Thursday, January 06, 2011

Don't hurt Jesus' feelings by having Sympathy for the Devil

It's strange how religious thinking can stick with you even after you stop believing...

You may not have heard of the ancient superstition "naming calls." Naming a thing, saying its name or speaking of it, calls it into being or calls it near you. Although when we say "Speak of the devil" nowadays we don't usually mean it literally anymore, many fundamentalist-minded Christians, including many Mormons, still believe it: "Speak of the Devil and he doth appear." Naming calls.

Religious fellow that I once was, although I never believed that wholeheartedly, I didn't dismiss it either. So even though I've always loved the Rolling Stones and I've always loved the song "Sympathy for the Devil," listening to that song always used to make me just a little bit nervous. The Stones don't just speak of the Devil, they sing of him. And not only do they sing of him, they personify him, singing from his point of view.

That always seemed a bit much. But it's such a great song.... So I still listened to it. But not as often as I would have. And always with a tiny bit of trepidation. "I'm sure nothing bad can come of listening to this. That sort of thing is just superstition... I'm pretty sure...."

And there was another thing that bothered me about the song: they sing about Jesus.
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
I didn't really like them singing about him like that.

Well, now I believe in neither gods nor devils, so I listen to "Sympathy for the Devil" whenever I want to. Which is quite often, I suppose; it's in relatively heavy rotation on my iTunes/iPod. And it doesn't make me nervous anymore.

But it came on today, not planned, just on on shuffle, as background noise while I was washing the dishes. And since I wasn't paying attention, when the part about Jesus came up, my brain automatically went into an old pathway: "I hope those lyrics don't hurt Jesus' feelings."

Yes, I really used to think like that. I used to worry that a song recorded and listened to 2000 years after Jesus' death (if he ever existed at all) would somehow hurt his feelings. And I found myself still having those thoughts as a kind of conditioned response when the song came on.

Pretty embarrassing. So now I'm listening to "Sympathy for the Devil" on repeat. I figure after about 50 more times, I'll be fully deprogrammed.

Anyway, here's some music. Have some sympathy, have some courtesy, have some taste.

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