If you’re a Spotify user, chances are you’ve looked at your 2022 Wrapped. If you’re not a Spotify user but spend any time on any social media platform whatsoever, chances are you’ve seen a lot of other people’s 2022 Wrapped reports. I know some people get annoyed with everyone sharing, but I think it’s fun–seeing other people’s lists gives me music ideas and helps me get to know them a little better.
Although my list is somewhat corrupted by my kids’ listening habits (I mean, unless I listened to a lot of video game soundtracks this year without realizing it), four of my top five songs are strongly connected with my religious journey and relationship with the Church this year. So I thought it would be fun to share them & the connection to my Church experience in 2022, and would love to hear yours in the comments. Bonus points if your songs or artist relate to your Church experience, but feel free to share them just because you like them or if they do in some way represent an important part of your life in 2022.
This post is a little more personal than most, so apologies in advance if you find my inner life super duper boring. But when it comes to music, if you listen to one song 50+ times a year, that probably says something about your inner life. So without further ado …
- Reckless Love, Cory Asbury:
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99
I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God”
This song’s title captures in two words the entirety of my theology. I’ve been deconstructing my belief system for several years, but this year I was in many ways able to transition to reconstruction. Or, as Richard Rohr puts it, I’m attempting to move from order and disorder to reorder (although this process is not linear and I don’t think it ever ends).
Discovering Marcus Borg at the end of last year revitalized Jesus and Christianity for me; his thinking and writing about those topics has made them more compelling to me than they have been in years. (Actually, more compelling than ever, because as an orthodox Mormon I didn’t understand much about Jesus.) I wrote a lot of posts specifically about insights I gained from Borg’s work–including here, here, and here–and his work also informed many of my other posts & comments over the year. Concurrent with this revitalized interest in Jesus and Christianity, I started listening to a lot of Christian Contemporary Music. Which my kids hate and tease me mercifully about.
It’s somewhat repetitive and meditative (like a modern version of monks chanting?), and there are definitely a lot of songs with an underlying Protestant / Evangelical “we are fallen and bad”, which doesn’t jive with me. And yes, it can be a little cheesy. But overall, listening to music about God’s love that is not just pure but is reckless has been really healing for someone getting over a lifetime of believing in a judgmental, intimidating, authoritarian God of requirements and favoritism. I realize that not everyone experiences the Mormon God this way. I did. And just as primary songs implanted in my brain a problematic version of God (one who only wants me to return to live with him if I do the things I’m required to do before it’s too late and whose love depends on a lot of “ifs, ands, and buts”), I’m using new music to rewire the way I think and feel about God.
- Cornflake Girls, Tori Amos
“This is not really
This, this, this is not really happening
You bet your life it is
You bet your life it is
Honey, you bet your life”
This is a major throwback for me since until this year I hadn’t listened to Tori Amos since college. Its prominence on my playlist was a direct result of the Heavenly Mother crackdown of 2022, which I addressed at length here. How are these things connected?
Well, as detailed in this episode of 60 Songs that Explain the 90’s (that particular episode is a real NSFW situation, so consider yourself warned – but the podcast overall is hugely entertaining and nostalgic for 90’s kids like me), it turns out that Cornflake Girl is about women who betray other women in support of patriarchy.
In school, Amos referred to female friends who would betray her despite close friendships as “cornflake girls” while the girls who were loyal to each other (and fewer in numbers, as in raisin bran) were “raisin girls”:
“Never was a cornflake girl
Thought that was a good solution
hanging with the raisin girls”
More specifically, though, Cornflake Girl was inspired by a book by Alice Walker about Female Genital Mutilation (FMG). In the book, Walker described that it was often close female relatives and sometimes mothers who performed the procedure on younger women. Amos described her reaction to this information:
“In the book, it wasn’t the men, it was the mothers, the ones you trusted more than anyone, telling you it’s the best thing for you. It brought an ache to my being. What we as women haven’t really owned is how we withhold from each other — we’ll cut each other out of our lives so fast if we feel our position’s being threatened. We don’t look at how vicious we can be toward each other. You can blame men for eternity, but the blame is not going to give us self empowerment.”
