"Christianity has become something I don't think Jesus would recognize, frankly."

Forty-one years old, eight albums deep into her career and just recently a mother, singer-songwriter Tori Amos -- a minister's daughter -- is not going to let her child grow up the way she did. No longer a member of the Christian church, the Maryland-bred icon has watched as governments across the world have used spirituality to justify their political agendas.

"It troubles me," she explains, "how certain leaders use Jesus' teachings to justify their agendas, which turn out to be violence."

While Amos has had these feelings for some time, her awareness of the issue intensified in recent years with the escalating conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East. Before recording her most recent album, The Beekeeper, Amos read a considerable amount of literature on Christianity -- the stuff they don't tell you.

"I discovered a lot of readings about religion," she says, "like the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and I got to thinking: Why has this stuff been suppressed? There must be more to Christianity than what we're led to believe."

Her recent revelations proved to be strongly influential in the creation process of Beekeeper. On the album, she melds her newfound skepticism with the feminist ideology she's promoted on all her previous work. The result is a starkly original concept album centered on the story of the Garden of Eden -- only Amos tells it a bit differently.

"It isn't original sin. It's original sensuality."

The album, an ambitious 19-track set, begins with Amos' narrator eating the "forbidden fruit." This initial moment of defiance sets the tone for the rest of the album, as Amos rolls out a series of stories about relationships, love, death and sexuality, all within the setting of a garden. "This is not a garden where women are blamed for the fall," she notes, "but instead are encouraged to take a look inside ourselves and not be ashamed to be asking questions. It's about how you find sacred sexiness within yourselves." She believes the album to be "about searching for the missing piece of the woman," something she thinks Christian ideology has concealed for ages.

Despite creating a fiercely thematic work, Beekeeper leaves enough room to criticize current United States foreign policy as well. Although her character is contained within the garden throughout the work, she recognizes that she "can't shut out what's going on outside from her life." She believes, allegorically, that we, as citizens, must do the same. "Our lives are changing," she says. "We're losing friends, loved ones, etc., and what are we gaining? We have to ask ourselves these questions."

Amos' star may not shine as brightly as it did in the mid '90s, but to call her music irrelevant to the 2005 scene would underestimate both her talent as a musician and the intellectual approach to her lyrics. On Beekeeper, like many of her past records, she's found a way to play to her strengths as a songwriter while at the same time incorporating new elements into her songs.

"No matter what you feel," she expresses, "you have to make music you respect. And I'd like to think that that's what I've done my whole career"


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