Eminem prayers

I was sent a link to an old Eminem song called “The Way I Am” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6ldvKn40sE). It is, unsurprisingly, an angry song. It is full of angst and deep hurts of injustice. It is not a song that you can use as a way to wipe a little pain killer on a sprained ankle. No, this is raw, and not pretty at all. But there is something about that rawness which is interesting. First of all, of course, you gotta respect the directness of it. Whatever else Eminem may be about (and I am certain no one really knows), he is about very artfully speaking up the anger he feels.

Next, as I tend to do with almost all the lyrics I read, I tend to turn it into a psalm. Were David around today I wonder if he wouldn’t be rapping some things quite similar to Eminem.

For example Eminem sings:

And look at where it’s at middle America
Now it’s a tragedy
Now it’s so sad to see
An upper class city having this happening
Then attack Eminem cause I rap this way
But I’m glad ’cause they feed me the fuel that I need for the fire
To burn and it’s burnin’ and I have returned

While David sings (Ps. 109):

O God, whom I praise,
don’t stand silent and aloof
while the wicked slander me
and tell lies about me.
They surround me with hateful words
and fight against me for no reason.
I love them, but they try to destroy me
with accusations even as I am praying for them!
They repay evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

Doesn’t it sound the same? That is the NLT version, which I chose so that the language would be similar, but the words are almost identical in every version, so it doesn’t matter. I wonder if Eminem reads the psalms? If he did not he might be surprised to find a fellow rapper in David (and other psalmists)!

Why are we not talking in psalms to each other? Why are we preaching as if we just read the Yellow Pages or a legal brief? Why are we not rapping from the pulpits on the injustice around us? Perhaps we do not see it? Why are we not singing of our heartache? Of a God who does not answer our prayers as our loved one dies of cancer? Of organizations that methodically rape and pillage the innocent and still expect us to pay for their upkeep? When the poets and the prophets (spiritually they are the same thing) leave the ship, it is time to sink it.

Yes, I keep being amazed at this collection of poems called the Book of Psalms. It shouldn’t be surprising to find out that issues of injustice and oppression and heartache and longing and joy are both universal and unchanging from one generation to the next. Our hearts are still in the paleolithic. We may be more skillful in applying the eye of justice to greater issues, and of seeing the connections between peoples and events where we could not see them even a generation or two ago, but in the end we are still the same species, the same people, huddling by a fire, afraid of the dark.

A final theme for me in this very angry psalm is that I hear in it some Returning King motifs. Here’s Eminem’s chorus:

And I am, whatever you say I am
If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?
In the paper, the news everyday I am
Radio won’t even play my jam
‘Cause I am, whatever you say I am
If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?
In the paper, the news everyday I am
I don’t know it’s just the way I am

And then you turn to Revelations and read what Jesus has to say to the Laodiceans (NLT again):

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.

Of course the “I am whatever you say I am” has great Biblical resonance. From Moses to the Alpha and Omega “I am” has deep rich patterns and layers to it.

It does take someone with a prophet’s heart to stand up and say “Here I am.”

Yes – prophetic voices are never welcome. We have the safety of centuries with layers of patina over the fiery pronouncements of Jeremiah, for example. And we cannot hear the hip-hop level of anger on Jesus voice any longer.

I have felt this for a while. To speak in Eminem tones I am sick and tired of overdosed-on-Prozak, dream-catcher spirituality. I feel like getting myself a little bit angrier. And I expect my spiritual practice to me edgier, hotter, and less comforting than it was before.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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