It’s about time we had a look at another shockingly oblivious Christian tune. My mouth was literally hanging open when I heard this on the radio. I could not believe the lyrics. Well, I don’t believe the lyrics — and I was struggling to accept the obvious fact that some people can broadcast, listen to, and even personally perform this song without seeing how absurd and repulsive it is.
Without further ado, here is Amy Grant’s “Better Than A Hallelujah.”
Lest anyone argue that Amy Grant is just some sort of fringe weirdo who doesn’t represent Christianity in any substantive way, let me quote from the beginning of her Wikipedia entry:
Amy Lee Grant (born November 25, 1960) is an American multiple #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit singer-songwriter, musician, author, media personality and actress, best known for her Christian music. She has been referred to as “The Queen of Christian Pop”. As of 2009, Grant remains the best-selling contemporary Christian music singer ever, having sold over 30 million units worldwide. … Grant has won six Grammy Awards, 25 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and had the first Christian album ever to go Platinum.
Of course these lyrics don’t necessarily reflect the beliefs of every Christian on the planet, no matter how many Grammys she’s won. (They certainly don’t reflect the stance of YouTube commenters who condemn Grant as an “unbeliever” because she’s been divorced and remarried.) But I think it’s safe to say that, with almost 600,000 YouTube views on just the two versions of this song that EMI has posted, a fair number of Christians do like it.
In case you can’t listen to the song yourself: the message is basically, “Sometimes, instead of praising and thanking him for his goodness, God would prefer that you suffer painfully for extended periods of time. The more miserable you are, the happier it makes him.”
Really. That’s a paraphrase, but just barely. Here’s the second verse and the chorus.
The woman holding on for life,
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes
The tears of shame for what’s been done,
The silence when the words won’t come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes.
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
I see how some people who are seriously suffering might feel comforted by this message, might want to believe that their pain has some greater purpose. There is a real correlation between religiosity and standard of living, and that is understandable on some level — if you can’t do much of anything about the hardships in your life, you might as well come up with some way to cope, psychologically.
But even this means turning one’s understanding of the world inside out. In no other context would a “loving” character take pleasure in the suffering of his loved ones. In no other context would a “benevolent” character create life just to watch it cry, hurt, and die and consider that somehow a testament to his own glory. If you do have the luxury of being comfortable and having the time to think about your beliefs and discuss them with others, how can you possibly get past this? It seems to me that as a thinking Christian, you could believe in a loving, benevolent and not omnipotent god — or you could believe in an omnipotent god who allows and even desires humanity’s suffering. But you can’t have both.