Tuesday, July 6, 2010

City Of Evil (2005) "M.I.A."

[reprinted as written by Avenged Sevenfold]
As performed by A7X

Staring at the carnage, praying that the sun would never rise.
Living another day in disguise.
These feelings can't be right, lend me your courage to stand up and fight, on tonight.

Stand up and fight.

Now fighting rages on and on, to challenge me you must be strong.
I walk your land but don't belong, two million soldiers can't be wrong.

It's no fun but I've been here before
Far from home and I'm fighting your war.
(Not the way I pictured this, I wanted better things)
Some are scared others killing for fun, I shot a mother in front of her son.
(Take this from my consciousness, and please erase my dreams)

Fight for honor, fight for your life.
Pray to god that our side is right.
Even though we won, I still may loose
Until' I make it home to you
I see our mothers filled with tears,
grew up so fast where did those years go?
Memories wont let you cry
unless I don't return tonight.

So many soldiers on the other side, I take their lives so they can't take mine.
(Scared to make it out alive now murder's all I know.)
Nobody tells me all the reasons we're here. I have my weapons so there's nothing to fear.
(Another day, another life, but nothing real to show for)

Fight for honor, fight for your life.
Pray to god that our side is right.
Even though we won, I still may loose
Until' I make it home to you
I see our mothers filled with tears,
grew up so fast where did those years go?
Memories wont let you cry
unless I don't return tonight.

Staring at the carnage, praying that the sun will never rise.
Living another day in disguise.
These feelings can't be right, lend me your courage to stand up and fight.

Watching the death toll rise wondering how I'm alive.
Strangers blood on my hands, I've shot all I can
There are no silent nights, watching your brothers all die
To destroy all their plans with no care for me
No thought of me, no thought of me


Walk the city lonely
Memories that haunt are passing by
A murderer walks your street tonight
Forgive me for my crimes; don't forget that I was so young
Fought so scared in the name of God and country

In the words of Howard Zinn, "War poisons the soul of everyone who engages in it."

When talking about this song Johnny Christ said, "The impact of the MIA thing was that we have a lot of friends of ours that have gone to Iraq. Some of them have come back and some of them haven't. The ones that have come back, we get our chance to hang out with them. They tell some pretty crazy stories of what they have seen, because a lot of our friends have been in the front line. We just kind of wrote about their experiences, of what has gone on there. It is not so much a political song, it is just about the stories we have heard from our friends."

Whether war itself is right or wrong, or a particular war is right, what it does to the individual who must engage in it is awful. On the one hand there is the need to have a reason for all the slaughter, praying that the soldier fights on the side of right, on God's side. On the other hand, war turns out to be legal murder, maybe even sanctified murder. So the soldier feels he is in disguise, he's a soldier who doesn't want to take life. He prays that the next day will not come so he doesn't have to pick up his weapon to kill some more. (I'm using "he" for third person, but only for tidiness' sake and no dishonor towards women soldiers).

The soldier understands what he's doing, and what it's doing to him. Even though he may survive being killed, the inside of him is being ravaged as he continues to take life so he can keep his. He understands that every person he kills is a person. A person like him, with dreams, loves, family, a future now being cut short.

In the end he asks for forgiveness of the people whose sons and daughters he has killed in the name of honor, God and his own country's right to be there and kill. He asks for understanding, that he is young, scared, sickened by the carnage.

The poet doesn't seek to give answers, only to describe the inner reality of what war does to the people who are in the trenches and on the front lines; the real people on both sides. It is particularly apt that such a song would close the album called "City of Evil," for what good, truly, can be found in war? it's a fallen planet, and all upon it are steeped in its evil. Even those who have an awareness of good and long for it are still boot deep in the evil.

Most of us are familiar with the Big Ten, the ten commandments as listed in the Bible, in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus. "Thou shalt not commit murder." What does that mean in a world that has always legalized killing? We level the death sentence against those whose crimes we consider to be particularly egregious. We have legalized the taking of unborn life. We wage wars in which there are such euphamisms as "collaterol damage," meaning people who aren't soldiers are also killed, and buildings that have nothing to do with military or political interests are bombed, and even whole forests, farmland, herds, flocks and wildlife are all destroyed.

