A Pale Imitation

By: Bryan Belknap


I was fortunate enough to see Mumford & Sons in concert right before they went on hiatus. It was a great show with many memorable moments, but one of the most indelible for me was actually created by the audience. 

When the band struck their first notes, the stage was completely black. Surprisingly, the utter darkness did not deter hundreds of people from raising their phones as one to film the song. (It didn’t matter that the stage remained pitch black for the majority of the opening song “Lovers’ Eyes” – they kept on taping. In fact, quite a few people actually captured footage of the entire concert on their phones.)

This phenomenon struck me as bizarre for two reasons:

These people were choosing to watch an inferior image over the real thing. Why would they choose to look at an incredible experience on a tiny two dimensional screen when they could see the real thing three dimensionally with their own two eyes bigger, clearer and with more authenticity? Sure they were physically at the concert, but they chose to avoid personally engaging what was happening in front of their face by instead viewing through a piece of technology. (This also made me wonder: are they going to really watch this poorly shot, distant concert footage with subpar sound quality later? More likely they were motivated by the social media bragging rights to come once they posted their amateur music doc.) 

These people messed up everyone else’s view of the show. It wasn’t quite as bad for me because I’m tall, but the people around me were all trying to find an opening among the sea of raised hands and iPhones to see the concert. (A concert they paid a pretty penny to attend.) The “tapers” were not only choosing an inferior experience for themselves, but also forcing everyone behind them to have a poor experience as well.

For me, the whole thing painted a vivid picture of sin. 1) Satan convinces us to accept a pale imitation of God’s best. For whatever reason – impatience, disbelief in God’s goodness, selfishness – we make choices outside God’s prescribed time or way and in turn receive far less than His best. 2) Our sin affects the people around us, causing their quality of life to diminish. No matter how often people say “as long as I’m not hurting anybody else…” it will never be true. Sin is a grenade that always causes collateral damage. The effects may be unintentional, but that doesn’t make them any less painful.

Ironically, the very band that these people were taping instead of personally experiencing spent some time singing about sin’s destruction and the possibility of grace in “Roll Away Your Stone”:

 'Cause you told me that I would find a hole

Within the fragile substance of my soul

And I have filled this void with things unreal

And all the while my character it steals

Darkness is a harsh term don't you think?

And yet it dominates the things I see

It seems that all my bridges have been burnt

But you say that's exactly how this grace thing works.

It's not the long walk home that will change this heart

But the welcome I receive with every start


 Bryan Belknap joined Student Life as creative director for MORF in 2011. Author of eight books and numerous videos, he has written for Lionsgate, Sony, GROUP and Relevant, among others, and been a featured speaker/teacher at conferences across the country. He most recently served as director of small gatherings, children and youth at Ecclesia Hollywood. He is married to Jill and they have a son, Cash.