I, for one, have struggled with church. Often, it seems like some superstitious event that really doesn’t connect with me. Let’s go sing some songs, not because we feel like it, but because that’s what we do. Let’s listen to a spiritual pep talk. Let’s have superficial conversations about the weather. Honestly, it seems like that at sometimes. I, as an individual, often have an easier time connecting with God in the mountains, at a rave, hitchhiking, even on my bedroom floor than at church.  Church, however, was never meant to be the core of spirituality; union with God is. For me,that union is best expressed and experienced in different contexts. Here is the deal: church is not about me. It is not about my tastes in music, ambiance, or art. It is not about my personality or my temperament. It is about coming TOGETHER to support one another, worship God TOGETHER, and cooperate to make a difference in this world. The church is a family not an event, getting coffee with believers and encouraging each other is a better example of church than many Sunday events.

Let me show how my individualism got in the way at church with a quick story. I was attending this tent revival meeting last summer. I really like the idea of being proactive in engaging the community. Yet, the vibe was totally wrong for me. It was a bunch of shouting Pentecostals playing cheesy rock music. I was cringing and shaking my head inwardly, yet fighting the impulse. I found myself rebutting the program inwardly, yet trying to value it. I had thoughts like “this is so corny and traditional, this will never reach youth with this music. Why do they have to shout and pressure others to shout incessantly, yeah sometimes I like to get wild if the time is right, but I’m not going to do it just to conform. What’s with this lady droning on this hour long monologue, yes God is faithful, but I don’t want to hear your life story right now”. I left the meeting thinking it was cheesy and outdated yet I appreciated “what they were trying to do”.  On the way home I picked up a hitchhiker. We talked about the revival meeting and the young man begins to share how it was impacting him. ARE YOU SERIOUS? It was lame! He also shares how he is struggling with substance abuse (I seem to run into a lot of people that are, interesting because I am majoring in chemical dependency counseling). I share some stuff with him and ask if I can pray with him. I pray for him and he starts crying. God was touching him big time!

So why is this significant? The very church event I was criticizing and dreading was used by God. The ironic thing is that I was used by God together with the event. Here I am at this revival meeting, a culture that I cannot relate to, something that is contrary to my personality, temperament, and disposition and God makes us work together! It is not about me, it was about the young man struggling with addiction that night. My criticisms of their “outdated spirituality” was really just me being an individualistic narcissist. Are you getting the picture? This church event was certainly not the essence of my spiritual life, yet we worked as a team. It was important. Church is important. There are many other times that I have been sitting in church and God has spoken to me through the pastor. There are times that God has spoken through me to others. I’m not always wild about going to church, yet I need it, others need me; we need each other. When I was 18 years old living in Phoenix, I probably would’ve spiraled into heavy drug use, serious sexual problems, and overall spiritual collapse (it was a vulnerable time) if I didn’t have my church.

So maybe God has never spoken to you specifically in church, maybe you have never helped others, maybe it has never done anything for you other than put you to sleep; what now? God has a design for the church: a family, a team, a community. If it is not fulfilling that design, does that mean we should throw it out? Do we walk out on our families when they “don’t do anything for us”? What about the government? Should we embrace anarchy because of some of the failures of our government (if you answered yes, take a look at Somalia and the histories of other anarchist states)? Certainly we should find a church that is a good match for ourselves, or good as possible, but we can’t expect perfection. The church will fail you and let you down, it is “a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints” but it is what we have to work with and God is doing amazing things in and through His church these days.

Let me share another experience to demonstrate how the church both failed me and saved me.I mentioned how the church in Phoenix pretty much saved my life, yet I didn’t mention how the first church I went to didn’t do jack for me (not that it’s JUST about me). Yeah, I got greeted with the typical formalities. The soundman even let me check out the audio setup. Yet I went there for a month and was crumbling on the inside, no one was there for me. At the other church I went to I was engaged. The first night I was asked if I was saved like three times, that may have been a bit over the top, but let me finish. People at the church talked to me. They gave me rides, they took me out to eat. They involved me in church activities like community outreach, not just sat me down in some pew. I had some great friends there, for which I am infinitely grateful for. It was a family. We played ball together; I even got to help out with sound at an outreach to Flagstaff. The funny thing is, that church was not really my style either. Everyone there dressed up and shouted. That church did not do enough social outreach (mercy ministries, feeding the poor, etc) and taught that tattoos were wrong. Yeah, I got rubbed the wrong way there several times,  but I guarantee that God used that church to keep me from spiritually deteriorating.

