Wednesday, June 04, 2008

All That Matters to Me is...

Please sign off now if you are easily offended.

I am sorry to post below actual blasphemous lyrics from a popular song.

But I want to make a point about the blasphemies all too common in contemporary music:
uh, contemporary Christian music (the only genre of music that can officially be blasphemous)

It's a nice bouncy, infectious pop song by Addison Road.
But the unapologetic lyric of the chorus is as follows.

Please brace yourselves.

And do not listen to the song, as the chorus is so catchy you will find yourself singing it and thus reinforcing the heretical message.


"All that matters is
All that matters is
I know Your love has set me free
And that's all that matters to me."

Wow, if that is all that matters to me, I cannot possibly be a Christian.

Okay, don't hear what I'm not saying:

I am not saying the songwriter and band are blasphemers; or the lyric was intentionally blasphemous. They are likely better Christians than me.

I am not saying that I don't need reminders of how awesome my personal salvation is.
I do.

I am saying that the chorus should not be memorized or internalized.
The inevitable perceived message is the inevitably popular individualistic gospel.
How anti-gospel.

How about for once a lyric in a Christian song that runs something like:

we keep the poor in slums, to ignore them or despise them, and we broadcast shows and movies, to amuse and tranquilize them … in the suicidal system, the suicidal system.”

Oh, wait...there is a Christian lyric like that. But you haven't heard it on Christian radio.
I wonder why not?
More on that in a minute.

Back to the Addison Road song at hand.

Of course, context is crucial. A quick read of the complete lyric here is helpful; the theme of the verses is finding security and self-worth in God's love and acceptance, not in comparing oneself to someone else, or popular standards of beauty. A great message; especially for youth.

I guarantee that that chorus ..with its unintended the part being sung by youth and youth groups around the country.

Hopefully, they'll also "get" the verses, which ironically are, as Christianity Today sees it,
"a sassy rally cry against our appearance-obsessed society."

Kudos to Addison Road for wanting to get that worthy message out. But it is hijacked by a catchy chorus whose lyric unfortunately proffers the opposite.

One can't complain about the individualistic gospel with an individualistic (and dualistic) gospel.

Kudos also to Christianity Today for actually saying in a review of the CD this song comes from that it is characterized by "predictable songwriting and the lack of a definitive sound," and one song is "filled with one yawn-worthy cliché after the next." Amazing honesty; I almost thought I was reading Patrol.

"Christian music," if it exists at all, should change.
Christian music might as well become Christian.

Honest worship music cannot be an oxymoron.

God cannot be skipping church entirely these days, just to hear the truth at the Nine Inch
Nails gig, can he?


I can't graduate to exclusively "secular" radio to keep my spiritual life intact, can I?


I realize that one of the most amazing, anointed, psalmlike prayers/songs ever penned will likely never be sung "in church." But the F-word in that song is only holy profanity, not hellish blasphemy. Very ironically, that song ("Wake Up Dead Man" by U2) is from a CD whose message is the same as the Addison Road song's intended message; the "sassy rally cry against our appearance-obsessed society."
Also ironically, that band incarnated the message by "complaining about the individualistic gospel with an individualistic (and dualistic) gospel." But it worked for them as it was loaded and leaded with prophetic satire. Intelligent listeners got the joke and the point. The Edge remembers "That character was a great device for saying the opposite of what you meant. It made the point so easily and with real humour." When the singer said "Watch More TV" (while appearing on a TV screen) dressed as the devil, it was obvious the message was "Don't Watch More TV."

I fear that the only message most youth..intelligent ones included..are taking home from "That's All That Matters" is

"Me...that's all that matters to me."

You want "honest worship music"? Try on Michael Knott's devastating "Double."

Or the Violet Burning's brilliant and biblical insertion of "Eleanor Rigby" in the context of an upfront "worship album."..  or  (double dare you to listen to   "

the most listenable "unlistenable" album ever made).

Can we admit that "no one was saved" while simultaneously celebrating our salvation?
I hope so/not. We must live in creative tension and parradox. We must tell a few "Well-Ended Stories That Don't End Well."

