In a recent post on the top opening lyrics in rock songs, I gave the top billing to Patti Smith's intro to a rework of the old rock anthem "Gloria." She declaims that "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." I noted that the lyric, while evocative and thought provoking, is theologically incorrect. One of the commenters posted as follows:
"And the top (although theologically incorrect) opening lyric:"
Perhaps Patti sings in the voice of Lucifer, the fallen angel, the most successful rebel of all time. Given your bigoted comment, my guess is that you'd view her as sinful, evil, condemned - but not "theologically incorrect."
Please post when you intentd to teach your law school class about "correct theology." Mullah Omar as guest speaker, no?
Others suggested that this guy ought to lighten up and I certainly agree, but doesn't this reflect a widely shared, if curious, assumption that a statement of belief, at least if it is not hedged with affirmations of relativism,should be regarded as offensive to those who don't share it?
I actually like Patti Smith, even though she can only be taken in small doses and her politics are a mess. I have no idea what, if any, religious beliefs that she has. (She did do a haunting recording intertwining "We, Three Kings" with the infancy narrative from Matthew.) She has apparently explained the line by stating that she did not want anyone to have to die for her sins and that is a very human - even Christian - sentiment. I recognize the pedigree of theories of substitutionary atonement but I struggle with that too. It's one of the reasons that I like the line, although mostly I think it's a neat expression of alienation with just a hint of mischief.
But, it turns out, that I believe that Jesus Christ did, in some way, die for her sins. Whether she believes that or not, I don't think that she is sinful, evil or condemned. She might - you might - believe that ny belief is wrong, but the fact that I believe something that you don't does not make me bigoted. It does not mean that I hate you or that I want to conduct a pogrom against you.