If I could go back and hang out with some folks from the Old Testament, I think I would have to pick one of the prophets. I just love how “in your face” they were . . . not to mention how irreverant and crass they were (inspiring my Twitter handle @Crasslyyours). Whether they’re lying down on their side for a year, running around naked, cooking dinner over poop, or making little figures out of play dough – these were some weird folks! I’m trying to convince my wife that not getting a haircut is my God-given calling as a prophet of the Lord . . . and currently that argument is not going so well – at least I don’t cook dinner over the toilet.
Now, I don’t really think Ke$ha is a prophet, but she is weird and she is in your face. She sings . . . or raps . . . or whatever it is she does, with the swagger and crassness that has almost always been reserved for men. By all accounts she’s trashy (even if she is super smart – she scored 1500 on her SAT and has an IQ of 140 . . . but apparently missed the health classes on STDs and the effects of alcohol abuse) and annoying as she has turned the $ sign into the 27th letter of the alphabet. However, she has also captured something in the hearts of adolescents that has made her music crazy popular. She’s smart . . . and she’s talented.
Her most recent hit captures the heart and soul of youthful zeal and carefree living even in the title, “Die Young.”
Strangely, in kicking the year off with a study of Ecclesiastes, our church wound up humming the words to this Ke$ha song. OK, we didn’t actually hum the words and I was too much of a chicken to actually play the song (that whole “magic in your pants is making me blush” part made me think it a bit inappropriate), but I read the following lyrics:
Young hearts, out our minds
Runnin like we outta time
Wild childs, lookin’ good
Livin hard just like we should
Don’t care whose watching when we tearing it up (You Know)
That magic that we got nobody can touch (For sure)
Looking for some trouble tonight
Take my hand, I’ll show you the wild, side
Like it’s the last night of our lives
We’ll keep dancing till we die.
Most of the time, churches stay away from the Book of Ecclesiastes like it is the plague. If you do a little research into Ecclesiastes you find that it’s always been like that. Even the great rabbinic schools of old – Hillel and Shammai were divided about what to do with it – Hillel thought that the message of Ecclesiastes was so troubling it “defiled the hands.” At Alum Creek this January, we have chosen to study the book through the prism of transitions. As the writer looks back at his life, he’s really reflecting on the many changes that have taken place in his life: getting older, his family, his job, etc. and through it all, he’s trying to make sense of it. Why am I here?
The difficult part of reading Ecclesiastes is that it doesn’t really give a good solid answer. Depending on where it is you happen to be reading, it can sound a whole lot like a Ke$ha song (though the text does not include “wild childs, looking good” – that is not good Hebrew). Notice the connection between “Die Young” and this portion from Ecclesiastes 9: 1 – 7
“So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good,
so with the sinful;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
5 For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
6 Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.”
When we read the Bible, we like the message to come wrapped up nicely with a bow on it (and probably a cherry on top, to boot). Most sermons are like that. What I have enjoyed about preaching through Ecclesiastes is that a lot of times there is no nicely-wrapped ending each week. Ecclesiastes is authentic as it helps us wrestle with the ebbs and flows of life. As the all too inappropriate SNL sketch tells us, “This here is real.”
I don’t know what to do with Ke$ha’s song and her less-than-stellar message. At the same time, I hear in her message the same cry from the writer of Ecclesiastes, struggling with the confusion and challenges of being young . . . or old . . . or middle-aged . . . There is something to be said for living like we’re young Sometimes I think Christians would do well to kick back on a Ke$ha song once and while and just . . . have fun.