In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a special entry in my too-long-neglected “Questions and Answers” series, where we examine two songs that address the human condition from two perspectives—the one without, the other with hope. Today’s topic is fatherhood. To those whose earthly fathers have brought them only pain and fear, what do we as Christians have to offer? What can we say to the person who says “Everyone I ever trusted has let me down”? The answer is that we have a heavenly Father whose word is sure and whose faithfulness endures to all generations. Continue reading
Category Archives: Questions and Answers
As you will see, this is really a question and answer post in disguise. But instead of yammering on about the music, I will let the music (and the images) speak for themselves. If you can spare ten minutes, I believe they will speak to you as powerfully as they speak to me. Have a blessed Holy Saturday.
Two songs that aren’t Christmas-y, but together I think they make an appropriate Christmas couplet. In this post, we are considering nothing less than the reason for the world. I hope you will join me in the discussion. In a slight change of pace, I’ve written this article for another blog, Retuned, whose proprietor Matt Linder asked me to contribute something when he saw some of my writing. This is a young website that was created to explore all genres of music and music culture from a Christian perspective. Though he and I have amicably agreed to disagree in some respects as far as musical taste is concerned (alas, he’s partial to heavy metal and holy hip-hop and doesn’t like 90s CCM), I appreciate the opportunity to add something to his site. Click here to read, and feel free to comment here or there!
Intense stuff today. This just might be the heaviest song pair I showcase in this series. I’ve listened to these two songs back-to-back many times now, and the impact never fails to blow me away. I hope you will join me as I discuss them.
Today I’m going to depart a bit from the standard patriotic fare you might be reading around the blogosphere and instead offer a special entry in our ongoing “Questions and Answers” series (which I kicked off last month here). The two tunes we’ll be looking at may not be in the same vein as “God Bless the U. S. A.,” but in their own way, they are quintessentially American. I encourage you to think about the lyrics with me today, and I think by the end you may find that they are actually quite appropriate. Continue reading
The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being, as it is, a yoke consistently imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words — `free-love’ — as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. — G. K. Chesterton
For our first installment of “Questions and Answers,” we will focus on love and faithfulness. The first “question” is posed in one of the most famous rock ballads of all time, Journey’s “Faithfully.” (I was playing this at the house of some friends the other week, prompting the mother to say, “You are the most retro college girl I know!”)
Now of course, this song isn’t written as a question. In fact, it’s a declarative pledge of fidelity. Still, it raises all manner of unspoken questions. Written by Journey pianist Jonathan Cain (who can be seen looking at his wife’s picture at 1:00), it’s an essentially autobiographical meditation on the pain and tensions of being a married “music man.” The singer recognizes the many ways in which the rock-star lifestyle is taking its toll on both himself and his wife, but he feels helpless to do anything about it. He can only hope that their love won’t come crashing down, that the “two strangers” they become to each other when they’re apart will never stop being able to rekindle the flame. Meanwhile, he offers a promise that one way or another, if she stands by him, he will stand by her.
Sadly, Cain and his wife went on to divorce only a few years later, demonstrating that a promise without an anchor is a very fragile thing, and a well-intentioned resolution to love without fully understanding how to love can only take you so far when a marriage is cracking. This, then, becomes the question: How? How does a man truly love a woman?
Most of you, upon seeing Steven Curtis Chapman in the title, probably thought I would use his famous wedding song “I Will Be Here” as the “answer” in this entry. I certainly could have. But I actually chose a different, less well-known song also written for his wife: “Go There With You.” It’s a little more raw, a little more urgent, and it conveys a deeper sense of pain and struggle. In fact, at the time the performance I’m featuring was recorded, Steven’s wife had just been diagnosed with clinical depression, something she had struggled with for a long time without giving it a name. Steven’s career was at an all-time peak, but she was barely holding together through it all. The Great Adventure tour, the very tour this video comes from, was almost canceled as a result.
So even while he projected an infinitely more wholesome, put-together image than your average rock singer on the stage, Steven knew even better than most musicians how painful a life on the road could be. But he had something they didn’t, and that was a true understanding of the nature of love. He knew that the words “I love you” had to mean “something more” every time he said them, even though he’d said them a thousand times before. And he understood that love meant taking a heart that was naturally selfish, because like any human heart it belonged to a broken man, and filling it up with Mary Beth. It meant taking her joy and pain and making it his own. And at the heart of it all lies this line, “I will give myself to love, the way Love gave itself for me.” The greatest Love of all has been displayed for us in the person of Christ laying down his life for the Church. And Steven sees that this is how it must be for himself as a husband.
That is why even though depression would continue to be a way of life for Mary Beth, and even though their greatest trials still lay ahead of them, they have remained husband and wife to this day. Such is the fruit of a human love that rests on the firm foundation of Christ.
Few things sadden me more than good questions without good answers. I can think of so many areas this applies to, but music is certainly one of them. Sometimes when I’m listening to a non-Christian song, I think to myself, “This is a great song, and it raises so many profound questions, but it’s missing the answer completely.”
Then other times I hear a Christian song and think, “Well, on a basic level this song has the answer… but it’s so shallow/artistically inferior that it couldn’t meet that non-Christian writer where he’s at.”
I’m not gonna lie: I have that reaction to Christian songs of all genres. So this isn’t about southern gospel versus praise and worship/CCM. This is an across-the-board issue. But the good news is that there are also many examples of Christian songs that, in my opinion, do rise to that challenge. And one of the things I love most is finding good matching pairs of “questions and answers” — an exceptional non-Christian song answered by an appropriate and also exceptional Christian song. As an extra challenge, I try to create matching pairs that are musically complementary as well (just because it makes it that much cooler).
I decided I’d like to share some of these with my readers, while analyzing their lyrical content. I’ll uncover what I think the non-Christian song is trying to say, or trying to ask, and then show how the Christian lyric provides exactly the right answer.
Stylistically, this series will cover a wide range, though you needn’t worry about seeing any rap, heavy metal, progressive rock, or similar genres appearing. This is a series designed to explore the intersection of music and art. ‘Nuff said. ;) However, the songs won’t be southern gospel either. Obviously the “questions” won’t be, and so far all the “answers” I’ve collected are drawn from CCM artists. But I know that at least some of my readers enjoy a variety of music, and I’d like to think that I have good taste, so I think and hope that most of you will enjoy this. Even if you find a particular song not to your stylistic taste, I still encourage you to think about the lyrics. This will be “deep, man” territory. Love, longing, meaning of life, life after death… as my little sister used to say, “all stuff.” If you are a songwriter, I would most certainly encourage you to tune in, because these are some of the best songs ever written, and there is no teacher like a great song.
So let’s see how this works. Expect the first installment some time next week. Oh, and if you have any suggestions, by all means leave a comment!