So whether you’re a Christian burnt out on church or a spiritually oriented person very turned off by the concept of church, I hope you have seen that the church IS meaningful and important to spirituality, but it surely is not the essence of spirituality.

***FOR MORE EXAMPLES OF THE CHURCH IN ACTION, FIND MY POSTING ON MY YWAM CIRCUIT RIDER EXPERIENCE, IT WAS RAD!!!!!***

Everyone wants to live a meaningful and happy life on this earth, yet investing all of one’s meaning in happiness in a world that sometimes seems meaningless and cruel leads to despair. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes embraces happiness in this world yet emphasized the need for something transcendent and eternal. I do not think that the Preacher’s solution was necessarily a solution, but at least a step in the right direction. Out of the formulas for happiness offered (Buddha, Aristotle, or the Preacher) I would choose the Preacher’s.

At first it seems the Preacher is discarding worldly pleasures and activities as pointless. The Preacher states “ Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity. . “ (Holy Bible, Ecc. 2.11). Yet later in the text he seems to place value on earthly things. The Preacher concludes, “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years in which God has given him; for this is his reward” (Holy Bible, Ecc.5.18). I believe that in the first quote the Preacher is saying that pursuing temporal, earthly things as one’s ultimate fulfillment is foolish, but they are still to be enjoyed. I think there is one very key verse that shows that Preacher is endorsing transcendent spirituality. The Preacher says, “ . . . He has also set eternity in their (humanity’s) heart . . .” (Holy Bible, Ecc 3.11). He is saying that the experience of change because of time renders things meaningless, so eternity is necessary. This is very similar to the Buddha’s idea about being attached to transient things.

I think that the Preacher is unsure what this transcendent spirituality he is endorsing is, because of his vagueness and seeming indecisiveness. In some verse he talks about the world as if it was a chaotic place with no order. At one point he says, “It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked . . .”(Holy Bible,Ecc 9.2) and in another place he says, “. . .still I know that it will be well for those who fear God . . .” (Holy Bible, Ecc 8.12). He is on the fence, this is why I do not feel like he really offers a formula for happiness, but he is leaning in the right direction. He also advises fearing God at the end as his conclusion (Holy Bible, Ecc.12.13). It seems that he refuses to believe that the world is an unjust, meaningless place, yet it really seems like it and he does not know what God is doing about it.

From the Christian perspective at this time during Biblical history God’s plan for redemption had not been consummated. Despite this, there was still a strong spiritual heritage in Israel and the belief in a good God who was involved with humanity. The Preacher was caught between his belief in a good God who created a meaningful world and his frustration with what seemed to be God’s inactivity on behalf of humanity. The fact that he ended his writings with the advice to fear God shows that despite his confusion and frustration, he still had faith in God and His righteousness.

As a Christian, I admire that kind of faith and I believe that I have the revelation that he was looking forward to. I think that he was, in a sense, a confused Christian, or at the very least a confused Messianic Jew. He did not know that he was a Messianic Jew, because while he was trusting God, he did not know the God was planning on bringing a Messiah. I believed that if he had lived in the time of Christ, he would have recognized Christ as the solution. So I think that he was the closest to the path of human happiness.

