Friday, November 09, 2007

Too Much Jesus

A couple of weeks ago I was completing one of my year’s scheduled d.j. shift at WVUD. A Sunday morning. A gorgeous and exuberant early Fall day. Blinding sunlight coming off of the hanging-on-for-dear-life yellowed leafs still on the trees. U of D is a gorgeous campus but especially so in the interim period of Summer-Fall. All seemed well on that day.

The music I played tended to the same mix of jazz, blues, and R & R. Nothing out of the ordinary was in the style mix, except for the artists filling the play list that morning. I tend to start out the show at 9:00 am with a jazz set or two, usually tending toward various musicians’ cover versions of old spirituals or languorous meanderings of Broadway show tunes, specifically ones in the down low. That morning’s set list began with Dick Wellstood's rendition of Caravan and also included Art Blakey's version of the Ellington/Tizol composition. Even though the university’s radio station is located in the deep bowels of one of the student centers, the effect of the weather that morning still carried through. It was a mellow morning deserving of mellow pensive melodies.

Most times that I do the show, phone calls to the station are of the inquiry type.
"What was the name of that tune you played at 10:00?"
"Was that Diane Washington singing that sassy song?"
"Hey, do you know what yesterday’s U of D football game was?"

Occasionally, there are compliments voiced on the musical jag taken that morning. Sometimes there is reminiscing by a caller who heard a song played that they hadn’t heard on the airwaves in decades, the down-memory-lane services we provide on the all-volunteer all-the-time radio station.

Rarely does anyone call in with complaints because it seems getting one's bile up on Sunday is just not on most folks' Things to Do list. I always figured that Sunday morning, regardless of the weather, is a sit and read and sip coffee type of day for most of the station’s listeners. Girding for the beginning of the week, a last respite before the endless Hear Ye! Hear ye! of tasks unfolds. So, it was with surprise and a total lack of words on my part that I fielded a call that morning that began with the exclamative "What the hell? Is this a religious program? I could turn to Elkton’s (Maryland) stations for that?"

Now, stretching that "religious" adjective to its breaking point, I could understand how he may have thought I’d gone into a conversion mode. The only problem was that the song that finally got on his last God-aversive nerve was Jesus Shaves from the new Roches album, Moonswept.
"What is it with all this Jesus crap?", he protested. (n.b.: this conversation is not invented)
"Jesus crap?". Hmmm, what was he referring to?
"Do you mean that last song, "Jesus Shaves"?", this inquiring mind wanting to know, uhmm, inquired.
"Yeah, that was the capper. "Jesus Saves"!", he self-satisfyingly stated.
"No, that’s "Shaves", not "Saves". Did you listen to the words? It’s about a guy trying to get his life going and…”, I said, adding information to a field in need of some seeding.
"Not "Jesus Saves"?!!?? Well, how about those other ones? They sounded awfully religious.", he blurted, in a voice that was both ticked off and weakening due to facts being presented..
"Do you mean that previous song? The one by Loudon Wainwright III about the South?", I asked..
"Yeah, that’s the one! That’s the one that got me started!", he exclaimed, reinvigorated by the malice of notes.
"But, you know Loudon, right? I mean, in the Gods of Music categories, he’s the God of Sarcasm, the loveable bastard of relationship exposition. That song’s not about religion, it’s about……", I posited.
Silence on the other end and then loud tapping of fingers on a hard surface. Ba ra bum. Ba ra bum. Ba ra bum.

"Look", he came around to, "All I know is what my ears are telling me and what they told me was that you’re playing religious music. What if I was Jewish? I wouldn’t like to hear this Christian stuff if I was Jewish!". So said the non-Jewish what-if-I-was-a-Jew caller.

What could one say? I was lost. He was going down a nasty road throwing whatever rocks he came up along his way because his destination was getting ever blurrier. I grabbed for the playlist and started listing off the songs I'd already played, asking if they constituted some framework for a religious takeover of the Sunday morning show.

"Well, I heard only those two songs. I hadn't been listening to the station but for only 15 minutes. It just seemed too religious…"

I will admit that I have more than a passing love for most albums by The Campbell Brothers, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Aretha Franklin’s spirituals, and even Gregorian chants cd's and, once-twice a year, a shot of Handel’s Messiah. But to say I play religious music would be seriously misunderstanding what music is all about. For a moment there, I started empathizing with those folks who play the heavy metal that drives people off the deep edge (tongue in cheek here, folks). I wrapped an obtuse apology around a harangue on possibly seeking guidance from someone better equipped to handle his anger, say a minister, rabbi, priest, or psychologist and quietly hung up the phone. I then checked and double-checked that the door to the station was securely locked.

This was all a bit too much, jeeeeeeeez!

Oh, and as far as future shows, yeah, I'll still be playing that Jesus, uhmm, stuff. Whatever the inspiration for that music is, the music is fabulous.

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Jeeeez, is right. You should have said a prayer for him. ;-) What I find curious is that he seems to know where to find religious music if he wants it. Anyone not so interested typically doesn't even know that much. And really, who wants to get their panties in a bundle when they can just switch the station? It's God's day afterall. ;-) And if he really was a blues/jazz fan, he would understand that its roots are in the gospel.

Jeeez, you should have told him to go get saved or something.
I am as careful and as nervous and as paranoid about the person thumping and prosletizing about religion as the person vehemently denying religion. To me, they are simply the two sides of a very corrupted coin.

So, I then to put on a wacky grin while sloooooowly edging toward an open space.
That's "I tend to put on.." rather than "I then to put on.."
Heh. Well then, I do hope you realize I was being sarcastic. ;-)
I know you were. Just stating my policy as re. those Mega-religious/Nega-religious varmints.
Life is confusing enough without their, uhmm, ilk darkening one's metaphorical doorstep.
Well, brother, you missed a real opportunity to witness here. You could have moved directly to the Yayhoos' "Get Right With Jesus" followed by a rousing chorus of "Gettin' Drunk" just to let him know what he was missing out on with his paranoid ramblings.

I hope I've left you feeling duly chastened, "coals of fire" on the head, and all that.
Great minds and all that. Since I had the Yayhoos "Fear Not The Obvious " cd with me, I'd though of putting on "Get Right with Jesus" but my take on this caller was not clear, so I demurred. I know that if I were confronted with an extremely religious listener who disapproved of my choices, there would be a chance I'd get thumped repeatedly with a Bible (I hear this version is especially painful as it combines the heftiness of a hardcover with the flexibility of a whip so that I'd be feeling the Word quite extensively).

I wondered, as I re-checked the locks on the door at the station, what a true non-believer wields when they are putting their non-Word onto you?

Any clue?
Hate to say it, but they tend to wield the Bible (and all its contradictions) right back at us!
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