There is No One Like Our God

There is No One Like Our God August 10, 2011

There is no “I” in Christian.

Oh, wait…

I’ve finally figured it out. Why I can’t stand Christian radio. For years, it’s been driving me bananas, and I don’t even listen to it enough to make a fair justification of why. I keep thinking maybe I’ve judged the whole industry unfairly. Kind of like cauliflower. Every now and then I figure, “I’m a grown up now, I should like this…”  So I give it another bite–another 30 seconds or so of my listening time… After all, I like to know how Christians with broad audiences are representing us out there in the big world. Also, I need to stay abreast of new praise and worship music. 30 seconds…Nope. Still hate it.

It isn’t just the James Dobson and Dr. Laura moments inserted between the music. It isn’t just that they keep asking listeners for money that (I think) listeners should be giving to their churches and to poor people instead. There has always been just a little something else about the whole culture of it that does not sit well with me.

I finally decided it was not the music. For a long time, I thought that I was just a crabby old lady on the inside, and I did not like to hear all that loud, sinful music anywhere near Jesus! Or rather–I am an aging rock star and I do not like to have Jesus crammed into my good music (that was probably more like it). However,  I’ve learned alot these past few years. Along with the church I serve, I’ve learned that with the right leadership and some talentd musicians, some of that stuff can add a powerful element to the worship experience.

The keyword being SOME of it. As Eric Cartman showed the world (ever the prophet, that chubby little terror) much of that music is just a pop love song with “Jesus” thrown in to replace “baby.”

And much of it is just really bad music, by people who could not make it in the real music industry, and so crossed over to the Xn frame–wherein people will listen to anything with the magic word…you know what it is…Jesus, baby.

Sorry to ramble a moment, just taking you along on my journey. I’ve had a breakthrough, people, and I want to share it! Having embraced the fact that much of the music is crap, and much of it is inauthentic crap, and nearly all of the talk is backward, fundamentalish nonsesne, I finally realized what it is about the whole industry that makes it cauliflower, try though i may to like it again.

They put a big, fat I in the middle of Christianity. And not as a vowel sound. As a principle. My Jesus, baby. My awesome walk with God. How can being a Christian make my family stronger, let me manage my stress and my money better, how can I use the power of prayer to get all the things that I ever wanted. Me-I-me-I-ME!

And there it is in a nutshell. Not just the liability of Christian Broadcasting, but the painful truth about westernized religion. It is all about us. Prayer is a sears catalogue and Jesus is our sales rep. We want him on-call 24/7, but we don’t really want him showing up for dinner, know what i mean?

What led me to finally understand my ick-factor with much of contemporary Christian music, was experiencing for myself the worship value of some not-so-fanny-crosby songs, and then asking myself what made them feel more powerful and more authentic than some of the other stuff.

For me, the song that sets the bar for all contemporary worship songs is “God of this City.” Written by Bluetree, made famous by Chris Tomlin, it drives a powerful and prophetic message about God moving in our midst, above and beyond what we do, think, feel, ask for… It compels us–as individuals and as communities of faith– to move, act, and be a part of God’s work in the people and places around us. It combines adoration with a clear sense of call and direction, like any real Psalm should do. It says something about God, about me, about the world. It does not offer up a mail-order Jesus, but rather a kingdom vision for the world.

Our world. “There is no one like our God.” “OUR” God. Us. we. them. Together.

Having found this song and classified it as not crap, I know that there are others out there. New and innovative Christian music that speaks to a broader, kingdom kind of Christianity, and not the kind with the big “I” in its midst.  What song speaks that message to you? Tell me, so I can download it without having to endure the Dr. Dobson sound-bites in between.

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city… in this church… and yes, even in me. Amen.

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  • So true. And it’s also the same reason that so many of the old gospel hymns (I’m looking at you Fanny Crosby) irk me to no end, despite the fabulous rhythms and harmonies. It’s all I – I – I or me – me – me. I realized that all of the hymns I truly love (and the ones I write) are always “we” and “us”.

    By the way, David Shirey had an interesting take on Cartman’s idea: Instead of replacing “baby” with “Jesus”, imagine that the love song is sung from God to us. Takes a different spin on things. And works surprisingly well for many songs (and totally creeps me out with others). Anyway, here is a post on my old blog about that concept:

    • i learn alot from David–he is very wise about these things!

