Posted in theology

Christian traditional songs with bad lyrics

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

Music is powerful. In my younger and pre-salvation days, I used to use music on purpose to specifically lift my spirits, and I avoided melancholy music when I was feeling down, it affected my mood so much.

It’s not your imagination, music really does affect our mood:

Do you find yourself tapping your foot while shopping? Or having all the feels while watching movies? No matter your race, ethnicity, age or gender, music is a common phenomenon that impacts everyone. Music can be a powerful tool with its ability to evoke strong emotional responses. For example, music may lead to the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Music is present in everyday life for most people. Here, we answer questions about how music can affect your brain and body. Does Music Alter Moods and Relieve Stress? The short answer is, yes! Says Tallahassee Memorial Health Care

It’s not just the melodies that affect us, but what we are hearing for lyrics. What are we absorbing? If we think we can sing a secular song about certain sins, like adultery (Careless Whisper by Wham!, Tempted by Squeeze, Mrs. Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel…) without it affecting us, then we are fooling ourselves.

The same goes for Christian music. We must be careful what we absorb. Even sweet or innocuous songs can be off just enough to warp our thinking. Let me give you four examples from popular praise songs that I enjoyed a lot in my early post-salvation days.

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The Far Side Banks of Jordan

I like Johnny Cash. His song “The Far Side Banks of Jordan” is about a spouse who worries he’ll die first. He muses on what that would be like to go to ‘the other side’. Here is the first stanza-

I believe my steps are growin’ wearier each day
Still I’ve got another journey on my mind
Lures of this old world have ceased to make me wanna stay
And my one regret is leavin’ you behind

Yup I can relate to the weary part! I know many married couples have concerns about leaving their spouse if they die first, and make efforts to properly provide for them. So far so good.

Here are next few lines –

When it comes your time to travel likewise, don’t feel lost
For I will be the first one that you’ll see
And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand

I used to think how sweet it was that one spouse would be faithful to the other and wait for him or her. I pictured the scene in my head as I sang along. But nope…this is wrong. The first one we will see is Jesus. Also, there is no marriage in heaven, our relationship will change. And thirdly, we will be busy worshiping Jesus, not sitting idly around, doodling! The scene as sweet as it seems, is a true Mrs Lot situation. Sitting on the edge of heaven looking back, as opposed to being squarely in the center of heaven looking at Jesus, is wrong. We won’t long for sinful world rather than perfect righteousness in glory.

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In the Garden

I know I know, a lot of people have already mentioned this one as problematic. Really problematic. Its sweetness should not cover the fact that there are some lyrics that just do not jibe with the Bible.

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known
He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing

First of all, the joy that Jesus shared Intra-Trinity with God and the Spirit since before the world began till now, is the greatest joy anyone has ever known. And secondly, the joy that ALL departed saints are experiencing right now, is the greatest joy they’ve ever known, because they are with Jesus in person in glory. Certainly it is ridiculous to say none other has ever known the joy of knowing Him.

As for the next part, to say it again, God is NOT TALKING to us. Claiming that God talks with us individually in print, in speech, or in song, is all too common these days. The commonality of it makes it seem like it is happening to everyone, except of course, the ones who do not hear God talk to them. Which He isn’t. But it sets up a disquiet in the heart, that maybe we’re doing something wrong, or in some sort of displeasing sin, and that is why God isn’t talking to me or you.

When He was on the Cross

I understand the lyricist’s desire to present the unfathomable gap between our depravity and his glory; our inability and His great love. But these lyrics are just too probably untrue.

He Whose Glory Makes The Heavens Shine.
So Unworthy Of Such Mercy,
Yet When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind.

We know a bit about who or what was on His mind when he was on the cross. We know he had a conversation with the thief on the cross next to Him. He told the thief that this very day he will be with Him in paradise. He was thinking about paradise and about the thief. Likely, Jesus prayed for the thief. (John 17:24). We also know that GOD was on His mind. He called out ‘My God My God why have You forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). Possibly the disciples were on His mind, and his mother, he gave his mother’s care to John. (John 19:25-27). But Joe Blow and Suzie Smith? Probably not.

Somebody Touched Me

While I was praying (somebody touched me)
Must’ve been the hand of the Lord

It may not have been.

That’s what everyone thinks, you know. That when they ‘hear’ a voice, “it must’ve been the hand of the Lord”. That when they settle down to write and are ‘guided’ by a voice, “it must’ve been the hand of the Lord.” Too many people think that when they experience something they assign as supernatural, it is from the Lord.

Not always so.

An entire dimension exists of the evil supernatural. Think on this: we know that a third of the angels fell with satan (this is how I interpret Revelation 12:4). In any case, we know a myriad of unholy angels fell, and became the demons. Hebrews 13:2 says that when we entertain a stranger we may have entertained an angel and not known it. There are a lot. If we go with the one-third in terms of numbers, we have a 1-in-3 chance of entertaining a demon as opposed to an angel.

Daniel 10:13 speaks of a holy angel being sent to Daniel, but was delayed 21 days in the heavenlies, so much so that Archangel Michael had to be dispatched to let the angel through. Ephesians 6 describes our battles not being against flesh and blood, but against “rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

There is an entire dimension of evil out there. Why do we never suppose that the ‘hand that touched me’ might be a claw from a wizened, prune hearted evil demon?

Christians cannot be possessed, but we battle against them in the spiritual realms. The ‘hand’ of the LORD is in heaven, but the activity of demons is ongoing. Don’t assume if something ‘supernatural’ happens it’s the LORD. It more than likely isn’t.

We know to avoid Bethel music, Hillsong music and other heretical nests like that. But we don’t need to be mindless about seemingly innocuous songs, either. We always must be wise and discerning about what we absorb. Satan is subtle. But Jesus is GREAT!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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