Review — The Coldest Hour (Is Just Before The Dawn) by Akai

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This year brings us the cold­est win­ter in twen­ty-five years and along with it, a new Akai album, The Cold­est Hour is Just Before the Dawn. As their pre­vi­ous album Pret­ty Songs About Ugly Things was a favorite I was more than eager to give their newest out­ing a lis­ten. In doing so I found it to be a fas­ci­nat­ing artis­tic state­ment. I hadn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly planned to review a music CD here but then again it isn’t too oftent that I have so much to say about one. In the case of Akai’s lat­est, repeat­ed lis­tens con­tin­ued to bring cer­tain themes into focus and indi­vid­ual songs opened to reveal an unex­pect­ed look at the mind­set of the Jehovah’s Wit­ness reli­gion.

Before get­ting into the deep­er dis­cus­sion it might be best to start on the sur­face with the stan­dard genre pigeon-hol­ing and band com­par­isons. The Cold­est Hour could be filed under indie-pop. Musi­cal­ly, it has the char­ac­ter of ear­ly Belle & Sebas­t­ian, owing more to the promi­nence of trum­pet and glock­en­spiel with the occa­sion­al spacey synth to any­thing else. It terms of song con­struc­tion and vocals it remind­ed me of a more epic ver­sion of the quaint Twin-Cities band, the Owls.

The first impres­sion of this album is that Akai’s pen­chant for writ­ing “pret­ty songs about ugly things” car­ries through from their pre­vi­ous album. Though it lacks the genius pop pro­duc­tion val­ues of its pre­de­ces­sor, The Cold­est Hour still does an admirable job, with a sparkling, melod­ic pre­sen­ta­tion. Since the release of the last stu­dio album Akai’s mem­ber­ship has swelled to a eight piece live act. While still fun­da­men­tal­ly a duo-effort of the hus­band-wife song­writ­ing team of Hiro­mi and Rob­bie Mat­sumo­to, The Cold­est Hour is more of an ensem­ble piece. So sup­port­ing instru­ments like the glock­en­spiel and trum­pet are present on the major­i­ty of the tracks shar­ing ground with the stan­dard drums, bass, and gui­tar. This cre­ates cohe­sive­ness through­out the entire­ty of the album, stitch­ing the indi­vid­ual tracks togeth­er as a com­pos­ite work; though it often has the unfor­tu­nate side-affect of giv­ing many of the songs a cer­tain degree of same­ness.

In my opin­ion, The Cold­est Hour is bet­ter looked at as an art object rather than sim­ply a music album. Artis­ti­cal­ly designed, co-pro­duced and co-writ­ten by gift­ed painter Hiro­mi, this sec­ond LP release from the Akai is unabashed­ly a con­cept album. I don’t know too much about eval­u­at­ing art so I hope that I can be excused for any mis­teps in putting togeth­er my thoughts in this regard.

The open­ing song begins the descent into evening with oth­er songs fol­low­ing through the night lead­ing to the final song which pro­vides hope­ful glim­mers of the new day emerg­ing on the hori­zon. Promi­nent lyri­cal themes revolve around the night, dark­ness, and cold­ness. To exem­pli­fy these themes the music is often plod­ding with tired and list­less vocals, dis­tant cham­ber cho­rus­es, somber brass lines, and the twin­kle of bells to add a touch of win­ter.

Mov­ing for­ward from these sur­face impres­sions we begin to unrav­el the piece to see what mean­ing the artist has inter­wo­ven with­in the musi­cal tapes­try. With con­ven­tion­al mod­ern-art the artist might dis­till their work to a suc­cinct tagline. In this way Akai describes The Cold­est Hour as,

A dynam­ic jour­ney through the hours between dusk and dawn, ‘The Cold­est Hour’ echos a mélange of reac­tions to a dark spot in human his­to­ry with melody and metaphor.

This leaves the view­er, or in this case lis­ten­er, with the job of expand­ing on the mean­ing the artist is attempt­ing to con­vey, an effort that is often cloud­ed by his own expe­ri­ence, back­ground, and emo­tion. Review­ing art is a very sub­jec­tive effort.