  • Jeremy

    I agree with you with regards to crap music but there is crap music in all categories. Some of those good ole songs have the worst theology and we sing them because we know them, not because of the theology.

    I came to contemporary Christian music late after spending many years thinking that I was too intellectual, spiritual, faithful, liberal…you get the point. I have now discovered a lot of good in contemporary Christian music including the one you mentioned. I am a fan of Mark Shultz, especially Broken and Beautiful and I Am. You might also listen to the Michael Gungor band. Their song “White Man” is awesome. There are hundreds of others, just listen to them.

    • thanks, jeremy. i will check these out. i am a late bloomer in this regard as well, and grateful for a church that was on the same learning curve as me, and has come just as far! i’m with you that some of our older stuff is rotten, too.

  • You may not agree with me, but “He Reigns” by The Newsboys speaks about how WE (the people of the earth) sing “Glory, glory, Hallelujah HE reigns”

    Not a great song for the congregation to sing (at least not until we practice it A LOT) but a great expression of our relationship with God

  • Randy Kuss

    Well thought and felt and said, Erin. Thanks. There are songs I will and songs I will not, on theological grounds, do when I lead singing at youth gatherings – some of them newbies and some oldies. I use a lot of Andra Moran and Josh Elson songs, some Paul Svenson, and introduce contemplative pieces by Stephen Iverson. Celia Whitler’s “Live Christ” and Scott Underwood’s “Holiness” are nice ones with an individual bent but more about how we are called to live as we walk in the Way than about “my” cool relationship with God/Jesus.

  • Amy

    Ha – this is cracking me up. Christian and I have had this conversation many times. I, too, love Cartman and hate cauliflower. People always assume that we know contemporary Christian music because we work at a church. Patty Griffin’s “Mary” and “Up to the Mountain” are two of my favorites. She’s my hero. Beatles: “Let it Be” and “Here Comes the Sun,” Carole King’s “Way Over Yonder,” Leonard Cohen/Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, Lots of U2 (duh), Nickel Creek, Bob Marley. Christian has written some good ones too.

  • I was with you, every step of your completely justified rant, Erin. But I still can’t do it. Still can’t make peace with it. Even in the otherwise good songs… the ‘our’ still creeps me out. Like it’s a secret club. God is God. It’s not my God, your God or our God. Just God. Every time I hear “Our God is an awesome God”, I giggle, thinking the next line is going to be: “But your God sucks!”

    I’m with Amy. Give me U2 any day of the week over Christian radio. (Not Christian P radio, of course, but Xian radio…) 🙂

    • i laugh because of some hippie worship leaders i once experienced at a Group workcamp–they sang “awesome god” for about 4 hours straight (not really, but seemed like it) with the most serious faces and CHOREOGRAPHY you ever saw. so yeah, i understand.

  • April

    I agree I was just telling a co-worker the local CFR has way too many commercials & asks for money too much. He recommended a sation called Klove (which is from CA, but a eville channel airs it here in oboro, so maybe you can get that channel, it seems to ask for less $$) There are some good songs out there by Chris Tomlon, John Waller & some othersthat I don’t know who sings them, and my religious ed kids & my own 4 kids loved this rap song that a friend of mine gave me. And it’s alot nicer to hear my kids singing christian songs in the mini van than the songs about drugs/sex/& stripping etc…

  • OMG, do you realize :”Christian Hard Rock” is my FAVORITE favorite episode EVER of south park. (Followed closely by “D-Yikes”). We down here in Tucson are sort of on that same path. We constantly are striving for relevant, modern music, that is not horribly theologically icky. A group of us went to an AofG service last wednesday. It was nice, because we can virtually never go to observe any other worship, as we are always in worship with our jobs. I learned two things – the music we felt was “dated” is not necessarily so, simply because of its age; and some of the “trendy” stuff needs time to age and ferment, and become somehow more accessible to congregational singing – often lead singer and backup band does not guarantee a nice transition to inclusion in worship.

    I too dislike so much of the schlock one hears in CC radio, both because of the caliber of music (if you are a musician – follow the first motive you hear in any contemporary christian song … the good songs have melodies that change, the bad ones are cloying ostinato on the same note thru the motive…) and the intent of the music.

    Thank you, wonderful post!

    • what is an Aof G service? tell me more…and thanks for reading!

  • Jaybee

    There really is an “I” in “christian”. You just don’t put it first. So to speak.