So, in the lines I quoted at the top, Amos is describing the disbelieving response of someone something like this is happening to – a betrayal by your own mother (“This is not really, this, this is not really happening”) and then the response (“You bet your life it is, you bet your life it is, honey you bet your life.”). It’s pretty chilling when you understand the inspiration.
The last portion of the song is about men who think they have all of the answers:
“And the man with the golden gun
Thinks he knows so much
Thinks he knows so much, yeah
And the man with the golden gun
Thinks he knows so much
Thinks he knows so much, yeah
And the man with the golden gun
Thinks he knows so much
Thinks he knows so much, yeah
And the man with the golden gun
Thinks he knows so much
Thinks he knows so much, yeah, yeah”
I listened to this podcast episode, and thereby rediscovered Tori Amo, right around the time that rumors about April General Conference started swirling and accounts of Renlund’s talks in regional conferences were being published. I couldn’t help but compare women who sit silently or, worse, supportively, while men (with the golden gun, who think they know so much) spiritually mutilate their sisters and daughters by attempting to sever the connection between us and our Mother God. By telling us we aren’t allowed to have or speak about our own spiritual experiences or practices or trust our own inner authority. By hurting our ability to see ourselves in divinity and divinity within ourselves. By telling us that we don’t have a place in the eternities as a Goddess but only as (one of multiple) auxiliaries to our God-Husbands.
Those women, those mistresses of patriarchy, are Cornflake Girls. And I’m really mad at them. I get that they are victims of patriarchy but they are also grown-ass privileged women with their own minds if they have the will to search themselves and they. should. do. better.
And of course, I’m also really mad at the men who think they know so much, think they know so
much (all the eyerolls here)–who have the hubris to think they know more the feminine divine than women do and that they get to tell women how to relate to God.
And I listened to this song A LOT to process that anger.
- Bones, Imagine Dragons
I’m including this for completeness, but this is on my list due to my kids’ listening habits. I do think it’s a great song, and I did take one of my kids to the Imagine Dragons concert (which was a lot of fun), but this song is not personally meaningful to me apart from the connection with my kiddo who loves it.
- Precious Things, Tori Amos
“These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break
Their hold on me”
Seriously, going from not listening to Tori Amos in twenty years to two songs in my top five? Intense year.
Precious Things has been described as “at its core an exorcism”: Amos is singing about her contempt for the expectations imposed on her as a woman and artist and sexual being, but at the same time she calls those things “precious.” Not unlike Gollum from The Lord of the Rings calling the ring that both enslaves him and extends his life “my precious”, Amos “seeks to expunge, but the nature of this is that whatever is being rejected must at the moment of rejection have its teeth in you. ‘Let them break their hold on me’ can only be said from within their grasp.”
This song was on repeat for me this year because I’ve been thinking a lot about my own “precious things”—things that tie me down but have also given me a sense of stability, comfort, and identity.
I know not everyone’s experience is the same, but I’m grappling with the way Church, patriarchy, and “priesthood authority” have taken root in me so deeply that it’s hard to even know where they end and I begin. It’s been really painful for me to think about ways I outsourced my moral authority to others for much of my life, how much I based my decisions and behavior on what I thought other people wanted me to do, and how much I fawned over and cared about pleasing people who had zero respect for me and didn’t consider me fully human. Listening to this song on repeat (and repeat and repeat) has been therapeutic as I’ve worked to break Church authority’s hold on me and reclaim my self-sovereignty. But when you ignore your own voice for 40 years, it’s hard to know where to even find it.
- Way Maker, Leeland
Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper
Light in the darkness, my God
That is who You are
Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper
Light in the darkness, my God
That is who You are”
Yeah, my list isn’t very diverse. This one is pretty similar to the reasons I like #1. I was surprised it was high enough to be in my top five, but I guess I love the directness and intimacy in how it addresses God (not as some distant Thee or Thou) and the way it describes God being in our midst all the time (whether we see it or not). As I reframe the way I think about and stand in relationship to God, it’s been a good soundtrack.