In this par­tic­u­lar case it is help­ful that I share the same back­ground of the artists, hav­ing been raised with­in the Jehovah’s Wit­ness reli­gion. While it is true that the band makes no out­ward pro­mo­tion of their reli­gion, their beliefs have made an indeli­ble mark on the album. From my per­spec­tive, The Cold­est Hour is best under­stood as an artis­tic, reli­gious state­ment, some­thing that may not be grasped by oth­er lis­ten­ers.

When I lis­tened to their first album, Pret­ty Songs About Ugly Things, I thought that it remind­ed me of the Bible book of Eccle­si­astes. It seemed to express the futil­i­ty of the human endeav­or (“every­thing is van­i­ty”) though not with­out some degree of hope. The Cold­est Hour ampli­fies the pes­simism to eleven while ton­ing down the hope con­sid­er­ably. It presents a dis­mal view of life prac­ti­cal­ly void of any joy and warmth.

In the artists’ view we are in a cold, dark spot in human his­to­ry; a time peri­od that Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es believe to be “the last days”. The gen­er­al ici­ness of the songs might be attrib­uted to spend­ing a freez­ing Min­neso­ta win­ter in a poor­ly heat­ed home but it is more apt­ly a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es view the world around them and their place with­in. In that view the only good exists with­in the reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion, every­thing out­side is viewed with sus­pi­cion, pes­simism, and occa­sion­al­ly dis­dain.

In con­sid­er­ing the The Cold­est Hour from this per­spec­tive it would be ben­e­fi­cial to first con­sid­er the track, “Morn­ing Fol­lows The Night”. Com­ing in halfway through the record­ing, it acts as the cen­tral the­sis for the album prop­er, mak­ing a direct the­o­log­i­cal state­ment about the album’s con­cept. Using some­what mut­ed, reli­gious metaphor the lyrics fol­low the fall of man into dark­ness, a tran­si­tion from day to night. It looks long­ing­ly toward a time of edenic renew­al where they’ll “replace the old with some­thing new”. Such a tran­si­tion comes at the destruc­tion of present. “We’ll tear it down / we’ll burn it up / we’ll use the fire to light the world”.

Accord­ing to Wit­ness the­ol­o­gy will dark­ness always pre­vail? No, the song express­es a hope that morn­ing will “some­day” come to end the dark, but such a time is elu­sive and the hope, incor­po­re­al. In the face ever present dark­ness, the lyrics repeat­ed­ly call for the need to have “a reminder that the morn­ing fol­lows the night”. It well char­ac­ter­izes the gen­er­al weari­ness felt by mem­bers of the reli­gion who have lived with the unfilled hope that the present world would soon end and be replaced with a par­adise. Rather then see them­selves as “chil­dren of the light” per the scrip­tures, the artist uses the term “midnight’s weary chil­dren” to describe those that have grown men­tal­ly drowsy after so many long hours and pass­ing bed­times with no new day in sight. The his­to­ry of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es has been one of repeat­ed expec­ta­tions for cer­tain dates to bring forth the end of sor­rows of the present and a tran­si­tion into a new world of tomor­row. This song well high­lights the increas­ing inse­cu­ri­ty of a reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty that is now near the cen­ten­ni­al anniver­sary of 1914, the piv­otal date of their prophet­ic chronol­o­gy, with a long inter­im of failed hopes in between, and now no end in sight. With their eyes always point­ed to the uncer­tain future they miss out on the tan­gi­ble real­iza­tion of what Jesus has offered for near­ly two-thou­sand years.

