Counter Culture

The website of moral theologian Christopher Klofft

No, Zedd, you’re wrong

Anyone who knows me also knows about my unapologetic love for electronic dance music.  One generally doesn’t listen to this kind of music for its deep, introspective lyrics (though I’d argue that a few songs are deeper than one might think upon first listen).  Most of the time, the lyrics have to deal with the romantic joys and tribulations in that most superficial of Edens: the dance club.  I appreciate that the earnestness of the lyrics often adds an air of gravitas that in fact just isn’t there, as if the fate of the world hung on this one romance.

“Stay the Night” is a song by Zedd, featuring vocals by Hayley Williams of Paramore, released earlier this year.  It is a typically simple dance track lyrically: there might be 80 words in the whole song.  But for these songs, bridges and choruses matter the most, as these are the words that the listener is going to hear over and over and get stuck in his or her head.  And lyrics stuck in your head matter, as a steady diet of certain kinds of lyrics (good or bad) inevitably wash the brain and move the spirit of the listener.

Leading into the chorus, Hayley sings, “I know that we were made to break/So what? I don’t mind.”  Here is an acceptance, not of our creation in God’s image, but rather of the inevitability of our failure, especially in relationships – the specific area in which we are most God-like, as God Himself is Relationship.  Not only does Hayley concede that our relational failure is inevitable, but she welcomes the damage.  These simple words actually reveal a sadly all-too-common reality in modern relationships: one does not enter into relationship in order to become most fully human through the gift of self to the other and the reception of the same.  Rather, one enters into relationship to find some temporary satisfaction for the God-sized hole in the self.  People come together to share dysfunction, not to realize their full humanity.

Then we come to the chorus itself, repeated about a zillion times: “Are you gonna stay the night? Doesn’t mean we’re bound for life.”  As the answer to her own self-perception of her lack of value, she seeks meaning in the temporary pleasure of sex.  As a college professor teaching sexual ethics, it breaks my heart to know how often this occurs.  She wants to feel something because she has no idea who she is, or who she is capable of being if her heart and mind were in line with the will of her Creator, so she seeks meaning in a supposedly meaningless act.

But there’s the rub: it is not, it cannot be, a “meaningless” act.  The act of sexual intercourse, regardless of the participants, the status of their relationship, or the intentions with which they enter into it, is an act which always means exactly what the Creator intended it to mean: the union of man and woman as one flesh to fully image God in His life-giving, love-giving capacity.  It is the full gift of self to another, open to new life, and capable of sharing in God’s creative power.  To not mean that, to engage in that when it is not  the revelation of the sacramental image of the permanent union of Christ and His Church, is profoundly disrespectful to both the Creator and to the persons involved in whose image we are made.

Seeking meaning and purpose through sex is a misguided quest for God.  When we finally come to recognize our brokenness, then we should take hope that our Healer has made Himself present to us, by giving us His very flesh and blood so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.

Probably not my last word on electronic music.  Maybe next time I’ll evaluate something I think is a lot more positive.

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