I can’t help but notice when an artist compares a Christian… or a “religious” person… or even merely a devoted worshipper… with a dog. The prime example in my mind comes in the form of a 1988 hit by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians called “What I Am”. In the opening verse of the song, we find these lyrics: “Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box. Religion IS A SMILE ON A DOG” (EMPHASIS mine). The way I read that is to consider a dog’s default resting face, a smile that it has, regardless of what is happening around it, good or bad. As far as the dog’s face is concerned, that smile is a blissful and contented ignorance of anything that is actually going on. Religion, to Brickell, is the same thing… a contented diversion that distracts us from ever facing the cold reality of a godless world… and that’s all that it is.
We don’t need to go all the way back to 1988 to see this comparison, though. Take, for example, the very recently popular song “Take Me To Church” by Hozier. Get a look at how THIS song starts out:
My lover’s got humor. She’s the giggle at a funeral.
Knows everybody’s disapproval. I should’ve worshiped her sooner.
If the Heavens ever did speak, she is the last true mouthpiece.
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak; A fresh poison each week.
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it. My church offers no absolute.
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’.
The only heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you.
I was born sick, but I love it. Command me to be well. Amen. Amen. Amen
Take me to church
I’LL WORSHIP LIKE A DOG at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife.
Offer me that deathless death.
Good god, let me give you my life.
Photo Attribution: “Hozier, Columbus, OH” By rlmccutcha; CC 2.0
The creatively deep and articulate metaphor for sex only expands from there. Yet, again, we see the blind devotion of a dog likened to that of a worshiper… only this time, it isn’t even a God (god) that is being worshiped.
So what are we to make of this dog analogy? Are Christians to even to respond to the blissful-ignorance accusation articulated by so many today? What does the Bible have to say about the devotion of Christ’s followers? Well, for the sake of brotherly encouragement, let me offer a few thoughts:
–Eternal life is to be certain for the believer in Jesus Christ. John, for example, didn’t write his texts so that you may “hope” or “wish” that your belief in Christ will lead to eternal life someday. On the contrary, John wanted you to be certain (100%) of your glorious eternal destiny. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life“ (1 John 5:13). Your eternal destiny (your “living hope” as 1 Peter 1 puts it) is secure and never needs to be in question. It is more certain than anything else… and therefore…
–Your devotion can be shared and defended to a non-believing world. Once Peter established the importance of our hope being a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3), he goes on to charge us to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15). As a Christian, you have been made alive, by God’s sheer grace alone, and have had your eyes opened to see the Truth of God in Christ. That truth is worth dying for, let alone defending. John Calvin once wrote “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” So, if that’s the case then maybe a Christian is like a dog in a certain way… loyal to its master… needing to be properly trained by its master… continually forgiven by it’s master whenever it does wrong… and defending its master vehemently when attacked. As Christians, we must be willing to do the same. Yet, notice that Peter asks us to unwaveringly defend Truth and YET “do it with gentleness and respect”. Part of the Christians are to show this gentleness and respect, I think, is because…
–Not everyone will understand the truth. Just because God, by His grace, has made you alive, when you were once dead (Ephesians 2:1-10, Colossians 2:13), doesn’t mean that everybody has been so fortunate. When you share/defend your faith (which we call “witnessing”), you do so, not knowing what persons God has called unto eternal life. This person could be persuaded (by the Holy Spirit, not you) to come to eternal life right then and there OR could flat-out reject the gospel Truth. Understand, they are not rejecting you. They simply have no inclination to see the truth, which is the exact same thing they accuse us of. “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. … The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable, who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18). Why do you think it is that Jesus always taught in parables? Because He knew that not everyone was meant to understand what He was saying. If you’re building something (in Jesus’ case, the Kingdom of God), you don’t show the blueprint to someone who is not on your building team. Such is Mark’s point when he writes the reason Jesus gave to His disciples for why He only speaks in parables:
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God,
but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that
[referencing Deut. 29:4, Jer. 5:21, and Ezek. 12:2 here] ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:11-12)
One of the greatest lies of Satan is to convince non-believers that believer in the gospel lies in blissful ignorance. Our culture, music and otherwise, increasingly reflects that trend. Worship is for the simple folks, those who need a “crutch” because they have not yet come to the (cold) light of how things actually are. Be patient with people who believe this. Be kind to them, continually showing (by your words and actions) the same gospel of Jesus Christ which transformed your life. Don’t get discouraged when they try to caricature you as blissfully ignorant. Even Pontius Pilate wondered “What is truth?”. With moral relativism saturating the contemporary culture, the sands of truth are ever-shifting… and therefore, it is all the more important to cling to the Rock that doesn’t shift.
As one song writer put it, “I’d rather walk in the dark with Jesus, than to walk in the light of my own”. Cling to the Rock, regardless of what accusations (“arrows” in Ephesians 6:16) come your way. Rest with eternal joy that you have a personal relationship with THE life… THE way… and THE truth… Jesus Christ.