Zen and The Art of Xenophobia: Music Video & Explanation


This is the third of several blog posts explaining the songs we wrote on Engine of A Million Plots. The third song on the list is “The Zen and The Art of Xenophobia” We released a “new” music video back in November 2013 for the song via AltPress.com along with a short interview with Reese. You can see the new music video below, the words to the song and Reese’s explanation. Please leave your thoughts and questions in the comments. And don’t forget the original disclaimer of this series. If one of these songs means something completely different to you than what Reese says, that’s probably the better explanation. 

“Zen & The Art of Xenophobia” by Five Iron Frenzy
From their album “Engine of a Million Plots”

Directed by Ryan Grams

Video premiered online first at AltPress.com

Full album available for purchase at iTunes and at our online store.

See Five Iron Frenzy play live at these upcoming shows.

the zen and the art of xenophobia

Cling to your god and guns,
the banjo’s playing Hot Cross Buns,
Bucket seats set to recline
no need to cross the county line.
Are the Arabs closing ranks,
about to roll some Russian tanks?
Shut the doors and save the kids,
lock and load- just like Jesus did.

The United States of Amnesia
make us numb, make it dumb, anesthesia.
Cut the cord, close the door, we don’t know ya,
it’s the zen and the art of xenophobia

Let’s keep them separate,
melanin just can’t succeed.
“Give me liberty… or something.”
It’s better if you just don’t read.
Crank your phasers up to “slaughter”
Turn your wine back into water.
When you play this song-Al Qaida wins,
and Jesus was American.

Explanation of the song by Reese Roper:

This is what you can do when you don’t have a record label. Also, this is what living in the gun-crazy center of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, does to you in an election year. I really believe that the Biblical model is to let Christianity influence our politics, not to be the politics. There are few things more embarrassing for me, than the endless parade of jack-wads currently using the name of Jesus Christ for political gain in this country. Historically, the name of Christ has been used since the first century to justify countless atrocities. You would think that in a country that has barely just emerged from slavery and institutionalized racism- we would approach things with a bit more caution. We still don’t get it. Stop using the name of Jesus in your politics. Our political machine is driven by fear and greed, and the promise of those two things. Neither one of them being an attribute espoused by anyone in the New Testament. Especially Jesus. Our nation is split in two, with one side parading xenophobic madness as a means of political gain. This is not how Christ taught us to behave.

PS- Christians: If you think that things like taking care of the Earth, treating women and people with different color skin than yours as equals, protecting children from being mowed down with semi-automatic rifles, feeding and clothing the poor, taking care of widows, the sick, and the elderly- are political stances, you are being used. You have two jobs as a Christian, to love God, and to love others. If your politics are getting in the way of that, if your fear is keeping others from doing that- then please rethink your life.


  1. I agree with that, and it has felt like a situation where American Christians have been some of the most appalling human beings while pretending that a “WWJD?” bumper sticker or bracelet makes up for their horribly backwards opinions. Catchy song, though.

  2. Reese, great explanation. I have to say that you PS at the end is the perfect summary and so very convicting. We as Christians (and people in general), like to blame big organizations for problems and think they are too big for us to make a difference. Christ was very simple in His explanation (as you stated in the last 2 sentences), and that really has me rethinking things I say and do when it comes to not feeling I can make a big enough difference in life.

  3. This is exactly why I love FIF.

  4. “protecting children from being mowed down with semi-automatic rifles”

    That’s right. Only people in government costumes should be allowed to mow down people and children with semi-automatic rifles.

    • This. Exactly this. So many times this.
      We all accept “Do not kill” and “Do not steal” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but for some weird ass reason, the government is excepted from all these key moral values.

    • That’s a nice little strawman you’ve got there, but you’d better keep it away from the fire.

      • Brody, is Reese not saying that only the government should have guns? Is he saying that using government-force (violence) to steal from others is the Christ-like position?

        It’s strange that he says the political machine is driven by fear and greed (which it is), but then implies that using the political machine to give the government a monopoly of force and to steal from one group to give to another is a non-political stance.

        • “Brody, is Reese not saying that only the government should have guns? ”

          I don’t see how you could possibly have gleaned that from what Reese said. If you’d like to point to a specific statement or section that clearly indicates that, then perhaps we could address it.

          The rest about “using violence to steal from others” is such nonsense that I won’t bother answering it. Suffice it to say that I think calling taxation “stealing” is an utterly juvenile characterization. Citizens have at least some responsibilities to society.

          • “protecting children from being mowed down with semi-automatic rifles”

            He seems to be implying that if regular citizens didn’t have semi-automatic rifles, that would protect children from getting shot. Do you agree? If he’s just saying that we should protect children from people who want to kill children, then I would agree.

            Government is force & violence. There’s disagreements on how much of it is needed. I think only so much is needed to ensure individual liberty is protected (local police forces, justice system, law-making, military). Some think it’s appropriate to use this force to redistribute wealth. But I personally can’t find anything in my Bible about redistributing wealth to others.

