My son turned 14 last week. For his birthday we bought him tickets to see his favorite artist in concert, so Monday night we drove down to Omaha for a Jack White concert. I’m not sure how he got so into Jack White. I’m more of a Foo Fighters fan, but I remember playing the song Sixteen Saltines when he was younger. Now he knows every song, every album, and strange details about Jack White’s recording studio. In March I made a trip to Grand Rapids, and on my way out the door he told me to go visit Third Man Records in Detroit. He seemed disgusted that I didn’t make the trip.

Traveling down I-29, we were jamming out to the new record, when he asked me, “What do you think Jack White’s message is?” “I don’t know, good question.” I answered. A deep question for a 14 year old. I tucked it away and went back to rocking out at 70 miles an hour. The show was great; Jack White is a great guitar player, a throw back to old school, blues infused, rock. He played a mix of old and new songs, with sweet riffs, and long guitar solos. In the middle of the show he played a new song, Connected by Love. When it was over, he said to the crowd, “Omaha, let me tell you a secret. There is no hell! God loves you too much.” He said it multiple times, each time getting louder and louder. At that moment my PhD academic nerd mind kicked in. I looked at the crowd, many caught up in a spiritual experience. They were singing with their eyes closed, arms wrapped around their boyfriends and girlfriends, hands waving in the air. I remember my son’s question: what’s his message? It seemed pretty clear…

I brought it up on the way home. I asked what he thought about White’s comment, and whether he thought that was his message. I told my son that I thought the concert was great, and that White’s music has a depth to it that you don’t always find in popular music. The images on the screen behind him showed exploding stars and black holes, framed by people holding hands, expressing their love for each other. “God loves you too much!” I thought of the concert goers I met—hipster beards, tattoos, even Slayer t-shirts. And here is Jack White declaring God’s love for all of them. Regardless of how we might feel about hell, it was moving.

The past few Sundays I’ve been preaching on the book of John. Recently, we heard the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples, that we are to love one another in the same way God has loved us. In a world full of violence and hatred, at a time when people are divided by politics, religion, and every social issue you can imagine, we need to be reminded of God’s love. This morning I’m grateful for Jack White, great music, and a son who asks really good questions.

8 Comments

  • Kathy Davelaar says:

    Jason, this is just GREAT! Thank you.

  • RLG says:

    Thanks, Jason, for the opportunity to peer into the secular mind set, maybe even your son’s, and maybe even yours. “There is no hell because God is love!” That’s a wonderful thought, a thought that Christianity in its long history has tried to eliminate or deny. I remember gospel presentations sanctioned by our Reformed denominations (in the past) in which hell and damnation was very much the back side of the gospel. Believe and you get heaven, but don’t believe and hell is in your certain future for eternity. Hell was very much a part of “classical Christianity.” Christians believed in hell because it is plainly taught in the Bible. And Christians believe what the Bible teaches. It’s the word of God.

    But along comes a Jack White (far from a theologian, but a musical performer) and tells his audience a secret. “Forget what you learned in Sunday School. There is no hell, because God is love.” Jack White is likely taking the common sense approach of a deist and saying, forget those supernatural revelations, whether the Bible, the Koran, or whatever you may have been brought up on, and recognize the greatest principle of all, “love.” “There is no hell, because God is love.” Jack White (the musician and performer) may not recognize it, but he has a pretty wide audience for the gospel he preaches. And I imagine he is reaching many. Thanks again, Jason, for your thoughtful post.

    • Jason Lief says:

      Thanks for your reply. My son and I talked about that comment as well on the ride home. Of course I believe in hell, that wasn’t the point of the post. I’m more interested in exploring why young people are leaving the church and finding spirituality at rock concerts. We can dismiss it, turn out noses up at it, criticize it—doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening. Maybe we should learn from it? That’s my point.

    • Jason Lief says:

      Something else… I had a sneaking suspicion that White grew up in a Christian household. (I consider Roman Catholics to be brothers and sisters in Jesus.) I just never explored it. This morning I found this: http://www.tonyclaytonlea.com/jack-white/ Give it a read. Again, we can dismiss people like Jack White, or we can learn from them and have dialogue about the questions they raise. Honestly, I’d much rather have my son listen to Jack White than 99% of the CCM music out there.

      • RLG says:

        Thanks Jason for the additional info. Whereas many at church may find a source of strength and influence in their pastor, it’s pretty difficult for a pastor’s wife and children to think of their husband or dad as their pastor. It’s often more natural to look elsewhere for spiritual guidance. So your son may find hope and comfort in music, Christian or otherwise. Good for him. I think young people are becoming more and more disenfranchised by the church because it teaches a message that is out of touch with a typical young person’s reality. A message of love, rather than heaven and hell, is one kids can grab onto. Love for one another is not abstract, it’s demonstrative. Whereas heaven and hell may or may not be true. Can’t be proved. Whether you believe it or not, doesn’t make any difference. Unless you buy into superstition. Life goes on.

        I, too, don’t think that Jack White or others like him should be dismissed. Christians tend to dismiss all ideas but their own (a mutually exclusive religion). I wish you and your son all the best. Sounds like you are on a good path with him.

      • Marty Wondaal says:

        So… Jack White, who leads cheers denying the existence of hell, is better than 99% of CCM music out there? What makes CCM music so bad?

        I once attended a church that sang “Imagine” by John Lennon during a service. I would not be surprised if that song is played on continuous loop in hell. Similar to Jack White, Lennon “imagines” that if people just loved each other, we could achieve a virtuous society. Is John Lennon’s canon of music better than 99% of CCM music out there?

  • RLG says:

    Thanks Marty. I imagine that religion and religions have been the cause of more wars and unrest than any other single cause, going all the way back to the Old Testament period. And the Jewish religion and Christianity have been prime culprits historically in bringing unrest throughout the world. Maybe Lennon is on to something, when he sings, “no more religion, just people living in peace.”

Leave a Reply