Religion and a Rock Band

Seattle is a legendary music city, so my upbringing in this town has many soundtracks. The one I’ve found particularly intriguing lately is the album “Fly by Night” by the classic rock band Rush.  The band is not a Seattle band in the traditional sense—they’re from Canada actually—but the radio DJs here seem to love them as their own because the group’s crazy lyrics and high-pitched vocals so frequently fill the local radio airwaves.  What’s more, my father is a long-time fan who frequently blares “Fly by Night” from his stereo when the radio is not on. It’s the music of my city’s airwaves and my family’s stereo; thus, Rush is the sound of home to me.

Even as I find great sentimental delight in humming along to the band’s songs and dancing around to its synthesizer riffs, my enthusiasm for the band also perplexes me. If you’re actually familiar with the band’s music you may understand why.  The lead singer’s voice is interesting—but also downright weird.  The group’s 70s and 80s sound is clearly from another era—one could conceivably find their stylings a little outdated, or cheesy, to the contemporary listener’s ear.  Their intense lyrics are definitely unique—perhaps even random or silly or laughable at times.  Rush is the sound of home to me, yet there are moments when I listen to their music and think to myself, “There is no way I would love this stuff so much had I not grown up with it.”

I am always fascinated when people tell me they are Catholic because the Church is home to them.  They’ve grown up with it; they’ve become attached. Some find Catholicism weird, outdated, or silly, but like my curious devotion to this rock band, they find themselves mysteriously moved by the trademarks of our tradition—by the rhythms of its liturgical year, by the chorus of its ritual sayings. 

Unlike my music proclivities, the perplexities of my home in Catholicism cause me a good deal of anxiety.  Sometimes my worries about the state of the Church obstruct the intuitive sense of home that I experience in the liturgy or in many Catholic communities. I wonder what it would be like if I could set aside my analysis, critiques, and concerns about religion in a way that allowed me to feel it, like a song, rather than think my way through faith as I so often do.  What if, like a car ride with the windows down and the stereo turned way up, I could smile more and enjoy the mysterious goodness in my faith even as I roll my eyes, shake my head, and admit that, “This stuff is just so weird….”  What if Catholicism was a little more like Rush?

Jessica Coblentz is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University where she studied Religious Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies. She will begin graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School in the fall. Follow her writing on the Web at www.jessicacoblentz.blogspot.com

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One thought on “Religion and a Rock Band

  1. I just posted my May 26 entry before I read this, but I’m delighted by the similarities in theme and also your very unique perspective on it. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is moving through with a will that we reflect upon the faiths that we forged in our childhoods, for better or worse. I often find myself taking a step back from my life and viewing my world as an outsider might, and I often do find myself with that sense of wonder — this *is* some weird stuff. But it’s my weird stuff, and I continue to love it even when my experiences or my brain try to convince me to do otherwise.

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