            As Christians, we should give to others and be held to a higher standard. But simply advocating a government (which is greedy and God-less) to redistrubute wealth is not true charity as the Bible describes.

          • Pretty sure he’s talking child soldiers.

          • On the other hand, now that I think about it, there have been some mass shootings in the US, too. So I guess he could be talking gun control instead or as well. Really, the larger principle is preventing violence, which works either way. Maybe some day we’ll be able to agree more on how to do that.

      • Verna:What a delight to hear from you. I trust you have reiecved my letter and I will be hearing from you soon. I will respond in an email as well so that I can post my contact info. We are buzzing along with the book and getting info which is making me BIZZY. Take care,Kevin AirringtonSon of Doreen Hemphill, Grandson of Rose Reese, Great grandson of Fritz Reese

    • I took it to mean “If you believe these are political issues, you are being used.”

      That is, “If a political group tells you to vote for them because they support these issues and the other side opposes them, you are being used.”

      Or to put it differently, “Do not attempt to use this explanation to discern Reese Roper’s voting habits.”

      • This is why I am an independent. I don’t believe in political solutions to non political problems. As far as I am concerned, God granted us the Constitution. God granted us our rights and our freedoms, and men have messed it all up. We don’t need laws for laws for laws. We need common sense and a return to the moral standards we had as a nation in the 1940s.

        Also, I wonder. I carry a pistol for my personal protection and the protection of my family, friends, and others who can’t defend themselves. Does this make me a bad person? No. It is clearly stated in the Bible that it is my duty to protect my family and defend myself. I am what’s known as a three percenter. I have never and will never abandon the Oath I swore to defend this nation against all enemies both foreign and domestic. I do believe there are subversive elements at work to kill us because we won’t submit to their beliefs (islam). If y’all believe that islam is really all about peace, you are mistaken. I have seen what they really believe. The “radical” muslims are actually following the orders of the koran to the letter. Think about that for a minute. This is something I will defend against, and if that makes me “xenophobic” then I am guilty as charged and will gladly accept the title.

        As for the idea of children being mowed down with semi-automatic weapons, I do have to say that Reese bringing this up as his argument is political in and of itself, and slightly hypocritical. My reasoning for this is that the idea he went for on that is one that has been pushed by politicians who want to abolish the constitution for decades. And, there is more and more info coming out about the mass shootings of the last 5 years, including the fact that the authorities knew it was going to happen and did nothing to stop it. All in the name of playing politics to force popular opinions to shift. To make statements like the one Reese made is to trample on the memories of the dead and to further politicize the deaths of the innocent. To me, that is extremely wrong. Just sayin. This is my two cents worth.

        Also, if Reese reads this, “Hello from Colorado! Y’all should come home more often!”

  5. I love this song for the sole fact that teachings on social justice make Christians uncomfortable and we haven’t quite found a way to make our Americana meld with those teachings. It also challenges Americana as a religion in and of itself (which many people fall victim to day in and day out). I’ve always defended my seemingly paradoxical Christianity & right leaning beliefs to the idea of the Social Gospel at the turn of the century- it is our job, as Christians and human beings, to take care of our fellow man regardless of race, religion, social status, etc. Our job, not our government, not our neighbor, we are responsible for one another. America may (and probably will) one day fall the way other nations and empires have, Christ’s Kingdom will not.

    PS- I probably got flagged by the NSA for that last comment. Whoops. Hi, government!!!

  6. You forgot the most important part. Where did the idea for Wolverine-Abe come from?

  7. Solid. As a follower of Jesus I have been both the embarrassed believer watching other Christians misrep our Savior, and…I have also been that jack wad Reese referred to, at different points in my own journey. Both, the objective critic and the victimizer. The thing that absolutely infuses my life with energy and passion is watching those archaic cultural fastenings fall from my eyes, scale by scale. As much as we cannot change others, only ourselves, it has also been truly refreshing to watch as so many are returning to the essence of Christ’s teachings, Him as a man / God, and the radically liberating life found therein. Thank you FIF for making art that not only sparks thought, but also change.

  8. Andrew, you hit the nail on the head. We need to expound exponentially on the existence of Wolverine-Abe.

    Also, the song and music video are awesome. I like your P.S. too.

  9. I remember listening to “Where Zero Meets Fifteen” as a 13-year-old kid and it opened up my world. I come from a conservative Baptist background and our tithes went to building funds not the poor and needy. FIF is one of the most important factors of spiritual growth that led me to where I am now. I can’t thank these guys enough for leading a little Christian kid to Christ – the real one who said hard truths.

  10. “Our nation is split in two, with one side parading xenophobic madness as a means of political gain.”

    If you’re going to make statements such as this, you should probably be less vague about who is engaging in “madness,” especially if it impacts their reflection of Christ. I’m not interested in discussing this via a public forum, it’s a question for you, but I couldn’t find a way to respond privately.

