Insight into what Coldplay meant by “St. Peter won’t call my name” (Series on Coldplay’s spiritual search, Part 3)

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Coldplay seeks to corner the market on earnest and expressive rock music that currently appeals to wide audiences
Here is an article I wrote a couple of years ago about Chris Martin’s view of hell. He says he does not believe in it but for some reason he writes a song that teaches that it exists:
Belief of Eternal Punishment in Grammy Winning Song
By Everette Hatcher
Chris Martin of the rock group Coldplay wrote the song Viva La Vida, and the song just won both the grammy for the “Song of the Year” and “Best Pop Performance by a duo or Group with Vocals.”
In this song, Martin is discussing an evil king that has been disposed. “I used to rule the world…Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes…there was never an honest word and that was when I ruled the world, It was the wicked and wild wind, Blew down the doors to let me in, Shattered windows and the sound of drums, People couldn’t believe what I’d become…For some reason I can’t explain, I know Saint Peter won’t call my name,  Never an honest word, But that was when I ruled the world.”
Q Magazine asked Chris Martin about the lyric in this song “I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.” Martin replied, “It’s about…You’re not on the list. I was a naughty boy. Its always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it…That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation. I know about this stuff because I studied it. I was into it all. I know it. It’s mildly terrifying to me. And this is serious.”
I have been following the career of Chris Martin for the last decade. He grew up in a Christian home that believed in Heaven and Hell, but made it clear several years ago that he actually resents those who hold to those same religious dogmatic views he did as a youth. Yet it seems his view on the possibility of an afterlife has changed again.
Chris Martin is a big Woody Allen movie fan like I am and no other movie better demonstrates the need for an afterlife than Allen’s 1989 film  Crimes and Misdemeanors.  It is  about a eye doctor who hires a killer to murder his mistress because she continually threatens to blow the whistle on his past questionable, probably illegal, business activities. Afterward he is haunted by guilt. His Jewish father had taught him that God sees all and will surely punish the evildoer.

But the doctor’s crime is never discovered. Later in the film, Judah reflects on the conversation his father had with Judah’s unbelieving Aunt May during a Jewish Sedar dinner  many years ago:

“Come on Sol, open your eyes. Six million Jews burned to death by the Nazi’s, and they got away with it because might makes right,” says Aunt May.

Sol replies, “May, how did they get away with it?”

Judah asks, “If a man kills, then what?”

Sol responds to his son, “Then in one way or another he will be punished.”

Aunt May comments, “I say if he can do it and get away with it and he chooses not to be bothered by the ethics, then he is home free.”

Judah’s final conclusion was that might did make right. He observed that one day, because of this conclusion, he woke up and the cloud of guilt was gone. He was, as his aunt said, “home free.”

The basic question Woody Allen is presenting to his own agnostic humanistic worldview is: If you really believe there is no God there to punish you in an afterlife, then why not murder if you can get away with it?  The secular humanist worldview that modern man has adopted does not work in the real world that God has created. God “has planted eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This is a direct result of our God-given conscience. The apostle Paul said it best in Romans 1:19, “For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God  has shown it to them” (Amplified Version).

It’s no wonder, then, that one of Allen’s fellow humanists would comment, “Certain moral truths — such as do not kill, do not steal, and do not lie — do have a special status of being not just ‘mere opinion’ but bulwarks of humanitarian action. I have no intention of saying, ‘I think Hitler was wrong.’ Hitler WAS wrong.” (Gloria Leitner, “A Perspective on Belief,” The Humanist, May/June 1997, pp.38-39). Here Leitner is reasoning from her God-givne conscience and not from humanist philosophy. It wasn’t long before she received criticism. Humanist Abigail Ann Martin responded, “Neither am I an advocate of Hitler; however, by whose criteria is he evil?” (The Humanist, September/October 1997, p. 2.). Humanists don’t really have an intellectual basis for saying that Hitler was wrong, but their God-given conscience tells them that they are wrong on this issue.

