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Stressed out

By January 29, 2016 3 Comments

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names,
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away,
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face,
Saying, “wake up, you need to make money.”

I first heard the song “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots in the car when my wife and I were headed out to eat on a Friday night. We’re moving into the pre-adolescent / adolescent stage with our kids, which, as many of you already know, means new joys as well as new concerns. This particular night we butted heads with our eleven year old son, so the lyrics of this song jumped out of the car radio and grabbed me. It’s not that we don’t want our kids to grow up, but we find ourselves thinking about when they were younger—things just seemed to be much simpler. It wasn’t perfect—we’re very glad to not have to worry about diapers—it was just different, with less to keep track of and seemingly less things to worry about.

For some reason the video to “Stressed Out” makes me think of the current political situation. Last night I took part in a panel discussing a Christian approach to politics. We focused on the familiar issues: immigration, foreign policy, abortion, etc., but it was health care that got me fired up. I realize there isn’t a perfect solution, but I’ve grown weary of capitalistic, market based, approaches to the issues. Health care and insurance costs continue to grow while wages have grown stagnant. Increasingly, the economy produces low wage jobs with shrinking benefits. Out of control student debt means that many young people are beginning adult life already struggling to make ends meet. Lower wages, higher health care costs, increasing debt…no wonder we’re stressed out. Unfortunately, it’s the hard-working, blue-collar, people who get hit the worst, in part because they’ve bought into the American dream. They believe that if you work hard enough things will work out in the end. And yet, how many people have had their lives turned upside down by the economic recession? How many people have lost their job, or have been crushed by overwhelming debt from health problems? How many veterans have returned from the Middle East unable to put their lives back together and make ends meet?

These type of political discussions inevitably include someone asking about what it means to be pro-life. I believe a thoughtful answer must include the issues of health care, a livable wage, and meaningful work. Being pro-life means creating support systems for people who fall on hard times; it means providing resources for people who struggle with mental illness. Pro-life means establishing forms of government that protect its citizens, not just from foreign enemies, but from domestic ones as well. It means protecting hard-working people from the destructive greed of corporate power, and making sure that Wall Street speculators do not benefit off of the misfortune of others. As the old social patterns and institutions give way to new ones, and the gap between the rich and poor widens, the Christian community must continue to broaden its political concern to include the issues of income inequality, meaningful work, and health care. The same old rhetoric, and the same old “answers” just don’t cut it; we need to think imaginatively, creatively, and biblically about what we mean when we talk about the sanctity of human life.

It’s crazy, I know, that this song sparked such serious thoughts. Maybe it’s the lyrics? Or, maybe I’m just nostalgic for a couple of sweet big wheels.

Jason Lief

Jason Lief teaches Practical Theology at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He served as editor of Reformed Journal for many years and was one of the original bloggers on the RJ blog. You can find more of his writing at


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