Should Christians Listen to Ghost?

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Ghost (formerly Ghost BC in the U.S.) is a hard rock/metal band from Sweden. I started listening to them when I discovered their debut album, Opus Eponymous, on iTunes; it was rated best metal album of 2010. Back then my Catholic faith wasn’t very strong, so I looked past the whole anti-Catholic/Christian/religion image of the band.

Their music wasn’t run-of-the-mill rock/metal; it was good: a retro 70s vibe, and the mood and lyrics were haunting, like my Halloween trick-or-treating experiences from my youth.

However, the more my mental illness was taking me to those dark places (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog), the more I realized that, tongue-in-cheek stage gimmick or not, Ghost’s lyrics and inverted crosses just weren’t conducive for my walk with God.

Now, before you brand me a “typical Christian right-wing-nutjob-prude,” consider this: I have been a metalhead since the 80s. My first concert was KISS, and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil was the first cassette (an early version of a CD for you young’uns out there) that I ever owned. One of my favorite live shows in the past couple of years was Kvelertak at a hole-in-the-wall booze hall in Dallas. My latest CD purchase was Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction.

And I own all of Ghost’s CDs. I even have tickets to see them live in October.

And you still call yourself a Catholic, Topaz?

Yes, I do. And that’s why I finally came to the realization that I had to write this blog post and (reluctantly) cut off ties with this band once and for all.

Since their debut album, I have used every excuse to listen to and jam out to Ghost’s CDs.

Oh, fans say, the Satanic Pope imagery, ghoul robes, masks, and Satanic lyrics are all part of the fun. It’s no different than watching a horror movie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But my conscience is finally taking the bull by the horns… since my intellect sure as hell isn’t.

Lucifer

We have come

For your praise

Evil one

These are the opening lyrics from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” the first track off their debut album. Oh, it gets worse than that.

I’m not here to rail against Ghost or to tell you not to listen to them. Believe me, up until today, I have found every excuse to listen to their songs. Hell, I even had two different Ghost t-shirts up until last year when my wife finally made me get rid of them.

I could quote all kinds of Bible verses about reasons not to listen to this sort of band. But I like the simple mathematic formula-style argument that my college students are so fond of:

Blatantly Satanic lyrics + anti-Catholic/Christian imagery = not a good idea for Christians to be involved with

I keep telling myself: Just go to the show. You’ve already bought the ticket. It’s on the mezzanine level! Take some Christian tracts and go under the guise of “meeting sinners where they are.”

But that’s just a bunch of BS. I would be going for my own selfish reasons whether I wanted to admit it or not.

Plus, with my fragile state of mental health, anything dark or negative sends me over the cliff. (Actually, I was just there this afternoon, contemplating suicide again.) As I said, I could quote all sorts of verses; however, there is one quote by Alice Cooper, the classic shock-rocker, that states it better than any verse I can think of:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.

~t


Just Before I Go: A Must-See for All of You Who Are Like Me

  

  
I was at Target recently with my sons to look for a Lego Batmobile set (which, my youngest learned in horror, had since been discontinued). While the kids were playing games on iPad demos in the store (How they quickly forgot about Batman), I took a look at the newest DVDs on a nearby shelf.

Not surprisingly, none of the titles rang a bell since I practically live under a rock. However, one title caught my eye: Just Before I Go. The actor’s melancholy expression and the tag line, Ending It All Was Only The Beginning, led me to believe that it dealt with suicide. Sure enough, I flipped the DVD over and read the synopsis. Sounded intriguing.

There was only one problem: Seann William Scott. Really?! He plays a total idiot in all his movies. Nevertheless, I jotted down the title in my iNotes (or whatever it’s called) to watch it at some point.

Tonight was the night. Friday after work. Wife and kids gone. Amazon rental. A nice bowl of Lucky Charms for dinner. I was set. I can always turn it off when the flick gets juvenile, I thought.

But… It didn’t.

Not an Oscar contender by any means, but it was GOOD. All the poignancy that I was hoping for.

**SPOILER ALERT**

I even started blubbering like a baby when Scott’s character met his deceased father on the lake during a near-death experience. 

**SPOILER OVER**

The movie is about a man who, before committing suicide, goes back to his hometown to confront some painful childhood memories “just before he goes.” I don’t want to reveal too much, except that this is not a screwball comedy. It tackles several thorny issues effectively I think.