While I think that the Buddha, Aristotle, Seligman, and Hogan all had good moral values and ideas, they lack a greater meaning to life that lies beyond the grasp of chance, change, and injustice. All four of those formulas embrace this world happiness, like the Preacher, but none of them really reach towards otherworldly happiness. The Buddha is the closest to doing that. He acknowledges that being overly attached to the joys of this world will ultimately just make us unhappy. The Buddha’s solution to this is a lot different than the Preacher’s solution though. The idea of eternity or afterlife is not even hinted at, on the contrary, it is criticized. The Buddha advises humanity to free themselves from desire. As was mentioned before, the Preacher never gives a specific answer to the problem of existence, yet he puts his trust in the One who does have a solution. The Christian solution is not annihilating all human desires, but redirecting those desires and to some extent delaying the gratification of them.

There is a recognition that seeking pleasures, wisdom, and everything else that the Preacher sought on a temporal level is meaningless without something greater. So, like in Buddhism, desires for temporal things are not given precedence. The desires themselves, however, are not seen as invalid, but the objects of those desires are seen as incorrect. It is believed that while humans are created to desire things like food, sex, and human companionship, humans are ultimately created to desire to divine companionship. In essence, Christianity advises humanity to redirect their deepest desires from temporal things to the eternal God. To a degree, these desires for divine companionship can be fulfilled in this life, yet they are consummated in the next life. In that sense the problem of existence must be solved by faith; faith that divine companionship will be fulfilling in this life even if the fulfillment has yet to come and that whatever is missed out on in this life will be more than compensated for in the next life. Even though one moment of the divine presence is enough to convince anyone that union with God is ultimately fulfilling in this life and the next, humans are shortsighted and forgetful enough to be distracted by lesser, temporal pleasures. This why the Christian solution is one of faith even though it is also one of experience.

I think that the Preacher is closer to the truth than the Budhha, Aristotle, Martin Seligman, and Linda Hogan. A major strength of the Preacher is that he acknowledged temporal joys but insisted that they are meaningless without transcendent spiritual meaning. Although the Preacher did not technically have a well-defined solution, he was headed in the right direction. While the Preacher walked in darkness, he believed that there was a coming light.

This is a paper I wrote for English analyzing a song. I’m not sure I covered the topic sufficiently because it was limited by the scope of the essay. Before we get into the analysis of this song (which is really just a starting point for my topic) I think it is worth mentioning that there are very many songs in EDM that have similar themes of love, joy, peace, paradise, and heaven (not to mention many songs by Dune).

What is the significance of Dune’s Can’t Stop Raving? Is it just a cheesy 90s rave song or is their more to it? It certainly is a cheesy, but I believe there is more to it than just being a rave song. The seemingly shallow, one-dimensional lyrics point towards a deeper, more significant truth. That truth being that every human being desires a paradise. This paradise is a land and condition of transcendent love, peace, and joy; much like the Christian idea of heaven. Along with the parallel idea of heaven are many other similarities between raves and spirituality and religion. I have noticed these things in my experiences with the rave scene and spirituality as well. I believe this song expresses the spiritual, human longing for transcendent love that many people are seeking in the rave scene.

In the uploaded video, the song starts with the repetitive mantra: “I can’t stop raving”. In order to find out why Dune cannot stop raving, we must dig a little deeper. The lyrics continue: “Come and take a trip with me, to a land where love is free, come with me to paradise so our future can be nice” (Shet285). According to the lyrics, paradise is a land where love is free. Apparently the song represents raves as a place where love is free; a paradise or the closest thing to it. Ordinary life is not meeting his needs, so he must go to raves to look for paradise.

The line “so our future can be nice” (Shet285) is worth considering as well. This obviously means that he is not just living for the moment. He wants this land of free love, this paradise, to endure and continue. Despite the fact that he cannot stop raving, he must know that someday he must stop due to the fragility of human life, unless he is hoping for an afterlife. He is either firmly confident in a euphoric afterlife or engaged in wishful thinking. Either way, he desires a land and circumstance of everlasting love.

