Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bad Music Video Theology: "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons

by Sebastian Faust

First, watch the video. I’ll see you back here in 4 minutes, 4 seconds.

Right… well then, let the commentary begin:

00:00 – The scene opens on an overcast autumn day, dead leaves catch in the wind, a crow caws plaintively in the trees that line an ancient footpath. A figure walks toward the camera, dressed in a blue hoodie, carrying a cage at her side. She is God (patently), portrayed here, of course, in the Divine Feminine. (Also, portrayed here by Alexandra Daddario.)

00:14 – Close-up of God; beautiful music fades in over the sound of the wind, guitars ringing bright, singers intone a simple melody beneath them. Yet when we see the band, these makers of the music, they are trapped, held in a darkened cell. Certainly the song they sing is a lament. “Let the groaning of the prisoner come before you, O God, according to your great power, rescue those who are doomed to die” (Psalm 79:11).

 00:17 – As God moves through this autumnal landscape, new life springs up. Note especially the Cirsium altissimum, the purple Roadside Thistle, swaying in the breeze of God’s passing. Obviously this wind is metaphor: pneuma hagion or ruach elohim.

00:28 – God comes upon a run-down shack in a field beside a forest. But this isn’t The Shack from William Paul Young fame… this is more like the Anti-Shack.

00:38–00:55 – God enters the shack. Meanwhile, imprisoned beneath it in darkness, held captive behind bars, the band begins to sing, “I’m waking up to ash and dust.”  This is lament; “this is a people plundered and despoiled; all of them are trapped in caves, or are hidden away in prisons; they have become prey with none to deliver them, and have become spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!” (Isaiah 42:22). 

00:58 – And now we begin to see just who is inside the shack. First, we see the ringleader, the big man, the head honcho, Lou Diamond Phillips. Around his neck he wears a key; it gleams as it catches the light. It can be none other than the Key to the Abyss from Revelation. He obviously is Satan, the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), into whose power have been given the kingdoms of the earth (Luke 4:6). We know this because he is the only one smoking a cigar and blowing smoke rings, and maybe also because, at that moment, the band sings, “This is it, the Apocalypse” (and, almost without question because it’s Lou Diamond Phillips). He is surrounded by gods and demi-gods and demons – they are placing bets on something (maybe it’s Job?).

01:12 – Oh. It’s not Job. No, now we see why the gods are gathered together in horrific, gleeful celebration. It’s the Beast. Admittedly, you think it looks like a muppet. But it’s not a muppet. It’s the Beast. And this is the Apocalypse. “Who is like the Beast?  And who is able to wage war against him?” (Rev. 13:4). Apparently no one, because when we see the tally of the previous fights he’s been in, it’s Beast: 117 – Challenger: nil.

01:28 – Scratch that… Beast: 118. This guy’s frightening; he just killed another muppet. Definitely a reference to Revelation 13:7 – “It was also given to him to make war on the saints and to overcome them.”  Meanwhile, below, Imagine Dragons begins to sing, “I’m waking up . . . welcome to the new age.”  Though the night is dark, they live proleptically, looking forward, by faith, to a brighter future.

01:38-2:03 – Again and again, the Beast destroys those who stand against him; muppet-stuffing litters the Battle Pit of Doom. And as each of the saints is eviscerated, Lou Diamond Satan pulls a lever, opening the Abyss beneath their feet and dropping them down into eternal darkness (where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth).

02:05 – But now, God is doing something new. She wades into the midst of the gods; you can see in her eyes the anger at oppression. “God takes [her] stand in the Divine Assembly; [she] judges in the midst of the gods: ‘How long will you all judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?’ . . . But they don’t get it; they don’t understand. They walk paths of darkness . . . [God said] ‘Yes, formerly I declared you gods, all of you sons of the Most High. But now you will die just like humans; now you will fall in battle’” (Psalm 82). God opens the pet carrier she brought with her.

02:11 – Enter Jesus, from above. And yes, Jesus is a pink Care Bear. “And I saw the Beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against his army” (Rev. 17:19).

02:19-02:30 – Showdown!  Jesus Bear and the Beast begin mortal kombat (sic). Or, on further review, maybe Jesus Bear just gets the stuffing drubbed out of him.

02:32 – Mayday… Mayday. Jesus Bear down. I repeat, Jesus Bear down! Holy… the Beast just totally crucified that guy.

02:37 – But wait!  Jesus Bear rose up again?

02:43 – Jesus Bear is infused by the Spirit of God, this time manifesting itself as a pink, glowing energy, while the band sings a victory hymn, “I’m radioactive, radioactive.” What they mean is not, “I’ve been bombarded with radiation, and soon my hair will fall out, and I shall waste away,” but rather, “I’m glowing, man. I’ve got the Spirit in me! I’m on fire!”

02:48 – Bye bye, Beastie. Jesus Bear and the Holy Pink Spirit just won this fight. “He treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God” (Rev. 17:15).

02:55 – The gods are speechless. If they weren’t, they’d probably be saying, “Jesus Christ… is that a Care Bear?”

03:03 – Lou Satan Phillips sends his minions to seize Jesus Bear, but Jesus Bear isn’t having any of it. This Care Bear stare isn’t like I remember it. “And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Rev. 17:21).

03:19 – With the gods destroyed and scattered, God removes the key from Satan’s neck. Satan then is thrown into the Abyss of his own devising. “Then I saw an angel coming down . . . holding the key to the Abyss and a great chain in his hand . . . and he laid hold of Satan . . . and he threw him into the Abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him” (Rev. 20:1-2).

03:26-04:04 – There, Satan Diamond Phillips faces torment. Meanwhile, God sets the band free from their ash and their dust, their bondage and their chains:

                                           “The Lord keeps faith forever;
                                           [She] delivers justice to the oppressed;
                               [She] gives food to the hungry;
                               The Lord sets the prisoners free.”
                                                                        - Psalm 146:6-7

Sebastian Faust is an avowed heretic, armchair theologian, and a self-styled canary in the coal mine of pop culture. He lives in Nashville with his dog Watson and what sounds like a family of squirrels that have squatters rights to his attic. If you'd like to follow Sebastian on Twitter, you can't, because he doesn't understand technology.

You can, however, follow On Pop Theology on Twitter @OnPopTheology or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OnPopTheology.

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