Musician Lucas Kwong brings out an edgy approach to interpreting Jude 1:8-13 in his new work:
In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
Written and composed by Lucas Kwong. 2017
Guitar/bass/vox – Lucas Kwong
Drums – David Cornejo
Mastered by Dan Coutant www.srmastering.com
Read: Florid-A lyrics
From the Artist:
I wanted to see if I could write a song about false teachers that had a bit of joy in it – funk, really. Joy certainly seems to be the last thing on Jude’s mind, never mind funkiness. We don’t know what exactly these teachers were actually teaching, but we know Jude was mad about it. A few characteristics of their cheatin’ ways stood out as song fodder.
1. They “rely on their dreams,” grandiose visions of the future that, apparently, authorize them to do whatever they want. After all, they alone carry the spark of spiritual greatness! With them alone can true justice be found, the sword sundering sheep from goat! But if you confront them with the violence and greed implicit in their words, suddenly they bat their eyes and do their best John Lennon impersonation: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” (Not calling The Clever One a false teacher, although anyone who holds up “Imagine” as John’s best work is peddling heresy.)
They’re just dreamers, you see. Can’t you let a fella dream in peace, and maybe make a few bucks in the process?
2. They’re perfectionists. My wife and I are fans of Anne Lamott’s thoughts on the subject: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.” Perfectionism means thinking of oneself as artificial intelligence, cleansed of the messiness known as “human nature.” In this case, it’s not enough for these false teachers to be common recipients of grace. They have to be spiritual elites, insulated from the dreary business of learning from their mistakes like everyone else. Mistakes are for plebes.
3. They resemble extreme weather. Roving clouds, wild waves, stars being sucked into cosmic whirlpools. Bring your rain jacket, is all Jude is saying. (This third feature inspired both the lyrics and the musical structure, which aspires to the unpredictability of climate chaos).
Enterprising dreamers, spiritual one-percenters drunk on power, avatars of unthinking instinct: suddenly the false teachers don’t sound so ancient after all, nor do we moderns sound so immune to their charms.
And yet the best remedy for Satanic wiles isn’t matching gloom for gloom, curse for curse (see archangel Michael’s example). As another flawed recipient of grace, Thomas More, said, “The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” If being under the thumb of a false teacher is a drag, getting out from that thumb must be a thrill. Writing this song, I couldn’t help but think of the thrill radiating from the music of the podcast Sinner’s Crossroads, a program devoted to the no-frills brilliance of bootleg gospel recordings from the mid-20th century onward. It seemed like the right idiom for calling out self-importance and pretension.
As for the central metaphor, there’s a Biblical precedent of Israel using place names to rebuke oppressors, literally putting them in their place: Babylon, Tyre, Rome. For me, this converged with a storied tradition of breakup songs that substitute place names for ex-lovers: Georgia, Memphis, Los Angeles. I have nothing against Florida, but in light of its importance to one of my favorite short stories, its use here was basically inevitable. Get with the flaw!
Lucas Kwong is a literature professor and musician. When not grading papers and researching Victorian popular fiction, he writes songs and performs around Brooklyn as part of the garage-rock two piece THE BROTHER K MELEE (www.brotherkmusic.com). THE BROTHER K MELEE’s releases include the compilation Seek Assembly, the music videos for tracks “The Brink” and “Vengeance” (compiled from Prelinger Archive footage), and the single “Stranger From the Country,” which was commissioned for Resurrection Park Slope’s 2017 Via Dolorosa exhibition. Lucas’ writing has been published in Religion and Literature, Victorian Literature and Culture, and on Image Journal’s blog. He lives with his wife in Brooklyn.
This work was curated by Jonathon Roberts.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.