Photo by Raph_PH at https://www.flickr.com/photos/raph_ph/34592058233/in/album-72157682954368531/
"Welcome to the Jungle" is possibly the most iconic song ever written and recorded by the rock-n-roll band Guns N' Roses (GNR). In the late 1980s, it was heard on radio and MTV almost hourly, and the song's popularity continued to swell through the 1990s. Recently, it has seen a resurgence as the the band's once warring lead singer and lead guitarist finally made amends in 2015, and GNR is once again touring the world, its signature sound intact.
Back in the song's heyday, most people experienced it as a "rebel's anthem" or an angry diatribe against everything that was wrong about American culture. Today, however, it is mostly nostalgic. Middle-agers--the former teenage fandom--consider the song something of a ceremonial remembrance of youth, and the most diehard of these worshipers can be seen reciting its lyrics almost liturgically in what might best be described as secular communion. GNR's followers are no slouches when it comes to loyalty! They were welcomed to the jungle 30 years ago, and they are doing everything they can to extend the same welcome to potential acolytes today.
Admittedly, I was a GNR fan "back in the day." And, like many of my contemporaries, I was attracted to the band's rebelliousness and their flare for calling out social injustice. Of course, over the intervening years, my perspective on life has changed. I'm no longer a devotee of the band, and all of my albums have long since been sold. Even so, I cannot help but hear the lyrics of "Welcome to the Jungle" replay in my mind's ear: "Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day; you learn to live like an animal in the jungle where we play . . . welcome to the jungle, watch it bring you to your knnn knnn knees knees." These words, immortalized over three decades ago by a group of drunken, drugged malcontents from Los Angeles, as aptly describe modern-day America as they described the sleazy underbelly of urban America in the 1980s. Not a lot has changed. Indeed, maybe things have gotten worse! When one considers the cut-throat nature of contemporary politics, the horrible reality of sex trafficking, and the seemingly flippant manner in which Wall Street carries out its day-to-day business, it certainly seems like we're living like animals and that things are getting worse by the day. There are even days when I've felt driven to my knees in despair, anger, or pure exhaustion.
Nevertheless, I've not lost hope in our world or the people in it. In truth, being driven to my knees is exactly where I need to be. For it is when I'm on my knees that I am compelled to look up. And when I look up, I see hope...a hope that comes from something far mightier than the jungle and far purer than anything I can imagine. Yes, it is in my most desperate times that the grace of God washes over me, and I experience anew what it means to be made whole again--what it means to live in anticipation of the jungle's destruction and the Garden's return. It may be getting worse here every day, but God has everything we want and he's the people that can find everything we need.