Of course, we play Sigur Ros and Pink Floyd at our church.
(I wonder if St. Ryan has snuck some CUSH songs into the set at his church; some day we'll be brave enough to stealth in some...selective...Zappa)We have to, to keep our faith and integerity. And to be faithful to the biblical command to sing to God in psalms...which would inlcude songs of lament where the Dead Man doesn't wake up., and where we shout, like David and Jesus and any real Christian, "Where the hell are You, God?".

I guess if there were any justice, I could show the new Sigur Ros video in church, the one Paul Leader winkingly teased me about showing (see comments here)

Don't worry, Mom. I won't.

But can we get over our sin of believing nonChristians are never happy;
and we Christians are never human? (How about a happy clappy, and scripturally sound worship ditty called "Jesus had homosexual temptations"? ..or at least my podcast on the about a little Jason and DeMarco song to shake up us supposedly straight saints?
Maybe settle for reading Jamie's post first..then come back and write a song for church)

But can we start singing some "worship songs" that actually address God AND the real world?

Among bands that actually get played on Christian radio, Delirious have been moving a bit in this direction since the song "Our God Reigns" (how delightful that that cliche chorus is juxtaposed with a word that sometimes got censored, as well as concern for AIDS victims..that doesn't happen in every worship song..yet!) ,
and especially with their newest CD, "Kingdom of Comfort" (see this interview).

Part of the point and problem, though, is what if honest worship music becomes the norm; and actually starts selling big time...oy vey.

When I was a member of a mainline, socially conscious denomination, I was exposed to all kinds of well-meaning but ridiculous songs meant to celebrate inclusiveness and social action. These songs were just as blasphemous and cheesy as the evangelical individualism they were reacting against.

But it is a valid observation to sing; and sing as church and in church:

"We keep the poor is slums"

For one, the pronoun is the rare but right one; the ownership of "we." We can and should sing "We Love You Lord," but not without also incorporating something like "we built a suicidal system."

Corporate (in both senses of that term) repentance is in the Book.

But how will it play on the suicidal system of immoral and amoral "moral absolutes" of Christian radio?

Where do we start? With tribesters like many of the above...and with David Ruis ("Ruis: risk with perfection and a bit of Pink Floyd"),certainly. And with an obvious emerging Christian musician named..

Brian McLaren.

Yeah, you read right.

Some of his songs may come off a bit hokey, folky and cheesy to you. But what better sign that one of the most important prophetic teachers of our day is in the "Christian music business." (:
Ever since his famous/now infamous article asked the million dollar question:

If a Martian visited earth and observed earthlings at public worship in contemporary or nontraditional settings, what would he/she/it report back to the home planet? read

...and through his "Deep Shift/Everything Must Change" Tour, one of his passions and compassions has been to move us beyond...well, "Your love has set me free
And that's all that matters to me."

Yes, he (and some singing friends) have cut a CD.

One of which actually addresses God and us about how and why
we keep the poor in slums, to ignore them or despise them, and we broadcast shows and movies, to amuse and tranquilize them … in the suicidal system, the suicidal system.”
And about this song below, Len Hjalmarson says:
"If Brian Walsh was a singer.. if Tony Campolo had a brother.. if Jim Wallis was a worship leader.. yeah, this would be about right. The song brought tears to my eyes. I have no deep issues with the “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs. There are times when I want to live into the Song of Songs, and times when I need to know I am loved. But I don’t want to live there in that inward place. Here we have lyrics that have more in common with Bruce Cockburn or U2 - prophetic voices that confront our comfort and materialism and that call us to justice."

Here is another, with McLaren himself leading the way/vocals:

And a video below with some background and context for the CD. I am sure McLaren well recognizes the irony of this basically being an ad for a Christian CD which subverts ads for Christian CDs. But may he wear that ZOO TV mantle well...but no devil horns, please.

That's all that matters to me.