Before mov­ing on to look at how this the­o­log­i­cal con­ven­tion is con­veyed in the oth­er songs we can give atten­tion to the pur­pose­ful album art. The album cov­er is a hand drawn illus­tra­tion by Akai front man Hiro­mi and car­ries on the imagery of album depict­ing a stark, win­tery night. The artists illus­trates the moon (a nod to the night) look­ing down upon a slight anthro­po­mor­phic rein­deer (a nod to the cold). (As a side note, the moon and the rein­deer, also seem to be a depic­tion of the two Akai leads.) In the illus­tra­tion the doe is sur­round­ed by men­ac­ing wolves, one of which holds a rifle toward her. Again this must be seen as a par­tic­u­lar reli­gious view point. Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es exhib­it a siege men­tal­i­ty, con­sid­er­ing the entire world out­side of their orga­ni­za­tion as “lying in the pow­er of the wicked one”. They believe it acts as a con­spir­a­cy designed to rob them of their faith and lead them with the rest of the world into destruc­tion. Per­haps more specif­i­cal­ly, mem­bers of the reli­gion are con­di­tioned to see any who are crit­i­cal of the move­ment as rav­en­ous wolves. In the face of such dis­tress the dis­po­si­tion of the doe is rather abject. While Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es believe they are liv­ing in the last days they do not exhib­it that con­fi­dence and joy but rather lin­ger­ing doubt, fear, and trep­i­da­tion. The scene offers no hope of deliv­er­ance for the doe who lan­guish­es in despair.

With the cen­tral the­o­log­i­cal state­ment cov­ered we can give con­sid­er­a­tion to how the oth­er songs uphold a dis­tinct Jehovah’s Wit­ness world­view. The Cold­est Hour opens with “When the Sun Goes Down”, it acts to set the stage for the bleak, dis­mal night. When the sun vacates the sky, dark­ness pre­vails, and wicked­ness advances. Pre­sum­ably speak­ing on behalf of those that wel­come the dark­ness, Akai sings “we won’t have to fight, the con­science of light / when the wrongs become right” ; “we don’t have to see the stains of care­free ways / on our hearts and our names”. The song again reflects a semi-veiled hope for the destruc­tion of the present and a time of renew­al and res­ur­rec­tion; “when the fires are lit and we burn up the past with it / friends will arise to light up our smiles.” How­ev­er such a time is elu­sive, a fad­ing camp­fire long­ing, as the pro­gress­ing night brings bit­ter cold, push­ing away any warmth. The destruc­tion of mankind is touched on again as the morn­ing draws near. In this new day the “hun­gry sun­rise”, a con­sum­ing fire, will catch the wicked by sur­prise, lead­ing to their demise. Despite the trag­ic sub­ject mat­ter, the fall of man and the destruc­tion of the wicked, the song inter­est­ing­ly ends with an unfeel­ing cho­rus seem­ing­ly mock­ing the pass­ing of the world, lead­ing to laugh­ter. I don’t know if this is meant as an expres­sion of joy of the com­ing day or an eerie look at how Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es cal­lous­ly, and quite eager­ly await the destruc­tion of every­one save for them­selves.

I am unde­cid­ed if the song “Satel­lite” should be viewed as a self-assess­ment on the part of the artist or yet anoth­er exam­ple of the writer adopt­ing the first-per­son per­spec­tive of those out­side of the reli­gion, a com­mon song­writ­ing tool used by Akai. It is per­haps both. The songs speaks of judg­ment, but not so much inter­nal con­vic­tion, but that which comes from the out­side. The lyri­cal image con­veyed is of an orbit­ing satel­lite cap­tur­ing “the best and worst of life”. As a source of ever present, ex-ter­res­tri­al judg­ment, the satel­lite might be seen as a stand-in for the Wit­ness con­cept of Jeho­vah God. As the “satel­lite” snaps pic­tures of the singer, he won­ders what the ver­dict will be. He is con­cerned if he will he be viewed as a “loved or hat­ed man”.