Bottom line: If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Do it for me even. Screw what the film critics say about the film. They get paid to tear things apart. 

I loved the Emerson quote at the end:

When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars.

Just look up and they will always be there.

~t


God is With Us in Our Darkest Hour

  
[Rachel] was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper chamber of her house, where she planned to hang herself. But she reconsidered. …

At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works forever!”

At that time, the prayer … was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.
                                   
                               -Tobit 3:10-16

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Suicide: An Option Again?

  
*POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING*

A lot has been happening, good and bad. I got a new job, my dream job I guess, in a sub-tropical city. You might tend to think that life is perfect for me.

Don’t envy me yet.

I ain’t makin’ the big bucks for nothin’. I’m constantly stressed and live every moment waiting for my next Xanax fix. I almost died of fright when the pharmacy wouldn’t refill it until exactly 30 days had passed. 

As I type, my recent dose is starting to wear off, revealing the terror that dwells beneath my skin: worry and degrading thoughts from work today. See, I’m still a teacher, but my students are not just any students. I can’t reveal too much, but I wonder if it’s too much for me to handle.

Going back to my thankless job in Dallas has never occurred to me; that’s a step backward that I cannot take.

Today I considered suicide as an option for the first time in a while. If I lose my “dream job,” I would have nowhere else to go. 

Would I sadden a lot of people? Yes. Would it be worth the trade? Yes, perhaps. 

I can’t believe I’m thinking all of this, especially after God gave me a second chance with a new, improved life. The thing is, though, I’m still me; my innermost being is still the same weak, decrepit soul that can’t seem to “man up” and face my obstacles.  

Jeez, I’m still a kid!

But I’m not. Not really. I’m in my mid-40s. 

God, I’m really just a scared kid! I want my mom and dad!

But they’re not here. My wife is sick of my crap. It’s just me. And God. But I have never learned to consistently love God and be close to Him.

Suicide is not an option.

But it is, kind of.

I’m not supposed to type that here. It might be a trigger for some people. I have to tell somebody, though.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


I Try Really ******* Hard

I really do. I do everything that is expected of me. I go out of my way to do well at my brand-new job. I really do try ******* hard at life.

I try hard to get accustomed to a new parish in a completely new city, a city that hasn’t shown any kindness yet. No one gives a **** whether I attend Mass or not. The local K of C council welcomes me by ******** and moaning about not having enough volunteers at events. 

I try really ******* hard at my marriage. I’m pleasant, loving, and I cross all of my *******  T’s and dot all of my ******* I’s. Doesn’t do a bit of good. The wife doesn’t care when I get home each afternoon.

I try really ******* hard to pay off my DWI debt to the county, state, and to the city. Everyone wants my hard-earned money; I can’t make it fast enough for them to snatch it out of my hands.

I try really ******* hard to enjoy life, but I don’t see the point a lot of the time. We live, we go through hell on earth, and we die. 

Bunch of ******** if you ask me. 

 


Not-So-Holy Family

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In the Catholic tradition, today is the Solemnity of the Holy Family. This morning at Mass, the homily really struck me; the Spirit called me higher in my own life: fatherhood, marriage, my responsibility as the head of the family, and so on.

During the homily and after, not once did I try and justify myself. Normally I would only pick and choose what to apply to my own situation, in my mind knowing that my wife is a non-believer and that’s why my kids are not being raised in the Catholic faith.

On the contrary.

Amen, I was saying to myself, listening to the points that were being driven home by the priest. I’m gonna start getting my kids involved in my parish. I’m gonna live out my faith to the very best of my ability so my wife will see the Holy Spirit in me.

All these are good things, right?

Well, before I even walked through the door after getting home from Mass, my wife blurted, “You need to fix the refrigerator ASAP. It’s not cooling properly. Call your brother.”

I always go to my younger brother for any handyman-related problem. A firefighter/paramedic, he has that manly “gift” that somehow bypassed me.

Before I called him, I took a drink of bottled water from the fridge. It seemed cold enough. Then I opened the freezer and took out one of those plastic bricks that substitutes for ice in our cooler when we go on picnics. “It looks like it’s working.”

That set my wife off the deep end.

