An Open Apology to Christian Music I Used to Hate

I have never liked “Good Good Father.” It’s main chorus is juvenile and repetitive, and the second stanza of “And I’m loved by you, it’s who I am…” is a grammatical eyesore. Loved is WHAT you are, not who. Your name is not Loved By You.

Child-friendly lyrics, simplistic melodies, and overabundance of “Oh” and “Ooh” have plagued Christian music for years now. If you follow me on my blog or Twitter, you’ll know it drives me crazy. I’m a ferocious proponent of art, and I want to see Christian music elevated to more than background noise.

But then, my job was threatened. And suddenly I realized how valuable a simplified, repetitive chorus can be.

“GOOD” IS NOT ENOUGH

Much like “Good Good Father,” the song “King of my Heart” can’t seem to think up any other adjective for the omniscient, all-powerful, cosmos-creating King of All Reality than “good.” It’s been a thorn in my side ever since my hipster church started playing it (no offense, Corry, still bros). I like the verses quite a bit, but I always groan when we get to the chorus:

You are good…good…oh (repeat x3)

That’s it? Seriously? You’re writing a song about G-O-D and the strongest word you can find is “good?” That’s the most tepid and uninspired worship line one could possibly write. It’s like that part of Cyrano de Bergerac when someone says, “Your nose is big,” and Cyrano spells out all the different ways the man could have said it if he had a lick of poetic or intellectual skill (“Aim it at the enemy” being my favorite). But then the songwriter apparently ran out of lyrics, so they just said “good” again. And there was still space left in the music sheet, so they added “Oh” in lieu of opening a thesaurus. And then they just repeated it.

It is the single most plebian chorus for a Christian song I have ever read. It dumbs down Christian music to pure emotional existentialism. In non-pretentious words, the chorus is tailor-made for the Christian to shut off his or her brain and just feel stuff.

Asinine. Childish. Pathetic.

Until you need it.

“BAD” IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH

On Friday, my boss came in with his head low and his mustache drooped. He said he had bad news and I knew what was coming. My workplace has been struggling for a long time, and we’ve all been whispering about when it will finally close shop. So it was little surprise when the boss said there would be layoffs. Starting that day.

My career is a wound for me. I drifted through college and got a degree that doesn’t pay well (English), and for ten years, I haven’t been able to make it work. I’ve limped from job to job, pulled away from employment time and again by ministry, moving, and bad luck. And never holding a job for more than two years looks bad to future employers. Whenever I have to find a new job, I always question myself into terrible places. Why does my resume suck? Why wasn’t I better in college? Why can’t I find a good job that pays more than poverty wages? Why does no employer want me? Why does nobody want me? Why am I not a real man?

Getting my identity from Christ has gotten easier over the last couple years, so this stuff doesn’t crush me quite like it used to, but it’s still a wound. My failures (or even perceived failures) in the job arena attack me on a personal level.

So when my boss said he would announce four layoffs that afternoon, I felt the ground giving way. Where will I go? I barely got this job. I have a house, a wife, two kids, school debt. What am I going to do? While I shuffled my way back to my desk and tried to find ways to be useful (aka employable), I prayed, asking God to…well…anything.

Quick fact about me: I’m a musical learner. Music sticks in my head the way words alone don’t, and God often encourages or delights me through music.

Guess what freaking song started playing in my head.

“GOOD, GOOD…OH, I GET IT”

I tried to hate it. I’ve been into music from the womb, and I know my business pretty well. I sang in choirs for years, performing pieces like Carmina Burana and the Hallelujah chorus. Songs with sheet music, people. You know, treble clefs, dynamics, codas, dotted quarter notes, and a totally different meaning to the word piano? “King of my Heart” wasn’t written with sheet music; it was written with crayons!

And yet I kept singing it. Over and over. And goodness gracious, it soothed me. Truly and completely.

It clicked for me then. “King of my Heart” may be simple, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. Sometimes, when the floor is opening up beneath you, when everyone abandons you, when the sun fails to rise, you just need to repeat to yourself over and over that God is good until you believe it again.

“You are good.” Say it again for emphasis. “Good.” Now bask in that goodness and rest in His triumph. “Oh…” Repeat until your hope comes back.

Logic can fail you, especially if you’re sailing into the hurricane of the Future, where even Logic is a mere tugboat. In such moments, you have to cling to what you know in a place deeper than your mind: your heart, your spirit, whatever you want to call it. That place that knows things beyond what the senses can tell them. Show me a live video of my wife cheating on me and I’d call it a fake, because I know her. I also know God, and I know that he is good, no matter what my circumstances try to scream at me.

As of this writing, I have survived the first round of layoffs, and I should have another month or two left at this job, but that will likely be it, and I’ll be unemployed again. And yet, to quote another Christian song, “I will not fear; his promise is true. My God will come through, always. Always.”

JOKE’S ON ME

Don’t get me wrong; I still think “King of my Heart” is an inferior song on an artistic level. And I still think Christian music needs to spend more time studying music theory and poetry than ruining Christmas songs—Yes, Chris Tomlin, you did ruin “Joy to the World.” Fight me.

However, I now see that I have been too harsh on simple songs. Christian music may have too many of them, but that doesn’t make them bad inherently. You don’t need a degree in theology, a tongue-twisting bridge, or a hundred-piece orchestra to make beautiful worship. If you had no instruments and a terrible voice, you might not make great music, but you could create some phenomenal worship. Not everybody is musical like me, so not everybody will thrill at complex lyrics and melodies, but everybody can thrill at good worship. I see that now.

So I apologize for my snobbish attitude towards simplistic Christian music. I repent of it and recant it. And I doubly apologize if I ever implied somebody was stupid or inferior for enjoying such songs. That was never my intent; enjoyment is subjective, so like what you like. Still, I apologize for any offense I’ve given here or elsewhere. While I may not prefer simple songs, I’ll always remember how they were there for me when I needed them most, and that they certainly have a “good” place in Christian music.

One last laugh: I just sang “King of my Heart” on Sunday along with the worship team. I sighed and groaned when I saw it on the list, but I’m a professional. I sang it like it was my favorite song ever, and made no complaints. But in a moment of clarity, I prayed that God would do something with this music, that he would touch the hearts of my church and speak to them through this song.

Careful what you pray for others; it may boomerang back to you. And may God be exalted for it.

5 thoughts on “An Open Apology to Christian Music I Used to Hate

  1. You make some excellent points. I’m not a musician, but I am a (sometimes) poet. I have long felt dismayed at what I’ve felt is a loss of expressive and varied language in much of today’s worship songs. I may just be growing old and curmudgeonly at 41, but, even when we do the classic standard “Awesome God”, I am known to get irked-because we only do the chorus, which is lovely but looses some teeth for me without those insightful verses Rich Mullins penned. That said, you are correct in that sometimes what we need is that simple truth to hold onto. Seen this proved many times over in my life. Fully expect to see it again. I’ll be praying for you and yours as you deal with this next chapter. His providence never fails.

    Liked by 1 person

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