Years ago, I remember listening to a new song thinking, “I don’t think I should be listening to this. It doesn’t seem appropriate…but I’m not sure.” Why was I concerned? Because the song touched on themes that seemed to be getting really close to a line I knew I shouldn’t cross. I felt uncomfortable. At the time I was in middle school, and in the mind of a middle schooler, I wondered if I should turn the song off, but I was intrigued.
The song, by my favorite band, Irish rockers, U2, is called “Desire.” Desire is a subject that we evangelicals are very cautious about. And rightly so! Evil desire, James writes, can lead to sin. U2’s song is not shy in talking about many kinds of desire. Now years later, I understand that the song is not trying to entice a person’s desire to become sin. Instead, the song is a social commentary on how easily we succumb to evil desire. In that sense, it is a courageous song, a truthful song, and I respect U2 for bringing up a topic we need to talk about.
I encourage you to listen to the song. You can watch the music video here. Even if rock music isn’t your style, you’re probably very familiar with the themes the song covers. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics that ooze with desire: “Bright lights and the big city.” “Needle and spoon.” “Shotgun.” “Everybody’s got one.” “The dollars…my protection.” “Promise in the year of election.” And my favorite, “a preacher stealin’ hearts at a traveling show for love or money, money, money.”
Do you see how lines from the song describe desire? “Bright lights and the big city” point to a longing for fame and opportunity. “Needle and spoon” is a drug reference, evoking the image of a person eager to ease the pain of life under the influence of mind-bending chemicals. “Shotgun” speaks to our national obsession with guns and military power. “Everybody’s got one” is about peer pressure, the temptation to be like others and to be liked by others. “The dollars” is perhaps the most obvious, as we crave money to be our protection. “Promise in the year of election” should be no surprise, as we can place our hopes in a particular politician who guarantees they will right the perceived wrongs of the previous politician. Finally, the “preacher stealing hearts” speaks to the sway a pastor or compelling preacher can have, but deep down they are motivated by a desire for financial gain.
Do any of those descriptions of desire speak to you? Are you familiar with any them in your life? Maybe you’ve had those desires from time to time, and maybe you’ve even fallen prey to them. So what do we do with desire? Is Buddhism right when it teaches that we should eliminate all desire from our lives?
As we continue to study Ezekiel, in chapter 14 we’ll discover that God has something important to say about desire. Read it ahead of time and see what you think, then next week we’ll discuss it.