Some runners up? Well, besides more Christian Contemporary, I really dug this version of Redemption Day (with Sheryl Crow and Johnny Cash), and Anti-Hero was super high on the list especially considering how recently it was released (but seriously, the lyrics are just brilliant).
Ok, now it’s your turn.
- What were your top listens in 2022? Did they have a strong connection to things that were happening in your religious life (or other aspects of your life)?
- Do you totally hate my music and have now lost all respect for me? It’s ok. My kids constantly deride my “Jesus music”. But go easy on me.
Threadjack: How do you get from believing in a judgmental, harsh God to one that loves recklessly? I’m just not there. Did this song really do it for you?
“Head Above Water” Avril Lavigne – This song has a lot of action words describing what the individual is looking for from God that I found meaningful. I don’t know if this is what I want from a relationship with God – but I find it thought-provoking.
“Ashes of Eden” Breaking Benjamin – This song is the closest I have found to what a faith transition feels like in between/after bouts of grief and longing. The honest acknowledgement of what is loss in a massive reconceptualization of a relationship with God helped me grieve better once I felt that God either didn’t care enough to tune in when I was ready to talk or hadn’t existed anyways.
“The Next Right Thing” Frozen II – I use this song to motivate me to take small steps in ways that are “right” to me.
“We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” Taylor Swift – Some stuff came out in my life this year that made it clear that I will not be going back to a fundamental relationship with the church institution.
“Overture/Going Through the Motions” Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Musical – this is part of the faith transition deconstruction phase for me. I “went through the motions” for a lot of things for a really long time (where I spent my time, what I thought was expected of me as a “good girl” etc.).
Forgot this one”:
“It Would Have Been You” Taylor Swift – also about personal change and moving on from the institution.
Apologies – “It Would Have Been You” is actually “the 1” by Taylor Swift.
Tori Amos is great. Most folks here may not be familiar with her but if you know her background her music is very meaningful. Lana Del Ray of the 90s.
I’m too old for this post. I initially interpreted the “man with the golden gun” as an allusion to the James Bond movie.
But I would remind us all that when we speak of God’s love and salvation, liberal theologians often fall prey to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer’ called “cheap grace.”
Here are my top two albums of 2022. I’m also a 90s kid, and both have ties to that era.
Halsey: If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power. 90s tie-in: album produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, and you can definitely hear their influence on the sound. There’s some powerful and kinda terrifying themes here, one of them being the idea of wanting something very badly (in Halsey’s case, a baby), getting it, and being kinda terrified of that. I’m not doing it justice so I’ll leave it at that.
The Warning: Queen of the Murder Scene. 90s tie-in: I first heard about The Warning on Tom Morello’s podcast (he’s the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine.) The Warning are 3 sisters from Monterrey, Mexico. Heavy religious undertones in the lyrics, but definitely not “Jesus Music.”
The Pretty Reckless: Other Worlds
Atlas Underground Flood
Halestrom: Back from the Dead
Lilith Czar: Created From Filth and Dust
@Old Man, if you’ve paid attention to what I’ve written about God all year you’d know that it is not a “don’t do anything hard because everyone is great” mentality. But I think the idea of cheap grace and the assumptions you’re making behind that are super problematic.
There’s no such thing as “cheap grace”. Grace doesn’t have a price. It’s free. It’s not cheap. It’s not expensive. It’s free.
But that doesn’t at all mean that we can just eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die (which seems to be the fear – if we tell people they’re already perfect and loved they will misbehave!). No. Being a follower of Jesus Christ demands a lot. It demands integrity. It demands love and care for others. It demands going out of our comfort zones, constantly, to reach out to those on the margins like Jesus did. It demands speaking out against powerful institutions when those institutions do not align with God’s love.
What it does *not* demand is adherence to arbitrary rules that don’t relate to caring for others or the earth or ourselves (like thinking we are righteous because we don’t drink green tea). It rejects purity codes and other “requirements” that separate us from each other in a misguided attempt to bring us closer to God. (We can’t get closer to God. God’s already here.)
