Of Mice And MIN…ISTERS (Ode to Advent and Axl Rose)

I’ve heard it said that Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose was, and still is, an angry, angry man. I have no reason to doubt it.

There simply is no denying that they literally burst forth into the nation’s consciousness with a vengeance in late 1987, and for the next five-to-six years, until their utter implosion in 1993, they were perhaps the most important, exciting, terrifyingly self-destructive and unpredictable rock and roll band ever (sure, Axl has a bunch of guys playing with him today in a band he still calls “Guns N’ Roses,” but that’s like Paul McCartney hiring all new musicians and insisting it’s still “the Beatles”).

Guns N’ Roses has been on my mind a lot recently, and for an obvious reason – we Christians are celebrating the season of Advent. And honestly, nothing says “Advent” and “Incarnation” better than Guns N’ Roses uncensored and at high volume. Don’t believe me? Just listen to what should be the international anthem of Advent, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

This epiphany occurred to me during a recent stay at an inexpensive motel chain in a small city. To save money, and because I’m just a sucker for Tom Bodet’s voice, I reserved a room online with the motel chain; I did not see the location of said motel, nor any pictures to tell if it was a well-kept establishment.

Because the Mississippi State University semester was winding down and all that was left were final exams, at one o’clock in the morning I was sitting up in the bed with my macbook in my lap calculating attendance grades and semester averages, when I saw the unexpected visitor walk right into my room.

Now the door was bolted and locked, of course, but being the cheapest motel in town – this side of getting a run-down Norman Bates by-the-hour room – there was at least a three-quarter-inch gap where the bottom of the door was supposed to meet the floor.

My uninvited guest, who just strolled on in as if it was his house, was a mouse – a rather large mouse.

He stopped in the middle of the floor, looked and me and I looked at him; he continued coming toward the bed, then disappeared. Disappeared under (or into?) the bed.

I couldn’t find him and I never saw him again. But, I did notice a few openings in the box springs and in the wall behind the bed that this very well could be his home and that I was the un-welcomed company.

I almost called the front desk; but what good would that do?

I paid $33 for a room at an old run-down motel; a motel with a questionable nightclub right behind it; a motel that left its light on for all God’s living creatures. Should I have expected the Memphis Peabody?

I noticed that the people outside my room (between 1:00 and 3:00 am there were a lot of people outside my room and there was a lot of activity going on) had that hard, wear-and-tear look about them caused by years of hard-laboring and/or hard-living. And, many seemed to be laboring pretty hard that night to make a little extra cash in some not-so-admirable ways.

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And, here I was worried about a little mouse in my room? (Though, again, it was a rather big mouse). At that moment, I really wished I had coughed up the extra dough for a nicer, cleaner, middle-class hotel room. Clean. Comfortable. And, typically mouse-free (or at least the mice are kind enough to stay inside the walls, thus “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”).

Many of us grew up in and assumed a middle-class image of Christian faith. It’s comfortable.

It’s nice and cozy and familiar. It’s organized and neat and presentable and respectable and relatively mouse-free (or at least, everything is kept “out-of-sight” and therefore “out-of-mind”).

Advent, though, forces us to acknowledge that there’s nothing comfortable or nice or cozy or organized or neat or respectable about the coming of our Lord.

It’s dangerous. It’s dirty. It’s smelly. Mice roam freely.

It occurs among people who live hard lives and who work hard unglorified jobs (sometimes in less-than legal ways), and they have the visible scars, stains, anger and pain to show for it.

It’s into this real and harsh world – which many of us in the Church wish we could keep out of our sight and out of our mind – that the Christ-child is born. Why? Because it’s the real world filled with the real people whom God so loves.

So this Advent season, as I welcome the Christ-child, I can’t stop hearing the angry and threatening greeting from a world I’d rather pretend doesn’t exist: “welcome to the jungle; watch it bring you to your knees; I want to watch you bleed!”

And by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, may the Church be as committed to living among and loving the real people in the real world as is the God we proclaim to serve.

I wonder if Axl is free to sing in Church this Sunday …

—-
Bert Montgomery is a writer, minister and college lecturer living in Starkville, Mississippi. His new book is Psychic Pancakes & Communion Pizza (2011, Smyth & Helwys).

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  • simplyChristian

    “Welcome to the jungle we take it day by day
    If you want it you’re gonna bleed but it’s the price to pay
    And you’re a very sexy girl that’s very hard to please
    You can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free
    In the jungle welcome to the jungle 
    Feel my, my, my serpentine
    Ooh, I want to hear you scream”

    Yes, I suppose NOTHING says “Advent” and “Incarnation” quite like that.

    • http://www.bertmontgomery.com Bert Montgomery

      actually, that’s the exact emphasis of this piece. “Advent” and “Incarnation” — that God Himself loved this world so much that He takes on flesh and blood and moved into this very world with all of its anger, hatred, blood, selfishnes ….  So yeah, I stand by my statement in light of the added emphasis of GnR lyrics.  That’s the scandal of the Incarnation. 