  11. I think this argument goes two ways, and the other half of it is being ignored. When Reese says, “Stop using the name of Jesus in your politics,” he is 100% right. However, he then proceeds to do exactly that. Let’s look at the Welfare State, for instance (i.e. feeding and clothing the poor, taking care of widows, etc.). In my opinion, we’re asking the wrong question as Christians. Obviously we are called to love others and help the less fortunate. That shouldn’t even be up for debate. The real question is whether or not charity should be the resonsibility of the federal government.

    Admittedly, I am a staunch conservative. Based on my reading of the U.S. Constitution, the federal government has a handful of enumerated powers, such as national defense, printing money, protecting our borders, signing treaties, levying taxes, building and maintaining infrastructure, etc. And according to the 10th Amendment, all other powers not specifically enumerated belong to the states or the people. Now, I think we conservatives often do a poor job of communicating these ideas, and liberals like to claim that we somehow hate the poor or hate minorities or hate the environment or whatever. But that is not the case.

    Several years ago during budget negotiations, Democrats in Congress promoted a campaign they called “What would Jesus cut?”, in which they claimed that social welfare programs cannot be cut and rich people must give up more of their income to the government, because “that’s what Jesus would want.” This stance bothers me for a number of reasons, but I’ll start off with the blatant hypocrisy of the Left. You see, in general, liberals spend most of their time dismissing religion. They do everything in their power to completely remove God from the public sector, constantly harping on the “wall of separation between church and state.” They support gay marriage and abortion (would Jesus cut funding for Planned Parenthood?). They made fun of George W. Bush mercilessly for talking about his faith so often. They tend to view evangelical Christians as backward, anti-science, unenlightened, redneck yokels. In summary, they ignore Jesus 90% of the time. However, they certainly like to invoke the name of Jesus when it suits their purposes.

    Liberals (even liberal Christians) like to try and paint Jesus as the world’s most important advocate of socialism in their endless quest to expand government and promote massive welfare programs. However, there is a huge difference between oppressive taxation and Christian charity. Jesus told his disciples to “give to the poor.” But based on the liberal mindset, one would have thought that He said, “Give to the government to give to the poor.” This kind of lazy theology doesn’t work for me. Instead of reading the Bible as a religious text, they like to make it political, interpreting Jesus’ calls for sacrifice wholly in terms of the good of Caesar (the State), rather than the glory of God. Apparently, Jesus wanted his disciples to “give up everything” not for the Kingdom of Heaven but for the expansion of government agencies.

    Should we give to charity and help the poor, the elderly, the widows, and the orphans? Of course. The Bible commands it (James 1:27). But we should do so as an act of love and obedience to God, not because of some draconian government mandate. When charity becomes forced or coerced, it ceases to be charity (plus, the government is really lousy at it – more wasteful and inefficient than any private charity). The Left supported this “What would Jesus cut?” campaign, trying to guilt Christians into paying more taxes and spending more on social welfare programs by appealing to Biblical commands to give to the poor. But it seems as if Christians are already doing that of their own volition. An ABC news study from 2006 tells us that “the single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is their religious participation. Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much.” Naturally, we as Christians could always do more. But that’s between us and God, not us and the State.

    Finally, I want to draw attention to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-11. The title added by the publishers is “Warning Against Idleness,” and in my opinion, if we’re going to get political, then this passage could actually be read as a scriptural argument against the Welfare State. Paul writes, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

    • Well said

    • Josh,
      Here’s my problem with what you just said:
      I never took a political stance on these benevolent aspects of Christianity. Just for the record. The reason the government has taken this mantle up, is to prevent our society from collapsing into an all-out class war. And you and I both know that the reason they HAVE to do this- is essentially the failure of the Church to do it’s duty.

      This, once again, is not a political song, or a blog about politics- but for the sake of your post- who cares what some democratic congressmen called their budget cuts? It shames me, as a Christian, to think that a government that was designed to be secular (for the sake of promoting religious tolerance and freedom) has to revert to such carrot and stick tactics to fight this broken version of Christianity that politicians on the Right keep using to gain political footholds. Again, this is not about politics. It is about being lied to, and manipulated. Manipulated to go against the character of Christ. Please don’t cut and paste your Tea Party- us vs. them arguments- into this. What I was saying was this- Don’t pick a side. Don’t allow a side to manipulate you. Separate Jesus from your politics, and please just choose to do the right thing.

      Liberals may paint Jesus as a socialist. Who cares? Jesus’ actual take on politics and taxes, was to “render unto Caesar”. Paul’s take was to say that Christians who were then being burned alive- to provide lighting for other Christians to be mauled to death by lions- should shut up and submit to their authorities. And Socialism? Do you even know what that is? It is the failure of the Church in modern industrialized nations, to provide basic human services to their people, and the government having to step in to do it, to prevent the collapse of society. It would be amazing if the Church could do it, and we could just go and be anarchists, or whatever it is you are proposing- but THEY DON’T. Instead, the US is behind every other industrialized nation in just about every service the Church should be providing. The governments of those countries, who are completely superior in almost every single category, do it far better than our government does, and comically better than any denomination of Christianity has done in the last 200 years.