What does "do not commit murder" mean, then? It means all life is the Lord’s, and only He has the right to command life, or death. You and I are called to love life, to protect life.

When God invited Noah and his family to disembark He made a covenant with them, and here's what He said, this is what was on God's mind:

God blessed Noah and his sons: He said, "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill the Earth! Every living creature—birds, animals, fish—will fall under your spell and be afraid of you. You're responsible for them. All living creatures are yours for food; just as I gave you the plants, now I give you everything else. Except for meat with its lifeblood still in it—don't eat that.

Life is God's property. Even if an animal’s life is taken, as permitted by God, you and I still must recognize the sovereignty and authority of God over life.

The first time I studied Genesis God convicted me about how carelessly I killed little lives -- ants, flies, spiders. My eyes were opened to how each of these creatures is a beautiful little life, created by God for His pleasure, He gave me permission to have dominion over this little life, and so if I take the life of a creature, it must be with honor and respect to its Creator.

God continued with His covenant with Noah,

"But your own lifeblood I will avenge; I will avenge it against both animals and other humans.

Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans let his blood be shed,
Because God made humans in his image
reflecting God's very nature.
You're here to bear fruit, reproduce,
lavish life on the Earth, live bountifully!"

Initially you can read this as God giving to Noah and his descendants a way to govern human behavior and establish a barrier to the kind of murder and mayhem that Cain’s line had initiated in the pre-Flood days. But it is not intended to be that alone, because an animal’s blood was also to be shed if it killed a person, even accidentally. Every person’s life is sacred to God; only God has the right to take it. If anyone violates God’s right in this, God says He will require a reckoning, and it is a terrible price.

Jesus said that even to hate someone, or to tear them down was to commit murder in God’s eyes:

"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God."

There are all kinds of reasons that you and I get angry that, when you get right down to it, have only to do with our selfish interests being thwarted. We didn’t get what we wanted, one way or the other. When you and I hold people in contempt, or put them down, or impugn their reputation, that comes from evil. God considers that as good as murder, it’s sin. People who love with Christ's love will not sin in this way because love never seeks to destroy, but always to build up.

If you have some old business, some offense, som secret hatred or bitterness against someone, don't waste another minute. Sin never dies of old age, it just gets worse with time. If your life is emotionally and/or spiritually stalled out, this might be a reason why. Call that person up, or write them a note; do something about it, in all humility and true grief for having offended that person and God.

If you ask Him to, You will find that Jesus not only goes with you, He provides the words for you, and has prepared the other person to hear what you have to say. When you obey God in this, whatever happens next is also in His hands, you have done what was right in His eyes, and now it is the other person’s chance to also do right. Then you are free to move forward with God.

So you and I will be held accountable for hating in the same way we would be held accountable for murder. For those who belong to God, you can trust the Holy Spirit to convict you, in order to draw you into confession of hating someone, repentance of letting go of that hatred and the holiness of allowing God to cleanse you of all hatred through the pouring out of His love and forgiveness into you and through you to that other person.

So what about legalized killing, then? What about the death sentence, and abortion and war? What about police officers who carry weapons and shoot to kill? What about self-defense laws that allow otherwise unremarkable citizens to carry weapons, and to shoot to kill?

Back to the Old Testament, to what the Jews call Torah. God did outline the differences between murder and justified killing. He included penalties for crimes (pretty eye-opening, by the way, to discover what God considered death-penalty worthy crimes), acts of self-defense, honor killings, and wars that He alone commanded. Oddly enough, the only law that discusses the death of an unborn baby requires that the person who caused the death must pay with their own life. In war God was very specific about who was to be killed and who was to be spared. To veer from His instructions carried the death penalty itself.

No wonder, then, that the soldier in "M.I.A." prayed to God that the war he was waging was on the side of right.

And that makes war a far more serious business than we even make it. If it isn't a war that God justifies, then every life lost is murder. And even when killing is justified, it will tear us up inside, for we put to death one who holds the image of God, specially designed and given life by Him.

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