The singer intro­spec­tive­ly gives the descrip­tion of him­self as pos­sess­ing a “dark side” which he wor­ries about being exposed. The end of the song offers a cyn­i­cal expec­ta­tion for the state of the man; he will grow old­er and his sins will become more appar­ent, but he looks for­ward to the morn­ing when he will expe­ri­ence a renew­al of the 0ld man with­in. This is illus­tra­tive of how Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es often view them­selves in the face of con­tin­u­al divine judge­ment. They are aware of the dark­ness around them and of their own repeat­ed fail­ings to live up to the ten­ants of their reli­gion but have no idea how to over­come. They feel resigned that they will have to wait for a future par­adise, where they will be cleansed of their sin and be made new. This is con­trary to the good news preached by ear­ly Chris­tians. Speak­ing of the cur­rent state of those who have Jesus, Paul writes, “There­fore, if any­one is in Christ, he is a new cre­ation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor 5:17) Because they have no appre­ci­a­tion of the right­eous stand­ing offered by Jesus they live in a con­tin­ued state of fear of adverse judg­ment. Their stand­ing before God is ten­u­ous, where they feel that they can eas­i­ly slip from being a man “loved” by God, to one who is “hat­ed”, ready to be con­sumed by the fires of ever­last­ing judg­ment.

In the song “Drift­ed” the artists par­tic­u­lar­ly tip their hand to their Jehovah’s Wit­ness reli­gious dis­po­si­tion This marks the third time a ver­sion of this song (pre­vi­ous­ly called Adrift) has appeared on an Akai release if you count their 0.5 EP. The song opens with the lines,

I’ve lost all faith in your once friend­ly smile / now that we’ve been away for awhile. / I’ve heard rumours of your inde­pen­dent thoughts / though we’ve nev­er fought my mind’s spin­ning.”

The Orwellian con­no­ta­tions of the term, “inde­pen­dent thoughts”, are not lost on any­one who has had an expe­ri­ence with the strict con­for­mi­ty of think­ing demand­ed of by Watch­tow­er lead­er­ship. With­in the reli­gion, “inde­pen­dent think­ing”, is loaded cult-speak specif­i­cal­ly used to describe any ideas out­side of the expressed dog­ma of the Wit­ness lead­er­ship. Even if you don’t express such inde­pen­dent thoughts, men­tal­ly hold­ing them can be grounds for dis­fel­low­ship­ping or expul­sion from the reli­gion there­by sev­er­ing all con­tact with Jehovah’s Wit­ness friends and fam­i­ly through orga­ni­za­tion­al­ly enforced shun­ning.

This lyrics of “Drift­ed” tell about a for­mer friend of the band who went “drift­ing away” with “inde­pen­dent thoughts” lead­ing to a severe, even harsh, per­son­al rejec­tion by the artist. When Rob­bie sings “I used to call you my friend” it speaks vol­umes of the way that per­son­al rela­tion­ships with­in the reli­gion, no mat­ter how close, can be instant­ly and total­ly sev­ered by the wit­ness. Where­as the pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion of this song was pre­sent­ed with a twinge of sad­ness at the state of the rela­tion­ship, the new heavy-hand­ed ver­sion comes across as angry and scathing. Vit­ri­olic vocals are under­scored by a dron­ing drum beat and a wash of dis­tort­ed elec­tric gui­tar. In the end the song is pet­ty and full of hatred, emo­tions stand­ing square­ly against Jesus instruc­tion to “love your ene­mies.” (Matthew 5:44)

A scene from a Jehovah’s Wit­ness book for chil­dren illus­trat­ing Armaged­don. The ground opens to con­sume non-Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es includ­ing a small child.

An End Deserv­ing” brings a vin­dic­tive view of a degen­er­ate world ready to be destroyed. The imagery con­veyed by the lyrics, while some­what veiled, paint a typ­i­cal Armaged­don scene from the Wit­ness pub­li­ca­tions. The Wit­ness­es live with the expec­ta­tion that the end of the world is com­ing and will bring with it the destruc­tion of all those who have reject­ed them and their mes­sage.

The cal­lous­ness by which the Wit­ness­es view the world around them are typ­i­fied in the lyrics of the song that speak to a recip­i­ent of the com­ing judg­ment.

Like a sui­ci­dal plane, / Falling from the sky again, / Sec­ond thoughts won’t stop the tail­spin.