And, critically important, what it does not suggest is that doing these things (loving and caring for others) “earns” God’s love. Doing these things is a natural extension of being converted to Jesus Christ and experiencing the kind of grace-filled love that inspires us to live and share in that love. That is the is the motivator. Not a fear-based motivation that we have to earn God’s love by performing. Even if that earning is cheap.
I’m not on spotify, so I can’t exactly do that same list, but I do go in cycles of what I listen to. Lately, after seeing him in concert, I’ve been listening to a lot of Andrew McMahon & the Wilderness. He was in concert with Dashboard Confessional, a band I listen to often, and I liked his style and got into his music. I also listen to a lot of the Killers, Green Day, and sometimes older stuff like Queen, ELO or David Bowie.
Your comment about taking control of your own life choices reminded me of something from about 20 years ago that happened when I was at a leadership retreat. It was kind of a meditation retreat, and at one point they did Reiki massage to determine chakra strength, which sounds like total BS to me, but I had a weird experience nonetheless. When they got to my solar plexus chakra, they said (and I felt) that I had just zero energy there, like I was completely dead in that chakra. They said they had never seen anything like it before, just how it went from normal to zero in that one zone.
That’s the chakra about feeling in charge of your own life, making decisions for yourself, and on a deeper level, confidence in your ability to choose. I immediately felt that it was related to my church experience, that I was subborning my own needs to doing what I was told, even though it’s funny to say that because compared to most women at church I was far more self-actualized and taking charge of my life, having confidence in my choices. I haven’t ever forgotten that dead solar plexus (compared to the absolute energy burst in my third eye chakra or the release in my throat chakra that was like butterflies taking flight). I have tried to change that, but I still feel like I’m hampered in my ability to choose for myself and to even know what I want, after a lifetime of being told that my own needs and wishes don’t matter. It’s very hard to change that.
I’m old like Old Man. I listen to 70’s classic rock, like Queen, Supertramp, Eagles, ELO, etc. With kids long gone, I don’t get much of the newer music in the house/car.
Here’s 4 of my most-played songs this year…
1. Losing My Religion, REM
“That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spot-light
Losing my religion”
I revisited a lot of music from my college days this past year. “Losing My Religion” came out when I was at BYU (well, it came out while I was on my mission overseas, so I first heard it at BYU when I returned). A few years after I first heard this song, I learned that the meaning of the lyrics really has nothing to do with religion, but for me they always will. At this time in my life, I truly was losing my religion, at least as I’d experienced my religion up to that point.
I’d been thinking really hard about polygamy since my high school days (I didn’t grow up in the Mormon Corridor and actually had a non-CES employed early morning seminary teacher that taught a lot more about polygamy than was in the manual.) It just seemed to me like polygamy was made up by Joseph Smith–it wasn’t from God. Then came the priesthood/temple ban, and I chewed–and eventually choked–on that for a long time, too. I actually had really great experiences both on my mission and at BYU, but this was also a time in my life where I was encountering and learning about more and more issues with the past and current Church: evolution, women’s issues, BoM historicity problems, Book of Abraham, Ezra Benson’s attempts to pull his right-wing political views into Mormonism, the Paul Dunn scandal (bad, but understandable since it’s just some guy who lied to make himself look good) and subsequent Church cover up (a hundred times worse than what Dunn did), the September 6 excommunications also happened while I was at BYU, and on and on.
In the early 90s at BYU, even though I was generally having a really great time, I often felt that spiritually I was sitting in a corner losing the religion that had meant so much to me to that point in my life as I attempted to process all of these issues I was encountering. Every time this song was played–and trust me, it was played a lot in Provo in the early 1990s–I really had a very strong connection with the lyrics above (I would literally sing along with them if I was by myself). These lyrics didn’t make me feel sad or upset. Rather, it was very cathartic to just hear a vocalization of what was happening inside of me–“yep, that’s me, sitting in the corner here at BYU, and I really, really am losing my religion”. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that what was really happening was that I was internally deconstructing the Mormonism of my youth.
Jumping to 2022, I still really love this song. It reminds me of the slow faith transition that I went through in my college years and into my 20s. I really did “lose my a lot of my religion” in the 1990s, but I ended up finding beauty in parts of Mormonism and Christianity that I felt, and do still feel, are worth pursuing as I continue on with life.
