Supertones: The gospel-infused ska that changed my life

I’m gonna do three things:
Preach the gospel
Reach your heart
And Ska Ska Ska Ska!
-“Found”

Oh, let my pride fall down…I’m a little man played through my stereo when, at 8 years old, I received a copy of the WOW 1999 compilation CD. I’m not sure I ever enjoyed listening to music before hearing the O.C. Supertones sing their hit song “Little Man.” Sure, that disc also featured dc Talk, Newsboys and Jars of Clay, but the ska preaching of the Supertones enraptured my heart to their music. The following summer, I listened to the song with my dad on the way to Carowinds (at which point he informed me I didn’t know the lyrics very well). And lo and behold, the speakers at the theme park were blaring the song throughout the day leading up to a Christian music festival.

This November, the Supertones released For the Glory, the band’s first album since the members parted ways in 2005. The band’s latest work is a return to the glory days of ska music. Lead singer and songwriter Matt Morginsky is a seminary graduate and pastor now, and his lyrics maintain the commitment to preaching the gospel loud and clear. Listen to Romans 8:38-39 in “Hey Hey Hey,” the recurring motif of God’s glory (“All the Way Alive,” “For the Glory,” “In the Warmth of the Sun”) and cultural engagement in “Fight On” (the song’s Babylon theme is reminiscent of “Dream of Two Cities” on the closing track of The Revenge of the O.C. Supertones).

As I listened with utmost joy to each wonderful track, something peculiar happened — I became overwhelmed with nostalgia as I realized how much the Supertones have influenced my life and thinking.

Loud and Clear, the band’s fourth studio album, fell into my hands when I was 10, offering me more than the single track I previously owned. The 50 minutes of ska I listened to in the 5th grade changed my life forever. For the first time, I learned of the Reformation (“Return of the Revolution”), Francis Schaeffer (“Escape from Reason”) and C.S. Lewis as a theologian (“Jury Duty”). The Supertones also explored the sympathy of Christ as our Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) in their song “Wilderness.”

My parents certainly endowed me with a great heritage of faith, but the Supertones sparked my interest in studying Scripture, Reformed theology, apologetics and Christian literature.

The summer before high school, The Supertones released their “final” studio album, The Revenge of the O.C. Supertones. As I began experiencing struggles with my faith and how I would interact with my new peer group, songs like “Cult of Cool” and “I Will Follow” sustained my soul in a time of need.

But the kingdom began with the advent / He is reigning through his people / The first will be nothing compared to the sequel

Lyrics like this in “The Kingdom” played a vital role in my theology, and oddly influences my view on the millennium almost as much as any commentary has since. Indeed, the album also benefited my understanding of Christ as the new Adam (“Everything’s Broken), the mystery of the Incarnation (“Shepherd is the Lamb”) and messianic peace in eschatology (“Prince of Peace”).

By no means am I trying to make the case that the Supertones are the greatest band in the history of Christian music, nor am I suggesting that the theology presented in their music is substantial on its own or even a primary influence in my thinking. But by God’s providence, the Supertones provided a doorway to greater understanding of my faith by entering my life at a formative stage, a time when no one thought I was interested in pursuing studies in theology.

I often heard Christian bands sing about being unashamed of the Gospel during my childhood, but none proclaimed the good news quite like the Supertones.

Advertisements

Christology & Mythology: Finding Jesus In Thor

All myths point to Jesus. Whether correct in their understanding or not, myths have been derived from humanity’s attempt at understanding the Divine.

This past weekend, Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Thor, opened worldwide. Despite its subpar performance in theaters (compared to other superhero flicks), the film was certainly one of the best Marvel has produced leading up to the highly anticipated release of The Avengers next summer.

One of the movie’s greatest strengths was not just the special effects or exceptional acting, but the compelling storyline. Thor may just be the most unique superhero ever “created” — in reality, he was merely adapted from Norse mythology. Rather than receiving his powers from a spider bite, gamma radiation, or monetary resources, Thor has always possessed his powers because he is divine.

Finding Jesus

In the first half of Thor, the audience discovers that the hero was banished to Earth without his supernatural powers because of his arrogance and disobedience. In essence, his father Odin’s purpose was to force Thor to learn humility and obedience before being found worthy of royal reign. After Thor fulfilled this duty, he even saved his worst enemies at the expense of never seeing his true love.

Scripture tells us that Jesus willingly forsook his place as God to become weak and human (Phil. 2:6-10).  The author of Hebrews also wrote that Jesus “learned obedience,” an obedience that qualified him as Savior of the world (Heb. 5:8). Furthermore, Jesus offered his life for his enemies in order to make them his own (Rom. 5:8).

The original storyline in the comics portrayed Thor’s earthly existence in the form of disabled medical student Donald Blake. In the movie, however, Thor still retains an element of superhuman strength, but does not receive his full supernatural powers until he sacrifices his life for his friends.

In a similar fashion, Jesus emptied himself of divine status. Jesus, however, did this willingly, and shows a greater love by sacrificing himself for those who hate him (Thor later sacrifices something of great worth on behalf of his enemies).

Redeeming Film & Mythology

Thor wields a mighty hammer. Jesus was the object of a hammer. Although sharing some qualities in the roles of son and savior, Thor falls drastically short of the perfect life and reign of Jesus.

According to the movie’s review on Plugged In, the film felt “at times almost Christian,” but drawing “too many parallels between Christ and Thor would be pointless.”

In order to embark on a redemption of film and its use of mythology, both of these statements should be disqualified. If Thor in any sense felt “Christian,” then the person’s understanding of Jesus and Christianity  is shallow to say the least. The fact that the reviewer labeled the task of drawing parallels between Thor and Jesus as “pointless” or “a tad sacrilegious” shows that he certainly does not understand the ultimate purpose of mythology. Besides, the only reason the reviewer sensed a “Christian” element in the film was because of these parallels.

While mythology offers no redemptive work, the history of stories about mysterious deities testifies to the driving impulse of humans to understand God. Paul referenced Psalm 19 in his treatise concerning unbelief in Romans 1:18-25, arguing that all humans are given some knowledge of God despite corrupting it in their sin.

The reason parallels between Thor and Jesus come so naturally is because Thor was a futile Norse attempt at understanding the need for a mediator between God and man. Drawing these parallels is not “sacrilegious,” but a heartfelt attempt to bridge the gap between Norse understanding and the person of Jesus Christ (maybe even the same way Paul bridged the gap between the unknown god of Athens and the true God of the universe).

By offering these statements concerning Thor’s resemblance to the Christian message, Plugged In reveals its complacency as an active voice against the film industry rather than an active participant for redeeming the film industry.

Conclusion

If you’ve yet to see Thor, definitely make time in the near future to see it in theaters or home entertainment. As a superhero flick, Thor carries a unique tone that focuses on something beyond natural reality.

Rather than complaining from a distance about the fallen nature of the film industry, Christians should be active in understanding the power of the film industry to communicate these messages about divine realities.

Even big summer blockbusters can hammer heavy messages.