I Know That Song… April 12, 2011

I Know That Song…

They sing it every week at church:

From my experience, that’s pretty accurate. Just for the hell of it, I searched for a website with popular Christian song lyrics. I found a list of lyrics. The first one I clicked on was this. This was the second. Maybe there are more complex lyrics somewhere, but I have yet to hear them.

It’s not like most secular pop lyrics are that much better, but don’t expect to find originality or challenging lyrics in a Christian song. When I was visiting churches, it was so incredibly easy to mock the lyrics of the songs the worship bands sang.

Maybe I’m just biased because I spent most of high school listening to Ani DiFranco

(via nakedpastor)

That cartoon could easily represent popular Christian writing as well. Seriously. Open up any Rob Bell book or read some popular Christian blogs, and it’ll seem like every page/post looks like this:

Just replace those words with grace, sinner, love, redemption, humility, serve, and God.

Now, go forth in the comments and write a Christian bestseller!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ACN

    In addition to christian books, that last image STRONGLY reminds me of every “call to worship” at the beginning of every presbyterian service I attended as a child and young adult.

    Make the black the pastor, and the purple the audience and the resemblance is uncanny.

  • Other Chris

    Let me try my hand at this manifesto business:

    In the beginning, there wasn’t much of anything.

    In the beginning, there wasn’t really even time.

    So everything happened all at once.

    This wouldn’t do.

    With everything happening all at once, there was chaos and pandemonium and turtles all the way down.

    It.

    Was.

    Messy.

    It all caused a bang that was really rather large.

    It created everything.

    The whole universe.

    Everything we see today.

    So out of this chaos our planet formed and had the right conditions to build life and that life grew slowly more and more complex, leading one day to a species who can communicate instantly with anyone anywhere on the globe, and we use this amazing capability to share

    Porn.

  • JohnJay

    Eric Cartman:
    “All right, guys, this is gonna be so easy. All we have to do to make Christian songs is take regular old songs and add Jesus stuff to them. See? All we have to do is cross out words like “Baby” and “Darling” and replace them with Jesus.”

    (From SouthPark Ep 709: Christian Rock Hard)

  • Lynne

    @Other Chris
    Brilliant!

  • Nerdette

    Whoa… I have kumquats on my desk! It’s a sign!

  • Carrie

    I think you nailed it @Other Chris!

  • John Small Berries

    Yep. I’ve gotta say, losing my religion did not in the least diminish my love for the sacred music of the 18th century and earlier; Mozart, the Bachs, Thomas Tallis, Guillaume DuFay, et alia, still amaze me with their complex beauty.

    But the deliberately mediocre pap written these days, specifically designed to be singable even by the least musical amongst the congregation, disgusted me even when I did believe.

    Were I a God, I would be quite irritated to be “glorified” by such feculent music.

  • ButchKitties

    There are genres of music in which dedicated audiences will buy the music purely because of the subject matter of the song, as if buying crappy music about love and/or Jesus proves how dedicated you are to love and/or Jesus. The lyrics between the two genres are usually pretty interchangeable. As JohnJay pointed out, uou can make a Christian song into a romantic ballad by subbing “baby” for “Jesus”, and you can make a Christian song into a romantic ballad by subbing “Jesus” for “baby”.

    Either way: ARTISTIC FAIL

  • Patrick

    I’m a devotee of bluegrass music, of which “gospel” stuff is an inextricable part. Some of it is good, if you can abide the lyrics, which too often fail to push any boundaries toward sophistication, or humor, say. One near-exception is “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” (a very old tune, re-done by Woody Guthrie for the labor cause) which actually starts out with an interesting poetic idea, only to devolve into pedestrian “god-is-great” crap.

  • Nakor

    I’mma give this manifesto thing a try too.

    Once, our people sailed the seas.

    Once, we were free to pillage and plunder, and our noodly overlord was pleased.

    Those days were long ago.

    They are past.

    We now live in a world ruled by the undercooked fists of overboiled politicians who seek to drown out the freedom and wonder of our al dente brethren of the past.

    This.

    Won’t.

    Stand.

    We must return our world to the holy state from which it came.

    To the freedom of the open seas!

    To the pillaging and plundering!

    To the bright, gaudy costumes and hats!

    And then, my brethren, we will finally be bathed in the glory of the sauce that only His Noodly Appendages can bestow upon us as we finally return to the world to the spot where it belongs, the spot marked boldly thus upon the maps of our very hearts:

    X.

  • Every time we eat at Chik-Fil-A, we’re blasted with this garbage. Yes, I know they’re a Christian-run business, but seriously? Do I have to be Jesus-strafed from the ceiling speakers while I munch my spicy chicken sandwich and my kid climbs in the play area? Isn’t it enough that I can’t get a chicken sammich on Sunday?

