Awake, O Sleeper, Rise from Death [video]

There's a gritty video out there that meshes biblical language, Plato, and is titled after the hymn "Awake, O Sleeper."

It's brilliant.  But I'll leave it up to your imaginations if the last 10 seconds utterly destroy its meaning.

Take a look and then discuss it after the break (there's a youtube version and a blog post on it too):


Awake O'Sleeper from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

Read on for conversation on this video being a great discussion-starter on issues of violence, redemption, and Original Sin.

Great imagery and video. A chaingang being awakened to their plight after a random guy who stood up for them is beaten. Lyrics like "there are chains upon your children Lord" and desiring to wake them up from the only reality they've ever known (ala Plato's Cave) is powerful and speaks to one understanding of Original Sin as being born into a violence that you cannot discern.  Gritty and powerful.

I worry, however, about the last 10 seconds. The chain-gang bands together and kicks off their chains, but you see them rubbing their handcuff wounds ("the marks of the Lord") and looking at their suddenly impotent captor with death in their eyes.  There's no finality, only assumption, that retributive violence against their captor occurs. 

If violence against their captor ensues, then the video loses its moral gravitas.  Jesus died so that redemptive and retributive violence would end.  If those who have been given life continue to respond with the violence of the sleeping-world, then they are not honoring the life of the nonviolent Savior.

Consider the original words to "Awake O Sleeper" found in the United Methodist Hymnal #551

Awake O Sleeper, Rise from Death,
and christ shall give you light. 
So learn his love, its length and breadth,
its fullness depth and height.
...
Then walk in love as Christ has loved,
who died that he might save;
with kind and gentle hearts forgive,
as God in Christ forgave.
It's hard for me to see anything in that original hymn that is anything other than gentle lovingkindness.  Violence against the captor is clearly not an understanding of an "awakened" being.

Further, Charles Wesley preached a sermon "Awake, Thou that Sleepest" in 1742.  In it, God's wrath is against not the captors, but those who are still asleep, or act as if they are still asleep!  So the chaingang responding in violence, even though they have been awakened to their plight, react from the sleep-world of God's wrath rather than the love of Christ who awakens us to our own selfish devices.

But perhaps this admonotion is in the video.  The final scene has the Jesus-figure looking without joy or satisfaction in his eyes, but puts on his hat and turns his back.  Perhaps that's indicative of a Jesus who saves, but is saddened when the freed resort to the violence of their situation rather than rising above. Awake, O Sleeper, Rise from DEATH! The death is not the captor, but the violence! Awake, Awake!

I guess that's the best part about art: you see what you see. 

In short, a great video that can lead into discussion of the value of redemptive or retributive violence.  I hope you use it and report back on how it went!


Here's the lyrics of the song for those interested:

Awake! O Sleeper
(Kirk/Wilkerson)
Oh Abraham would raise his hands
And mourn this very day
For his children left the promised land
In search of their own way
They kick and scream like wayward sons
Always wanting to sleep
And dream away these evil days
In hopes that God cant see
There are chains upon your children Lord
Chains upon your children
There are chains upon your children
We're in chains

Do you hear the lion roar?
Awake O Sleeper
Stand with me well fight the war
Awake O Sleeper
Your suffering will come again
And never fall away
For we trade our many comforts
Like the one who bled for grace
There will come a day my God will come
And put me in my place
My God I pray, Youll call my name
Instead of turn away
Let no man bring me harm
I bear the marks of Jesus
Let no man bring me harm
I bear the marks of the Lord

Welcome to our visitors!  Thoughts?

7 comments:

Brian December 31, 2008 at 1:15 AM  

As you can see, I've been digging this song and it's on my current playlist.

Thanks!

Anonymous,  January 18, 2009 at 10:44 AM  

Came across this looking for the video artist, since I only heard the song and had to search by the words "Wake O'Sleeper".

I think you're over thinking the end of the video a bit, as I think you've lose who the captor is a symbol of - Satan, the enemy of Christ, the prince of this world, etc.

Jenn,  May 7, 2009 at 12:06 PM  

I agree with your evaluation of the last ten seconds. Even if it was meant to show the captors turning on the devil, that really isn't their role. We don't take on the devil. Jesus fights our battles for us.

I also worry about what non-Christians think about a video like this (even though I know I shouldn't worry :) The captives turning on their captor seems to play to so many misconceptions that non-believers have about Christians -- that they are vengeful, aggressive and dark even after being "saved".

Anonymous,  June 21, 2009 at 9:41 AM  

I think you are over thinking the end...i think its more like symbolism...the children of God to take a stand against the devil...and not a flesh on flesh battle but more like 'we war not against flesh and blood but the principalities of the air'

nuttingd September 8, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

I don't really see a problem with the end of the video. While it is true that the battle belongs to the Lord, the Lord has required our participation throughout history in fighting the battle. The other thing to remember is this video may be symbolic of the idea of Christians who have failed to step up the plate to resist the devil who one day "awake" to step forward and do what they should have been doing all along. The bible and teachings by hundreds of authors agree that it is through God's people on earth, their prayers and interventions and actions that evil is kept at bay in this world. Awake o Sleeper is a call to all Christians to stop the apathy and start interceding as we are called to do.

jim September 20, 2009 at 9:59 AM  

wow, i have known about this video for a year now. Well we do battle against our flesh and evil. The scripture is clear about fighting; we are no to fight, but God is to fight for us. There will be a Final battle that is in Revelation. The video is symbolic. It relates to our struggles. Dont worry about anything; but pray that those who watch that are not saved; that the Holy Spirit touches them in a way that opens them up to reveal the turning away from the sin that binds them.

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