      What on earth is a “welfare state”? North Korea? France? Again, you are regurgitating from your Tea Party handbook. Please don’t pull some random passage out of Paul’s letters and use it to defend your attack on the vehicle that is doing the most to stop poverty in this country. I don’t care that you have found some statistic to show that Churchgoers are generous. The Church isn’t. We, statistically, accrue enough money in tithing alone EVERY SINGLE YEAR, to eliminate world hunger THREE TIMES OVER. I really don’t think that’s where that money is going. And the reason is, because people keep making excuses. Excuses like taking 2nd Thessalonians chapter 3, verses 6 through eleven- completely out of context- and saying that poor people don’t deserve help because they don’t work hard enough. That is completely counter to the teachings of Christ, Levitical Law, the words of the prophets, and every other letter Paul wrote- including the one you are quoting from. Where is the verse that Jesus commanded those he healed to work harder first? Or the part in Levitical Law where it commanded you to make sure to survey the people eating your crops left on the ground, to make sure they weren’t just milking the system? It doesn’t exist. You have this verse, Paul telling church leaders in Thessalonica to set a good example for their parishioners- and you are using it to justify your own selfishness and the love of money.

      • Hey Reese,
        Now that you’ve done some all caps shouting and used the term regurgitate I’ve got some questions. I’ve often wondered about the math of ending world hunger. I’ve seen the Sean Penn commercial and now you’ve shouted about how it would take such a paltry sum to “end world hunger.” Is that a one time investment? Is it the yearly cost of sufficiently feeding everyone? Does it include the cost of slaughtering all the evil people currently ravaging these hungry places and stealing the stuff we do send?
        Since the government requires 20-30% of our income to function (taxes are legit to a degree, there is stuff i want the government to do and they don’t owe it to me for free) and we give the church about 10-15%. Why is the government having to go into such massive debt fighting poverty in just our country alone? Especially if an amount much smaller than that could solve our most pressing global problems. I am all for fighting world poverty and taking the gospel out. I think fostering economic development in the third world is an important long term step. Only propping them up year after year would just make them dependent and increase our secular power over them.

        I like that you brought up Leviticus. If the economic policy toward the truly needy looked more like that it would be pretty awesome. Rather than artificially redistributing wealth and trying to control a system as chaotic as the economy. If we had a culture where a little economic inefficiency was applauded it would spread perjury around a little. The neat thing about gleaning is that it’s a lot harder to scam. If you are so lazy that you won’t get out and glean, you can’t realy take advantage of it.

        Do I think a free market is superior to big government? Yes. Should people in that market dial back in their greed to let some other folks succeed? Yes. Is the government trying to force redistribution of wealth “taking up the mantle” that the church dropped? No.

        You may think me a dupe, but I’m not the one shouting over simplified slogans in all caps.

        • Griff,
          I apologize. I am not yet quite hip to the etiquette of writing the English language. I did not know that typing something in capital letters actually meant shouting. So, I am still a bit confused as to what exclamation points are used for, and also the use of underlining and italics. Also, I am a bit behind on what constitutes an oversimplification of a slogan. Is it that it is less than a paragraph? Or is a slogan defined as something that has been uttered by Sean Penn? Also, if I use a verb, such as “regurgitate”, metaphorically- does that also constitute shouting? How does one emphasize something without using any of these writing tools that have been accepted by the literary public for hundreds of years? Just some questions I had, to clear up which form of grammar you would approve of. I really only know English grammar, and I am far from perfect in it, so please forgive me.

          I would like to return the favor by pointing out that you misspelled the word “really”. You also had a few portions of your argument, I think they were declarative statements, (Not shouting though! Wait, was that shouting? Sorry.), that lacked both a direct and indirect object, as well as a verb. There are a few instances where you forgot to link two independent clauses with either a comma or a semi-colon. And lastly, your final paragraph contains only one sentence. For it to be a separate paragraph, it really should have at least three sentences. But who am I to say. Maybe we could start a whole new thread and critique each other’s spelling and grammar? That sounds like, and I’m sorry for using colloquial language here, a hoot.

          Anyways, just some thoughts. My song, and the explanation of my song, and the post you responded to about my song- were not about taxes, or the redistribution of anyone’s wealth- so I’ll wait until I write a song about that, and then we can have that discussion. I do like your idea, that the problem of poverty in our country can be solved just by letting poor people pick up stuff up off the ground though. That’s a good one.

          • No, regurgitate just makes me giggle when used in serious discourse. I didn’t really grammar Nazi your post. And I actually asked you serious questions about your view on solving world hunger.

          • Well shoot, I was the first one to bring up Nazis and/or Hitler which is an automatic internet debate fail.

          • This is your blog, and you are the one who chooses the level of professionalism that should be displayed here. I respect that.

            That said, and regardless of the topic and argument at hand, this particular reply seems to lack the most basic of Christian virtues, which is Charity. This sarcasm has a particularly vicious bite to it, it is not conducive to discussion, and it does not become you. I’m just glad that Griff was able to take it and respond gracefully anyway.

            Just my two cents.

