Read ’em and Weep

Is anyone going to mind if I get a tidge preachy for a moment? Lovely. Here goes.

I mind it, yes I really do, when Christians run around loving songs and singing along with them when they have never bothered to discover what those lyrics are actually saying. Are you with me here? I’m sure this must have happened to you before . . . it’s definitely happened to me a time or two, and I hate it. There’s some great song, you hear a snatch of it on the radio, it’s really catchy, you like the tune, and the next time it comes on you sing along with the chorus. And then you file it away under the mental category “songs I like.” But have you ever then discovered, after singing along with it about eighteen times without thinking, that it’s actually quite a despicable song when you read the lyrics? That’s really the worst.

No. I take that back. The worst is when Christians never actually DO reach the moment of discovering that it’s a despicable song . . . either because they just don’t bother, or because the cool hipness of the song has them around the neck and there’s nothing in the world that will convince them that it’s not the awesomest thing out there.

Actually, come to think of it, there’s one thing that’s even worse than that. The worst of all. That’s when the Christian knows perfectly well what the song says, but in some attempt at a James Jordan-ish (see important note in comments below!!) exegetical ninja move, they decide that the song has redemptive themes and a narratival structure of death and resurrection, which we all know is terribly Christian. That one can make me dance around in a perfect fury when I hear people do that. It’s my ultimate peeve. Because honestly, it’s not hard to discover redemptive themes and death and resurrection in basically everything. It’s like hitting the ground with your hat. We live in the world God made, and so death and resurrection are obvious themes in everything – it doesn’t mean the artist isn’t thumbing his nose at heaven, and it doesn’t somehow sanctify the rest of the trash. It’s like getting all excited because you’ve noticed that the debauched film you’re not supposed to be watching relies heavily on the use of gravity which, as we all know, was created by God. Clearly that makes no difference. I’ll bet that if I sat down and gave my mind to it, I could come up with a good argument for how there are redemptive themes involved in visiting temple prostitutes . . . but that doesn’t make it ok, obviously.

Why do I bring this up you ask? Because I’ve gotten all the way annoyed with people quoting little snatches of lyrics on their facebook pages that belong to songs that are as raunchy or as rebellious as the day is long. I don’t know if these people have never bothered to find out the context of their little quote, or if they like it anyway, or if they’re trying to act all deep about it and pretend that this is philosophically profound, but no matter what their reasons, it bothers me.

When I’ve suddenly realized that a song I like is actually a problem, it has always given me that sick feeling in my stomach. Not because the song is questionable – but because I had liked it. It’s like eating something that you thought was fantastic, only to discover that it was actually goat eyeballs or something. It’s that same kind of gross feeling. So all I can say is, read the lyrics. Seriously. Read them. It makes a difference when you look at the thing in hard print without the catchiness of the tune to make you feel like it’s ok. Obviously you can’t read the lyrics to every song you ever hear. But before you buy it on itunes, or add it to your playlist, or quote it on facebook, you should find out what it says. And like Dad always taught us . . . there are two questions that you should always ask. “What are they saying, and is it true?”

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24 thoughts on “Read ’em and Weep

  1. I appreciate this! It is refreshing to hear someone else speak out on this–love the goat eyeballs :) Thank you!

  2. I loved this article. I often listen to Klove, but at times get fustrated because it often all sounds “the same”, so you really don’t have to listen….I just comfort myself, thinking, “well, at least its “Christian” music”! We need to use discernment in all areas of our life?? I think we, too often, just get lazy about it! Thanks for such a good reminder!

  3. Rebekah,

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who was nodding in agreement while reading this and then, all the sudden, at the mention of Jordan, went, “Say what?”

    Now I realize that the point of this post is NOT James Jordan. And yet since the point of the post IS to discuss folks who take something they get a kick out of and make some lame attempt justify it biblically….well, having read, listened to, and appreciated Jordan for over 15 years now, it seems to me that he is an advocate of precisely the opposite.

    Jordan is constantly asking, “What does the Bible say about this? What does the Bible say?” Whether it’s some “cool,” but extra-biblical liturgical practice, or an exegesis based on some vague understanding of pagan cultures rather than scripture itself, or an unassailable scientific conclusion about how our world “evolved”…Jordan says: if there’s no scriptural basis for it, out the stained-glass window it goes!

    Now, you may not agree with everything Jordan has written (shoot, Jordan probably doesn’t agree with everything Jordan has written!), but there’s no question that he’s all about letting the Scriptures inform our liturgy, our biblical exegesis, and every other part of Christian living. I just hate to see the caricature perpetuated of Jordan as a wild, irresponsible exegete (even if intended humorously) when there is so much great stuff to be gleaned from his biblical studies.

    As I said, I know critiquing Jordan wasn’t the main point here. And yet having mentioned Jordan (and only Jordan) in the context of this particular post, it seems to me that you’ve made a pretty wild rhetorical ninja move yourself! 😉

  4. Angie,
    Just jumping in to answer your point. Bekah’s point was that most Christians are not able to do the same gymnastic feats (or as Bekah says, ninja moves) that Jim Jordan does. He can do the high-wire act because he is amazing. But some who try to imitate him fall flat and splat.
    Cheers to you and to Jim Jordan!