The final lyrics to consider are: “follow me into the light, everything is going to be all right” and “Just let go and take my hand, I will show you Promised Land” (Shet285). These phrases are significant in further demonstrating the spiritual nature of his longing in that they employ similar vocabulary and ideas as religious texts and spiritual ideas. Light is a fairly common symbol in within spirituality. The word enlightenment often has spiritual connotations, so do phrases like “ I saw the light.” The Promised Land is an idea directly pulled from the Bible and is both present in Jewish and Christian beliefs. The Jewish people were at one time in slavery and misery in Egypt but, according to the Old Testament, God led them to a fertile homeland, or Israel (Holy Bible, Ex. 13.3-5). Many understand this as a metaphor or foreshadowing of the future state of bliss, the promised land of heaven.

It may seem far-fetched; equating raving with spirituality (and therefore this song), however, I have encountered people who viewed raving as a sort of religion. Hutson, for example, says “Together idealization of the past and interest in the future creates the incendiary combination of 1) what is seen as a model society (past) and 2) the prospect of such a society’s reenactment (future). This combination recalls what Eliade has termed ‘the myth of eternal return’: the nostalgic desire to go to an original, primordial time and place, a paradise” (42).

Anthropologists and ravers both see a parallel between raving and spirituality, so there must be some similarities. When people go to church they gather together and listen to and sing music. There is a common belief in music as a means of spiritual expression; perhaps as a connection to a higher realm or a means of relieving stress and becoming encouraged. Raves are also communal events. Like churches, rave culture values unity, peace, love, bliss, and awe. Many who attend raves also find their identity in doing so; they refer to themselves proudly as ravers. That is not so different than one calling himself Baptist, Lutheran, or seeking a sense of belonging in a church. Despite the fact that raves are social, I think they, like churches, are seeking something higher.

The fact that many people at raves get high on drugs like LSD (acid) and MDMA (ecstasy) further convinces me that people at raves, like Dune, are seeking something powerful. People use LSD because it can be a mind blowing and awe inspiring experience. People use MDMA because on it they feel ecstasy. Awe, mind blowing encounters, peace, love, and joy are all terms that have frequently been used to describe encounters with God. For example, hippy preacher Arthur Blessit said, “You’re spaced out on acid . . . Let me tell you brother, if you really want to get turned on, I mean man, where the trip’s heavy, just pray to Jesus. He’ll turn you on to the ultimate trip. He’ll give you a high that will keep you to eternity (qtd. in Crowder). Associating raves with spirituality seems reasonable; therefore associating the message of the song with a spiritual longing is reasonable as well.

Everyone interprets art in his or her own way, and I am no different. I do not interpret this song spiritually only because of my readings, but because of my experiences. I initially got into raving because of my enjoyment of electronic music, but I was seeking something greater too. I was spiritually empty and looking for something worth living for. Raving and MDMA gave me some memorable experiences and joy, but it was short lived and did not meet my deepest needs. I needed the joy of transcendent love and I realized that it was not to be found in raving; the rave ends and the drug wears off. The solely experience based spirituality of rave culture also did not answer my big questions: what is the meaning of life, where did I come from, where am I going, and why is the world this way?

I stopped using drugs and put raving on hold to get my spiritual life back on track. My questions were answered much more satisfactorily in the Christian worldview than in the rave experience. Yet, my Christian worldview was just that; a worldview. I needed more than a worldview. A few years later, after much personal and spiritual growth, I still lacked that lifestyle of bliss I needed; I viewed it as something to be attained someday in the afterlife. Then I had a radical encounter with the love of God that changed my life forever. It was not an abstract joy, but an experience that far excelled any experience of raving or drugs; an experience that still resonates in me and shapes me to this day. When looking back at my raving days and now, it is obvious what I was looking for.

I think that Dune expressed the same longing that I had and that many affiliated with rave culture have; the spiritual longing for transcendent love. The lyrics do not need much stretching to get that idea across. Raves and rave culture also support this conclusion, given the similarities they have with spirituality and religion. I personally have seen that connection as well. Despite much of the disapproval society and religion have for raves, they just might resemble heaven more than one would think.

Works Cited

Crowder, John. The Ecstasy of Loving God. Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 2009. Print.

Holy Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982. Print. New King James Vers.

