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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sexy Boots on Clergy Women

If you click on the title of this post, it will take you to a very interesting reflection by Michael and Anthony Emerson on U2s "Sexy Boots" (also printed below). I love the encouraging word coming from a blend of Bono's understanding of what the church can be, and Anthony and Michael's "exegesis" of this song. I have a concern though, and I think it's a very significant one. It's not a criticism of the writing of Emersons so much as it is a whopping big Aha that arises out of their thoughtfulness here.... Why, when they get to the phrase "Women of the future hold the big revelations" do they diverge from their explicit dealing with the text of the song, and start talking about "Resident Aliens" which has nothing to do with that line? Are we generally uncomfortable with that line in the church? I think we are. I think that we are not willing to imagine that Bono may be right, and that the women of the church do hold the message of how beautiful the church can be in their minds, hearts, experiences and spirits. I am concerned that we are afraid to discuss this possibility in the church. I fear, that instead of welcoming women's insights and thoughts, indeed wisdom, we are in fact eager to shut that conversation down if it ever rises up. Women have been the majority figures in the church almost since its inception, and yet we have still, in the year 2011, not been welcomed to share our vision of the church's future in very many liturgical or theological spaces. We are the silent/silenced majority. Women DO know how beautiful the church can be, and have something very important to add to the conversation. Is Bono the only one who recognizes this fact and will include us in the dialogue? Here's what the Emerson's have to say. See what you think.

U2's “No Line on the Horizon” has been one of their more misunderstood albums. The most misunderstood song of the album is “Get On Your Boots.” Here is a snippet.

The future needs a big kiss
Winds blow with a twist
Never seen a moon like this
Can you see it too?
Night is falling everywhere
Rockets at the fun fair
Satan loves a bomb scare
But he won't scare you

“Get On Your Boots” is is bombastic and urgent, sleek and fast-paced. But more than anything it’s a powerful message of hope to the church. Take, for example, the first line, “the future needs a big kiss.” What entity would be able to impact the future with a kiss (curious choice of words, right)? How about the bride of Christ, the church? The future needs the church because of the next six lines: the winds are blowing, the moon (a motif of confusion and evil) is up, night has fallen, and Satan is trying to frighten us. Why would Bono have the boldness to tell us that Satan shouldn’t scare us? Remember Matthew 16:18: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Therefore, get on your boots. In other words, get up and do some work in this dark world because God has empowered you to do so.

You free me from the dark dream
Candy floss ice cream
All our kids are screaming
But the ghosts aren't real
Here's where we gotta be
Love and community
Laughter is eternity
If joy is real

“You free me from the dark dream” suggests the church is saving the lost. Then we see giddy happiness in the second line with paradoxical, light-hearted objects (happiness doesn't make sense). The third and fourth lines convey the same idea as the last two lines of the first stanza. Things become clearer when the necessity of community is brought in. Laughter is a godly and reasonable thing if there really is a happy ending awaiting us. We can fight the evils of this world with light hearts because we are fighting within a vibrant community of Spirit-filled people.

You don't know how beautiful you are

You, the church, don't understand how made-in-the image-of-God awesome you can be. You can have perfect joy and community! So get on your boots and be boldly beautiful!

Women of the future hold the big revelations
I've got a submarine
You got gasoline
I don't want to talk about wars between nations

It is striking how near the message of this song is to Hauerwas' and Willimon's “Resident Aliens.” Since we no longer live in a Christian culture, the church is free to live as a distinct people once again. We are to impact the world through our colony, not as we have been doing since Constantine: through the government. The holy community that we are supposed to be can astound the world by how beautiful we are and how much love we show the world. The problems and conflicts of this world will not be solved by mere mortals. Only through the church can the world be truly redeemed. Get on your boots!

Let me in the sound!

Where did this come from? Acts 2. “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven . . .”. The birth of the church. If you want more proof, look at John 3:5-8, where Jesus compares being born of the Spirit to the sound of the wind – we can’t tell where it's going. It's probably not a coincidence that both the sound and birth are themes throughout “No Line on the Horizon.” The sound is representative of the Spirit, the Lord of the church.

There are people in the world who want in! Get on your boots, and let the church get to stepp’in!

Michael O. Emerson is the Cline Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University in Houston, Texas. His son, Anthony Emerson, is a sophomore at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

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