Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tragically Bad “Christian” Lyrics

I hadn’t listened much to “Christian” radio for awhile, because I was kind of sick of hearing the same 20 or so songs over and over. Recently, though, when the public radio station I typically listen to went into fund drive mode, I tuned in into the “Christian” station again. It’s kind of nice to hear new “Christian” songs.

Now, I’m used to the hyper-sentimentality and saccharine-sweetness of many of the songs in this genre. I’ve even come to ignore the oversimplification of issues sometimes presented (as in, “If we all just knew and loved Jesus, we could all get along.” It’s great in principle, but it ignores 2000+ years of church history!) However, a couple of songs I’ve heard recently baffle the snot out of me! (That’s a scientific term. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.)

Take, for instance, the chorus of this song by Casting Crowns (I think they ought to drop the second “n” for comedy’s sake. Nothing funnier than hurling big black birds at one another!):
Jesus, can You show me just
how far the East is from the West?
I can't bear to see the man I've been
come rising up in me again.
In the arms of Your mercy
I find rest!
You know just how far
the East is from the West.
From one scarred hand to the other.

Talk about wrecking a perfectly good metaphor! The “east from west” image is from the Psalms.

"He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:10-12

East from west is an infinity. No matter how far east you go, you’ll always be heading east, and it’s the same with heading west. What the lyricist of this song has done is take a beautiful word picture of infinity, and replaced it with a finite distance of 5 or 6 feet!

Then there’s this song, by a band called 33Miles (I’m guessing they weren’t thinking about jazz great Miles Davis,) which is apparently dedicated to Einstein’s theory of relativity, as it applies to the concept of time.

Some choice excerpts:

I’ve heard it said today
Is all we’re given
Tomorrow may not come
So you better start living
I guess it all depends
On your point of view

I’m living in the days ahead
I’m already dancing on the streets of gold
Can’t stop celebrating in my soul
I’m living in the days ahead

If home is where the heart is
then I’m in Heaven
It’s the promise of tomorrow
That I’ve been given

To be fair, the song does ultimately place the heavenly reward in a future sense, stating that when the songwriter will see Jesus face to face, what could be better? But when the chorus and tagline maintain that the lyricist is already “living in the days ahead,” I’m unsure that even he knows where--or when--he is. And what's with the line about "If home is where the heart is, then I'm in Heaven"?

Don’t worry, it’s only doctrine! Clarity of expression is secondary, at best!


The Ironic Catholic said...

Crummy Christian Music! The website!

C'mon, do it!

Allen said...

It's an idea...

HMSnow said...

Now you know why, after six years in Christian retail, I absolutely refuse to listen to Christian radio. I once was asked by a customer, "What kind of Christian are you?" when she found this out. I didn't bother to tell her that the number of Christian artists I still listen to can be counted on one hand without using all five fingers. She probably would have popped an artery right there in the music department. Not sure if the artery would have been hers or mine, though.

Ashley said...

Hey so I just totally found your blog randomly.. I was looking for the name of the song 'what could be better' adn since you wrote an entry on it it popped up... anyway, you don't know me or anything but I just wanted to tell you that i agree with you in some ways..like there is a lot of Christian music that really has nothing good doctrinally in it which can be completely frustrating sometimes since itd' be so much better to listen to than some (most in my opinion) of the secular music that's out there but there really is a lot of good Christian music too.

anyway, sorry if you think this is dumb of me... i just wanted to say that i know of a ton of great christian bands so i'll tell you them iff you want (ash.joy.yat@gmail.com)

Anonymous said...

In reference to the song "East to West," I think you are missing the point and significance of the expanded metaphor. Jesus' hands were outstretched on the cross, one pointing east and the other west, and yes His wingspan is not infinity but ultimately it is the reason our sins were cast away, because he stretched out His arms. Its kind of like that overused story of the person asking Jesus how much He loves him and Jesus stretched out his arms and said "this much" ... meaning he died on the cross for him... I think the song lyrics are beautiful. I cried the first time I heard it because it really hit home. People do typically tend to hang on to their own sense of guilt long after they have been forgiven, thereby minimizing Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Anyway, just thought I'd share that with you. I think you are overthinking it.

Allen's Brain said...

Yeah. I cried at the end of Old Yeller. That doesn't make it true, though.
I get the "expanded metaphor," but words mean things. Had the song asked "How is it that our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west?", then perhaps the answer would make some sense. Had they asked, "How much do you love me?" (as in the over-used story,) then the answer would have made sense. Instead, they asked a very specific question. What the song asks is "The 103rd psalm tells us that our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west. How far is that?" They have answered their question with "About 6 feet, because that's how far Jesus' hands were spread apart when he was crucified." Any other interpretation is a non-distance-related response which fails to answer the question. One might just as well have asked "How far is it from Dallas to Boston?"

It is not "overthinking" to ask that the answer fit the question. I don't give points for good intentions.

HMSnow said...

Maybe Z'Brain should offer a post on "Tragically Bad 'Christian Thinking'" sometime soon...

Allen's Brain said...

feel free to contact me with ideas on that

Anonymous said...

I am sad for you that you have missed the message of the song ("East from West"). I agree with anonymous. Christ's sacrifice on the cross was the price paid for our sins. The song lyrics are intending to describe the never-ending love that Jesus has for us...that when He died for us and took our sins away, He took them as far as the east is from the west...infinity in your terms. His arms were pointed in those directions. That is pretty far...that is how far he has taken our transgressions away from us. They were not trying to answer a literal question. Keep in mind that most lyrics speak toward symbolism. They did not misinterpret the scripture. I feel like you know this in your heart. I too found your blog when I was looking for the printed lyrics to this song...it (the song) deeply touched me and has changed the way I look at Christ's sacrifice. When I feel like my sins are all too close in rememberance, I know that He has taken them farther from me than I can even imagine...that is what the metaphor means...that is what the song writers were trying to get across. No one cares about a literal distance when something like song this touches their heart...It pains me to have my experience with this song discredited by someone who seems to need an answer for everything.