John brilliant because it presents both a

John Gourley and Brian Burton wrote Modern Jesus and is produced by
Portugal, The Man in 2013. The singers for the band are Noah Gersh and John
Gourley. The idea came to them when they were in a writing session and John
stood up and proclaimed that he had had a tune stuck in his head. He started
playing it on the piano and the song wrote itself from there. Stemming from a road trip director AJ Rojas took that
spanned over a dozen states, the music video for Portugal. The Man’s “Modern Jesus”
is purposely treated to alternate between hi-def and lo-fi, as is paralleling
the fascination which can be found in Midwestern America. A cast of memorable
characters appear to leave indelible marks upon one’s brain in Modern Jesus; a young woman dancing
freely; bloody youth wrestling one another atop barbed wire; wheelchair-bound
individuals representing the same crew; the list goes on. This portrait serves
as a reminder that real life is often more interesting than fiction, and that
embarking on a creative journey without a plan can often lead to brilliantly
unraveling realities.

The opening scene is a man walking into a
church, taking a seat, as he appears to be anxious and in trouble. This shows
the relationship that that community has to the church, they want to have hope
in the church and religion so that they can resolve their everyday problems but
rather they leave disappointed and dissatisfied. The man left without finding
the fulfillment he wanted in the Church. Portugal, The man has a background of
being against the Church in their home neighborhood of Wasilla in Alaska. They
try to refute the purpose behind religion in most of their songs. In the lyrics
“Who cares if hell awaits, we’ll be drinking at heavens gates”, the heaven’s gate part has a double meaning. The line
is brilliant because it presents both a light and dark outlook that both
condemn aspects of religion. In a bright sense, one may think it means that
since many religious people condemn alcohol, drinking at heaven’s gate is like
a middle finger at the entire concept of a God that disallows any sort of
debauchery. In the dark sense, Heaven’s gate is a religious cult that committed
mass suicide by drinking phenobarbital mixed with vodka. In that sense, this
line is sarcastically condemning the way that religion can be used to control
people’s minds. John Gourley confirms the connection to a cult in an
interview done by Redefine in August
of 2013.

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The video continues with a clip of a women
being free and twerking while smiling and then it moves to a southern community
with ranchers and cattle. This appears to be him traveling from place to place
and the meaning of the song comes back to us at this point in the music video,
he is still seeing people live their life the way they want, they do not need
the influence of religion in their life because it just restricts them. They
would be living an exponentially worse life if they bought into the medicine of
religion that everyone else is using. The next scene is the lead singer of the
band being put into handcuffs and then planes flying over a small town, these
two scenes next to each other is saying that nothing can hold them down because
they are living a life that they chose for themselves and figure things out for
themselves. When the plane is flying low over the town where it appears the man
was being arrested, it shows that there is always a bigger picture to what is happening.
He may be getting arrested right in that moment, but he does not let that
effect his life, he knows that eventually he will be released and be able to
continue leading the life that he was prior to the arrest.

As the visuals fade from the airplanes into a
man walking in a deserted playground Noah Gersh, the lead singer, sings
“they’ve got a pill for everything” then it goes to a scene of someone smiling
while firing rounds at a target. . This line means
that religion is artificial just like a pill. These days many people are on
pills that they do not need and wasting time and money on them. It is an
interesting comparison between the money guzzling pharmaceutical companies and
the Church. John is subtly calling us back to our natural human roots. You do
not need religion to be good. You need human nature; you need to be in touch
with your conscience and sympathy. When he refers to the “pill”, it can
be taken that he does not mean a literal pill, rather uses it as a placeholder
for a miracle cure. It could be a pill, yes, but it could also be Religion.
Something that will get you exactly what you want as long as you believe in it.
John is referring to the modern religions having a solution for everything sometimes
it helps to just take life as it comes and find a way to manage your problems
on your own, this is represented by shooting the gun at a range. People go to
gun ranges to distress and let their emotions just sit in the background for a
while. I thought it was interesting how he uses such vivid images to relay his
messages. There are no subtle messages in this video; most of the images are
very clear and concise.

In the next few scenes Noah sings the lyrics
“we don’t need no modern Jesus” and “the only faith we need is faith in us”.
These two lines are the main message of the song. He uses his imaging to portray
this message and then sings it directly. This song is written as a religious
person trying to persuade a non-religious person to believe in his religion. In
this scenario, he does not need the modern Jesus to live his life, his use of improper grammar
also shows that he does not care how other people view him; he is living his
life the way he wants to and that is all that matters to him.. He would rather just focus on what he can do here on
Earth to improve his life and get what he is working towards rather than to
hope for something from above. He would rather believe in himself than
God because he does not even know if God exists. The modern Jesus is called so because currently, parts of
Christianity have turned from a loving, compassionate, and forgiving theology
to one full of judgements and criticisms. The next line is “the only
faith we need is faith in us”, if you believe in yourself and have faith in
yourself and stick together with you community then that is all you need to
survive. You do not need to have faith in a superior power in order to live a
fulfilling life.

