Adultery as Religion1 June 2009
The most disturbing religious song I have ever heard comes from the despondent singer-songwriter David Bazan, a.k.a. Pedro the Lion. Entitled “Rapture,” it describes an adulterous sex scene of the album’s tragic character, a man plummeting into a whirling pool of self-destruction.
This is how we multiply
Pity that it’s not my wife
The friction and skin
The trembling sigh
This is how bodies move
With everything we could lose
Pushing us deeper still
The sheets and the sweat
The seed and the spill
The bitter pill yet undiscovered
The raunchiness of the scene can’t be stopped, however. The dissonant chords drive on, paving over any possible voice of conscience along the way.
Gideon is in the drawer
Clothes scattered on the floor
She’s arching her back
She screams for more
The Bible left by the Gideons remains untouched. In its place is the illicit affair, raised to the level of religion. The throes of orgasmic passion are not unlike that of an ancient sex cult:
Oh, my sweet rapture
I hear Jesus
Calling me home
Even after the song rises into a climax and collapses, the whole thing begins again, as if to emphasize the wallowing in depravity.
A digression: I remember hearing a presenter at the Men & Masculinity Conference from over a decade ago, claiming that men, having been told to restrain emotional expression in so many areas of their lives, turn to sex as the sole outlet for their passion. Making love – nay, fucking – for men has been baptized as the emotional activity par excellence. Sigmund Freud came a similar conclusion a century before, that the anxiety of men built up by self-suppression needs a release, and in that release one experiences the (feminine) religious sensation of oneness with the universe. I wonder if there isn’t an analogue to the male experience in Christianity, that with a subtle prohibition against forms of religious intimacy with God or anyone else, Christian men go looking for release elsewhere. Whole new bastard religions get born. Remember how Bishop J.A.T. Robinson testified at the “Lady Chatterley trial” in 1960, claiming that Christians should be able to appreciate the sacredness of sex, even if that erotic awareness is found outside marriage?
For Pedro the Lion’s adulterer, the voice of Christ is lost in the demonic act. The thrill of Christian marital fidelity has been supplanted by the idolatrous drama. Or has it? Bazan concludes the song with a final, surging refrain:
Oh, my sweet rapture
I hear Jesus and the angels singing
Calling me to enter the promised land