          • It’s cool, I realize I probably poked the bear a little bit. I should have thrown in some Smiley’s at the sarcastic bits to show that I come in peace.

        • It’s worth noting that Leviticus had a _very_ radical wealth redistribution system through the Year of the Lord’s Favor. Every 7 years, debts were to be wiped out entirely, as one of the tools in preventing systemic poverty. It’s hard to get more radical than that.

          • True, but since that would be understood, it would affect how much people would be willing to lend out. It would only radically change the situation for people who lended foolishly. It’s a decent system to keep lending and borrowing to a wise level.

      • Reese,

        Thanks for reading my comment, and I appreciate your thoughtful reply. Please note that I wasn’t so much commenting on the song itself as the “P.S.” you wrote at the end of your explanation. I realize that we don’t see eye-to-eye politically, and that’s okay. I’ve known that since I bought my first Five Iron album back in 1997 (the new record is FANTASTIC by the way). I don’t doubt your faith or devotion, and I wholeheartedly agree that we as Christians should watch ourselves for greed and selfishness in our overtly shallow and materialistic culture. However, it seemed to me that you were implying in your statement that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Left Wing political views (specifically with regard to “social justice”) is not being a good Christian. And that, in my opinion, is the very definition of using the name of Jesus in your politics. I don’t agree that small government would somehow lead to chaos and anarchy. I simply feel that our secular government, which (as we seem to agree) has no place enforcing Christian edicts or morality on the populace, should do the things it is Constitutionally required to do and then stay out of our lives otherwise.

        In your response to my post, you said, “Separate Jesus from your politics, and please just choose to do the right thing.” On this point we agree 100%. We should absolutely choose to do the right thing when it comes to giving to charity, helping the sick or orphaned, and loving others unconditionally. When we do these things in our own lives, it is out of love and obedience to God. But the government should have absolutely nothing to do with it. What makes me more righteous? Giving what I have to give at, say, a community work project, or voting to force rich people to give more of their money to government bureaucrats? I agree that this isn’t really the place for political debate, but at the same time, I and others like me should not be attacked or implied to be lesser Christians simply because we are fiscally conservative.

        As for the song itself, I fully agree that the name of Jesus should never be used to promote a war or to demonize those who oppose it. I don’t believe that “Jesus was American” and that we are somehow God’s chosen nation to be better than everyone else. Obviously we should never hate other people for their skin color or country of origin. I have met many on the Right who do these things, and it embarrasses me as both a conservative and a Christian. I have also met many on the Left who despise the Gospel and think all Christians are at best deluded simpletons and at worst evil religious hatemongers on par with Al-Qaeda or ISIS. There is good and evil on both sides. Let’s just try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and alienate those who love Jesus and happen to also believe in small government.

        • Hi Leah:I answered you in an email didn’t reliaze you had signed the guest book. You should also register for the reasons I mentioned to Patricia above. You will be notified when I make changes, upload new photos, and add to the progress of the 2012 REESE FAMILY BOOK! Be sure and let other family members know this site is here and have them contact me with their current mailing address. Postage is expensive. Take care,Kevin AirringtonGrandson of Rose Sarah Hemphill-ReeseSon of Doreen June Hemphill-Baldwin

      • Love it Reese. Also Fox News loves to get conservatives to focus their ire on the welfare state. Here here! But they are looking at the WRONG welfare. The money we give to those in poverty is a PITTANCE compared to the amount of money we give to extremely profitable corporations. THAT’s what conservatives should be angry about, not the small amount spent on food stamps and the like.

      • This is not a political song? Then who is the “other side” of the nation–the people this song is not about?

        I actually like the song even though I roll my eyes at some of the lyrics. A lot of Christians do get consumed by politics and the government’s war machine.

        The general message is good –Christians should love their neighbor regardless of where they come from or political ideology–but if you’re trying to say the “other side” is Christlike with their government-force you’re being deceived.

        • Chris:Thanks for that. But of course qulaity is merely a matter of taste, rather than the basis for an ethical claim. As for health: well, you can certainly buy healthy food from far away and unhealthy food from nearby. You may have in mind that it’s easier to have information about local food (e.g., when you buy it directly from the producer at the farmer’s market). But that’s a very limited kind of thing. It’s not something you can translate into feeding a city of a few million.I guess really my own worry is that, while I can imagine good reasons for some people to buy some (or most) food locally, too many people are buying locally based on reasons that reflect a poor understanding of economics, and a poor understanding of the real sources of negative environmental impact.Chris.

      • I don’t recall where I had seen a reicpe that featured these Peanut Butter Cups – could have been a Martha Stewart reicpe – it was a cupcake reicpe where the butter cup was stuck at the top of the cup cake… I remember finding it intriguing but alas, we don’t have these Peanut Butter Cups in Singapore… (at least I am not aware)

  12. I really enjoy this song, and agree with it whole heartedly. B
    ut what does the line
    “melon ninjas can’t succeed”

    • “melanin just can’t succeed”

      I think it means the blanket statement of people of color can’t be successful

  13. There’s just one line that I can’t fit into the overall “theme” of the song:

    “Turn your wine back into water.”

