we can burn brighter?

There’s a popular song out right now by a band named “fun.” That’s right – the (.) is in their band name. It must be some kind of hipster thing to make the name of your band a whole sentence. I bet somewhere right now there is a new revised urban dictionary being written where one word sentences are all the rage.

I came across their song, “We Are Young” during one of my radio “seek” adventures. I haven’t yet programmed the presets in my car, so I just press the seek button until it lands on something interesting. NPR, classical, TobyMac, talk radio and Kelly Clarkson’s latest girl power anthem get equal airplay on my short commutes. When I landed on this song, I’ll admit I liked the beat (and the Queen-esque feel of the whole album). It’s hard not to if you have a sunroof and it’s 72 degrees in late February.

Then I listened to the underbelly of what all the hipsters are calling an “epic” sound:

We are young
Let’s set this world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun

Wow. My culture is making strong claims with this anthem and all the 35-year-old radio DJ had to say is, “Hey, gotta love this one. I just heard it last week and, man, I’ve got it on replay.”

I stopped bobbing my head and started asking questions. This is not some adolescent kid shaking his fist at the air – not some collegiate rabble-rouser stumbling in and out of bars spitting speculation. This is our Tower of Babel.

English: Tower of Babel

In Genesis 9, God told Noah to disperse after the flood – to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The people decided it would be better to cluster together – to make a name for themselves by building a tower to the heavens and building a city around them for protection. John Piper (in his sermon “The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ”) preached that, at the Tower of Babel, “The two sins are the love of praise (so you crave to make a name for yourself) and the love of security (so you build a city and don’t take the risks of filling the earth).” With the flood still fresh in their memory, did the people really think they were powerful enough to reach heaven and strong enough to remain disobedient to the Lord?

Apparently, yes. The people decided they were both powerful and strong enough to complete the task and live prosperous in disobedience. They tried to outdo the God who had delivered them from sure death and preserved them for life.

As I listened to this band break “new ground” on the radio, I heard an old, familiar story. I heard a story where WE are the center, where WE decide our fate, where WE can build our own destiny, and where WE can make ourselves immortal. Call it “youth” or “foolish,” but don’t call it a joke.

I wonder if there were people in the days of the Tower of Babel who shut themselves in their homes, silently disapproving of the monstrous building project. I wonder if they thought it was a fleeting fad that would pass when the builders grew older.

Does my generation really believe we are powerful enough to set the world on fire?
Does my generation really believe that we are big enough to shine brighter than the sun?

Even taken metaphorically, these claims are concerning. Everyone can tap a toe to the anthem (about losing your troubles at the bar and promising to carry drunk friends home) that makes you think you are capable of anything – for no other reason than “we are young.” I’m not sure how the logic works out – something like this, perhaps?

-We are young.
-Young people have cultural authority (to set the world on fire).
-Authority governs earth/sun/moon.
-Young people can supersede sunshine.

Hm. Lots of holes, it seems. The stranger thing might be that the song weaves destruction in with delight. I’m pretty sure we all still think burning alive is one of the worst ways to die. So, they can’t be serious about setting the world on fire and burning brighter than the sun. Yet, they choose this clearly destructive imagery to represent the ultimate thrill – the greatest delight. The whole thing is about bumbling barroom mistakes, but the song repeatedly declares (like Charlie Sheen and Courtney Robertson) that it’s all canceled out because in the end, we’re “winning.” Even as we all light up in a burning ball of gas, the thrill of burning brighter than the sun is somehow worth it.

Left to our own devices and given the right amount of authority, I don’t doubt we’d light a match to the world – crazy as it sounds. I am so grateful we aren’t walking around with that kind of power. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of this generation as well. He is so gracious to call us to salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, and rescue us from self-destruction.


Sorry to dump this on you all. My grandpa recently reminded me that I should stick to simple things on this blog. I can already tell you what he’ll say in response to this one, “Agh! I didn’t understand one word of it.” Well, maybe tomorrow I’ll write about how I forgot to close my sunroof overnight and drove on damp seats in the morning.

I simply want to encourage us all to think critically about what our culture claims about who we are and why we are here because it is shaping our generation (whether or not we’ve got our hands covering our eyes).

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

3 thoughts on “we can burn brighter?

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