Early on in our marriage, my husband and I would attend church together, sit side by side, and both listen attentively during the message. Miraculously, our discussion in the car on the way home would often reveal that we had heard two very different sermons. The words that entered our ears were the same, but the process they went through after that point produced amazingly divergent results.
My husband assumed that the pastor intended to communicate exactly what his words meant. If a point was unbiblical, inconsistent, or otherwise erroneous or damaging, hubby’s analytical mind understood the implications—and he came away disappointed or agitated.
I, on the other hand, assumed that the pastor must have intended the nicest and best meaning that could possibly be pulled out of his words. If he said something questionable, I knew he couldn’t have meant that. Without even realizing it, I would just decide what he must have really been trying to say, insert that thought into the sermon, and leave the service feeling peaceful and positive about the message.
Things have changed. Over the years I’ve become aware that sometimes teachers don’t respect the responsibility of the pulpit like they should. And though I’m not nearly as Biblically literate as I’d like to be, I do have far stronger theological convictions now than I did back then. These days, it isn’t uncommon for me to be all fired up and frustrated about some book or teaching—and for my husband step in to be a mediator of grace and empathy for the person or position in question.
However, old habits die hard. I continue to be naive and passive in regard to the lyrics in contemporary Christian music. When the radio is on in the car, I can happily and mindlessly sing along with the most theologically atrocious or shallow tunes. Even if I do pause to consider the message of a song, and find it to be a little on the blasphemous side, I either assume it’s a case of awkward wording (they really meant something else), or I excuse it (they are musicians, not theologians).
One or both of those cases are quite likely the reality, but that doesn’t make it harmless. Popular Christian music is both a reflection of popular theology and a conduit for its dissemination. Many of those “silly” songs express what is taught, embraced, and lived out in Western Christianity.
As a for instance, I offer Jonny Diaz’s More Beautiful You.
It starts out describing a young girl who feels insecure that she doesn’t look like a magazine model. The idea is, of course, that she shouldn’t feel that way—that she is amazingly beautiful and valuable just as she is. I wouldn’t argue with that, and there are many hurting girls and women who need to understand their inherent worth. But then we get to the chorus and the underlying message.
There could never be a more beautiful you…
You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do
So there could never be a more beautiful you
Is that true? Are we all—in our current state—at the pinnacle of our potential for beauty and value? Can we really do nothing to become more beautiful or valuable in any way that matters? How does that look when it is lived out? Does this message ultimately offer hope and motivation, or discouragement and apathy?