  5. I have been reading this blog for years and have found it to be very encouraging and edifying. I don’t tend to be one who leaves comments, but as the subject of Christian virtue and edification is one that has weighed heavy on me lately I felt I must say something. As I read your post this morning I was in such agreement until I hit “the jab”. I am thankful for what Angie wrote, she was spot on. I am so tired of the “Christian jab”. Are we not all one body? How is the Jordan remark to be taken? My heart is so heavy with all the church wranglings. Consider the ways your dad has been slandered, the ill words that have been spoken against him. My husband too has been under the gun, slandered and maligned by those in the church. Should this not make us all the more charitable toward fellow believers? We should be seeking to uphold and encourage those in the faith and to not malign their names. May the church be built up and God be glorified through our treatment of one another.

  6. Howdy Angie B and Lara!

    Oh good heavens! I obviously need to clarify my point since that isn’t even kind of what I was saying!!!

    I was in no way meaning to insinuate that this is what James Jordan does. It never even crossed my mind as a matter of fact. I was using his name as an adjective. What he does with the Bible, I have seen loads of little goofs attempt to do with songs or films written by pagan God-haters. And my point was that hidden depths and themes in raunchy songs do not make them ok.

    Again, and just to be clear, this was not . . . I repeat, NOT a jab at Jordan!

  7. Nancy & Rebekah,

    Thanks for the clarification! I definitely read it as a jab, not as a “don’t try this at home” sort of thing–although I image Jordan would say he’s not doing anything particularly innovative or “dangerous,” since many of his insights are gleaned from church fathers and other theologians. Still, I get your point now! Thanks again.

  8. Oh Rebekah! I don’t even know you, but your writing style is so distinctive that I can almost always tell when you are the author here at Femina!
    I say “Amen” to your point and would add my own little rant. What irritates me almost as much as Christians loving the world’s songs that are really saying something awful, is Christians loving “Christian” songs that aren’t saying anything at all. Grrr!!!

  9. Rebekah,
    Thank you so much for your response. I too read this as a jab, maybe I am just a bit too sensitive in this area right now. I now understand what you were saying and agree. Thanks for the dialog. I truly enjoy reading this blog and find it continually to be a challenge and encouragement.
    Thanks so much.
    Lara

  10. Sarah M – I agree with your “little rant.” My husband calls them “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. :)

  11. The same thing can happen with movies. A friend of mine once had to convince her mum that when James Cameron conceived the movie “Titanic” he did not intend to make the following comparisons: the DiCaprio character – Jesus, the Winslet character – us, the heartless rich – Pharisees, whoever played John Astor and the ship’s architect- Sadducees, the iceberg – Herod. I guess the disciples missed the boat.

  12. Great post! We need to be active participants in what we allow ourselves to listen to and watch. Having a few teenagers in the house and bringing home music from a friend at school or church has made us stop and consider what we are really listening to. And as the parent it has been an organic source of accountability. The dialogue has been challenging and enlightening in our home. We have spent a number of hours listening to artists, songs and or albums and discussing them with are people. Thanks for hitting this topic hard and I share your ultimate peeve.

  13. I completely thought the James Jordan ninja-moves line was hilarious. I appreciate what he does but think this is a fantastic analogy.

  14. Thank you! This has bothered me a lot lately. I keep thinking, “don’t they *know* what that song is saying? don’t the *care*?”. I’m so relieved to know that others do know and do care.

  15. Oh this is great stuff! Can’t tell you how many times I catch myself singing some stupid, pointless worldly song and I will literally stop myself and say out loud “Why are you singing that? That’s a stupid song! Find something better to sing!” Thanks for the good reminder. :)

  16. I feel bad for people’s mothers. The people I see are often grown up, out-of-the-house children who ought to know better. There’s a lot of silliness that is now able to be displayed in a very public manner.

  17. It is rather disturbing to me that I can like a song so much…..only to find out that ghetto meanings are so vile I can hardly believe it, and I had thought it was such a fun song to sing with my kids! I’m learning that you can’t take words literally either!!

  18. I received this through a friend of mine who liked your blog. I do have 1 question to ask. What type of music are you listening to? If ones listens to the old hymns this question would not have been asked… unfortunately nowaday, just because it is labeled Christian doesn’t mean it is. There are millions of dollars spent worldwide on Christian music where Christ is not even consulted. So sad!

  19. I have to say…am I the only stinker in this thread? My question is, “What kind of music do you mean?” There are those, and I was one of them for a few years in college, that would say the only good music is “Christian” music, and then there are those who would say the only good music is a certain brand of Christian music. Somehow I doubt you are saying we should only listen to CCM (since I’m pretty sure I’ve heard your dad sing CCR). So, what are we talking about here? Eminem? Arcade Fire (Say it ain’t so!)? How do you decide whether something is just not philosophically lining up, or if it’s eeeeeviiil? Oh, and do you not listen to anything by a musician if they have a song that you think is sinful, or what? Inquiring minds want to know!

  20. I would love to hear more about your last comment ”What are they saying, and is it true?” I have found this very helpful when looking at all the things the world and people say to see if they are true, weighing things up based on what the bible says. I think this is what you are getting at when you say ‘is it true?’ am i right? Id love to hear more about this and how you have asked this question in your life.

    Thanks so much for your post, very helpful indeed!

  21. Real life confession:
    I sang “One Moment in Time” for my high school pageant.
    “Give me one moment in time, when I’m more than I thought I could be…when all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, when the answers are all up to me.”
    Good thing it was recorded on a dinosaur VHS which my children will (Merciful Lord, please!) never see.

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