The next picture we have after these lines is
a man running and a train that is traveling across the Midwest. The man appears
to be running away from nothing and he is not upset, he is actually smiling. He
is carefree and running because he can. He has the freedom to pursue the life
he wants and that is why he is happy and running joyfully. He does not have the
“pill” of religion prescribed to him; he does not let the pressure of society affect
him. The train travelling shows the director travelling and visiting different
sections of the country. He visits so many different communities and experiences
different cultures yet they still find that you do not need religion to live a
full and happy life. He notices a continuous trend through all of his travels.

While the band is visiting different
communities, the next scenes are different types of memorial crosses on the
side of the roads and throughout the towns. Noah also sings, “don’t pray for
us”, going back to aforementioned description the
non-religious person is saying that he does not want anybody to pray for him,
which is a powerful statement combined with the memorial crosses. The memorial
crosses show that life happens and people die, which does not mean that they
did not live the life they wanted it just meant that fate, had it that way. He
does not want people to pray for him and the communities that found the life
that they wanted; they do not want or need those prayers. It does nothing to
help their situation; it just is a waste of breath for the person who is
praying. This is an important part for the music video because it is blatantly
going against what most of America wants to do when a problem arises; they want
to pray it away.  For instance, when the
Las Vegas shooting occurred all that POTUS did to “help” the situation was go
on a prayer walk through Las Vegas. This did nothing to help the community of
Las Vegas and it did nothing to prevent future mass shootings; at the beginning
of November just one month after the Vegas shooting a gunman open fired onto a
church crowd in Texas. Prayer helps nothing.

What appears next is a gang posing for a
picture and the lyrics “We’re the ones that start little fires” while a member
of the gang rolls up in a wheelchair.
The non-religious people here are being described as people who actually live
and start little fires or change the world. They do things without waiting for
Jesus to do it for them. Despite their mortality, when they are on the rise they can have
a huge impact on the world, and definitely a larger change on the world than
someone who just prayed for the change. It also implies to never
give up faith in yourself and keep pursuing the life that you want. The man
rolling up to the photo op in a wheelchair just shows that you never give up,
he stuck to it and it benefitted him to keep the faith in himself. He is also
smiling which shows that he is happy with the life that he has chosen to lead.

The next few scenes are all in night vision
while Noah sings, “we won’t sell you nothing you can’t use”. The religious
person sells false hope and the non-religious person will not give you hope but
some good molly. In a way they are promoting their lifestyle by saying that,
they will teach you their ways and it will be worth the adventure to pursue
that type of lifestyle. The use of night vision helps you to develop a
different meaning of what is happening, and it convinces you to pursue their
lifestyle. It is a carefree lifestyle with a deep connection to your inner self
and belief in the fact that you can live a healthy life without the hindrance
of religion. If you stick with the community that you fit in well with and try
to find your niche in life then you will not lose.

The last few scenes are a combination of flashbacks
to the girl twerking and then brutal fighting and a burning house and a church.
This is a last punch to the end of the song, they are saying that life has its
fights and you cannot always win them. If you stick through with it to the end
then you will have achieved the ideal life of happiness and you will have true meaning
instead of false hope in a religion that benefits no one. The burning house and
the church are a combined scene and it shows, again, that the church does not
help their life, destruction will happen anyway and there is nothing that can
be done to solve it, you just have to roll with the punches and take life as it
comes.

The question that comes up the most throughout
viewing this video is why would you choose a life of, what seems to be, pain
and suffering, when you can choose a life of ignorance and bliss by believing
in a modern Jesus?. The answer is quite clear, it is a personal option, and in
this song and scenario, they chose a life of raw emotion and living in the way
that they see most fit. They believed in themselves and stuck with their
community in their niche of life and they were the better for it. They take the
challenges as they come and deal with one problem at a time, they do not pray
for solutions for their problems instead they start their own little fires to
create their own solutions. They do not worry about what is in the future per
say but just live in the moment, which sounds really cliché but it sis the
truth. That is the whole point of Modern
Jesus, to show that you can live a fulfilling life without the influences
of the modern religions to interfere. 

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