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Creepy Religion

Sunday September 11th

12:30 AM: I purchase “Pablo Honey” by Radiohead and the single song “Creep” from The Pretender’s “Pirate Radio”

9:20 AM: I start listening to a three-song play list “Creep (explicit version)” by Radiohead, “Creep (clean version)” by Radiohead, “Creep (explicit version)” by The Pretenders. I keep repeating the playlist.

9:54 AM: I e-mail my friend Duane, who first introduced me to the explicit version:


I don’t know if it is your fault, but I’ve spent the morning listening over and over to Radiohead and The Pretenders playing “Creep.”
9:55 AM: We leave for church listening to the clean version of “Creep.”
1:20 PM: Duane e-mails me back
Not really Sunday music, but it is a brilliant song!
2:15 PM: We get in the car to drive home from church; we are joined by Cody, the bishop’s son. I put on Social Distortion’s “Reach for the Sky.” Clare complains, “This isn’t really Sunday music!” I reply: “This is very much Sunday music, after all I had once asked Alec to give a sacrament meeting talk based on this song.”
2:45 PM: I go home teaching while Clare and Jeremiah watch the new episodes of Dr. Who that we just purchased.
4:00 PM: I return, make nachos with chile verde sauce, go to my bedroom, shut the door, and once again turn on my “Creep” playlist.
Maybe I was really off that day and this wasn’t appropriate music for a Sunday. But that day, at least, “Creep” reminded me of “Amazing Grace,” at least in invoking in me an acknowledgment of my wretchedness, at times, an important religious realization. But looking to an alternative religious voice was not a new deviation for me. After all my “Religion” playlist on my iPod includes songs such as “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” by X and The Clash’s “Straight to Hell,” in addition to more traditional songs such as “Abide With Me” sung by the King’s College singers, “Spiritual” performed by Charlie Haden and Path Methany, and “What Child is This?” recorded by The Cambridge Singers. Each of the 17 songs on my playlist evoke a religious sentiment in me including awe (“What Child is This?”), collective guilt (“I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”), personal suffering (“Poor Girl”) and sinfulness (“Paint it Black”), and peace (“Spiritual”) to name a few. The Divine, as William James reminded us, is not any one thing, nor is religious expression. So, I believe, religious music must similarly be diverse.
Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional religious music. Monteverdi’s “Vespers” kept me sane through graduate school, and I listen to “Abide With Me” sung by the Kings College Choir (also on my “Religion” playlist) at least a couple of times a week. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of  “How Firm a Foundation” evokes precious memories for me and is a now a favorite of Jeremiah as he recognizes it from the Mormon Battalion tour at Old Town San Diego.
Is something appropriate? Is something religious? I’ve often thought that we are far too narrow in both our religious thoughts and our religious expression–too narrow in both content and form. Regarding the latter, we are far more interested in form than the sense. We tend to care more about syntax than semantics. And sometimes that’s a shame. Sometimes my religiousness requires my acknowledging I need salvation and a creepy song is the best syntax for that.

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