“As we walk through these troubled times, we struggle through this so-called life. Waiting for something to change… And now all hope is gone, the pain has lingered far too long. Black is a sky filled with rage… It’s been too long. We’re holding on. We’ll right this wrong. And fight on. We will remember today… We want a revolution!”
These are the opening lyrics to Revolution by Pennywise, which came out a number of years ago. As I was driving and this song was playing, I couldn’t help but find myself empathetic to the cries of this call. The thought of, “Yes, we do need a revolution!” sprang to mind. The overall alarm and general attitude of this song is that something is not quite right with the world. The sense we are all living in a time and place where things could be better is something I believe a lot of us share. We long for change; for something new. We long for all the ails in the world to be made right and justice exercised in response to the unjust.
This sentiment is not unique to the punk genre, but there seems to be a distinctiveness about it that comes across as an angsty call to action. At the very heart of the movement is a drive to rebel against authoritative structures and oppressions of the day. Most of the punk-rock music I have listened to over the years tries to boldly point to what these perceived wrongs are and strives to call them out.
A vast majority of the people who engage in opposition to the currents within society and culture often historically find themselves on the outside of such patterns. In hopes of obtaining worldly acceptance and comfort, most of us will banish the thought of dramatic change as we will inevitably incur loss to see that change. But we all have desires for total joy, satisfaction, freedom, and justice. Anything that stifles that should be removed. But how? Can we sit in this tension? How do we reconcile these longings with the world we see around us? As we look at this in light of the biblical story, we see there is One who came into this world and One who knows the truths of this injustice and brokenness all too well. One who stood in stark opposition to it and boldly called it out, only to be rejected by the currents of the day.
The ideas and concepts expressed through music are important because they are close to us. This existential longing is not lofty and abstract, but something we all deal with in tangible ways. When listening to and approaching a song like this with discernment and understanding, it is important we be aware of what is being said and what, if any, the out-workings are. Here, in this immediate circumstance, there are some important questions to ask. What is the problem? Is a solution given? Finally, for the Christian, what does this say in terms of my faith? Being able to explore and ask questions of a claim is something we should all do. Even though these questions do not have universal applicability by any means, this is hopefully a starting point when listening to a song such as this. A song that is a call to wake up because there is something wrong, and we should all desire for things to be different. Not that the punk genre has a monopoly on this existential struggle, but I believe the punk-rock attitude points us to the need for the Gospel.
What is Being Claimed?
This song in particular urges those who share in, more-or-less, general worldly laments to seek a revolution. Merriam-Webster defines revolution as “a sudden, radical, or complete change” and “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.” In other words, we should wonder, “a revolution from what, to what”? The ‘from’ can be discerned from the surrounding context. In the verse above, we see a statement of no hope, of pain, and feeling like anger is looming over one’s current state of affairs. The ‘to’ is never made explicitly clear, although the thing that will get us there is “a sudden, radical, fundamental change.” It would not be a huge leap to say the goal of the revolution would be a reversal of the descriptors above. Hopelessness would become hope. Pain would become healing. Rage would become joy.
Is There a Solution That Resolves the Claim?
There is a statement repeated in the chorus: “We want a revolution. One more time. Need for solutions!” and then there is a section tacked onto the chorus at the end of the song that says, “It’s time for resolution, and we will remember.” Within this critical attitude toward the ways of the world, the call most often echoed is a call for help. We see what we perceive as problems, and we seek some sort of remedy bigger than ourselves. We need a solution.
As a point of commonality, this is a sentiment all humans have faced and continue to face throughout history. King David wrote a psalm (a Jewish song) that has a lot of the exact same perceived wrongs as we hear from this modern cry to revolution. In Psalm 12, we read a pleading with God and a cry for help. “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They (meaning human kind without God) speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.” Just as soon as we read these cries, we get a response from the Lord in this same psalm: “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise.” This is not the only example found in the psalms, let alone the entire Bible, but this is very clearly a cry for revolution, and a response declaring resolution is here. The one who will hear our cries for help is the very God who stepped into this broken world to make it right.
What Does My Faith Say About This?
Following those echoes by the psalter, we can see the Christian is not immune to feeling the world is in need of revolution. When Jesus stepped on the scene, He decried the injustices and brokenness of this world. Jesus stood on the outside of these wrongs. He remained untouched by them, while at the same time longing to engage with them so they might be changed.
As we read through the scriptures, from Genesis 3 onwards, we see a world marred by brokenness. There is a consistent hope in a promise given in the Old Testament that God will rescue humanity from that brokenness that resulted from the sin that is wrought throughout the world. We also get many glimpses into the state of the world through the eyes of Jesus and the compass of the Gospel. But there is one thing we get with Jesus that we do not see anywhere else in the Bible. The fulfillment of the ultimate promise of redemption.
There are some well-known words from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mat. 11:28-30).
In these verses, we find a promise of comfort for those who find the weight of the world too much to bear. In the surrounding story, however, we see Jesus speaking judgment to the people in the world who continue to engage in injustice, exploitation, and those who further the suffering of the world. But to those who are hurt, Jesus offers rest. To those so engulfed by the brokenness and sin of the world that they continue to promulgate it, Jesus simply says to repent and follow Him. The repentance Jesus calls for is “a sudden, radical, or complete change” and “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something.” Jesus is letting us know the resolution is here, and we would do well to pay attention if we desire change.
Jesus has come to offer life when all we can see is death around us. Jesus has come to offer comfort when all we can see is pain. Jesus promises ultimate justice when all we can see is injustice. Jesus has come to offer hope when we are hopeless.
Later, the apostle Paul, who knew much worldly suffering himself, contrasts the sufferings of this world with the glory to be revealed to us. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from the bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rm. 8:20-21). When all God had brought into existence came to know sin and corruption through Adam, the Lord immediately acted to bring judgment, but also put in place a plan for redemption.
God’s judgment is often spoken of as His wrath. In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer states, “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.” God responds with justice to the unjust. God’s justice is simply a reaction to correct a wrong. It is not because He feels somehow compelled to judge based on His shifting personality, but because He is the very standard by which objective wrong is identified and dealt with. God’s purpose for acting as judge over these things is because they go against Him. God’s justice is His love, and His love is His justice. These two attributes are inextricably linked.
Jesus came to reveal to the world both the love and judgment of God. That in Him, we will find reprieve from the sufferings of the world and be assured the wrongs will be made right. Jesus is the resolution. As the song says, “It’s time for resolution, and we will remember”; friends, resolution came – let’s not forget.
Music can be a powerful compass that will point us in the direction of our hearts desire, but how do we as Christians approach these thoughts and desires appropriately in light of the truth of God? Again, addressing the brokenness of the world is not something the Bible shies away from; in fact, it is the number one thing addressed throughout the scriptures. God has a plan of redemption and restoration. God also is the hope for those who come to Him. The ideas and angst expressed in punk-rock music find their resolution in the person of Jesus.
To be completely honest, this might sound strange, but submitting to the God of the universe, the ultimate and eternal authority, is the most rebellious thing one could do in the world’s eyes. In that act, you’ve come to participate in the hope and healing that God brings about to change a hurting world. I know through engaging music and the ideas that are expressed there, the Church can be a powerful witness to the life found in Jesus. Keep jamming with what speaks to you, but never shy away from asking questions and thinking about what is being said.