Once the judg­ment begins there will be no oppor­tu­ni­ty for repen­tance; destruc­tion is immi­nent.

And as the ground starts clos­ing in, / You start to lose your sol­id grin, / As you rem­i­nisce.

On the sur­face these lyrics con­tin­ue the imagery of a crash­ing plane head­ed toward the ground. Per­haps on a less overt lev­el it calls to mind a visu­al motif in a Wit­ness Armaged­don illus­tra­tion of the ground open­ing up and swal­low­ing non-Wit­ness­es. In this vin­dic­tive mind­set those who are fac­ing their end will lose their con­fi­dence and think back to the mes­sage they reject­ed. They will feel regret but it is too late to stop their death. Again, this end is expect­ed for every­one who doesn’t accept the mes­sage of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es and join their reli­gion. What is the reac­tion to the death of their neigh­bors, work­mates, and acquain­tances on the part of the Wit­ness­es? They con­clude it to be “an end deserv­ing”.

The final track on the album, “As Long as it’s Tomor­row” is a depar­ture in tone and in style. An old­er song writ­ten and sung by Akai drum­mer Reed Sut­ter it seems select­ed for it’s suit­able chrono­log­i­cal set­ting rather then the mes­sage, which is some­what dis­cor­dant from the oth­er songs.

The song is set dur­ing an all-night road trip just before day­break. Just as the album begins with the sun­set it now ends with the sun­rise. In this way it car­ries over the cen­tral state­ment of the album that there is a morn­ing that fol­lows the dark night, a new tomor­row. Dur­ing this dri­ve the singer describes catch­ing sight of a city on the hori­zon that is “hope­ful”, yet “hazy”. Again this cap­tures the uncer­tain hope that Wit­ness­es man­i­fest toward future.

Oth­er­wise, the approach to the sub­ject mat­ter is quite dif­fer­ent. With the Hiromi/Robbie songs there is a cer­tain detach­ment to the world around them as they paint rough car­i­ca­tures, often falling into deri­sion and mock­ery of human­i­ty out­side of their reli­gion. Theirs is more of an accu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how the Jehovah’s Wit­ness com­mu­ni­ty views out­siders, approach­ing them with a cer­tain lev­el of dis­in­ter­est, save for attempts to con­tact them for poten­tial con­ver­sion into the reli­gion. On a sur­face lev­el their man­ner and appear­ance is care­ful­ly con­struct­ed to “give a wit­ness”. They may appear kind and well man­nered to out­siders but it is super­fi­cial to the extent that Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es are dis­cour­aged from cul­ti­vat­ing any close rela­tion­ships out­side their reli­gion. Out­siders, no mat­ter what their back­ground or dis­po­si­tion, even those who believe in Jesus and live moral lives, are brand­ed as “world­ly” or “bad asso­ci­a­tion” to be avoid­ed.

To the con­trary the final song on the album pro­vides a more empa­thet­ic view of those who are trav­el­ing down the same road as the singer/narrator. Dur­ing the sec­ond stan­za he describes catch­ing sight of a Cana­di­an fam­i­ly trav­el­ing along side him. He express­es a cer­tain curios­i­ty and empa­thy for this fam­i­ly as he “wonder[s] what’s their sto­ry.” He is curi­ous if “they love each oth­er”. He won­ders if the sleep­ing chil­dren have just expe­ri­enced “their great­est day”. He won­ders if the par­ents have been fight­ing, before empa­thet­i­cal­ly offer­ing his hope that they all will be okay.

If the dri­ver is singing from a Jehovah’s Wit­ness per­spec­tive this offers a more cau­tious, curi­ous look at those shar­ing the road of life, rep­re­sent­ed by the Cana­di­an fam­i­ly, those for­eign to him. It is inter­est­ing that he pic­tures them dri­ving toward that same hope­ful city on the hori­zon, where­as the oth­er Akai songs would more like­ly have the car crash­ing and burn­ing. He also offers his per­son­al hope that the fam­i­ly is hap­py, lov­ing, and doing okay which stands against the pes­simistic view of a human­i­ty with­out any good, which is on dis­play in the rest of the Akai cat­a­log. Through­out the song there is a per­cep­ti­ble qual­i­ty of warmth, which is much appre­ci­at­ed after being drug through eleven songs of a very cold, bleak view of human­i­ty.