  • Joan

    In fairness, many of my favorite secular songs don’t read very well if you just look at the lyrics. For instance, “Here Comes The Sun” is one of my favorite Beatles songs (uplifting melody, chords and arrangement), but if you had never heard the song and just read the lyrics, you’d think it was pretty weak. Point is, music and lyrics work together, and a good song is more than the sum of its parts.

    One of my favorite songs happens to be a religious song — not Christian, but actually a Hanukkah song. For me, it’s hopeful and inspirational, regardless of my own lack of religious beliefs. Lyrics are here: http://www.peterpaulandmary.com/music/f-14-10.htm
    And a YouTube video of a live performance is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yZ1zxtbOJE

  • Jen

    Didn’t think it was possible to love friendly atheist any more than I already did… then he had to say that he grew up listening to Ani.

  • azmarie

    I think Jars of Clay is actually pretty good — musically good enough that I’m able to overlook the fact that they believe I will be rotisseried for all eternity.

    They have some not-as-cliché songs lyrics-wise (ex: “Jealous Kind”), if you completely ignore their most recent album. Their musical style is pretty versatile too.

  • Eric Mattingly

    Check out Starflyer 59. They are the only Christian band I’ve ever liked (except Pedro the Lion and I don’t really like them all that much). And, Chris Martin’s lyrics are actually quite good.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_GFfUBBQVw

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRdZS9j5atY

  • religious “rock” has always sucked. ick. i’m thinking of the xtian metal bands from when i was a teen. gosh, how they weren’t cool.

    i agree with other comments; xtian rock is so lame, it says a lot about the people who listen to it. i have no shame about the fact that i like a lot of cheesy queer dance music or lame faux classical muzak, but at least i know i’m not also promoting being a stooge as well as showing no taste. the only thing worse then xtian rock is modern “country,” and there’s a lot of overlap between the two. which again, is telling.

  • Catherine

    Brilliant, Nakor! New song for the campfire, that is.

  • All I can think is that I want to find a place for this in a lesson plan. I’m sure high schoolers would write great manifestos.

  • Sure lots of Xian music is vapid, but not all. One of my top 5 bands of any bent is one called Daniel Amos (or sometimes, DA) Yes, they think Jesus is the cat’s meow, but the lyrics are very well thought out with a good dash of humor tossed in too.

    Here’s some youtube links:

    Banquet at the World’s End

    Sleep Silent Child
    I’ve got an Idea

    And this one called “It’s the eighties, so where’s our rocket packs?” which has a lot of predictions for the future from the 60’s that never came about, even now 30 years after the song was written!
    It’s the eighties, so where’s our rocket packs?

  • M.H.

    At a church I used to go to, they would sing (and probably still do) an expurgated version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ (basically the chorus). It always made me laugh. I always wanted to ask the worship leader if he knew, but I was afraid they’d stop. It was the only decent song in the bunch.

  • absent sway

    To be fair, precious few can live up to Ani.

  • Juicy

    Some good Christian songs:

    1. “Embracing Accusations” by Shane & Shane
    (Kind of cliched, but the song is beautiful)

    2. “I Need You Now” by Smokey Norful
    (Also cliched, but beautiful)

    3. “Breathe Your Name” by Sixpence None The Richer
    (A very subtle and creative Christian song)

    4. “The Pressure” (Parts 1 & 2) by Sounds of Blackness
    (Everyone can identify with the lyrics even if they don’t believe in a god or gods)

    5. “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness

    (Same as above; The song is classified as gospel but there is no mention of believing in a god or gods)

    6. “Fly Like A Bird” by Mariah Carey
    (Cliched, but beautiful)

    7. “Stomp” by Kirk Franklin & God’s Property
    (Quite possibly the funnest Christian song ever)

  • Seth

    Hemant,

    How is that you can poke fun at the writing of Rob Bell when he wrote the prologue for your book, “I Sold My Soul on Ebay”?

    I feel that is incredibly disrespectful of you.

    If you can answer me, I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

    (Hemant says: Rob wrote a beautiful, generous introduction to my book, and I really appreciate that. But the writing style in his own books is very distinct and very annoying to a lot of people. He uses the format mocked in the image above. I’m only now seeing people calling him out on that. I think he’s a nice guy who went out of his way to help me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize certain aspects of how/what he writes.)

  • Seth

    Hemant,

    Thank you for your answer and affirmation. Yes, you are correct about Bell’s writing and that critique is valid for those who his writing style annoys.

    Thanks again for the respectful reply!