Evidently  Chris Martin who said he resented dogmatic religious views a few years ago, has now written a grammy winning song that pictures an evil king being punished in an afterlife. Could it be that his God-given conscience prompted him to put that line in? Or do men like Hitler get off home free as Woody Allen suggested in Crimes and Misdemeanors?

Bob Robinson had some good insights:

7/20/2009

Coldplay’s Viva La Vida – The Will to Power vs. Shalom

A Christian Interacts with Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His FriendsColdplay’s latest hit was one of my top ten albums of 2008. In it, lyricist Chris Martin explores the subject of death from different angles. As I listen to this wonderful album, I wish Chris was sitting next to me. I’d love to understand what he would think of my opining about his lyrics. In future posts, I’m going to do that, with you, here in the vanguard.Viva La VidaIn the most famous song from the album, the main character is a man reflecting on lost power and prestige, a king who no longer rules but rather lives a very humble and humiliating life.I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to ownThis king was able somehow to overtake the previous king, but his power was fleeting –One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sandJust as he had taken power, others were seeking to overthrow him –Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?So now, after the “wicked and wild wind” had allowed him to have power, he finds himself no longer “ruling the world.” And he is now wondering about his eternal fate. What will happen to him? In the chorus the king sings –

I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
Roman cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can’t explain
I know St Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Why does he feel that “St. Peter won’t call his name?”

Throughout the song, there is a clear indication that the character understands what philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “the will to power,” that most of us will often allow our need for achievement to outweigh our desire to be good to our fellow human beings. Our ambition and our striving to reach the highest possible position in life often does incredible damage to the harmony and love that should be the standard for our human existence.

The main character understands this. It was not right that he took power; it was also not right that he lost power. It was not right that he once ruled the world; it was also not right that he now sweeps the streets alone. It was not right that there was “never an honest word” while he “ruled the world.” And now, “for some reason,” he knows that St. Peter won’t call his name.

This concept of peace and harmony between human beings, where we do not will to have power, but we submit to one another out of love, seeking the very best for others, is an old biblical concept. It was what the Hebrews called “Shalom.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff says that a society characterized by shalom combines peace, justice, and enjoyment of all relationships so that all peoples can flourish in their lives, and that they can also delight in their relationship with God(Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace). Writing on shalom, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.embraces and expands Wolterstorff’s definition:

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” (Plantinga, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: The Breviary of Sin, p. 10)

So what the character in the song Viva La Vida is experiencing is this: the lack of SHALOM. Plantinga has it right: Things are NOT the way they are supposed to beThere is evil where Shalom is supposed to be. I like the way Plantinga describes it:

“We might define evil as any spoiling of shalom, any deviation from the way God wants things to be. Thinking along these lines, we can see that sin is a subset of evil; it’s any evil for which somebody is to blame – sin is culpable evil… Sin grieves God, offends God, betrays God, and not just because God is touchy. God hates sin against himself, against neighbors, against the good creation, because sin breaks the peace… God is for shalom and therefore against sin.” (Plantinga, Engaging God’s World, p. 51)

So why does the character feel that St. Peter won’t call his name? Because he has a deep-seated understanding that his life was full of sin, that he was culpable for his will to power. And, if God is just, there must be consequences to the destruction of shalom.

Fascinating song.

1 comments:

Larry said…
Just found your page on a search as I prepare for a sermon on Ecclesiastes for next week. Going to play Johnny Cash “Hurt” against/with Coldplay’s “Viva”(Thanx for the YouTube link).Yeah, not sure what to make of “I know St. Peter won’t call my name.” At first I thot it was our typical human arrogance that “death will never happen to me”. Perhaps from an earlier time in his life.Seems like the story in Eccl 4:13-16 has some fit with the picture of the story in the song as you describe it.Can’t help but wonder as I think about how to package this for the sermon, that good music is like good art … trying to deconstruct it takes away from the beauty. So maybe when I preach I need to let my words be few.
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