Moore: Who are you?
In August 1978, the Who released its eighth studio album, “Who Are You.” It became the British rockers’ last work with drummer Keith Moon, who died three weeks after the album’s release. In retrospect, the title track’s repeated lyric isn’t just a catchy line connected to the band’s name. It’s a glimpse inside Pete Townshend’s soul. He would allude as much in his memoir, “Who Am I?”
“Who Are You” was an iconic song in my youth, and I can remember singing the lyrics — all of them — at the top of my lungs while driving with my friends in my also-classic red F-150 step-side pickup truck. Years later, as a follower of Christ, I now see Townsend’s anthem as an expression of God’s goodness through his gift of music, even if that wasn’t Townsend’s intent.
But here’s a question: Is it legitimate for me to use another person’s art — in this case, classic rock ‘n’ roll — to make my own spiritual observation? This is the whole point of my monthly articles, but am I committing cultural (some might say Biblical!) heresy to say the guitar solo from Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” reminds me of the Psalms’ frequent reference to praising God with stringed instruments?
In the New Testament book of Acts, there’s a story where the apostle Paul met with a gathering of intelligentsia in Athens (Greece, not Georgia). He had noticed the Athenians were very spiritual (much like America), had many idols and gods (again, much like America), and even had idols to a God they didn’t know. Referencing the latter, Paul proclaimed that he would tell them about this God they inherently knew existed but knew nothing about.
This is how I feel about my love of classic rock: Talkin ’bout my generation, we grew up with music and lyrics that drove our parents crazy but somehow captivated our own hearts and minds. There are lots of reasons for this, and one is how these songs expressed a hunger, a searching, for something beyond ourselves. Something to provide some answer to the deeper questions, confusion and frustrations of our hearts, for an unknown God.
The 1970 classic “Question” by the Moody Blues comes to mind: “Why do we never get an answer, when we’re knocking the door, with a thousand million questions, about hate and death and war? … I’m looking for someone to change my life, I’m looking for a miracle in my life!” Memories, anyone? Can I get a witness?
This brings me back to the Who and “Who Are You.” Could it be that Townshend was reflecting a deeper question common to humanity when he wrote: “God, there’s got to be another way! Well, tell me who are you?”
Or, a lot of who, who, who’s later, when he cried out “My heart is like a broken cup, I only feel right on my knees … I spit out like a sewer hole yet still receive your kiss, how can I measure up to anyone now after such a love as this? Well, who are you!?”
It wasn’t until my late 20s that I really asked that question. God, if you are real, then who are you? I really wanna know! Increasingly convinced by honest evidence that the Bible was trustworthy, I began to knock on that door with my thousand million questions. One of the first answers was that God is God and I am not. OK, God, I admit that I’m not you, but then who are you? Who, who, who, who?
Summing up years of my journey, I’ve come to the informed faith that Jesus is fully who he claimed to be and who the New Testament claims he is. He is the only one with the right to judge, but in his mercy brought deliverance. Jesus is the God who loves me, who gave himself for me. He is the God of such love that I can never measure up, but by faith may freely receive. Apart from Jesus, I’m like Townshend’s sewer hole, and my own goodness is like filthy rags compared to God’s glory and love. And yet, this broken cup has been forgiven, redeemed, adopted, set free and made new by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
That may sound like foolishness. It once did to me. But by God’s grace that which seemed foolish has become life itself. I’d love to share this story, but first, I’d love to hear yours. Who are you? Who, who, who, who? I really wanna know.
I’ll buy the coffee. And oh … rock on.
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at email@example.com.