|Joel's breakthrough album in 1977..|
It has always been one of my favorite Billy Joel songs and it's apparently well received by my kids as well. They sang along with the radio, knowing most of the lyrics, as I drove.
As the tune went on, I started to wonder, are these words I want my kids to be singing along to? Maybe, I overthink things but, after the song ended, I said to them, "That song is wrong on so many levels."
My son asked, "What do you mean, Dad? Why is it wrong on so many levels?"
"Well," I started, "Do only good people die young? How about all those people that think they are bad boys and girls and die young? Or are all people that get old bad? How about Abuelo and Abuela?" (At this point, I'm hoping they won't get offended that I'm calling them old!)
"Then, there's the part that talks bad about Catholics," I continue, "That Catholic girls start much too late and count on their Rosaries."
By the way, going back to the UM game, there was a heckler behind us with some friends, ragging on the Notre Dame players; among their insult? "Catholic boys, go back to Church!" Another guy, threw in, "They have to go to Confession first!!"
Really? That's an insult? We're supposed to want to go to Church, Mr. Heckler. It's not a punishment! At least, the second guy was onto something. We do need Confession to receive the Holy Eucharist, so he may have been Catholic himself, but being a sinner is no reason to avoid Church. In fact, if sinners weren't allowed, the Church would be empty!
In any case, back to Billy Joel. Aside from the good dying young, the Catholic faith (They show you a statue and told you to pray. Really? How about the slight on Sacraments? You got a nice white dress and a party for your Confirmation. You got a brand new soul... but Virginia they didn't give you quite enough information...) and purity being mocked, which, let's face it Virginia, if more teens waited longer to lose their virginity, life might be less complicated, there's the I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints line.
Another point of contention; do you know that most studies show that people with God in their life, are much happier and live more fulfilled lives than those that don't?
Therefore, saints are not always crying. Well, maybe, in martyrdom. But, then you hear stories about Catholic priests singing as they are buried alive in Communist China or St. Ignatius of Antioch who, on his way to be fed to lions in the first century, refused any help from fellow Christians, wanting to die a martyr for the sake of Christ, and you wonder. Were they really sad?
Yet, the most troubling line in the song is "They say there's a heaven for those who will wait, some say it's better but I say it ain't."
In other words, hell is a better option? Are you kidding? Live for the 80 years or so (if you're lucky!) you have here on earth and rot for eternity? That's ETERNITY; meaning forever!
Or did he mean, there is no heaven? And, if no heaven then no hell. Now, the latter can be worse since it's basically saying, let's just live for the moment because, if there's no heaven or hell, then there's no God.
A modern day Friedrich Nietzsche. The same Nietzsche that claimed in the mid-nineteenth century that "God is Dead" and that man was evolving into a "super human race."
The same Nietzsche whose disciple Adolf Hitler tried to speed up the process through eugenics.
Well, I may be spitting in the wind to some, including Billy Joel, but God is not dead. Sainthood doesn't mean crying. Catholics don't worship idols or are misinformed. And, happiness is not found in the superficial pleasures of the times. In fact, quite the contrary, the list of those who lived for the moment and died young is long and wide; think James Dean, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, John Belushi, John Lennon, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Philip Seymour Hoffman and the names go on and on.
One can argue many of these "sinners" were actually tormented souls, laughing on the outside, while crying on the inside. Nietzsche himself was a tormented soul. He died in an insane asylum.
Therefore, catchy tune, catchy lyrics but wrong message. The good don't always die young and the bad don't always live till they're old. Death is on God's time and, whenever our tune is called, we better be ready to hit the right notes.
Personally, I think I'll stick with Piano Man, Just the Way You Are and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant from now on...