Content Warning: The music videos referenced and linked in this post may contain profanity.
Music has always been a powerful influencer in mankind throughout human history. This fact has been recognized by people throughout the ages. Music has been used in almost every situation: times of happiness, times of sadness, times of war, and times of peace. People listen to music for learning, for entertainment, and for many people it is extremely important and dear to their hearts. As Friedrich Nietzsche has famously wrote in Twilight of the Idols:
Without music, life would be an error. (3)
This is the view of many people throughout the world, and it reminds me of the music video to Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars.
At the beginning of the music video, the fans of Thirty Seconds to Mars (known as the Echelon or Believers, see 2:41-42 in the video) describe their take on the music of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Most of the following footage is from their live performances on their “Into the Wild Tour” in 2010. Each of these fan interviews were taken while on this tour. The interviews become more interesting from a Christian perspective as we approach the 1:42 mark of the video. There is a young girl who states that she is looking for peace:
I just wish there’s no such thing as fighting. That the world could just be like perfect and everybody could get along, but obviously that can’t happen.
Now, the theme building throughout this music video (and many of their other videos– I recommend looking at Do or Die for similar content and message) is that their music is the answer to this desire that this girl has.
At 2:12-2:14, there is a clear sense of community and peace that the young girl is looking for. Jared Leto (the lead singer) raises his hands in a symbol with his pointer fingers parallel and pointing to the sky. As the Echelon all respond in kind, the little white letters show up in the bottom right stating, “Welcome to the Family.”
This is also clearly shown in a shot at 3:14, where on the screen, Leto is silhouetted by the lights behind him as he stands as if he were on a cross and the words YES THIS IS A CULT flashes on the screen (3:11-3:15).
The end of the video has a few quotes from the fans that are also telling as to how the band and the fans view themselves.
Everyone is just going crazy these days. It’s like the end of the world.
Some people believe in god, I believe in music. You know, some people pray, I turn up the radio.
Music makes the world go round and for me, if it wasn’t around right now, i wouldn’t be around right now, music IS EV-RY-THING to me. It’s all I can say.
I don’t plan on doing a full analysis of the video for Do or Die because of its extreme similarity but I do want to post some quotes from the music video that clearly show this same theme. (Note: listening to the stories these people have can be extremely saddening). Make special note as these fans meet Leto in the credits. Also, I love this song more…
If I wouldn’t have my music, I would’ve be even alive.
Music is my drugs, my addiction, I need music.
It’s the life.
Sometimes you don’t have anything else, except your dreams.
Without faith, without belief, we are nothing.
Make the best out of every day, because tomorrow the world could be totally different.
I believe in music. It’s everything to me.
Dreams are something you hold on to.
It’s hard but you move on and you get stronger. The one thing that has never left me is music. You just turn on a song and you forget all about what’s going on in your life.
Jared, Tomo, Shannon, they’re all my heroes and without them I don’t know where I’d be today.
I am the echelon.
Music is one of the most important things in my life.
It makes me, braver. It makes me more, stronger. It makes me, happier.
It is clear from these videos that 30 Seconds to Mars is attempting to set themselves up with their fans as a cult. Not a traditional one, mind you, but a cult of music (hey, if Pythagoras can have one about math why not music, right?). Why are they building this, self-proclaimed, cult? Why do they hold to this music as penultimate?
Paul tells us that:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom 1:19-22, ESV)
God is a God of song (seriously, entire books of the Bible are music; e.g. Psalms, Song of Solomon, Job, etc.). We are to declare the glory of God in song. When we listen to music, we are listening to “things that have been made” by God to bring Him glory. The instrument, the voice, and songs have been given to us a gift from God (under common grace), so that we are drawn to it when it is done well.
The question must be asked, what are these fans and musicians all searching for? They are drawn to the beauty of the music. They are drawn to the philosophical and spiritual meanings within the music. They are drawn towards the community that they find within the Echelon. It is in all of these things that the gospel speaks.
Most of these Believers are young people who are looking for direction. They have “clearly perceived … his invisible attributes.” They have since “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” How do we respond to this music? We need to share the gospel with these people. They are hurting. They are seeking something, anything to find fulfillment, where the gospel of Christ is the only answer that will ever fulfill them. Christ is the only answer.