Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Jon Foreman

Jon Foreman is the lead singer of Switchfoot, another casualty in the unfortunate phenomenon I have described elsewhere that seems to happen to all promising or substantive "Christian" musical artists today: intriguing potential in the beginning; laudable development musically, lyrically, and theologically; popularity descends; and, inevitably, interminable, homogeneous, overly produced electric guitars. I gave up a couple albums ago, and maybe they have come back from the darkness, but fortunately, apparently something is still there in Jon Foreman as an individual, because in his solo work some of the best facets of Switchfoot's early stuff comes to the fore.

A couple other personal favorites by Foreman are "House of God, Forever" (a gorgeous duet rendering of Psalm 23) and "Instead of a Show" (a profound expansion of Amos 5's call for justice as true worship), but below is the one I have found most impacting. If I could change one thing, in the last verse, in the second to last line, I would change, in according with patristic trinitarian teaching, "both of his hands" to "the Son and the Spirit." Either way, I imagine that that is the meaning of Foreman's words anyway. In keeping with his other solo songs, it gives the sense of the psalmist's cry (and subsequent praise) for God's sure justice. My own poem afterward is a similarly scriptural reflection on images for forgiveness taken from Israel's and the church's most treasured stories.

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Equally Skilled

By Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot)

How miserable I am
I feel like a fruit-picker who arrived here
After the harvest
There's nothing here at all
There's nothing at all here that could placate my hunger
The godly people are all gone
There's not one honest soul left alive
Here on the planet
We're all murderers and thieves
Setting traps here for even our brothers

And both of our hands
Are equally skilled
At doing evil
Equally skilled
At bribing the judges
Equally skilled
At perverting justice
Both of our hands
Both of our hands

The day of justice comes
And is even now swiftly arriving
Don't trust anyone at all
Not your best friend or even your wife
For the son hates the father
The daughter despises even her mother
Look, your enemies are right
Right in the room of your very household

And both of their hands
Are equally skilled
At doing evil
Equally skilled
At bribing the judges
Equally skilled
At perverting justice
Both of their hands
Both of their hands

No, don't gloat over me
For though I fall, though I fall
I will rise again
Though I sit here in darkness
The Lord, the Lord alone
He will be my light
I will be patient as the Lord
Punishes me for the wrongs I've done
Against him
After that, he'll take my case
Bringing me to light and to justice
For all I have suffered

And both of his hands
Are equally skilled
At ruining evil
Equally skilled
At judging the judges
Equally skilled
Administering justice
Both of his hands

Both of his hands
Are equally skilled
At showing me mercy
Equally skilled
At loving the loveless
Equally skilled
Administering justice
Both of his hands
Both of his hands

- - - - - - -

Forgiveness Is

Forgiveness is the healing stone
Slung and shot like a catapult
In miniature, frozen for a moment
As a promise, gracious, to the hulking
Violence of the taunting giant

Forgiveness is the soothing coal
Plucked and placed like a hot kiss
Heaven’s eroticism, stinging, not
Now or ever painless preparation
But always the fire of knowledge

Forgiveness is the liberal vision
Terrifying and true like a sentence
Delivered between destinations, this
Exodus no deliverance—yet the scales
Itching, precipice of future come

Forgiveness is the planate cross
Carried and planted like a flag
The powers’ mission accomplished
The world’s onlookers’ eyes ungouged
The engine’s oil, running red, stopped

2 comments:

  1. You obviously do not understand the lyrics and insight Jon Foreman provides in both Switchfoot and his solo work. Not only that but Jon is an extremely accomplished guitarist and songwriter. From what i gather, you do not listen to very much music and are the cynical kind of Christian that turns people away from Christianity. Check yourself before you wreck yourself man. Dig into the scriptures some more and open your eyes

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  2. Ditto x 1000 to the previous post. I see far greater spiritual depth in Jon Foreman's work both within and outside of Switchfoot than I do in almost any other musician or group I have experienced.

    His lyrics kind of remind me of Jesus words. They were so often misunderstood or not understood. Yet Jesus seemed perfectly fine with that. In fact he intentionally chose to speak in parables knowing only a few would actually "get it".

    I see more of Jesus spirit and message oozing out of the lives and lyrics of Switchfoot/Jon Foreman than I do in most churches I step in on Sabbath or Sunday morning.

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