San Judas Tadeo

5 03 2009

The above video is a song about St. Jude and a person who did not keep his promise to him. Basically, the individual in question asked St. Jude for wealth, which the saint gave him. But the man failed to share his wealth with the poor. St. Jude then appears to him riding a horse and upbraids the man for not fulfilling his end of the bargain. St. Jude then cries and rides off in great dismay.

What do you do in a culture when even the thugs are religious? Granted, I think the word “hypocrisy” doesn’t even begin to describe it, but it is an interesting phenomenon nonetheless. Many people characterize such figures as Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte as being “narcosantos” or “santos de los delincuentes” (no translation, I believe, is needed here), but all of their devotees have just as much devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and St. Jude as they do to these folk saints. Does that contaminate the reputation of these saints as well?

Just thought I’d throw in a cumbia. A cumbia is always fun.

At times, I have tried to investigate popular Christian music in this country, and I have always found it an inorganic and cultish world of people who can’t quite commit either to the popular or the sacred; very a much a bastard artform. I have been even more dismayed by supposed Catholic musicians who try to use rock, hip-hop, or other popular genres to get their point across. (All one has to do is look at stuff like this or this to figure out that this approach doesn’t work). I think the problem is one of culture and not of genre. In Mexico and Latin America, a popular religious ballad can be composed by a singer who has a general following, and no one thinks anything of it. This has been happening for decades now. Indeed, the corrido has been used to apotheosize the victims of war of the Cristeros, as we see here:

I have always found it strange, and hugely ironic, that the Catholic right in this country makes such a big deal about Catholic culture, yet neglects so much of it now in its midst. For me, it is a bit like hip middle class spiritual seekers who read much about Buddhism but never associate with actual Buddhist people who have been that way for centuries. The day my monolingual Anglo correligionists put down the convert Chesterton and listen to a good corrido on the Cristero Rebellion or St. Jude will be an interesting one indeed.


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6 responses

7 03 2009
Walt C

I would agree with what Arturo and the Shephard said about Contemporary Christian Music, that it is way too contrived. To me it seems it puts an excessive amount of emphasis on trying to be contemporary. As popular music goes, it’s just that, popular . Musical trends and fads come in and out of style so very quickly that even a blockbuster band or musician with the hottest sound ends up in the bargain CD bin a couple of years later. To add insult to injury , they usually become comic fodder for jokes about ” washed up bands used to be cool.” Of course, a lot of the the CCM and Christian rock I’ve heard seems to try to hitch the wagon to these trends and ends up in retrospect sounding even more dated then the popular artists they were trying to emulate. (The 1970’s “Jesus music” and “hippie Christian rock” I heard in my youth at CYO and youth rallies sounds really schmaltzy now.)
Another aspect that seems to get missed by a lot of CCM performers is that many times the most lasting and original music from a particular era may not have been well known or popular when it was first performed, so trying to emulate what’s the most popular trend right now doesn’t always make for decent music. Like the Shephard put it , most of the best spiritual themes that come out in popular music are just because the performer let it just inspire them , they followed their muse and weren’t trying to get a message out so much.

What Leah said:
“As popular as they might have been, to be a bluesman or a jazz musician was to be on the fringes of respectable black society”
When it comes to arts and entertainment in the US , for most of the 20th century, these pursuits were never held in much esteem by respectable WASP culture either. White artists ,musicians, playwrights, actors etc. were thought to have never “have put in an honest day’s work” by most Americans, they just weren’t real jobs.

