Saturday, 21 June 2008

Coldplay on death, judgement and the meaning of life

One of the other major themes that emerges through Coldplay's latest offer, Viva la Vida, is that of death and judgement. Fascinatingly, it's a subject that Chris Martin recently spoke on in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

In the interview Martin reveals that, although he continues to believe in God, he has apparently rejected the idea of hell existing. He reveals that, in particular, as he grew up as a teenager, he hated the idea that his own sexual morality might affect or determine his eternal fate.

The album track, Yes, seems to be a reflection on this sort of subject, told by someone who is struggling alone in sexual temptation and guilt: 'Yeah we were dying of frustration / Saying "Lord lead me not into temptation" / But it's not easy when she turns you on / If you'll only, if you'll only say yes / Whether you will's anybody's guess / God, only God knows I'm trying my best / But I'm so tired of this loneliness.'

I can't help feeling sad when I read these lyrics - because I can't help feeling that Martin has missed the heart of the Christian message. There's nothing about God's goodness - even in giving us a blueprint for sexuality - and nothing about grace. It's awful to think that any person can feel that they've blown it forever with God.

That Chris Martin longs for more - indeed, that he longs for something beyond death - is clear. The song 42 may, I think, be a reference to 'the meaning of life' in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and asks deep existential questions about death and what it means to be alive: 'Those who are dead are not dead / They’re just living my head / And since I fell for that spell I am living there as well / Time is so short and I’m sure / There must be something more.' To airbrush out the existence of death and whatever comes after is foolish, yet Martin adds to be preoccupied with death and whatever comes after is to miss the point of living now. The track reminded me of Paul's teaching in 2 Corinthians 4: that life now only makes sense - and that we only truly live radically now - once we are convinced that Jesus' blood has bought us a place with God forever, in the place of solid joys and lasting pleasures.

The final track, Death and All His Friends, dreamily reflects on the brevity of life. It shows a desire to make the most of our time now, yet also seems to convey how we feel that like is too short. As Ecclesiastes puts it, we sometimes feel that eternity has been set in our hearts. Death feels like a disruption.

And for all of his dislike of institutional religion and the violence done in the name of Christianity, the song Reign of Love seems to reflect a longing for a kingdom of pure goodness - possibly even a reference to what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, where God's rule is perfectly manifest. Perhaps that's what Chris Martin hopes for above all: in all of the messiness, he hopes for redemption. As a powerful lyric from Lovers in Japan puts it, 'But I have no doubt / One day the sun will come out '

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