Using contemporary songs to illuminate Scripture and life

Friday, April 22, 2005

"Out of Time" by R.E.M.

Connect with Scripture: Acts 17:16-31
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. [17] So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. [18] Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. [19] And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? [20] For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." [21] Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

[22] So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. [23] For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. [24] The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [26] And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, [27] that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, [28] for "'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, "'For we are indeed his offspring.'

[29] "Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. [30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright(C) 2000; 2001 by Crossway Bibles. All Rights Reserved.

Out of Time
Today’s Song: “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. from the album, Out of Time
When R.E.M. released Out of Time, it was their second major label release for Warner Bros. Where 1989’s Green had helped launch R.E.M. beyond indie status, now Out of Time would see R.E.M. truly take the world in 1991.

While R.E.M.’s lyrics are anything but straight-forward, often involving nonsensical combinations of ideas, there’s plenty of touchpoints in “Losing My Religion” to make it worth exploring. However, this study should not be seen as offering an explanation of what R.E.M. meant by the lyrics.

Copyright issues prevent SongDevotions from reprinting the lyrics on this site.

Behind the Music
1. Stanza 1, assuming this song is addressed to God, grappling with trying to believe in God, how does the speaker feel about God in this stanza?
2. How were the Greeks in Athens trying to travel “lengths”, to cross the “distance” to God?
3. Chorus, what is wrong with thinking that we need to “keep up” with God?
4. Why do people sometimes feel like they have to keep up with God?
5. What does Paul tell the Athenians about God’s reaction to us? Does he answer the fears of trying to keep up with God ?
6. Chorus, how could the “I thought” lines be guesses about different reactions God might have to us?
7. Chorus, which of the “I thought” guesses is the reaction God actually has according to Paul?
8. Chorus, how does the chorus hint at celebrity being part of the difficulty in finding God?
9. What are the “corners” or “spotlights” in your life that may lead you away from God?
10. Stanza 2, “choosing my confessions” (together with the video) sounds like the speaker is trying many different religions to find God. How has this search left him according to the stanza?
11. In what ways were the Athenians also searching in every corner for God?
12. How does Paul point them (and us) in one direction for our search?
13. Bridge, is our hope in Christ just a dream? What might make it seem like a dream to someone who doesn’t believe yet?