Saturday night was Nocturna at the Metro, for its 21st anniversary celebration. 21 years ago, Goth wasn't exactly new, Bauhaus had been broken up for four years, Sisters of Mercy had formed and split and continued on as Andrew Eldrich's baby. Dead can Dance had released their 4th album and their first album had come out in 1984. The Cure had there 7th album out. I had just met Alex who identified as Goth and Roman Catholic and through that friendship discovered my own affinity with Goth. Goth was not new but not yet old either. At the club I had an extended conversation with a friends boy friend about the lack of anything new in music and art. Ironic perhaps as we were at a club that was celebrating that Goth has been around longer than a good portion of the Goths at the club had been alive. Perhaps it was why he wanted to talk with me about it, and with someone near his own age, who also remembers a time when there wasn't Goth, and was born before there was Punk. He longs for the time when music was new, Punk and Goth bands were doing new things, inventing music that had never been played. The excitement of a new album or single, which opened up new things new worlds. He was also in Poland during the Solidarity revolution and immigrated to the states in 1989. He talked alot about the corrupting influence of consumerism that kills newness in art. Much of his critique of western capitalist democracy and its effects on creativity I could see, though I pushed a little on the need for things new, arguing for the value of the recombination and attempting to do similar things in different or paired down ways (His example was the White Stripes, which he holds with some contempt). I am not convinced that newness and originality are the only or even primary evidences of creativity, and I question both the consumerist and Avant-garde cult of the new. Yet, at one point he said something that illuminated this cult to me in away I had never seen it before: He said " that each album revealed new things to him he remembers, but now there is no meaning." The search for meaning I can understand, much more than simply the pursuit of the latest ordinal, new thing. What we didn't get into because he wanted another beer and I wanted to dance (I go to clubs to dance, after all), was why meaning is connected with newness and originality. And could something like Goth, or Punk be perpetually new without being original.
In light of that conversation the conclusion of the lectionary text from Second Corinthians yesterday rang out "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" My sense is that this newness St. Paul is talking about is very different from the newness of either the consumerist variety or that of the Avant-garde. though it seems to me that many Christians do see newness in this way, as my friends boy friend sees it, as people talk about looking for that new thing God is doing in the world. I wonder if we have simply taken over this cult of newness and applied the language of Scripture that speaks of all things becoming new.
In so doing I think we miss that what many are looking for in new things and ever new things is meaning, in the face of the banality and meaninglessness the everyday world often give us. In the passage of 2 Corinthians this exclamation about all things becoming new, is connected with being in Christ, and follows a discussion about appearances seeing things from another view than the human point of view. This newness is then is about what God has done in Jesus Christ and thus having a new point of view, from the stand point of the cross.
I preached on Sunday basically about this new and different point of view, that is beyond appearances, and what can be seen with the eye or demonstrable, observable. The Lectionary texts from Samuel being sent by God to find the Son of Jesse God had picked for the next King of Israel after the failed reign of Saul, and the parables about the farmer and the Mustard seed, pointed to an another way of seeing, a reminder that we are to seek to have God's pov, and not hold on to our human points of view. Newness spoken of in 2 Corinthians then comes from this letting go of what our human faculties and our fallen and creaturely attitudes and perspectives. The life death and resurection of Christ gives us a new perspective that is God's perspective on the world and life and reality, that turns even our concepts of newness on their head.
On some level I think we often think that by seeking the new thing that we are preaching the Gospel which claims that God did a new thing. Yet, we miss that it isn't newness as the next thing, as originality that is part of the message of the Gospel, but of being brought into the perspective of God, which then shows even our own ways of seeing newness, to be empty without depth, unable to get to the heart of who we are and of the world. In Christ is the very meaning many seek. Yet, how to communicate it when so many of us are as caught up in the fleeting meaning of having to constantly peruse the next thing. the newness offered in the Gospel and in union with Christ is about vitality that can only come from the source of life, not that of originality. It is newness from a non-human point of view, one that is beyond appearances and our expectations.