      • simplyChristian

        That the incarnation was something radical in the course of human history is without question. And, although I personally believe that the living Word of the Almighty God is uniquely and supremely able to present every aspect of the miraculous event to the minds and hearts of men with the utmost conviction, I am not opposed to using anecdotes or the words of others to enhance one’s own presentation. 

        That having been said, to tie the single most important happening in mankind’s existence to this particular song requires a stretch of olympic proportions, and one in which the particularly obscene must be at once ignored and elevated. 

        • Anonymous

          So then, you’re not opposed to using anecdotes, so long as you have a chance to pre-approve them? And what’s more obscene and profane than the idea of God taking on human flesh?

          BTW, the Bible doesn’t mention it, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus pooped.

          • simplyChristian

            Mr. Montgomery/Dr. Oslo,

            Please look up the definition of the words obscene and profane. My guess is that there are scant few believers who would use those terms to describe something as magnificent as God leaving His throne and humbling himself to take on the form of a servant. Nor do the scriptures. 

            Also, to respond to your pithy comment, I did not ask for editorial review to approve anything written here. I merely offered my comments and opinions. As I understand it, that is the way this site operates. Reading through the  entries, it does not seem there is any editorial oversight.

            As to the last comment in your reply…???????? 

          • Aaaaaaaaaargh

            sC: Advent is about God entering into a sinful, profane, obscene world in desperate need of salvation.  “Welcome to the Jungle,” in your own testimony, exemplifies this sinfulness and depravity. Where’s the contradiction, and what’s all the fuss about?  The author isn’t comparing Axl Rose to Jesus or telling us to start treating GnR lyrics like the Ten Commandments.  Did you actually read the article, or just get offended by the title?

          • simplyChristian

            Agh:  As the Apostle Paul himself wrote: “Well let’s bungle in the jungle, well that’s alright with me. I’m a tiger when I want love. I’m a snake when we disagree.”…oh wait, maybe that was Jethro Tull. I get them mixed up all the time.

          • Aaaaaaaaaargh

            Thanks, that confirms my suspicions.

  • http://twitter.com/hortencelafonte Sean McLaughlin

    It’s unfortunate that RLC only esteem the “Red Letter” words.  Otherwise, they would realize that “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

    and

    “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

    RLC has it’s collective head so deep into the world they won’t likely recognize the real Jesus.  This is what my Jesus looks like:

    “Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will
    rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the
    fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

    • http://www.bertmontgomery.com Bert Montgomery

      Sorry, but I disagree. I’m honored to be a part of RLC with its “collective head so deep into the world” because that’s exaclty what is so scandalous about Jesus and the Incarnation, and exactly what upset “God’s spokesmen” at the time so much. I can’t speak for any of the other RLC writers, except maybe for Tony Campolo – he’s a fellow Baptist – but that’s a long held traditional emphasis of Baptists: that Jesus is the ultimate revelvation of God to humanity, that all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation points to Jesus and must be interpreted through the person of Christ.

      The religious leaders of the day and many good religious Jewish people expected a Messiah with a might and force and righteousness (as they understood it); that didn’t work out too well for the real Jesus.

      Blessings and peace in the name of the Prince of Peace…

      • http://twitter.com/hortencelafonte Sean McLaughlin

        The jews of His day worshiped an idol of their own righteousness and missed the suffering servant prophesied in scripture.  Contemporary liberal theologians worship an idol of your own righteousness and miss the conquering king prophesied in scripture.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for that caricature of believers with whom you disagree and can so conveniently label as “liberal theologians.” I don’t know what I found more entertaining: your quoting of a James passage that simplifies religion to a fine point, followed by other requirements you feel need to be there or your tearing into someone in such a manner while accusing them of worshiping an idol of their own righteousness.

      • Benmanben

        Christ is Perfectly Righteous.

  • http://mikeyoung.info/ youngmike124

    Well done Bert.  I know you’ll take some heat for the connection of Axl and Advent but it seems that similar contrasts found in scriptural accounts of the coming of Christ prove to be what I find most powerful and meaningful. The powerless and the divine.  The profane and the holy.  We’ve sanitized much of those details out of our celebrations of Christmas.  Thanks for the reminder that most of the world lives in the jungle and it is often a profane and selfish and self-serving place.  And into that world was born a savior who was Christ the Lord. Peace and blessings this Advent, Bert! 

    • simplyChristian

      “it seems that similar contrasts found in scriptural accounts of the coming of Christ prove to be what I find most powerful and meaningful”

      Then where are they. Use the scripture for God’s sake, that’s what it is here for. There seems to be a disdain for scripture among the “new evangelicals” (liberal theologians) for the Word of God. If you doubt it, look through the past blog entries. Most offer personal or political viewpoints with absolutely no scripture for enlightenment or instruction.
      Instead we get a ridiculous glorification of the things of this world.