So there I was in a yelling match with her while the kids were in the very next room playing. You’re really putting today’s homily into practice, I kept thinking to myself.

Without playing the blame game, let’s just say that I could have prevented the huge argument.

A heart check from God? Probably. It really sucks, though. What sucks most is that I haven’t seemed to learn anything from our 12+ years together.

Like the rock band Extreme lamented in the 90s: “Am I ever gonna change?”

~t

 


In Perspective: My Best Friend’s Death

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been anxious and depressed. I have received a tentative job offer from a company, and any day now, I am hoping to get the firm offer. The deadline to submit everything was last Friday, November 28. It’s only been a day and a half, I keep reminding myself to no avail.

What would I do if I didn’t get this job? It seems like a shoe-in; what if it slips through my fingers like the previous offer from the university? They did my background check after they gave me the offer, only to rescind it the next day. I was crushed.

I get obsessed so easily whether it’s women, job offers, material goods, aikido, et cetera. I develop the worst tunnel vision.

Without much faith, I have been begging God to give me patience and to wait on Him. I’m having loads of trouble doing that, though.

I quickly forgot about these problems, however, when I learned yesterday that my best friend from high school had passed away.

I have never had another friend like David; I don’t expect that I will. We were kindred spirits. Somehow we connected on the first day of high school despite having come from different middle schools. We were both anti-social and awkward without realizing it. We knew each other better than anyone because we were just like each other.

It was the hardest thing in the world for us to make friends with others. We were so shy and afraid of interacting with people that it’s a wonder how the two of us even met. I guess it was our destiny. I don’t recall how we actually met; I just remember having metals class with him, and, before I knew it, we were best friends. Neither of us had a circle of friends, so we made our own circle of two. We didn’t let anybody in, and no one wanted in.

Maybe it was like having an identical twin brother. I don’t know what that’s actually like, but I have read that identical twins are best friends for life. Maybe David’s and my friendship — no, our bond — was like that.

We weren’t complete unless we were together. We confided in each other — even stuff that our parents never knew about.

One time when he had built up the nerve to skip school and spend the day in the woods, I was lost and even envious. Just going one school day without him had me wandering around the halls, dazed and depressed.

Only one time did we fight; I mean literally fight. David was fuming because I decided to hang out with his neighbor, a dorky kid our age who liked the same 80s hair metal (before it was called “80s hair metal”) bands but didn’t have the same connection to David or to me.

In our confrontation later that day, we came to blows; we were both crazed with anger. Amazingly, that was the only time we were ever at odds with each other. It was the strangest thing.

Being a mama’s boy, I attended college close enough in order to keep living with my family. David told me a few times in passing that he was considering the military. I didn’t believe him. I mean, he couldn’t leave! I was attending college near my house, and our life was the same as it was in high school — just the way we wanted it.

But David ended up joining the army. His departure date loomed in our minds, overtaking us like a shadowy demon.

In college, I was recruited to join a Christian cult (but that’s a different story), and David was in the army, stationed far away. We kept in touch, but life took us down different avenues. Eventually we lost contact.

Around the year 2000, I was desperate to locate my best friend. David’s dad was transferred around the country a lot, so I had no idea where to start looking. Google produced no results. Several times I almost hired a private investigator.

I refused to give up. David was more shy and anti-social than I (and that’s saying a lot), so I figured he didn’t want to be found. Nevertheless, I continued scouring the Internet. Then my online searches for him became intermittent; about once a year, I did searches, always coming up with nothing.

I was becoming convinced that he was in the witness protection program or something.

Well, yesterday I did my annual Google search for David, and the fifth result was his obituary. On the website, David’s mother had listed her phone number hoping that I would see it and contact her.

It took me over a year to find the obituary and phone number, but I did indeed find them.

Last night, for the first time in over 21 years, I was speaking to his mother. Same voice and everything. That alone made me cry; I wasn’t ready for it. Hearing the pain in her voice brought everything together, and it finally hit me that my best friend of all time was dead.

After finding out about David and talking to his mother all evening, I am sobered and humbled. I had been stressing out over a measly job offer while David’s mother has been going through hell, perpetually grieving over both of her sons who were taken from her way too soon. (David’s older brother passed away when I was in college.)

I miss you, buddy. I will always miss you.

~t


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