…Costello that is.
In 1977, obscure new-wave rocker, Declan Patrick MacManus, better known today by his stage name “Elvis Costello” (derived from a combination of Elvis Presley and his mother’s maiden name Costello) released a multi-million selling debut album “My Aim is True.”
Since then, Costello has become one of the most prolific singer-songwriters of his era, flawlessly seaming styles from reggae to jazz to country into his impeccably unique sound.
Interestingly, despite the genre, a few of his inaugural album’s tracks bear a theological theme, namely: “Blame It On Cain,” “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” “Miracle Man,” and the eschatological inspiration, “Waiting For The End Of The World.”
“Eschatology,” for those just joining the fray, is a general term which incorporates a narrative of persons, places, and events leading up to and including the “end of the world.”
Costello’s “Waiting” is best understood when calculated against the backdrop of the “last days” religiosity of the 1970’s. The publishing phenomenon of that decade, Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth,” which foretold an imminent “rapture” and subsequent “apocalypse” in the early part of the ’80’s, cultivated a staggering end times fervor that manifest itself even in pop-culture.
Despite its quasi-biblical conjecturing and bizarre admixture of Christianity, Egyptology, astrology, and new-ageism, “Late Great” was a huge success for Lindsey, particularly amongst evangelicals. Stupefying as it is, failed predictions and endeavors to palliate the books’ buffoonery notwithstanding, Lindsey is still heralded as a prophecy maven, even continuing his long running weekly T.V. show on the subject.
Of course the end times felons have by needs changed along with the daily headlines, as Lindsey’s brand of newspaper exegesis demands. Yet thousands still support his ministry, so-called.
Without condoning Costello’s apparent antagonism towards Christianity espoused by his “Waiting” track, one can almost understand the antipathy, if for no other reason than the manner in which many flying the banner of Christ conduct themselves.
Of course this is highly speculative, but it’s interesting to compare the sensation that Lindsey created with what Costello wrote. Most prominently his rebuke of the Almighty, “Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you’re coming, ’cause you really started something.”
As is typical for secularists, the misgivings and shortcomings, i.e. the defection of the creation, are imputed to the Creator. It’s all a matter of the basis for one’s thinking really. From a biblical perspective one simply acknowledges the presumption of man.
As Jeremiah and Matthew put it respectively: “I did not send these prophets… I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.” And “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Whereas one who formulates one’s views outside the pail of biblical thought simply indict the whole of Christendom based on the actions of the few. Costello’s well warranted poke at the pop-eschatology scene of the ’70’s turns ugly when he also describes Christianity in general with the verses:
The man from the television crawled into the train
I wonder who he’s gonna stick it in this time
Everyone was looking for a little entertainment
So they’ll probably pull his hands off when they find out his name
And then they shut down the power all along the line
And we got stuck in the tunnel where no lights shine
They got to touching; all the girls who were too scared to call out
Nobody was saying anything at all
We were waiting for the end of the world
The logical inferences are that Christendom is a dark world of:
Impenetrable ignorance; “the tunnel where no lights shine”
Cruelty; “they’ll probably pull his hands off when they find out his name”
Perversion, (including the Catholic priest sex scandals that began to break in the ’70’s) “They got to touching; all the girls who were too scared to call out”
Indifference by the faithful; “Nobody was saying anything at all we were waiting for the end of the world.”
Believers, it would seem, in the “Waiting” paradigm are too preoccupied with their last days notions, blindly accepting the unscriptural falsehoods about the prophetic inevitability of evil men and seducers waxing worse and worse and the love of many growing cold, to meaningfully rise up against such overt iniquities.
Whatever correct points Costello makes about the gravity of the matter are muted by his conclusion about how to deal with this sect of humanity, which are equally dark:
You may see them drowning as you stroll along the beach
But don’t throw out the lifeline ’til they’re clean out of reach
Until next time…
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