      • Keith Carr61

        Let me enlighten you Simply…..its all about LOVE with no judgement at all toward SIN. It reminds me very much of the “hate” card used by many who only want to silence the opposition. If you speak up against them then OH my goodness you are such a conservative pig with no “love” in your heart. I honestly believe that it some on this site would be perfectly happy to sit in a church while every vile activity you could think of was being performed. You see, they cant judge them so they cant say anything about defiling the “House of God” Its free love and all the flower children being reborn again. Sickens me.

        • Anonymous

          Keith, you really interest me here, so please don’t take these questions as criticism, I’m honestly curious. How exactly does the notion of grace work out in your worldview? Moreover, how does the way someone else believes lessen the efficacy of your faith in such a way as to “sicken” you? I see you speaking in a very defensive way toward people who have apparently hurt you by questioning your motives, but have you ever looked at what might have brought on such a reaction from them? There has to be something behind what you’re saying, so where does that come from?

          • Keith Carr61

            Dr, you couldnt hurt my feelings if you tried ;) I am completely confident in my salvation and how I believe. Others questioning my motives only amuse me. Im not speaking defensively as much as I am refuting liberal mindsets which contradict much of my belief systems. What ‘pushes’ my buttons is fellow believers who twist the gospel and disguise their efforts under the “love” arguement. As I stated to another on here I speak as if speaking to a sibling in the same family. If I believe you are wrong then I will tell you but if I see you leading others astray then I will confront you. My idea of Grace is a gift freely given, undeservedly, of salvation, not by our own works but to those who accept it. HOWEVER the gift comes with some accountability. What I see happening on here is a group of people who want to do an intervention but not address the things that enslave the sinner. Wonder how many people have quit drugs by the continuous affirmation that they are loved without addressing what is the problem to start with??  For Gods sake you have gay preachers on here telling me that God is blessing their churches…My motives?? It comes from trying to keep the gospel from being watered down by a bunch of liberals who are almost apologetic for the churches stance on sin which is also  “GODS” stance. So I hope that clears up some things for you but if not…Oh well. Im not here to make friends and contrary to what seems to be the belief by some, I can love without compromising.

      • Anonymous

        I believe that the writer is talking about the gospels and speaking about his or her personal interpretation of them. Please note the language that indicates that this is a personal view on behalf of the writer and not an attempt to paint others with a broad brush that says something like “Everything should be interpreted through this lens. All people who think in a certain way are like this (fill in a blank) and if you don’t believe me you can look through this other lens.”

        • simplyChristian

          I see, thank you for pointing out what the writer was doing. My response above was to young mike’s comments that similar contrasts such as the one you made between GNR and Advent exist in scripture. Maybe you can explain what he is talking about as well.

  • Keith Carr61

    Guess you would let Axl smoke dope and drink while performing at your church huh? Really, to compare advent to the world wanting to devour you is what you are saying?
    What is the guilt complex that you have regarding those who have chosen a path less desireable? Does you church not reach out to them and inivte them to hear the message? Do you not witness to them without encouraging or participating in their activities? If a church spends its money to reach those in another country is that ignoring the ones here? I say probably so. Is that bad? Maybe, however there is no way for church to reach everyone and we must pick our opportunities and make a difference where we think we are called to do so.
    My son is thinking about going to Africa for Mission work and I have explained to him that America is the biggest mission field in the world. The difference is that people here dont want to hear what you have to say(most of them). Is that to say we dont need to try and reach them…NO. Should we keep inviting them to church and live an example in front of them…of course. Should we live in squalor, participate in their activities, and “blend in” to reach them??? Absolutely not.
    Maybe I took your article out of context…if so I apologize….If not Oh well…good luck getting Axl to behave in your church..Im sure your young people will be impressed with your ‘spot on’ righteous advent example.

    • http://twitter.com/BertMontgomery Bert Montgomery

      I’m not sure, but I think you may not have gotten past the first couple of paragraphs, Keith. I’m not condoning Axl’s behavior … just reminding us that far removed from the pretty lights and big stage productions many of us celebrate Christmas with, the Christ child was born out in the world that indeed is ready to devour Him (and everyone else, too).  Welcome to the Jungle, Jesus – and sure enough, He’s gonna die. Thanks be to God for the Incarnation which keeps the Gospel in the real world despite our best efforts to protect it in our safe sanctuaries.

  • Jckeeper13

    I’m glad that Jesus had his head so deep in the world to eat and visit with the tax collectors and prostitutes. I don’t think Bert was condoning what Axl did/does but rather uses it as an illustration of how rough our world is. The glorious thing about Advent is that Advent reminds us that Jesus came to live with and amongst us in our world, this rough and dark world. Jesus didn’t come for the clean but the unclean.

  • http://twitter.com/BertMontgomery Bert Montgomery

    well, and then there’s this … which says exactly what I was trying to say, but without mentioning Guns N Roses …

    http://www.nakedpastor.com/2011/12/20/where-are-the-important-people/

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