    Obviously it’s referencing Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, but I just don’t know what this means in the “social justice” context of the song.

    My initial thoughts were that it must refer to rejecting gifts, or maybe rejecting miracles altogether, but that doesn’t fit with the song. Is it just an example of rejecting the actions of Jesus, and this was the only way to shoehorn that into the song (since there are several other more clear examples in the Gospels)?

    Alternately, it could be a reference to the “Christian teetotaler” movement, but since that’s pretty far removed from the “Jesus, “Murica, and muh gun” movement/stereotype, that doesn’t fit either.

    Any thoughts?

    • Mackenzie, my best guess is that this line still fits into the overall theme of conservative American protestantism. It could very well be an example of rejecting the actions of Jesus, or ignoring parts of the gospel that don’t fit your belief system.

      My thoughts were that this was just a statement of “God? Check. Country? Check. Guns? Check. Wine and church mixed? Hell no… errr… Heck no!”

      • Hi Kenneth:It is so good to hear from you.I am looking fowrrad to seeing your pictures (scan copies*), reading about your stories and history please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Also, be sure and contact your other siblings, cousins etc., I am not certain if I have everyone’s address.Have a great weekendTake care,Kevin AirringtonGrandson of Rose Reese*P.S. If you do not have access to a scanner please send your pictures to me with instructions to scan and return. Make sure you label the photos so we know who they are. Pictures of your immediate family plus pictures Grandpa Ernest..Your Mother anything that would be of interest. Old documents, baptismal etc. I am so excited

  14. Prohibition

  15. Unfortunately the liberal audiece will assume this is strictly about Republicans.

    Meanwhile, “enlightened” Christians know that the REAL Jesus wanted us to let gays marry, tax everyone heavily, give free things to people, and let people into college based on their skin color rather than their grades.

    As a grad and teacher at Fuller Seminary, bashing Republicans is old hat. That’s like saying you don’t like Hitler. The tough, intelligent thing to do is recognize that respecting women doesn’t mean endorsing promiscuity or paying for their abortions, that men are systematically disciminated against, and that you can’t say you’re following Jesus when you tax someone and then say we shouldn’t force our beliefs on others in moral matters.

    • Gay Marriage: We live in a secular society, not a Christian one. Just like CS Lewis didn’t feel the brits should legislate against divorce, we shouldn’t legislate against gay marriage. We can be against something but still allow people to make their own choices.

      Taxes/Free Things: Since individual and church charity doesnt meet the needs of those in poverty in our society, the govt MUST step in and help so that people don’t die, and we just ask that taxes are reasonable. Rates are at an all time low on the rich and corporations. Just take em back to reasonable amounts. Also, way more money (at least 10x more) goes to profitable corporations. Focus on that, not food stamps. Also, God gave us grace for free. Did we deserve it? No. Did we do anything to earn it? No. Thank God for “Free things”.

      “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

  16. I just want to say thanks. You guys have always been an encouragement to me; right from when I first heard Suckerpunch on the radio.

    It’s election time in New Zealand. Things are a little different around here but not much. I am the Green Party Candidate in my local electorate; Upper Harbour.

    Its days like this that I need to hear what you are saying; because I feel ignored by the church. It’s not that they are not political; I have talked to many Christians who say they will vote for the local Conservative Party because their leaders says he is a Christian. Others just disgust me when they say Global Warming is God bringing about the apocalypses and that Palestinians deserve what they get. My faith is of no value to them.

    So though you are miles away it is a joy to know that I am not alone. Others are struggling with the same illness in community.

  17. Yikes. The country is split in WAY more parts than just two. That’s a rather binary perspective.

    Anyway, I love the song. Very solid. And I’m just going to keep trying to think of it as an anti-war song. I love the imagery in the video of Jesus with a machine gun. I’m fairly disgusted with American Christianity’s continuous support of war and I find that part of the video to be quite….poignant.

    Now, I’m not going to assume anything but it appears, Reese, just based on your writing here that you’re a little closed off to a fuller understanding of what, for lack of a better term, “conservatively political” Christians are trying to say. Surely you must be aware on some level that the ideas of feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, and protecting children are used as political stances by unscrupulous politicians on both sides of the aisle just as often as the name as Jesus; quite often both in the same breath!

    To claim people with a healthy bit of skepticism regarding the psychopaths that claim to have a panacea to the ills of men are simply being used is quite insulting. And not really fair.

    The truth, at least as far as I see it, is politics is corrupt. And every cause that gets mixed up in the gears of politics is itself inevitably corrupted. What Christians should learn is that change happens in the human heart, not through man’s legislation….which is only ever a reflection of what’s already in man’s heart.

    I think there are Christians that get that truth to varying degrees among numerous political persuasions.

    Full disclosure: I’m an anarchist. Pow!

  18. I think “wine back into water” is a comment on how most Christians are so strongly against alcohol. they don’t want to believe that Jesus would have ever done that, so they’re always saying things like oh it was non alcoholic wine. But Jesus did provide wine for a wedding and that is a biblical fact.