2. Landslide, Fleetwood Mac (the cover by The Chicks, previously the Dixie Chicks, is very good, too)
“Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too”
This song meant a lot to me this year because I sent my last kid off to college a few months ago. I’m now an empty nester. A day or two after dropping off my child at college, this song came on the radio, and I had to pull the car over to the side of the road for safety reasons because I was literally just bawling (and I’m not generally a crier). I definitely did build my life around my children while they were growing up, and I’m so happy to see them moving on and progressing as adults, but the change has been hard, and I’m still processing what exactly I should do with my life now that they are no longer living at home. I really do miss having them running around the house and keeping me busy with all kinds of nonsense.
3. I’ll Fly Away, Alison Krauss
“I’ll fly away, oh, Glory
I’ll fly away
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by
I’ll fly away”
This is definitely not the type of music I typically listen to. A local bluegrass group made up of some talented teens (I actually like the way the young teenage girl in the local group sang this song more than Alison Krauss, but I can’t find a version that they’ve published) sung this sung at some sort of local event I attended in the summer, and it resonated with me. I looked the song up when I returned home, and I’ve been hooked ever since. This song speaks about death, and maybe I’ve been thinking about my age a little more now that I’m an empty nester. Although this song mentions death, the message and tone is very positive and hopeful. I have no idea what’s in store for me after I die, but I do believe in an afterlife. I have hope that when I die, I will be able to “fly away” to whatever comes next.
4. One Tree Hill, U2
“The moon is up
And over One Tree Hill
We see the sun
Go down in your eyes
You run like a river
On like a sea
You run like a river
Runs to the sea”
This song has probably been on my Spotify Wrapped list every year for many years, even decades (well, Spotify hasn’t been around decades, but you know what I mean). I think my kids actually like this song, too–they certainly heard it a ton of times while I shuttled them around growing up–but they get nervous when I play it since they know I might just put it on auto-replay for the next 30 minutes, and they definitely don’t appreciate that. U2 wrote this in remembrance of a close friend of the band who died in a motorcycle accident. It’s hard to describe exactly why I like this song so much. To me, it has a beautiful way of describing the inevitable passage of time.
@lily, I wouldn’t say that song changed my view of God. I would say that takes a lot of work – studying, learning, thinking, therapy, really reframing a LOT of things. The song just helps me emotionally connect with the new construct I’ve built intellectually. Anyway, that’s probably an overly simplistic answer.
@Amy, Graham, Mountain Climber – I am going to check out all those songs! Some of which I already know love.
@BishopBill, 70’s is great. I was a child in the 80’s but my mom hated 80’s music so I had a steady diet of 70’s – Cat Stevens, Led Zepelin, Pink Floyd, Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young. A really stellar music era.
@Angela, that chakra thing is nuts but also makes a million percent of sense to me. Kinda like how we both responded so viscerally to Janey’s post the other day when she was finally told “you matter.” TBH I took out some of the more confronting material from my OP, which discussed Amos’s line “Wanna smash the faces of … those Christian boys.” I didn’t want to come across TOO angry but the reality is I am so angry about the way all the boys I grew up with in Mormondom thought they were better than me, didn’t see me as fully human, just because they were boys. And how the worst part is, I believed it too. Even as a raging feminist, that stuff sinks deep.
Great post. I don’t connect to any of today’s music unless it’s something like Blackberry Smoke or Marcus King. In the midst of my own loss of faith, I found myself wanting some kind of transcendence, a transcendence the church and Mormonism in general no longer provide, so I found myself listening to a lot of 70s (and some 50s) songs this year:
“Amie”, Pure Prairie League. It’s so beautiful that it makes me forget whatever is ailing me. Extraordinary harmonies and playing. It’s the kind of music I like to think I’ll get to hear regularly in the afterlife, if there is one.
