Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts, Free for CAPC Members
In Imagine, Steve Turner proposes that Christians ought to learn to understand art better and should feel able to participate in the arts more freely.
It’s not too often I find myself wanting to grab a cup of coffee, fit on my best pair of over-the-ear headphones, and begin meditating on a hip-hop album. Beautiful Eulogy—hailing from Portland, Oregon—is back with their third studio album titled Worthy, and the excellence and originality of their art is once again deserving of a close listen.
The hip-hop climate is faddish, and I’ve had trouble sitting with albums past their release weekends. I’ve had about a week to sit with Worthy, and I’m still walking away impressed after every listen. Braille, Odd Thomas, and Courtland Urbano mix the right sounds with the right features to make this album feel bigger than life. With the grungy kicks, straightforward lyrics, melodic choruses, and subtle inversions of various instruments, Worthy compiles a wonderful album experience.
With the grungy kicks, straightforward lyrics, melodic choruses, and subtle inversions of various instruments, Worthy compiles a wonderful album experience.Worthy is the soundtrack of God’s bigness.
The album cover art and the intro track match beautifully. From the style of the art, you might presume the music should start with a huge introduction of a pipe organ—and it does. Everything immediately feels right. The tones of the organ make you feel the immediate “Weight”—the opening track title—of God’s glory. Courtland Urbano opens the doors of our ears to God’s grand cathedral and invites us to look around and behold the weight of God’s glory.
Before the album becomes too grandiose, Odd Thomas and Braille complement the airy awareness of God’s greatness with the reality that He holds all the intricacies of our lives in the palm of His hands in the track “If….” The reminder found in this track is to not hold our relationships too tight, nor to find our significance and worth in those relationships—carrying the theme that God alone is worthy of our complete allegiance.
If you take the most precious part of me and take my kids and my wife/It would crush me, it would break me, it would suffocate and cause heartache…
What’s concealed in the heart of having is revealed in the losing of things/And I can’t even begin to imagine the sting that kind of pain brings
The focus on God’s power progresses in the single “Sovereign.” Listeners are called to remember the God “who governs the governments and establishes kings… who guides the plans of man, but lets man choose freely” and of the one who also has the “power to persuade man and sway souls for God’s sake/the ultimate source of authority who rules with mercy and grace. But man reduces this attribute to foolish debate.”
Foolish debate is a fitting descriptor of many exchanges we see today. If we consider the time wasted arguing Christian nuances, it will seem silly when standing before the mercy and grace of God. We are compelled to submit to the reality that we are not bigger than God, which should stir our hearts to “praise God from whom all blessings flow,” as Latifah Alattas of Page CXVI so eloquently sings on “Doxology.” Braille then expands on what these flowing blessings are:
You made me alive when I was dead in trespasses/ The passion of Christ left my sin in the past tense/
Every good and perfect gift comes from your hand/ You set me back on path when I run from your plan.
Running from God’s plan is what we all do when we ignore Him. We deceive and injure ourselves when we make our desires for anything other than God bigger than Him. The empty promises of our God-less pursuits become more like our messiah than Jesus. This is communicated in the chorus of Eulogy’s second single, “Messiah,” which features Citizens!: “I can’t always rely on my desires/ But I treat them like a Messiah.” Odd Thomas offers a test to help listeners determine where we place our hope:
I suppose what exposes the worship in most of us is a close look at most of our thoughts, fears, and emotions.
Braille teaches listeners what this test may look like through an honest self-examination:
I must confess it’s the mess I acknowledge/ When I’m stalling on my responsibilities and don’t apologize/
But make excuses, like my physical exhaustion/ Is a license for narcissism and speaking recklessly without caution
The spacey synth sounds of “Omnipotent” open the imagination, producing the sense that we’re floating powerlessly interstellar, raising the questions: Are you really in control of anything? How much power do you really have over your life? “The weakest man I know, is the man I see in the mirror/ But its okay to be inferior when you know Christ is superior.” Obviously drawing attention to God’s power, “Omnipotent”—featuring King’s Kaleidoscope—brings God’s power to earth and to eye level.
It’s really hard for me to be perceived as needy/ When everyone around me seems to be succeeding, while making life look so easy/
I’m constantly fighting this feeling of failing as a father/
And this feeling of falling short as a husband/ The sort of never measuring up/
Of course its all in my mind/ Its just an expression of my pride/ Yeah I get it but its still hard for me to admit it sometimes
God’s omnipotence is kept front and center—yet still not too lofty—on “Slain,” Eulogy’s take on social injustices. Only God’s intimate knowing of the real injustices in America and around the world keep us from becoming hopeless when the majority culture turns a blind eye. Christians have most reason to hope when facing the grim facts of injustices, which actually liberates us to uncover and address its various forms. Eulogy marries these realities beautifully:
A system is flawed when just cause is “just because”/
But even a man at odds with the law is made in the image of God/ It’s admitted that none of us are innocent all of us complicit/ But to solicit the silence of injustice doesn’t just dismiss it/ (Odd Thomas)
I’m not afraid to talk about social injustices/Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is…
We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain/ Pure salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain (Braille)
As the album concludes, listeners are once again drawn into signs of grandeur and vastness as Odd Thomas calls us to see “Immanuel”—God with us, who is Jesus:
We are not like Him but He loves us and moves among us/ The great uncreated and the created no longer separated
Seeing Jesus is what we need if we are going to keep hoping and trusting these days. The album creatively comes together in the album’s title track “Worthy,” where all the themes of God’s grandeur, splendor, and magnificence are tied together intentionally, and therefore, excellently.
Despite this praise, the length of the album was disappointing. With a project tackling a subject as large and vast as God’s glory and worthiness, the mere 12 tracks leave you panting for more. In particular, the album could have been expanded by addressing more of the social ills people suffer, especially with tracks like “Slain.” Marrying the worthiness of God with the need for honoring His highest creation is a message greatly needed. The single entry shorts our vision of God’s grandness, because God pays attention to social injustices, He has compassion on those who suffer because of them, and He is angered by intentional suppression of this reality. Expanding on these truths would make Him look bigger.
Still, Beautiful Eulogy has delivered a solid album in Worthy. In it we see that God remains big when we seek Him in the intricacies of our lives: in our confidence, desires, dreams, failures, hopes, maturity, and relationships. Only He can make these details meaningful. He alone is worthy. And this message is why I plan on experiencing the album firsthand when Beautiful Eulogy comes to town.
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