In the end, The Cold­est Hour pro­vides a rare glimpse of the under­ly­ing psy­che of Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es. Their response to this “cold­est hour” is to fear­ful­ly with­draw, pull down the shades, hud­dle by the fire and wait for the morn­ing to come and remove the rest of human­i­ty so the Wit­ness­es can live hap­pi­ly ever after on a par­adise earth. But as the night drags on, and the cold becomes over­whelm­ing, they strug­gle to stay awake, and fear that their faith will not hold out and they will be swept away along with the rest of the world.

As the album con­cludes it holds out hope but maybe not nec­es­sar­i­ly in the way intend­ed by the Jehovah’s Wit­ness artists. While cold, high con­trol reli­gious groups can sti­fle the flame of com­pas­sion, joy, love, and peace with­in their adher­ents there will be some who are still able to shine bright­ly and sin­cere­ly touch the lives of oth­ers. This brings to mind Jesus who eschewed the reli­gious of his day and warm­ly embrace those that were con­sid­ered as sin­ners and dirt by the proud­ly pious. The best evan­ge­lism tool is still sin­cere love and com­pas­sion, qual­i­ties that are often inhib­it­ed with­in Jehovah’s Wit­ness­es. While the album as a whole is rather depress­ing the end encour­ages me that just as the dark­ness has nev­er over­come the light there will be those whose true hearts will not always be bound up with the chains of false reli­gion.

4 Responses

DanielMarch 3rd, 2010 at 11:19 am

Man, that sounds like one dark album…

But read­ing this made me won­der… If the JW’s have such a focus on the end of the world, and seem­ing­ly live their lives in a sort of reclu­sive with­drawl from soci­ety because they are so focused on wait­ing for the destruc­tion of every­thing around them, what does your own per­spec­tive on “the End” look like now? Do you still believe in any type of cat­a­clysmic end of the world (even if it’s not the Watch­tow­er ver­sion…), or no…? (Just curi­ous is all…)

AnthonyMarch 3rd, 2010 at 12:20 pm

The lyri­cal sub­ject mat­ter is dark in my opin­ion but the music itself not par­tic­u­lar­ly — even “pret­ty” at times. Since you like mul­ti-instru­men­tal music you might give it a lis­ten and see what you think http://www.myspace.com/theakai

To answer your ques­tion, I guess I still believe in an “end” per 2 Peter 3:6–7, “By these waters also the world of that time was del­uged and destroyed. By the same word the present heav­ens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judg­ment and destruc­tion of ungod­ly men.” What form that will take I’m not pre­pared to say. I don’t per­son­al­ly wish destruc­tion on any­one and hope that even “ungod­ly men” will repent dur­ing times of great tri­al. I’m eager for the com­ing of Jesus but if it doesn’t hap­pen dur­ing my life­time that won’t change how I live my life today. I’ll get to see him soon enough.

As a group the JW’s are not going off to live in com­munes. They live, work, and go to school around us. Yet they are con­di­tioned to view oth­ers as “world­ly” and not per­mit­ted to real­ly get to know the peo­ple around them accept with the intent of con­ver­sion.

My great­est suc­cess in the JW door-knock­ing was when I dropped the elit­ist atti­tude and began approach­ing peo­ple on a more eye-to-eye lev­el. I think an empath­ic approach to peo­ple is pref­fered to an us-vs-them men­tal­i­ty that is ingrained in Wit­ness­es. The “holi­er-than-thou” atti­tude didn’t work for the Phar­isees and it doesn’t work for the Wit­ness­es.