“Fox on the Run”, Sweet. Their album Desolation Boulevard came out when I was ten. This was the first song I ever played on a jukebox. It took me to another place then and still does. Really amazing production, sounds, IMHO, like a journey to Heaven (not terribly dissimilar to “Come Sail Away” by Styx). And absolutely stellar drumming by Mick Tucker, my favorite drummer not named Keith Moon.
“Oooby Dooby”, Roy Orbison. When I’m feeling burdened by a loss of connection to anything meaningful, this one is just really great to listen to. Absolute nonsense and wonderful rhythm and no meaning at all except that rock and roll exists to create a kind of pure joy in the listener, which this song does for me every time. And Roy’s voice–holy crap.
“Gasoline Alley”, Rod Stewart. His voice has always struck me as kind of nostalgic (might be those Same Cooke covers early in his career) and this song in particular takes me back to a simpler time. I love the emotion of the voice and the deep longing to connect to something, even if it’s one’s own past. Truly beautiful and haunting, IMO.
All of these songs, you’ll note, are about me being taken to another place; the past, a time when I believed more deeply in things, etc. That’s just been sort of the vibe this year. Most of the time, I believe in looking and moving forward, not backward, but I’ve experienced a deeper sense of loss this year and have been, I think, going back to what’s familiar for a bit of comfort.
I used to mock Elvis fans but now I am one of them – but never have I read any anti-Elvis literature…
Anyway the King has some slow-moving songs about distance from his lover, including “Just Pretend” which also can be read as mourning a death, IMHO. “I’ll Be Home on Christmas Day” is another great one.
Trying to keep close to my believing wife but wanting her to understand that attending the temple or doing Come Follow Me are activities that are no longer in my spiritual wheelhouse.
When serving my mission in Central America there was a new song on the radio from a famous Guatemala singer (Ricardo Arjona). For those who want the entirety: https://www.letras.com/arjona-ricardo/2185/
There is a line in the 7th paragraph, that as missionaries we would laugh at. Rough translation is : ” Jesus converted all of his sermons into action. The Mormons state if you drink coffee, it is a sin. They have so little to do, they go around making up things”
We used to think, this is not true, but this is good for our awareness. People will invite us in the door and get a discussion.
Now in my post Mormon state, I will listen to the song again tonight while exercising. Rock and roll Arjona teaches more truths than we did in our missionary discussions of the entire restored gospel. How ironic !
The other paragraphs talking about the hypocrisy applies more to the LDS church every year, than I realized in the past.
I also cry/choke-up every time I hear Landslide on the radio at those exact verses, at least 3-5 x /week. It reminds me also of kids leaving home. My kids have also spend considerable time in Arizona, where Stevie Nicks is from and it carries extra emotion. Secular music has greater ties to life’s emotions/events than any of the LDS hymns for me; for that I am grateful.
Faith, it is comforting to know that someone else experiences Landslide in a similar way. Thanks for sharing!
The Guatemalan song was also very interesting. I don’t speak Spanish, so I ran the song through Google translate to get the general idea. The song has a nice message about how following Christ is about actions and behaviors rather than rules, words, etc. That certainly resonates with me. It’s interesting (telling?) that Mormonism is the only religion called out by name in the song (if the translation was correct, anyway).
As a student in the late 80s my anthem song was Madonna’s Material Girl (I was studying Materials Science & Engineering, so for me the meaning of the song was not the one intended).
Over the years I’ve binge listened to lots of Pet Shop Boys. Particularly the albums Very, and Yes, which spoke to me at the time.
This year my listening has been based around Eurovision entries. I’ve created my own very short playlists from the last few years entries:
For 2022: Sweden, Iceland, Lithuania, Belgium & Switzerland
For 2021: France
For 2020: Albania, Finland, Bulgaria & Belgium
For 2019: Denmark, Slovenia & Hungary
And for 2018: Ireland & Norway
Otherwise YouTube channels from Game Brass ( Brass ensemble arrangements of video game music), Voces 8 , Pentatonix & Avi Kaplan …
I find myself listening more to some of the angry music that my friends listened to in the late 90s. Think hard rock and new metal. I guess I’ve just felt more angry in general this year!
