The church of do what you want to

While reading Alan Wolfe’s helpful book, The Transformation of American Religion, I was reminded of a song by the band Jacob’s Trouble, “The Church of Do What You Want To.” It’s from their 1989 album, Door Into Summer.

The satire works because it channels a powerful rip current in contemporary Christianity. It also works because it’s true to some degree of most of us. Just listen to the chorus: “The Church of do what feels good, Baby, and believe what you want to believe. . .” Or the second verse: “We threw away the Bible and the sacraments as well.” Progressives and conservatives have things to answer for in this number. And, mea culpa, I’ve got things to answer for in this number, too.

The version here is an early demo, released on the 1994 Diggin’ Up Bones album. The formal release was more polished and features an extra verse. I’ve included the lyrics (and the missing verse) below.

The Church of Do What You Want To
Lyrics: Steve Atwell, Mark Blackburn, and Jerry Davison

Are you tired of religions that only seem to bring you down?
Cramping up your lifestyle like a certain thorny crown?
Are you sick of being told that you can’t make it on your own?
If that’s your case, I’ve got a place that you can call a home!

(Chorus 1) It’s at the Church Of Do What You Want To
The Church Of Do What You Please
The Church Of Do What Feels Good, Baby
And Believe What You Want To Believe
No absolutes, no wrong or right
Just ambiguities
At The Church Of Do What You Want To
The Church Of Do What You Please, Baby

Well, we don’t believe in heaven and we won’t believe in hell
We threw away the Bible and the sacraments as well
Jesus is just alright with us, just as long as you don’t try
To make him out as more than just an ordinary guy

(Chorus 2) At the Church Of Do What You Want To
The Church Of Do What You Please
The Church Of Do What Feels Good, Baby
And Believe What You Want To Believe
No absolutes, no wrong or right,
Just vague philosophy
At The Church Of Do What You Want To
The Church Of Do What You Please

Ah, ah, ah, I know something’s wrong

Something once was here, but now it’s gone
Ah, ah, ah, I know something’s wrong

But frankly, I am having too much fun

Ah, ah, ah, I know something’s wrong

Something once was here, but now it’s gone, gone, gone
Ah, ah, ah, I know something’s wrong

But frankly, I am having so much fun

Here’s that missing verse. In the Summer album it closes out the song.

Turn in your hymnals to Hymn No. 1

It ain’t “Holy, Holy, Holy” — it’s “Fun, Fun, Fun”

Don’t need a Savior ’cause we got no flaws

They ain’t sins no more

They’re more like spiritual faux pas

Ah, ah, ah, I know something’s wrong

But frankly, I am having too much fun!

At The Church Of Do What You Want To . . .

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.

  • Steve Odom

    Hey thanks for this. Reminds me of Daniel Amos and the Alarma Chronicles. I see “Alarma” on the image of the vid, are they connected?

    • Joel J. Miller

      Not sure of the label particulars, but there is one connection for sure: Terry Taylor produced the band’s first two (and best) albums.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    One of the things which I think that many in the church miss about this “do what you want to do attitude” is that often what people want to do is be beligerent, be confrontational, be hard hearted, be ungracious, be unforgiving, be hard headed, never having to change one’s mind, admit error or acknowledge pain caused. And that there are far more churches who cater to this strain of “do what you want to do” than those whose motto could be “I’m OK, You’re OK.”

    Only a fool would say that God wants us to be as undisciplined and self-indulgent as we want – those thing are destructive in and of themselves. But if you look at humanity’s history, the truth is that this desire to serve wrathful, angry gods and to behave as mini-versions of the kick-ass deity should need be, is far more prevelant than the god of “I’m OK, you’re OK.” This form of faith is found not just in Christianity, but in Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism, some tribal religions and even among some Buddhists in central Asia! OTOH, messages such as Jesus’ that love, humility, patience and such are more often than not honored in the breach rather than in lived lives.

    So, I guess that I’m saying that I agree that there is a problem with churches of “do what you want to do”. But I think the spotlight shown in this song misses the main culprits. We humans have a tendency to be evil and wicked and this is most clear by how easily our hearts are drawn to wrath, condemnation, callousness and self-righteousness. And there are plenty of churches which steadfastly cater to just those desires. The ooshy-squishy types may be fun to make fun of if you’re being fed by one of those churches, but they’re mainly a small side show to the real event.

    • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

      Please forgive all the typo’s/grammar errors. I need an editor to follow me around the internet. And a new keypad for my computer – a toddler ripped a bunch of the keys off. It makes typing accurately tough. But I assume y’all are smart enough to get the gist. ;)

    • Joel J. Miller

      I agree that it’s useless to yourself and harmful to others being a doctrinally accurate, traditionally sound jerk. But I don’t think the song misses anything; they’re just not addressing that here. They have another track on their second album that satirizes the haters well enough, “Mr. Hitler.”

  • ostrachan

    So very true, Joel. I think many of us do want more of a “transcendent,” trans-generational connection in church. I was unaware of this song. Iconoclasm (or the reverse?), we never knew you.

  • Kelly

    I think I wore my CD out in the 90s! Make my mom made a reference to the church of do what you want to today, and all the memories came rushing back, now I’m on the Internet looking to buy the album!


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