“If we go back to the early and mid 20th century, the black Protestant church always frowned upon genres like the blues, R&B, and rock and roll. It was understood that you could be a secular singer or a religious singer, but not both. Hence, many black artists (e.g., Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke) felt conflicted about their secular careers.”
What always struck me about gospel, blues ,soul, early rock and roll and some country music is that so much of it came from the same musical roots coming out of Southern Protestant culture and henceforth how the same musical features show up in different degrees in all of them.In many white and black churches, what made one style the “devil’s music” and one style “sanctified’ was what the lyrics were about, although the music was pratically interchangeable at times.Songs with secular lyrics were about the fallen, corrupted world and had no place in a house of worship or in a Christian household. I think that came out of the fact that in the revival tent Protestantism that swept the South after the Civil War, the music was written to provide a background for the preacher’s sermon and hence the lyrics, the written word, was elevated to most importance.Some gospel songs had the lyrics changed and were made into R&B hits in the 1950’s while decades earlier the Rev. Thomas Dorsey, the father of Gospel music, spent a previous career as a vaudeville singer writing bawdy blues numbers and appropriated some of the them as the basis for some of the hymns he published after rewriting the lyrics.A number of guitar evangelists (Rev. Gary Davis, Sister Rosetta Tharpe) get listed as blues musicians in music encyclopedias due to features in their singing and guitar playing even though they mainly sang spirituals. As for white Protestantism in the South something similar went on also. Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley were raised in charismatic denominations and their performance styles were influenced by singing preachers they saw in their youth. Elvis also considered gospel music his favorite listening and made several albums of “sanctified” music for his fans. It seems to me that American sacred and secular music have been cross pollinating each other for quite many decades now.

7 03 2009
triunepieces

And some were Catholic at that.

Should have stated that were some were “non-Anglo,” as in their last names were Robles and Chavez and not Smith or Jones.

7 03 2009
triunepieces

What do you do in a culture when even the thugs are religious?

You’re including the Irish and the Italians in this one too right? Especially the Irish Catholic paramilitaries of Northern Ireland of just a few years ago.

The day my monolingual Anglo correligionists put down the convert Chesterton and listen to a good corrido on the Cristero Rebellion or St. Jude will be an interesting one indeed.

And don’t forget about the San Patricios who deserted their Protestant officers and fought for the nation of Guadalupe in the Mexican-American war.

As a Chesterton reading, Tejano listening Catholic (convert, there’s that word again) conservative, I think you should get out and meet some more “Anglos” and not just read their blogs. We aren’t all xenophobic.

And speaking of the Minutemen in the above comment, the only ones I ever knew about in Texas were not Catholic in the least. But many of the Border Patrol agents were. And some were Catholic at that. Sometimes life is more complicated than it can appear in a web browser.

Finally, speaking of St. Jude. The guy I know with the biggest devotion to him also happens to have (or had, one hopes at this point) the biggest porn collection, ever. But he gives credit to St. Jude for saving his life.

5 03 2009
Robert Thomas Llizo

“I have always found it strange, and hugely ironic, that the Catholic right in this country makes such a big deal about Catholic culture, yet neglects so much of it now in its midst.”

That’s because when they encounter that authentic Catholic culture in their midst, their immediate reaction is to call the INS, or join the “Minutemen” and send it back across the border. Kyrie eleison!

5 03 2009
Leah

Rock and hip-hop are poor vehicles for religious music because they were always meant to be in opposition to religious values in the first place. If we go back to the early and mid 20th century, the black Protestant church always frowned upon genres like the blues, R&B, and rock and roll. It was understood that you could be a secular singer or a religious singer, but not both. Hence, many black artists (e.g., Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke) felt conflicted about their secular careers. Some even performed under assumed names so they wouldn’t alienate their gospel fans. As popular as they might have been, to be a bluesman or a jazz musician was to be on the fringes of respectable black society. These music forms have been de-fanged of their subversiveness and have just become the background music of our lives. The end result being that the chorus to the rock song being, “Jesus is my rock” rather than “Ooo baby, baby” or “Take me back, girl.”

5 03 2009
The Shepherd

There are a few good Christian bands here and there. Sufjan Stevens, Mewithoutyou, Showbread and August Burns Red are very good in my opinion. I think the problem with most Christian music other than the fact that they suck is that they try to force the Christian message in with a shoehorn instead on letting it come naturally. I believe that in history,the bands I mentioned and the people and videos your talking about, religion is simply something that is important to them so it comes out in the music. In most cases Christian music is just bad music with Christianity grafted on with a staple gun. I think the issue is that in modern day to life we keep religion in a little compartment separate from our everyday life which keeps that kind of organic authenticity from shining through.

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