As a partial threadjump, the OP’s comment about a “judgmental, intimidating, authoritarian God of requirements and favoritism” brought a memory to me of an experience in high school. I’ve never viewed God in quite the same way … on average. Did I, and do I, occasionally slip into seeing God that way? Yes. But to me, that is more a reflection of me distorting my thinking at times of discouragement/depression. The rest of the time, and this takes me to the high school experience, I see God more softly and consistently.
One time in seminary, we had a substitute for a day or two. I have barely any recollections from seminary, but this one has stuck. He was probably not even teaching the lesson, but talking about life lessons or something (he was an older man) and he expressed his belief that he thinks God likes to laugh. Even just writing it here makes it seem like a silly little point. But it has remained with me for well over 20 years now – that God, amidst all the omni- traits, likes to laugh. And perhaps God laughs at the silly things I do, just like I do when watching my kids (or, for that matter, recently the two new puppies we have) do silly things. I also believe God weeps with and/or over us at other times – but it is really the idea that God laughs that sticks with me. Can’t quite explain it. But it seems to be a key contributor to my general view of God as not judgmental etc. It helps me leave that very human construct behind.
This year coming out of Covid-19, my wife and I traveled a lot and more importantly went to A LOT of concerts. Going into the Covid era I was a very different person than I am coming out of it. I spent years trying to walk the line between the church and life but with Covid and so many in my ward refusing masks, vaccines, and yes dying (we had four pass away out of a ward of 300 who refused to wear mask or get vaccines). Anyway, I spent a lot of time thinking and music was a big part of that. As a family we have a “Weekly” playlist on Spotify that we all contribute to where we put songs related a particular theme. They might be serious like Social Justice songs, or trivial like songs with a cowbell. Either way it helps us stay connected as a family across thousands of miles and we can share what moves us. What I found during this year though with both the playlist and my own listening is that I could no long deal with the disconnect. My wife and I went to see Dan Reynolds at Live, Love, Loud festival and then again at the Imagine Dragons concert. I have 5 ID songs in my top twenty, Bones, Enemy, Believer, Demons, and Wrecked. They have left me in tears more than once this year as I’m coming to terms with my feelings about the church. I was also surprised to find Not Afraid by Eminem and Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine high on my list. As an old guy, music has always moved me but I spent a lot of time feeling guilty because they spoke to me. Now I see them as a playlist for my life. I can see how the old songs started the story and the ones this year put the exclamation point on it.
Hedgehog – I saw Voces 8 live at BYU in October, wonderful concert. I also enjoy The King Singers, Voctave and some Home Free.
Spotify Wrapped is genius. It’s a sure-fire flood of dopamine to the user. “Hey you, __insert name here__, your taste in music is so cool! Here’s validation for your listening habits and a cool new phrase to describe your unique taste. You are seen. You are important. Well done Thou good and faithful user.”
We hear a lot in church about how intimately God knows us and how he watches over us. The Spotify algorithm, though, has got receipts! God may tally the fall of every sparrow but Spotify knows how much the sparrow loves postgrunge shoegaze nintendocore.
Pity though that Spotify, like the church, gives so little back to the people who contribute most to its success. It’s notorious among streaming services for paying recording artists and songwriters insultingly poorly. But you can’t beat the user experience.
For anyone looking for some faith-crisis, deconstruction-themed music, I recommend Mindy Gledhill’s album “Rabbit Hole,” Tyler Glenn’s “Excommunication,” or Kelsey Edwards’ “Life in a Box.”
Diamonds In the Rough – John Prine; From a Distance – Bette Midler; Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen; Wind Beneath My Wings – Bette Miler; In My Life – The Beatles/ Bette Midler; Nessum Dorma – Luciano Pavarotti
Imagine – John Lenon
Spirit in the sky – Thunderclap Newman
Eleanor Rigby – Beatles
Highway to Hell – AC/DC
Anything by Neil Young
And I really like: Losing by Religion – REM
Think of your fellow man – Jackie DeShannon (with a wonderful cover by Anne Murray)
Turn, turn, turn – The Byrds (by Ecclesiastes and Pete Seager)
Poor wayfaring man of grief – Buster Poindexter (this hymn has a long interesting history)