayward son of the Roman Catholic Church who has no intention of ever coming back, it means not only focusing on Jesus as One Who has chosen to become One of us, the Working Class. It is also a way to recover the part of my life now missing since finally leaving institutional religion behind me. Because of my working-class consciousness, I am able to see Jesus as the Radical He really is. Because I now see Jesus as the truly Divine Organizer of the revolution against satanic authority on Earth - capitalism - I can now see that anything that teaches me greater wisdom against capitalism, however imperfect, or seemingly worldly, is potentially sacred.


My best example is the music of Black Sabbath. Their music comes directly from the righteous anger of the working class and a brutal cynicism for false spiritualism, as embodied by the hippies. For all their warts, from alleged devil-worship to massive drug escapades, they are still true to who they are as working-class people. They are still true to their message of resistance to the Bosses and their sinister, greedy and soulless minions: The Media, Institutional Religion, fundamentalists, moralists, politicians, upon whomever they turn their baleful eye.


I see Black Sabbath as a kind of replacement for elements of my former Catholic faith, because they are like patron saints of disaffected workers, but are here for me now, and can sing about my feelings on all subjects. They accompany themselves with hymn-like, anthemic chords not unlike Bach's moments dabbling with the diabolus en musica, for which he took possibly as much heat as Sabbath have for their strangely uplifting dark music.


This may seem incredibly eccentric, but I often perceive things that others will never understand as being connected to working class issues or the Divine Carpenter, as I do. So, as only a few others I've known in my life who shared my sensibilities, unlike dogmatic or closed-minded, religionistic people, I have seen God waiting there for my understanding, behind the mammoth stack of amplifiers, pentagrams, skulls and crosses. I see Black Sabbath as my metallic saints.


ln the the truest sense, Sabbath are the most Christian band. They are the one band to show themselves for sinners and saints on one album, like blasphemy and penitence in one utterance, and completely sincere in both expressions. It is explicitly apparent that they believe in God and think about Him: they are simply unafraid to show us the math of their mistakes in this mortal life, as they have stumbled through it with the rest of us. Unlike those saints who have been canonized no less than one hundred years after their deaths, when we can no longer know the full truth of their imperfect mortal lives, as a rule, these saints are known fully for their flawed natures. They are known for their ability to look at the world and speak truthfuly of it and to admit that they seek His companionship in their dark hours. If you've heard the bulk of their output, you must imagine Sabbath have had many, many dark hours.


On 'Master of Reality', we hear a paean to marijuana ('Sweet Leaf') on the same album as a song about salvation and accepting Christ ('After Forever'); we hear a mocking Devil sneer at humanity with a sinister, scolding persona. ("The soul I took from you was not even missed.") The message of that same song was the same as that of Scripture: we will pray a price at judgment for our misdeeds, yet do not care, and even the Devil is disgusted with those whom he admonishes to look forward to seeing him in Hell. ('Lord of this World')


On 'Sabbath. Bloody Sabbath': the band pray for the wrath of God upon the powerful in the title track; they deny the stodgy judgmentality of Society and the brutal powermongery and control of the Bosses in 'Killing Yourself to Live'; they show a forward-looking optimism in 'Looking for Today'; They show deep reverence for the Maker for the intricacy of His fascinating invention DNA and the
grand diversity of living things He has sired by this means ('Spiral Architect'). One of the most worshipful lines I've ever heard in any song comes from this one: "Spiral Architect, I build, You play."


Their greatest song, in my opinion, is a love song, ''Symptom of the Universe", which is one of the most intricate, beautifully constructed yet heaviest, gloriously loud anthems ever. That song has been an immense inspiration to me. While the riff on which the song is built musically is timeless and classic, I don't think I would have taken quite the inspiration that I have if it were not a love song. "The Symptom of the Universe is love that never dies.."


I have said, often, that Jesus is my God and that Black Sabbath is my religion. I have come to realize that this is absolutely true, and that it's been good for me.


Come to the Sabbath!


------
The Alienist
jhfurnish@yahoo.com


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Comments

The following comments are for "What Is My Religion, Anyway?"
by The Alienist

Religion
I commented on this one before but I guess it got lost. Jesus as one of the first radicals is a concept I never even considered. My husband has always talked about Sabbath as having spiritual lyrics...that is very interesting. I enjoy reading your work.

( Posted by: arc [Member] On: August 3, 2004 )

Sabbath
I think you are reading way to much into those bunch of
"run at me's". In the end, Sabbath sold out.

( Posted by: harpersfairy [Member] On: August 4, 2004 )

To what?
What did they sell out to? Did they change their music? Is it because of the Reunion and the money they sought? They made some money and they did let Ozzy and Sharon Ono lead them by the legal/financial nose a bit... but there is always survival. They also gave people what they wanted: a Reunion of the original members. Is that a bad thing? (I'm capitalizing the word 'Reunion' because there was an album by that name.)

( Posted by: the alienist [Member] On: August 4, 2004 )

sabbath and religion
I am also a recovering Catholic, hence I can relate to most of what you say. I feel the Catholic religion has interfered with the person I was destined to be. For this reason I have a low opinion of religion in general, and don't want to substitute anything for it. After reading "intervention", I see that you are a caring person, but remember to protect yourself in the process. I also like Sabbath. My favorite album is the one with the picture of the cemetery with a woman standing in it. Their riffs have a primordial power that is unique. Ronny Dio is also good, my favorite song is "stuck in the middle". I believe he sang for Sabbath for awhile. It is comforting to believe in something, whether it is music or faith. But above all, believe in yourself. Keep up the good writing.

( Posted by: quantum [Member] On: August 5, 2004 )

Absolutely...
...believe in yourself.

Dio did a song with Sabbath during their brief reunion in 1992, on the 'Dehumanizer' album. It's called 'I'.

I highly recommend you pick that album up and check out that song. It's very affirming to the individual will.

( Posted by: the alienist [Member] On: August 5, 2004 )

Religion
Many people in the world today are unable to figure out what they believe in. There are too many false perceptions of religion that tend to throw many people off their course. I am somewhat religious, and love my religion, because I didn't learn it all from others. I grew up with it, and didn't agree with many of it's issues, but when I read more and more about it, I understood it. I loved it. I feel sorry for anyone who cannot feel the sweet peace of religion.

( Posted by: Serendipity [Member] On: August 6, 2004 )





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