Armed

I like Devon Gundry’s song and video very much. I love Mr. Gundry’s voice, and Justin Baldoni’s directing and all the actors are fantastic. I agree with all the Baha’is out there who have heaped praise on the video. The first time I watched it, though, something seemed off, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’ve been thinking about it, but I’d like to get some feedback.

Why is so much stress put on the religious affiliation of the characters? This isn’t just an old couple, this is a Jewish old couple. And the Jewishness is important. Same with the military wife’s Christianness and the homeless man’s Muslimness. It’s as if the director is saying, “Hey, look! She’s a Christian! He’s a Muslim!” The video doesn’t just portray people experiencing grief and pain. The video portrays a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim experiencing grief and pain. Why? And then why do they all recite Baha’u’llah’s words?

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8 Responses

  1. I believe it’s trying to show the commonness of our humanity whatever religion we belong to and that we all look to the same source for guidance. The words are from the bahá’í writings but they are also beautiful and true for all those who wish to call on God whatever religious affiliation.

  2. There is one Sun that shines on all of us. There is one God whose name gives us Power.

    “Amongst the people, however, are those who understand and utter praises, and those who utter praises, yet understand not”

  3. I think I understand why you may feel in two minds about the over-all message. Baha’is are saying in effect, all religions are One, but the last Revelation from Baha’u’llah is the Word for all people for today so previous messages are not as ‘updated’.

    At the Conference of Badasht Tahirih broke ties with all past religious Dispensations in prefrerence to a totally new Cycle, which Babism adopted as a completely new independent religion.

    However, when Baha’u’llah took over he took the middle road where the Baha’i Faith was an indendent religion but it had its roots in the Mother Dispensation of Islam.

    Because the Baha’i Faith incorporates Babi stances in its literature and Holy Writings the believers are confused about what they actually believe and are teaching. They are wondering how to have unity and oneness with people who are still practicing old world religion, especially when Baha’is have writings which say the nonbeliever in Baha’i is basically lost.

    So the answer seems to be say all people are One and use the Baha’i quotes – then you don’t have to tell the people of other Faith’s they are lost as there is always the possibility they will catch up.

    http://tahirihstarr.info

  4. I can’t say for certain, but I assumed that the director was trying to make the point that all people suffer, regardless of their religious affiliation, and some people are able to rise above that suffering and have faith in God, regardless of their religious affiliation. As to why they’re all singing Baha’u’llah’s words at the end of the song? Probably because the entire song is lifted from the words of a Baha’i prayer and it would look cool to have the characters in the video sing along?

  5. Every music video has a certain goal the producer is trying to achieve. The goal is always to set a certain mood consistent with or complementary to the song. Usually this is done by telling a simple story. In order to be effective, the story has to be simple, because it’s only visual and it’s only a few minutes long.

    In the case of “Armed”, the producer seems to have two stories going on. One of them depicts three people experiencing pain, and the story ends with them receiving solace. This is a really effective tie-in with the Baha’i message, because they express their solace by lip-syncing Baha’u’llah. The reason I say it’s effective is that these people can be understood to stand in for the human race, so it’s the human race experiencing pain, and then receiving solace by reciting, i.e. responding to, Baha’u’llah’s revelation.

    All of that would be the same even if the producer hadn’t incorporated the religious paraphernalia. So why are they there? The simplest answer might seem to be that it goes along with what I said above – the religious paraphernalia emphasize the universality of these people and their experience. But I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I feel as if it does the opposite – it creates a sense of exclusion.

    Anyone can identify with losing a loved one or being maltreated. These things are intrinsic to the human experience. Keeping a prayer book by your bed is not. So the viewer sees the old man holding his wife’s hand and identifies with him: “That could be me someday”. Then he sees the religious markers and he becomes aware of difference: “Oh, he’s Jewish. I’m not that.” or “Oh, he prays. I don’t do that.”

    When you watch a video of any kind (music video, TV show, movie, etc.), what the camera looks at is what the director wants you to see. It’s as if the director is taking you by the hand and pointing at things and saying, “Look at this, look at that.” Here, the director is taking the hand of the viewer, who might be Jewish, or might just as well be an atheist or a Hindu, and saying, “Look, that guy’s Jewish. He’s not just an old man like you or like your grandfather. He’s a Jewish old man.” So the man is doing two contradictory things. He’s standing in for generic human experience, but at the same time he’s deliberately not generic.

    The producer didn’t have to do that. The character’s religious affiliation doesn’t add anything to the story of grief and solace. So why did the producer put it there?