  1. wake up deadman, yeh, its dangerous out there.. I don't know many of the artists you mention, wish I had more time, but I think it would be an emotional trip ;)

  2. Could you maybe repost this with new YouTube links, or give a list of all the videos in the comments section somewhere? I really want to reread it while watching, but all the links are dead.


  3. Stuart

    all the YouTube links work, and i just rechecked. I did notice YouTube was down for maintenance earlier today, which most likely explains your problem


  4. Dave:

    I know exactly how you feel. I also think -- and you may disagree with this -- that there is far too much of a focus in in Christian music (and in Christianity in general) to salvation, which creates an unhealthy obsession with their forgiveness of sins, leading people to (consciously or subconsciously) to the conclusion that they have license to do whatever they want, as long as they can somehow justify it into the "Love God and your fellow man" dictum.

    Messianics are not immune from this, either. Most of our music is about identity (we are Israel), prophecy, the returning of Messiah to take over the world, etc. There are some notable exceptions, which I'd be glad to post somewhere if you'd like to read/hear them.

    But the problem is, they are NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS... there's a name for a religious music group, THE NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS, all the music about our duties as Believers. I'm game if you are.

  5. Just one more quick note: in the venue of turning back to God (in Hebrew, "t'shuvah," normally and only-slightly-correctly translated "repentance"), my favorite song -- though not DIRECTLY applicable to me -- is also not considered a "religious" song but a Country song: T. Graham Brown's "Wine into Water." It's got a message we all need to hear -- we all have something we need to turn back to God from -- and it's catchy.

    The other "secular" song that really struck me recently was Josh Turner's "Long Black Train," but it requires a good sermon after it (so does "Wine into Water") to clarify what it means to "cling to the Father and His Holy Name".

  6. how about singing this one...

    my God (by crashdog)

    Sinking in the cold like a falling star
    Looking in to where you are
    Trying hard to keep it all together
    Isolated I'm the modern leper
    Drop your eyes at the sight of me
    Cuz I been labeled H.I.V
    All you wanna know is "How did he get it?"
    Justify it, then forget it
    Do you really think you're any better?
    Cuz your blood don't bear three scarlet letters
    When we meet again it'll be in heaven
    I hope the shock won't be too sudden

    My God doesn't hand out disease as a punishment
    My God doesn't look with joy on your torment
    My God doesn't draw back His hand from any child
    My God lives to touch and heal and reconcile

    Here you come with a gun in your hand
    Gonna stop abortion at your command
    Could ya really see Jesus pull that trigger?
    What makes you tick? How do you figure that?
    Your murder is some holy thing?
    A misguided killer the same as them
    Some fight this fire, you fan the flame
    Thanks to the press we bear your shame
    A full circle we're almost there
    Another death, you'll get the chair
    We've always refused to understand
    Revenge does not belong to any man

    My God doesn't need your guns to bring His will
    My God doesn't call His people to judge and kill
    My God doesn't upon some doctor's grave
    My God screams "Vengeance is mine I will repay"

    In the corner looking right at her
    She's just an object in your world
    Your greed exists, so do your intentions
    But her interest is your own invention
    Woman aren't yours to dominate
    We're equal halves of something great
    Male and female He created
    Eternally linked and integrated

    My God doesn't hold man over woman
    My God's image lives and breathes in every human
    My God doesn't hold man over woman
    My God's image lives and breathes in every human

  7. Adam:

    Yeah, I am game big time...

    we Christians need to think more Jewish about our music


    what a song, i hadn't heard of them but looked them up.

    Its ready for church!

  8. this is one way that the emergent thing has totally fucked up my life. i used to be able to stand in the middle of a crowd of 400 people and sing to the lord and even occasionally weep doing it. it was beautiful and life giving.

    now i'm all up in my head analyzing the theology of the lyrics and wondering if they are worth singing.

    sadly it's a blue pill/red pill thing, there is no going back.

    i'd love to find a way to sing with my brothers and sisters again though, somehow.

  9. Misfit,,,you fit around here:
    That articulated well what many of us fell


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!