Hutson, Scott R. “The Rave: Spiritual Healing in Modern Western Subcultures.” Anthropological Quarterly 73.1. (2000): 35-49. Academic Search Complete. Web. 12 May 2013.

Shet285. “Dune – Can’t Stop Raving.” YouTube. Youtube, 5 Sep. 2007. Web. 12 May 2013.

I stood outside the clinic to see the Great Physician. He healed me of a terminal illness some years past; yet I still struggled to believe that He could keep a rash and infection in check. I looked at my watch, it had been at least ten minutes. My forearm itched like crazy, I tried to resist. The area around my rash was inflamed and there was blood and pus from where I had been digging at it. My first impulse was to dig at it more, but to go back to lonely spot to do it, in some dark and dank room. I didn’t want these people to see my affliction. I could show them some scars and speak of how the Physician healed me of an ailment years ago; but am I still supposed to have remnants of my past disease? I finally got into the waiting room. There were bunch of weird people in here. Some of them smelled bad, some persisted in high pitched coughs, and some moaned over broken bones. Many of them were very friendly, they discussed and praised the Physician, even talked about their ailments. Some were like me: defensive and looking around to see who was judging me for my putrid smelling wound.

“What are you in here for friend?” A fat, ruddy man asked.

“Just got some stuff to deal with,” I mumbled evasively.

” Don’t we all. This is fourth time this month I’ve been in here for this blasted leg. My bone keeps deteriorating. The Physician prescribed me some special medicine, gave me a crutch, and told me to come in and see Him daily, if not multiple times a day. I’ve been following His instructions to a tee and I improve dramatically, once I feel good enough to run on my own I generally throw my crutch and medicine aside and come in less frequently. That’s always when it gets worse. I don’t know why I always to that. I would be pretty pissed off if I were the doctor.”

“Is he”

“No, he’s very kind. He’s firm but gentle. So what about you?

I squirmed a little and stuttered.

” Don’t be shy now, there isn’t much that will shock me. It’s a war zone out there, I’ve seen  a great many injuries, self-inflicted and otherwise. I think we can both agree that we’d be dead without the Great Physician.”

I showed him my infection.

“Oh yeah,” he said knowingly,” I’ve had that one many times, it’s best not to scratch it, devilishly hard too, but you also need the ointment of the Physician.”

“Do you know when we are supposed to go in?’

“Go right in”

” No, He’s the most acclaimed physician, he won’t let me do that.”

” Oh, I assure you, He will.”

” Maybe I should wait till tomorrow..”

“I get it, you’re afraid he’ll scold you for your infection. Like I said, He’s  gentle. He wants to heal you.”

“I don’t have any money..”

” Money! What on earth do you need money for? You know very well he performed an operation on you years ago that Donald Trump couldn’t even have afforded. Do you think He’s going to turn you away now? The only co-pay He requires is your cooperation and willingness, go ahead.”

I had hesitantly went up to a large, white door and lightly tapped. After three milliseconds of no response, I turned and started walking away.

“Come in,” said the Physician through the door.

I walked in with my head down, waiting for Him to throw me out, as I sensed He already knew the problem.

“You were out there for a while.”

I nodded.

“You can come right in, you know, I didn’t create that waiting room.”

I nodded.

“I understand you have an infection, the same one we treated last time.”

I mumbled assent.

” Have you been using my ointment.”

“I..uh..ran out.”

” Well, you could’ve came and got more anytime, I wanted to see you anyways. You’ve been scratching too, I see.”

“Yeah.”

” Did you forget what I told you?”

“Well, um, it seemed like scratching would help.”

“You must trust me, I know what I’m talking about. You must come and see me regularly about your health, I can screen for diseases that you don’t even know about.”

“Okay.”

” Read Ephesians 4 in my manual, spend some time in my office for I have more to go over with you in my manual, and of course you have my number.”

“Yes.”

“Come in as much as want, health is not just about healing what is amiss, but maintaining what is sound. You aren’t bothering me, you aren’t just some patient, you’re my son.”

” Thanks Dad,” I said,” holding back tears as I embraced Him.

“Anytime, son.”

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9