    • That’s definitely the most obvious reference. But if that’s the case, it doesn’t fit with ANYTHING else in the song…especially not the lines before and after it! It’s just “there”, without contributing anything to the overall message of the song.

      Literally everything in this song has to do with racism and violence. And the “Christian teetotalism” movement is associated with neither of those things.

      Unless someone can explain to me why it fits in with the social justice theme (and the explanation given by Reese), I guess I was just hoping it was something more.

  19. “Our nation is split in two, with one side parading xenophobic madness as a means of political gain.”

    And the other side is [_____]?

    I’m spotting an implicit and unnecessarily sharp binary here that I’m uncomfortable with. I know this is not your intention, but it does subtley foster the “us vs them” attitude that you so intensely oppose in other places.

    Personal anecdote: Over a year ago, I moved from Boise, Idaho, to Seattle, WA. Idaho is, in general, very conservative. Washington, at least west of the Cascade Mountains, is, in general, very liberal. Though I’m fairly conservative, I’ve sought out irenic forms of that instead of the good ol’ boy, sloganeering, thoughtless variety. I was always annoyed when liberals were painted out by conservatives in the worst possible light and represented unfairly with specious straw-men. Upon moving to Seattle, I found the situation to be entirely the same, perhaps worse, but in reverse. It’s not unilateral, but more often than not I’ve heard liberal Seattlites peer down their noses in disdain at the “knuckle-dragging, backwoods, uneducated hicks” on the other side of the mountains.

    Your song veers dangerously close to the latter caricature. We ought to be standing in the middle, discouraging polarization, shallow caricatures, and disdainful speech. We ought to be encouraging loving and calm dialogue/debate/discussion that engages with actual arguments.

    I understand that the people described in the song do actually exist. However, I think that they are much fewer in percentage than many people are led to believe. I realize that as an artist, part of your role is somewhat prophetic, calling out something that needs to be exposed. However, I sometimes wonder if your biting criticism doesn’t find its target much more often in the xenophobic gunslingers than it does whatever their anti-type, opposite error might be.

    Matt- who’s life would not be the same without Five Iron. God’s impact in my life through your band is simply incalculable.

  20. Politics are awesome. Love this song.

  21. Thanks for the song guys. Definitely says some things some of us need to hear.

  22. Love the song. As a still-fairly-conservative, but frustrated with conservatives, person, it was cathartic. Sure, the left has plenty of problems too, but that’s a song for another day.

    • This perfectly sums up my feelings about the song.

  23. My interpretation of this song is that as Christians we need to love people instead of creating mistrust and hostility. We are all created in God’s image…

  24. US-American “welfare state” discussions sometimes feel quite surreal, let me tell you that.
    I don’t pay taxes, social security, state retirement funds, mandatory health care because it’s fun to watch government agencies to expand. I want a working social network that will help other citizens in need and that will help me when I am in need. On top of that, government retirement plans and regulated health care systems are more cost effective and cheaper for everyone. Christians, liberal and conservative, support social services by the state. And Germany certainly is not a socialist country.
    US Americans live in a strongly individualistic frame of mind sceptical of government involvement, that is fine with me. But please don’t call it socialism when governments work for the common good.

    By the way, what an effect would have the Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) in today’s economic setting?

    ” Every seventh year the Law of Moses called on Israel to observe a Sabbath for the land—an ecological, economic and spiritual practice of letting the land lie fallow for a year while trusting in God’s provision. And every 50th year, following a cycle of seven Sabbatical years, on the Day of Atonement, not only were sins forgiven, but a trumpet sounded throughout the land announcing the Year of Jubilee. It was a time of social renewal when all debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, and every dispossessed family returned to their ancestral lands that may have been sold or lost over the decades.”

    Justice and charity are two very different concepts.

    • I would challenge the assertion that government systems are more cost effective. The government runs on massive debt to make these programs work. This results in inflation which is basically a back door tax on everybody with the poor being most affected which makes them even more dependent on government. In not sure that’s actualy helping anything.

      I think the jubilee laws were good, but what they basically ammounted to was that ancestral lands could never really be sold. Debt forgiveness would be good in the US and to some degree bankruptcy already allows for that.

      • I wasn’t asserting. It is a fact, that government regulated (maybe that is the better term) health systems are more cost effective. That’s because it doesn’t treat health like any other good. And Germany is the economically most stable country in Europe right now, no inflation or debt problems. Nothing is perfect, but these kind of institutions are a willful decision, the “social contract“ within the nation you live in. If the majority of people in the US doesn’t want a different system, that’s fine.
        (And our government run retirement plan is so well run,it beats every private plan in terms of management costs.)

        • For the sake of discussion let’s assume all of the opinions you have shared are facts. Now if you can tell me that Germany can do all of that and now fully bail out Greece and take care of their poor as a good EU participant. Then maybe you have a system you could hold up as viable for the US. After all its only fair and just that Germany shouldn’t enjoy economic prosperity while a fellow EU country languishes.