    There seems to be a second story superimposed on the first, and the two don’t really connect. They just sort of awkwardly sit there on top of each other. This second story is basically a live-action Baha’i pamphlet: The world is made up of followers of different religions, and Baha’u’llah has come to bring them together. It seems just about every Baha’i pamphlet and every fireside makes a point about these other religions and Baha’u’llah’s fulfillment of them.

    This narrative resonates with some people – those for whom the diversity of religions raises confusing questions. It doesn’t resonate with everyone. It doesn’t resonate with people who don’t care about religion, or who think all of it’s bunk. And it doesn’t resonate with people who have come to their own conclusions about why there’s religious diversity.

    The Baha’i dogma of Progressive Revelation doesn’t click with everyone, but it seems like, generally speaking, Baha’is don’t feel like they’ve really taught the Faith unless they’ve brought up Progressive Revelation. And I feel like that’s what the makers of this music video did. They wanted their video to be a vehicle for teaching the Faith, so they made a video about Progressive Revelation.

    I think the confusion I felt when I wrote this post four weeks ago (though I couldn’t put my finger on it then) came from the fact that I was trying to watch this video’s story and I kept getting distracted by this harping on Progressive Revelation.

  6. Well, it’s a song written and performed by a Baha’i, the lyrics come directly from a Baha’i prayer, and the director of the music video is a Baha’i…I guess I don’t see what the problem is?

    Religious people teach their faith through art all the time. Most of the Christian bands out there only play really good so they can reach a wider audience with their message. The music is just the “vehicle” for getting the word out about Christ.

    Progressive Revelation is a major theme for Baha’is, so it would make sense to have that displayed in a music video directed by a Baha’i. Just as a music video of a Christian song will often show a depiction of Jesus as their savior, a music video of a Baha’i song may depict all of the world’s religions coming under the umbrella of Baha’u’llah’s vision.

    It certainly will not resonate with everyone, but I don’t think it would have been wise for the director to dilute the video’s message down to the point that it would be “universal” for everyone, and thus bland and lame. Some people like it. Some people don’t. It’s no different for anything.

    I think it’s also important to note that since there are so few Baha’is, that also means there are even fewer Baha’i artists. In the Christian context, there are thousands of people who are trained in the fields of directing, producing, music, song-writing, storytelling, etc. Whenever a Christian band wants a vision for a video or something, it is probably relatively easy to find someone trained in that. But it’s not as easy for Baha’is to find a mentor or someone trained in that field, so they often have to learn how to do it themselves.

  7. Progressive Revelation is a major theme for Baha’is, so it would make sense to have that displayed in a music video directed by a Baha’i.

    But progressive revelation is not a major theme of the lyrics of this song, nor is progressive revelation related to people overcoming personal tragedy.

    I don’t think it would have been wise for the director to dilute the video’s message

    But that’s just it. The director IS diluting the video’s message when he brings progressive revelation into it. Recall the song’s lyrics:

    “Armed with the power of Thy name, nothing can ever hurt me.”

    Very powerful words, but not relevant to progressive revelation.

    You might say these people are getting solace from their own scriptures, which illustrates religious unity. But they *don’t* get their solace from their scriptures. The homeless man is solaced by a stranger, the mom by her daughter, and the old man by a rainbow. Their scriptures just sit there as props.

    Whenever a Christian band wants a vision for a video or something, it is probably relatively easy to find someone trained in that. But it’s not as easy for Baha’is to find a mentor or someone trained in that field, so they often have to learn how to do it themselves.

    This has nothing to do with the quality of the production. This video is top-notch, extremely professional. The directing and acting are superb. I’m talking about the creative decision to inject progressive revelation where it doesn’t fit. That doesn’t reflect on the team’s talent as artists.

    There’s more to the Baha’i Faith than progressive revelation. You don’t have to bring up progressive revelation every time in order for your work to count as teaching.

  8. “There’s more to the Baha’i Faith than progressive revelation. You don’t have to bring up progressive revelation every time in order for your work to count as teaching.”

    Well taken.

    Explicit injection of the relevance of the baha’i revelation (for instance in the form of progressive revelation) into art work may indeed be considered ‘bad taste’. On the other hand, if the Saviour has indeed come as promised in the 19th century, came to the Holy Land and lovingly asks those that believe in Him to “Call out to Zion, and announce the joyful tidings: He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come!”, saying that the regeneration of the world depends on the spread of the New Message, I kind of understand ;-)

    Martijn

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