The Hippopotamus Song

The Hippopotamus Song February 16, 2017

I mentioned previously my hope that students would broaden my horizons. That happened during the last class period, as we focused on songs for children. Students shared songs they knew of which I already knew, such as “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and “This Little Light of Mine.”

But they also shared “The Hippopotamus Song,” otherwise known as “Hip Hip Hooray (Hippopotamus).”

The song actually turned out to be simply fantastic as a way of talking about the topic that I wanted us to focus on, namely the relationship between such songs and the Biblical text(s) that they relate to.

This song begins precisely as Genesis does, but then varies the order, which provided a chance to talk about the reasons for the order in Genesis 1 and parallels between days 1-3 and 4-6. It mentions God’s fingerprints in a way that is closer to Genesis 2 than to Genesis 1, providing an opportunity to talk about the differences between the two. The placement of the sky on top provided an opportunity to talk about the dome and ancient vs. modern cosmology.

And of course, we talked about whether the Bible mentions hippopotamuses, which meant a chance to talk about behemoth and Bible translation.

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  • John MacDonald

    Back in the day, religious music in popular culture could be otherwise understood as brainwashing:

    Maybe one day it will be illegal to take children to church because it will be considered a form of brainwashing. lol

    • Phil Ledgerwood

      Seems like it would be difficult to consistently apply that across all ideologies, especially in a just and pluralistic society.

      • John MacDonald

        I’m not sure why you consider it a “just society” where children are indoctrinated into their parent’s pet religious superstitions.

        • Phil Ledgerwood

          But unless you’re suggesting that someone gets to decide what is and isn’t acceptable “indoctrination,” you’d have to apply that consistently to every ideology, including naturalism. That’s what I consider a just society – one that does not favor one group’s ideology over another.

          If you’re going to say that children shouldn’t be taught Christian ideology by their parents, then you need to be consistent with that train of thought – that children shouldn’t be taught any ideology by their parents (or anyone else – including schools). Children should grow up in an ideological vacuum where they are only taught raw, empirical data but no epistemic frameworks behind that data, values, etc.

          Otherwise, you’re just basically picking ideologies you personally don’t like and declaring them brainwashing, but the ones you approve of are totally ok.

  • histrogeek

    Look into the work of Justin Roberts, one-time University of Chicago Divinity student, who does children’s songs. Most of his stuff his popular/secular, but he did two albums of Biblical songs for kids too. This one is on the Prodigal Son.

  • Tony Prost

    I don’t know what to make of this. Hippopotamuses are wild and ferocious creatures who kill more people in Africa than any other wild animal. Turning them into Winnie the Poohs for kids to learn creationism, doesn’t seem to be doing the kids any favors.

    • Winnie the Pooh is a bear. Is that really so much less ferocious in your estimation that it makes it appropriate?

      • Tony Prost

        Well, Winnie is not pimping creationism, for one thing.

        • I thought your objection was to the making of a deadly hippo cuddly.

          It isn’t clear to me that this song is promoting creationism of an anti-science sort. If anything, as my blog post indicates, it actually draws attention to the prescientific cosmology of Genesis 1.

          • Tony Prost

            never mind, it’s just an internet comment!

  • Christopher John Sissons

    There is only one Hippootamus Song and I loved it as a child, many years ago. Just listen to the rhymes for hippotamus!

  • I wanted a hippopotamus for Christmas, so thanks for the post.