  25. I was reading through the song explanations as I listen to FIF from time to time. I believe Jesus came to love all humans of all political persuasions. Nelson Mandela set a great example leading our nation in reconciliation while being a committed Methodist but not using religion to swing any votes for political gain. He instead set an example of a true Christian by walking in forgiveness to show love. If we walk in forgiveness and love we will make the greatest political statement. As Christians we also need to be careful of judging the bride of Christ as we will be judged accordingly. The Holy Spirit will convict each person according to His will.

  26. BTW, my name is Gary Roper, may be a distant relative 🙂

  27. For everyone,

    As I am reading these posts, comments, replies, and replies to replies, I am astonished at the most of these statements. It seems, to me at least, that most of us have forgotten about the “Social Contract.” In short, the ‘Social Contract,’ which was named by Rousseau stated something very different then what had been made by former governments: The people of a country make a contract with their government for protection, in return of this protection the people are to live by the rules of the land. Basically, I pay my taxes to the government to take care of my family and me. Before Rousseau, there were kingdoms (run by kings) and empires (run by emperors). Some were constitutional (like England) and some had a form of republicanism. In short, our country is not a Christian country, the formers gained their insights on forming the Constitution from political philosophers like Rousseau and John Locke. Before the Revolution, the colonies had been in wars upon wars for Britain, gaining nothing from them but debt and taxes. They did not wish to make this a Christian country, after all in their eyes Britain was a Christian nation–everyone there had to be either Puritan or Anglican. This is why, the forming of our nation was done the way it was, that is why a deist like Jefferson pushed so hard for a separation of Church and State.
    For us, today, we need to realize that if we are Christians, then we need to know that we follow Christ and not some nations Constitution. We were given direction by both Jesus and the Apostles to be “obedient” with the rulers of our lands. This is why being a Christian is so very hard, for most people. Think on this for a while.
    P. S. The whole debate on the Levitical laws needs to be in contexte as well. For the Hebrews, they did not work on an economical system of money. They were an agrarian society, meaning that they lived off the land. This is why the Levitical system was so radical. When they looked to ‘borrowing’ it was on produce and land, not money. The lenders where guys who owned the land, so your rent to them was a portion of the produce. This is why giving a portion of the land as charity was so important!

  28. Hi, and sorry if my english is bad. I wish to ask. What can I do to rcveiee your autographed photo? If I have to send a fanletter to you, will you let me know an address for you in Australia. Please, it will make me so proud if I’m the lucky one.Have a nice day michelleYours sincerelyAnni Pia Jensen

  29. If you hate it here so much why don’t you just leave?

  30. Love the song, classic Five Iron. You guys haven’t changed a bit, and I thank you. I too am one of those who is just realizing, at 23, just how much FIF shaped my worldview as a kid and teenager (that is, not-necessarily-patriotic-but-rather-…Christotic?).

    As for the comments on the lyrics and Reese’s explanation, you guys are putting the lyricist in a tough position. Do we not realize that song writers themselves, as artists, don’t even know what the crap they’re really trying to say? Or if they do, it’s not as clearly defined as any particular political stance. I think about the song “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam. Was Eddie Vedder trying to say that bullying always leads to a kid shooting his school up? No. He was just pointing out an outlier that shouldn’t be disqualified. That’s what good artists do.

    Is this song a criticism of fearful, hypocritical, historical-revisionist conservatives? Sure, it seems to be so. But I don’t think Reese is calling for Marx to be added to Mt. Rushmore. It seems that he is simply pointing out some serious flaws in the historiography and world-views of right wing conservatives who call themselves Christians. Namely, that they (or I could personally say “we”) cling to a version of America that boasts of its “Christian roots” while neglecting that to some degree our ancestors paved their way here by genocide (mostly unintentional, but some intentional), that Abe Lincoln didn’t give a darn about the social standing of black folks, that many of our Christian brethren were having their colored neighbors sippin out of a crummy water fountain not too many years ago, and that they use those “Christian roots” to defend many fearful and reactionary attitudes today. Again, I think Reese, as a Christian, is concerned with the worldviews of his fellow Christians (many of whom, because of the very nature of our political system, are plopped into the Right-wing category). And I think his point, if he has one, is that Christians should forget all that stuff! Jesus wasn’t American in the first place! If you knew your true American history, and you knew the gospels, that would be plain enough. The name of Jesus isn’t a catchphrase for any political ideology, policy or fear; it’s the name of the King. And Christians should stop belittling Him by USING his name.

    But, if I’m wrong and Reese is espousing “social welfare” or whatever, then I don’t know what to make of it.

    Also, I don’t agree that we should separate Jesus from our politics. That would compartmentalize the First Born of all creation, through whom and for whom are all things, including politics– even if they are corrupt. But I do agree that His name shouldn’t be USED to promote ill-conceived notions that don’t accord with who He really was/is or what He taught.

    • Also also, I know that I have read the video into the lyrics a lot, which I realize is breaking the golden rule of the post-alternative music-video industry. However, the video seemed to complement the spirit of the lyrics.


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