“What if I say I’m not like the others
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender…”
– “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters
The first time I found myself watching the Foo Fighters was in my 11th grade AP Lang class in the context of transcendentalism–a sampling of the “I do what I want” worldview. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Pretender” the first time I heard it. At that point, I was pretty strictly instrumental or Christian music, and rock seemed like a foreign concept.
The second time I listened to “The Pretender” was in a dusty pickup truck with my boss during my first week on the job. I didn’t even realize I’d heard it before until I looked it up later (because, gasp, my music preferences have expanded, and I thought it sounded kind of cool) and watched a music video that quickly carried me back to Wilkes’ classroom and sidewall smartboard. This time, the lyrics had significantly more weight. After coming out of what had turned into a year-long wrestling match with doubt and purpose after graduating from high school in May, still pretty bruised and battered, I listened to the words of what is undoubtedly a secular song raging against “The Man” and found myself seeing an entirely different parallel: raging against “The (Real) Pretender” — the master of deception and our sworn enemy, Satan.
Woah, now, Sarah; don’t you think you’re stretching it a bit? How could you possibly pull a Christian truth from a rock song? Let me draw your attention to a small nugget I learned at Summit last summer: all worldviews, besides Christianity, are counterfeits crafted by Satan himself. So let me ask you a question: If you buy a counterfeit MK purse, ladies, are you going to buy one that looks like the real thing or one that looks like what a crazy cat lady pulled out from her closet and cheerfully sharpied on? Well, obviously, the one that looks real. Here’s another thought: which lie is stronger–the one that is completely fabricated or the one that has a healthy dose of twisted truth? The Foo Fighters are right about one thing: there is a Pretender out there right now to fight (and it’s a bit more intense than a swing set punching match) against. No, they’re probably not thinking about the Dark Lord Satan. I’d imagine they’d probably say something to the effect of it being a call to action against the “guvment” because that sounds cooler than “government.” Some of you might go for both meanings right now, but let’s ignore the disconcerting political landscape for a moment and focus on a different “Man” — the prince of our crumbling world and listen to the song.
We have a pretty smart Enemy, don’t you think? But this song, if you listen for the truth that is hidden within it, points out his greatest weakness: he’s nothing more than a pretender and calls him on it. Someone’s been trying to play God–and doing a pretty good job of it, but we have been given eyes that see through his lies. We can shatter the distortion and unveil him as an imposter. And once all the pieces of the facade fall away, so can everyone else. Bam. Sorry, Satan, but we’re not going to fall for your tricks–for this game that you’re playing with us because we don’t have to play by your rules.
Imagine you’re playing a little league game, and the other team is playing dirty because they believe you don’t know the rules. And then, with a smile on your face, you run back to your daddy who’s leaning against the chainlink fence, scowling and ready to crush that stupid ref’s face, because here’s the kicker: our Daddy–our heavenly father wrote the rules. That’ll win a “Well, my dad…” contest in a heartbeat. My Daddy–your Daddy literally wrote the rules of our world into existence. We know the Truth. (Remember that sword collecting dust on your coffee table?) Imagine your dad leaning up from his watchful position, patting your head, and saying, “I’ve got this, kiddo. Don’t you worry.” That’s right, Satan, we’re not just another one of your plays. In fact, we’re members of a team that has an infinite winning streak. That’ll take the winds right out of his sails, ladies and gents. We’re not like the others. We know we’ve won.
Maybe we are transcendentalists after all.
Listen again. “Spinning infinity, boy/The wheel is spinning me/It’s never ending/Never ending/Same old story.” I think about my own struggle with sin. Satan traps us is a cycle of shame and disobedience, but we don’t have to live like that. Christ has set us free-invited us into a life free from perpetual dishonesty, twisted truths, and pointless struggles. He has chosen us as His royal priesthood. Think about it: we’re sons and daughters of the King of the Universe who literally rolled up to the stronghold of the Enemy and kicked in the doors. Can you imagine the smile on His face as he walked away from Hell, keys in hand, knowing that, at long last (like, a 66-books-in-the-series long story), it was finished. We, wayward prodigals all across the world, could finally come home.
We know who we are in Christ: children of God. Satan is equally familiar with who he is not in Christ: the enemy of God. One of my favorite lines in the bridge is “So who are you/Yeah, who are you.” That’s right, Satan. We know who you are. So say it. It’s time for us to return the favor of flooding minds with false doubts and never-ending questions, and we’re going to hit you as hard as we can. We’re not going to be kept in the dark any more, bleeding ignorance (See Intro of “The Pretender”). We’ve claimed the promises of God, and He promises that you’re finished. Squashed. Like a grape (Thanks for that analogy, Flynn Rider).
Why do you think Satan fights so hard to silence us as Christians? “I’m the voice inside your head/You refuse to hear/I’m the face that you have to face/Mirroring your stare/I’m what’s left/I’m what’s right/I’m the enemy.” I’d be pretty alarmed if there were an army of hammer-wielding, holy-spirit indwelled warriors running straight for my plexiglass shields, too. Especially since the Big Guy Upstairs more than has their back–He guarantees they’ll succeed. (If you watched the music video, try thinking about that big ol’ wave of red paint as the blood of Christ that covers us and sets us free. Not to mention all the bad guys were in black.)
That’s my kind of song, friends. So, now that you’ve gotten your fill of lyric analysis and rock music, I’ll bid you happy jamming and lie-shattering. The Pretender is waiting, and the King just handed you Mjolnir and said have at it (that’s right, Avengers fans. Christ has made you worthy.)