Culture

Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 11: The Lost Son

prodigal-son

Welcome to Week 11 of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkin’s 2012 album Oceania. If you’ve been following this series, you know that we’ve looked at the themes of the seeker, the sacred Name of God, wisdom, unfaithfulness, hope, unfailing love, repentance, the way, and faith. Last week, we looked at the concept of contentment in the lyrics to Track 11, “Glissandra.”

This week, we’re looking at Track 9, “Pale Horse,” which is a mid-tempo rocker with a steady rhythm. In the lyrics, Corgan signs to someone who is separated from him. (References to the antipsychotic drug Thorazine and the line “When they locked you up they shut me out” suggest that the song refers to someone in a mental institution.)

I’ll admit that I had some trouble seeing anything in the lyrics that I could write about, so I skipped past it for a couple of weeks. But this week, as I was preparing to write this post, certain lyrics made me think of one of the most poignant stories in the Bible:

If I was to listen, I’d turn back
Give up on my reasons
Forgive up the past
You think I’d swallow that?

[…]

There’ll be no others
There’ll be no long lost friends
Empty on the insides
Empty of a last pretense
To stand by on feeling of the end
So many lives
A runaway life
So many lies

[…]

So many lives
A runaway life
Please come back
Please come back


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJ7JCcp4YF4

These lines suggest Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son, or the Prodigal Son, which we find in Luke 15:

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

I’m not going to elaborate much on this passage except to say that it’s an allegory about someone who has strayed away from faith in God. The lost son lives “a runaway life” full of “so many lies,” as Corgan’s lyric suggests. The father waits for his son, pleading, “Please come back.”

God always welcomes back His followers who stray if they return to Him with a repentant, humble heart. One of the most encouraging and heartwarming aspects of God’s nature is that He desires for His children who have wandered off to return, and He welcomes them with open arms. I hope and pray that you can find encouragement in His love as well.