‘Miracles’ Rejects Disenchantment, Not Science

For over two decades Insane Clown Posse, a hip-hop group from Detroit, has cultivated an underground network of dedicated fans known as “Juggalos” (and “Juggalettes”). The Posse’s musical stylings are dubbed “horrorcore,” as they combine themes of horror and the supernatural with hardcore rap. The duo, Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J, perform in grease-paint and the majority of their songs concern brutal violence, sexual transgression, and drug use. 

So it came as something of a surprise when, on April 7, ICP released a video for the single “Miracles” (NSFW), which is apparently a call to notice all that is beautiful and mysterious in the world. Released to promote their tenth album, Bang! Pow! Boom!, the video quickly went viral. While the song still contains numerous profanities, the trademark anger and nihilism of ICP is absent. Rainbows, the stars, and the birth of children are all described as sources of profound wonder, and Violent J expresses gratitude to his mother for allowing him to experience the world. The clowns are shown dancing among tranquil imagery such as wildlife, waterfalls, and pictures of outer space. They also spend much of the video riding a telescoping “tower” which (much like the Tower of Babel) rises layer by layer from an ICP concert and into the stratosphere.

“Miracles” has inspired a storm of commentary on YouTube (not to mention on Slate, MTVnews, and Cracked magazine’s “Textbook for Juggalos”) ranging from appreciation to bewilderment to open hostility. Saturday Night Live even created a parody of the video. The most common complaint about “Miracles” is that it appears to celebrate ignorance. Critics frequently point to Shaggy’s lyric, “F-ing magnets! How do they work?” The implication is that anything the artist fails to understand is ipso facto miraculous, making ignorance a sort of sacrament. Shaggy goes on to add:

And I don’t want to talk to a scientist/
Y’all motherf**kers lying, and making me pissed!

Some have speculated that the Insane Clown Posse have become fundamentalist Christians. While there’s nothing inherently Christian in their lyrics, this is not the first time the duo have waxed theological. In fact, many of their albums reference a fictional mythology called “The Dark Carnival”—a sort of purgatory where souls await final judgment. The dénouement of the Dark Carnival mythology occurs in the last track of their eighth album, entitled Thy Unveiling, in which it is revealed that:

Truth is we follow God!/We’ve always been behind him!/
The Dark Carnival is God and may all Juggalos find Him!

This “Juggalo soteriology” continues in “Miracles” where ICP explains that:

The Dark Carnival is your invitation/
To witness that without explanation/
Take a look at this fine creation/
And enjoy it better with appreciation.

Were we to remove the obscenities from “Miracles” and replace the term “Dark Carnival” with “the Oversoul,” we end up with a poem that might’ve been in found in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wastebasket.

MTV posted an article that systematically addresses all the natural phenomena that have apparently inspired Shaggy and Violent J, explaining scientifically why they are not “miracles.” Enraged juggalos commented that the MTV’s authors are “a bunch of haters”—and rightly so. Of course rainbows are created by white light refracted through water droplets; the “miracle” isn’t the meteorological phenomenon but rather the Insane Clown Posse’s childlike experience of it. The song is not a litany of things that actually confound scientists, but of phenomena that confirm the reality of the sacred—what Mircea Eliade called hierophanies.

At the heart of “Miracles” is not a fundamentalist rejection of science but a rejection of disenchantment—of a societal pressure to accept a rational-scientific worldview even when it fills our world with less meaning instead of more. It is ultimately not surprising that horrorcore shock artists, who have apparently rejected every other social value, should reject disenchantment as well. Just as the Transcendentalists made a distinction between “Understanding” and “Reason,” ICP reminds their juggalos that joy does not come from “explanation” but “appreciation.”

Joseph Laycock is an assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University. His forthcoming books include The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle for Catholic Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Religion, Play, and Imagined Worlds (University of California Press, 2015).