I don’t want to give the impres­sion that JW’s are these evil peo­ple twirling their col­lec­tive mus­tach­es wait­ing for their neigh­bors to dis­s­ap­pear into a hole in the ground. While they expect the destruc­tion, read about it con­tin­u­al­ly, sing about it, and look at graph­ic pic­tures of it — I don’t think they give it much seri­ous thought. It might be sim­i­lar how in times of war those who had to clean up the dead have to con­di­tion their minds in such a way that allows them to car­ry out the grim task. Maybe they take to the work in a jok­ing man­ner — maybe they devel­op a cer­tain cal­lous­ness and stop view­ing the bod­ies as peo­ple. Basi­cal­ly you turn off that part of you that makes you feel — you hard­en your heart — and cut off the emo­tions to accept what is in front of you.

I have met some of the mem­bers of Akai and they are nice peo­ple. The tragedy, in my opin­ion, is that the reli­gion arti­fi­cial­ly con­strains their hearts in such a way that real­ly keeps them from ful­ly reflect­ing the light of Jesus. It impairs their abil­i­ty real­ly shine in this world as Chris­tians. That is sad to me.

DanielMarch 3rd, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Yeah, it didn’t come across to me as though JW’s are try­ing to go live in com­pounds or any­thing, but rather that it’s more of a mind­set towards the world as a whole. I guess I just didn’t phrase my first com­ment that well. But what I think intrigues me about this whole top­ic is that this mind­set seems to be on one extreme of some spec­trum, where­as so many of the church peo­ple who I have known seem to live near the oppo­site extreme end. Some­where in the mid­dle there must be a healthy bal­ance, where life on earth is nei­ther bleak and marked by antag­o­nism towards the lost, but nei­ther a full-flung embrace of every­thing in the world either… I’ve known so many Chris­tians who just want to be seen as being “just like every­body else, only with a par­tic­u­lar set of beliefs”… They seem to want their lives to be more or less indis­cern­able from the aver­age mid­dle-class sub­ur­ban fam­i­ly. That sort of think­ing kind of stag­gers me, espe­cial­ly when you think of all the places in scrip­ture where it talks about being “strangers and aliens in this world”… I think maybe there is a degree to which some peo­ple are so averse to the idea of life as a Chris­t­ian ever feel­ing like a “cold, dark win­ter”, that they fail to even con­sid­er that maybe there are times where God just might have us go through sea­sons like that! So in a way, even though my heart real­ly breaks that so many sin­cere peo­ple are in bondage to a reli­gion which veils Christ and the peace that comes from trust­ing in Him, at the same time I guess I also admire their will­ing­ness to be regard­ed by the cul­ture as being a lit­tle “out there”. I think if we’re fol­low­ing Christ and not com­ing across as a lit­tle weird in the eyes of the World, then some­thing is wrong… Don’t ya think? I dun­no, I’m just ram­bling now. Just lots to pon­der I guess…

AnthonyMarch 3rd, 2010 at 7:44 pm

I believe bal­ance is need­ed in being “in the world” and “no part of the world” at the same time. I agree that Chris­tians should be rec­og­niz­able and dif­fer­ent. In what way? Prob­a­bly in the same ways that Jesus stood out when he walked this earth.

I would agree that at times Chris­tians might be in a cold, dark place. I’ve been there. Some­times it is nec­es­sary to go through cer­tain things even though they may not be pleas­ant. How­ev­er, to resign our­selves to stay­ing there is a mis­take and to not rec­og­nize there is a way out is tragedy and to be told there is no way out is evil.

Reflect­ing on these things along with cer­tain cur­rent sit­u­a­tions of life have helped me to under­stand just a bit more the down­fall of putting arti­fi­cial con­straints on our hearts. In some cas­es I think reli­gion can do this but also some­times our back­grounds and oth­er fac­tors. We build walls, we keep our dis­tance, we sec­tion off our life and put up our hand and say, “stop, don’t come any clos­er”. Such a shame to impair our abil­i­ty to real­ly reach out and touch some­one damn the con­se­quences.

As you said, “lots to pon­der”. Ain’t that the truth.

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