Did I wake up with new ears, or has there been an unusual outpouring of creativity in Christian worship music recently? Whatever the case may be, among the many bands that I have been YouTubing (can I make that a verb?), I would like to draw attention to one band, Cloverton, and particularly their song “Take Me Into the Beautiful.” I want to draw attention to this song, because in an alternate universe I directed a video for it, and since I don’t have the resources to replicate that video in this universe, I thought I would provide, in narrative form, a few images from the video, as well as the general theological theme that ties the images together. If you want to hear the song before reading my narrative just skip to the bottom and click on the link.
As the song opens a camera is fixed tightly on an eye, so close that initially you can’t tell it’s an eye, but slowly the camera pans out, and it becomes clear that it is the eye of Jesus who is suffering on a cross. Around him you can see the weary faces of his followers who are dumbfounded, because they are unable to make sense of the event that is unfolding before them, particularly in light of their hopes that he was the Messiah. After this, the camera quickly pans out further, much further, giving us a view of the entire world, as well as a grand sweep of time (No, I am not sure how I pulled this off visually, but in that universe I pulled it off magnificently).
Next you see Cloverton on a rocky shore somewhere in Northern California, perhaps near Mendocino. They are bathed in the golden light of a late afternoon Sun, and as they play this song, you can see waves splashing wildly in the background, waves that crash, and spray, and catch glimmers of the Sun as it approaches the horizon for sunset.
Next is a montage of video clips that occupy your attention for varying lengths of time. Some of the clips can barely be registered by human consciousness because they move so quickly, and some move in slow motion. All of this works together to communicate a sense of the relativity of time. Amidst the diversity of images and clips a consistent thread emerges: sin and brokenness. The images and clips are of war, oppression, domestic violence, drug use, genocide, prostitution, etc. Interspersed throughout these images is the ongoing scene of Christ’s suffering that opened the video. Also, throughout this sequence you the band playing this song on the same shore line. At first, the sequence of Christ’s suffering are very brief, but little by little they become longer until everything stops with Jesus surrendering his spirit to death.
After this, the clips of suffering continue, this time interspersed with images of Jesus’ followers grieving in the aftermath of his death. Also interspersed are cuts to the band playing on the shore, but this time in dim firelight surrounded by darkness. The interspersing of these three sequences continue to the point where Mary visits the grave of Jesus and is confronted by the resurrected Christ. You never see him, but his presence emits new light into darkness, a light that begins by illuminating Mary, and moves forward toward those in the other clips of sin and brokenness. As this resurrection light begins to permeate, each person begins to respond, first by acknowledging the light, and then eventually by turning toward it. All of this gives visual meaning to the song’s chorus “take me into the beautiful,” as the beautiful has now absorbed all darkness and ugliness, and made it possible for any and all to enter into the beautiful. In one particularly poignant sequence, you see a man and a woman in a garden, whose heads, recently hung in shame, begin to look over their shoulders to an unexpected light breaking in, and again the chorus cries out “taking me into the beautiful, where the faces glow, where the lights never dim.”
There are two basic theological themes that drive this video. The first, and most general, is the idea that God is calling all of creation to himself through the redemptive work of Christ. In a sense, he is standing at the end of time, reaching back through Christ to the beginning of time to bring all things back to himself. The second, and more particular theme emerges from Irenaeus’s doctrine of recapitulation, in which Christ functions as a second Adam, whose life rewrites all that went wrong with humanity in the first Adam. In Irenaeus’s doctrine Jesus completely identifies with the whole of humanity to the point of taking the whole of their sin, and the consequences of their sin, upon himself. The irony of Irenaeus’s thinking is that through obedience Jesus was led to death, which is the penalty of disobedience, but because Jesus was led to death through obedience he was able to overcome death by death, and thereby became the gateway for all to freely enter into life. This life, however, is not just life, but life abundant and glorious, in short, life taken up into the beautiful.
Click the above link to hear the song.