Messianic Music with a Contemporary Sound?

Contemporary Christian musicians

A friend emailed me with a question. Her Messianic friends listen to Christian contemporary music and tell her they don't care for Messianic music because there's nothing contemporary. Are there Messianic musicians with a contemporary music sound?

I interpret contemporary here to mean Christian pop, the kind you might hear on Christian radio stations, the kind of music published by Bethel Music et al.

My response:

There certainly are some Messianic musicians with a contemporary sound. I am thinking of folks like Shae Wilbur, some of Sarah Liberman's music, Beckah Shae, Melody Joy, or even Joshua Rosen.  Also, Joshua Aaron has done several songs with contemporary Christian artist Aaron Shust. I'd also suggest some Hebrew music from folks like Jamie Hilsden and Midor Ledor have a contemporary Christian sound as well. 

That said, your friends are right that most Messianic music sounds different. I think that's OK! Most Messianic music does have a different sound, one that is not trying to emulate the Christian genre. The Messianic movement has a unique calling, so our music will often reflect that. 

A modern view of Psalm 137's "dashing infants on the rocks"

Psalm 137 shocks Bible readers with its violent end: 

Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
Happy is the one who repays you
According to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
And dashes them against the rocks.

Dashing infants against the rocks. That sounds more like a lyric from a Death Metal song, or perhaps a brochure for Planned Parenthood, than it does the righteous moral ethics of the Bible.

So shocking is this violent end, the musical group Sons of Korah, usually known for their ultra-literal renditions on the psalms, softens this violent ending, replacing the dashing-the-infants part with the more palatable, "Blessed is he who destroys your progeny."

A great deal of Bible readers, especially pro-life Christians and Jews, feel their faith threatened by this psalm. How could this passage make it into the Bible? Does God approve of the vengeful murder of infants?

I recently came across a view of this psalm that framed it in a way that I think many modern people can relate to. They framed it as a kind of middle finger to abusive slaveholders. In a nutshell:

Imagine white slaveholders demanding their slaves sing old negro spirituals. The slaves reply, 'You destroyed our town, raped our wives and cheered when our kids burned to death. So, here's your song: we hope the same happens to you.'

This view is both faithful to the text and understandable to modern sensibilities.

Psalm 137 is a lament about the state of the Jewish people 538 BC: the Temple destroyed, Jerusalem leveled, houses burned, women and girls raped, people carried off in chains to Babylon. The captives felt like it was the end of the world, the end of Israel, the end of their lives.

The wicked and murderous Babylonians demand their new captives sing those beautiful old songs of Zion:

Our captors asked us for songs,
Our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
They said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion"

The psalmist responds not with a song, but a declaration of his unflinching loyalty: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its skill and my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth." He's saying, "I will never strum this harp again if I forget Jerusalem! I will never sing another song if I do not place Zion as my chief joy! I'd rather be mute and have a withered hand than play for you one of our holy songs!"

The "song" he sings really begins at the end of the psalm -- our violent verses! -- where he creates a new song: Your wicked nation will be destroyed, all your crimes will fall on your own heads, and the avenger will bring on you what you did to us."

There's your song, Babylon. 🖕

It reminds me a great deal of this (slightly vulgar) scene from Blazing Saddles:

For Psalm 137, this raw anger and desire for justice comes out in the psalmist spitting angry fire: for the rapes, for the slavery, for the burnings, and for the destruction of God's house, let the avenger destroy the Babylonian infants.

These verses can seem embarrassing or even shake one's faith when viewed without context. But the psalms are beautiful and unique in this way. They show the reality of the human condition: our plights, our doubts, our anger, our suffering, our struggles with the injustice. They're real and raw. And perhaps that is one reason God saw fit to preserve this psalm in our Scriptures.

And to answer the question, "Does God condone the vengeful murder of the infants of one's enemies?", that cannot be answered by this psalm's existence. Rather, its existence shows that God approves humans grieving at horrific injustice, even if expressed with anger and a desire for see violence repaid.

A Parade of Horrors: On the Marxist Seizing of American Institutions

Over at Quillette, Yoram Hazony writes a concise analysis about the recent remarkable successes of the new Marxists in former dominions of classical liberalism: American media, culture, universities, and corporations.

While acknowledging the Marxist talking point that classes tend to exploit one another, Hazony highlights several fatal flaws which neither Marx nor historical Marxists states have been able to patch:
The Marxist goal of seizing the state and using it to eliminate all oppression is an empty promise. Marx did not know how the state could actually bring this about, and neither have any of his followers. In fact, we now have many historical cases in which Marxists have seized the state: In Russia and Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, and Cambodia, Cuba and Venezuela. But nowhere has the Marxists’ attempt at a “revolutionary reconstitution of society” by the state been anything other than a parade of horrors.

This is perhaps the most damning aspect of Marxist idealism. Its goal to eliminate oppression by oppressed classes overthrowing the oppressing class. In modern lingo, it may be framed as racial and sexual minorities overthrowing the white Protestant heterosexual male. (Indeed, much of the LGTB debate is an outgrowth of this class warfare thinking, as is Black Lives Matter.)

Hazony remarks, however, that this Marxist promise to eliminate oppression has simply never happened in history: when the oppressed classes have successfully overthrow the oppressor class, the oppressed class simply begins oppressing people. Oppression hasn't disappeared, only the actors have changed. 

And this fits perfectly with the reality that humans with power tend to do terrible things, regardless of what race or minority or background you come from. In Biblical terms, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Hazony also notes a flaw in Marxist thinking that mistakenly believes every hierarchical relationship is one of exploitation and oppression:

Marxism proposes an empirical investigation of the power relations among classes or groups, it simply assumes that wherever one discovers a relationship between a more powerful group and a weaker one, that relation will be one of oppressor and oppressed. This makes it seem as if every hierarchical relationship is just another version of the horrific exploitation of black slaves by Virginia plantation owners before the Civil War. But in most cases, hierarchical relationships are not enslavement. Thus, while it is true that kings have normally been more powerful than their subjects, employers more powerful than their employees, and parents more powerful than their children, these have not necessarily been straightforward relations of oppressor and oppressed. Much more common are mixed relationships, in which both the stronger and the weaker receive certain benefits, and in which both can also point to hardships that must be endured in order to maintain it.

I don't know what this new resurgence in Marxism will result in. To my eyes, it looks like a temporary moral panic, akin to the kind that happened around music and video games in the late 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps this Marxist flame will fade out as well. 

But if it does result in one class overthrowing another, if it results in a Marxist seizure of the state in America, one thing is certain: oppression will not disappear. It will merely change hands.