Better than Hallelujah

Two new items concerning Christian music.  First we have a hallelujah note with former popular Indie Christian singer David Bazan giving up his fundamentalism.  This is an excellent video — please consider viewing it.

Next, in contrast, I was driving and heard this song by the popular Christian singer Amy Grant called, “Better than Hallelujah“.  I was disgusted by the lyrics, but the DJ who played it said these lyrics have ministered to thousands of Christians. What bothered me was the refrain where she says:

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.

Here we have the evil Yahweh who delights in burnt flesh of animals, sacrifice of innocent people and here, he loves to hear us screaming in misery — to him, this is better than the praise of “Hallelujah”!  Wow.  Sure, I get that people want someone to cry to in their lonely suffering, but the theology behind this song is sick!  What do you think?

Hallelujah, btw, comes from the Latin word “Alleluia” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “Halleluya” which means “Praish Yah”.  “Yah” is two letter from YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah).  So perhaps it is best translated “Praise His His Name”. (see the Wiki article)


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29 responses to “Better than Hallelujah

  1. Ed

    Ugh! I just finished listening to Amy Grant’s song. Musically it is about as deep as a dime. Lyrically it does seem to say that “god’ for some reason, enjoys our sufferings. I was in an Evangelical church in Minneapolis Mn. for a very few years and that concept is very common and pervasive in their theology. It just makes it easier to see that the Bible and much of god-centered “scripture” is just the projections of mixed up-crazy human beings.
    And good for David Bazan. If he persists in challenging various beliefs and engages in some serious critical thinking and does not cave into the people around him he will eventually settle into the peace of not knowing and observational openness… (odds are here that he will eventually “repent” and then really become a big star and sell gazillions of “prodigal son type” albums to christians.
    Sorry for my cynicism but god loves it when I am cynical and contrary… :-}

  2. i’m not a fan of most “Christian” music. Amy Grant rates right up there… i think this is an odd way of saying “God stands with the suffering” as well as the acknowledgement that the world can be a painful place and your heart will be broken… or some such thing.. but the words fail to capture that. kinda like my last blog post😉

  3. @ Ed :
    The prodigal son sales gimmick cynicism cracked me up. You are absolutely right !! But when you said that, “god loves it when I am cynical and contrary.” I almost lost my lunch!

    @ Luke:
    Sure is odd to think her god loves his creation screaming in misery. I know what it means to have a friend “stand with me in suffering”: they bring over cooked food, offer to watch kids, offer to help drive or shop, sit and talk, call and check up. But what the heck does your god do to show that he is there with us when we suffer?

    I can envision a god that where you see that god as existential peace and that you have to abide in for peace but the effort lies with you. But I see no intervening god helping us out in suffering — not practically. Just enough that you keep telling yourself an invisible spirit cares even though you can see no action or change happening by the supposed miracle god.

  4. we were talking about slowing things down and talking to one another right? so when did this become about my God? are you asking where I think God is when we suffer? are you asking my views about theodicy? or telling me what i believe?

    questions or just rhetoric to set me up to knock me down?

  5. @ Luke :

    Possibly my mistake. I thought I heard you saying something like, “Though I personally don’t like Amy Grant’s music, I think her song just poorly states the truth that: ‘God stands with the suffering’ . ” Please correct me if I am wrong.

    So, let me regroup: Are you saying that Amy Grant’s song really does capture a truth albeit through awkward lyrics? Because this post is not talking about the music or awkward lyrics but about a certain theology that is the foundation of millions and millions of Christians. I am criticizing that theology.

    BTW, did you get a chance to look at David Bazan’s short interview?

  6. I’ve always loved the raw sound of Pedro the Lion. I knew Pedro the Lion (Bazan) was considered Christian but that didn’t sway me one way or another, just give me the music.

    I believe we can hear the honesty echoing throughout the music of musicians who are honest with themselves.

  7. L. Rodriguez

    Greetings Sabio, this made me think of political campaigns and their slogans and jingles…There is God’s party and Satan’s (for those who believe in one or the other) both candidate’s fooling people into believing their promises blah, blah..gospels and such. Although sometimes they show their true colors in songs like “Better than… but people get so fanatical of their candidate that they don’t even see the obvious.

  8. @Eruesso
    Indeed, there is something much deeper than religion and listening to that is a valuable skill!
    Thanx for visiting

    @L. Rodriguez
    The political analogy is interesting. The gullibility of people (myself included) is skillfully capitalized on by the religious and political professionals.

  9. Sabio: : “Are you saying that Amy Grant’s song really does capture a truth albeit through awkward lyrics?”

    upon a second reading of my own words, it seems that yes, that is what i was saying. i do think God stands with the suffering, like a friend would. when my gma died and i was distraught; i was in my own funk and didn’t get out of it until i prayed. when i prayed, i felt comforted, i looked around and went and comforted my mom and sister and aunts and uncles. now whether this was just me realizing that i wasn’t the only one suffering after a short meditation or whether it was God’s presence aiding is up for debate. i think you know where i stand.

    also in the hospital i hear this theology a lot. i’m unsure of my exact thoughts on it as i take more of a Taoist idea of God, but i still think there can be comforting going on. i think Grant was trying to get there, but failed horribly making a masochistic metaphor instead of a comforting one.

  10. Yeah, I agree prayer and belief can help. As you said, we just disagree HOW it helps. Yet we both have interesting caveats that make us similar:
    a) Your caveat is you are mildly Taoist and look for Taoist stuff in your scriptures.
    b) My caveat is that I am open to mystery, wonder and know I am only a speck.

    I think it is the Taoists that emphasize two types of opposites:
    1) Summer and Winter — were quality and properties are different
    2) Spring and Fall — were they share many qualities and properties but their directions are different.

    We are often Spring and Fall to each other.
    Thought you’d enjoy the poetic nature metaphor!

    Perhaps Grant just messed up in using the nasty theology that permeates much of Christianity or maybe part of her actually believes it. Either way, it, and not her, needs pointing out and condemned whenever it raises its ugly head.

    Peace !

  11. Steve Wiggins

    I learned of Amy Grant when I attended Grove City College (ugh! don’t want to drag that up again). She was squeaky clean, a saved kid’s Madonna. Her music got better after some trauma entered her life, but I still find myself clenching when I listen to it. On the other hand, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is one of the best songs ever written. It is an exploration of betrayal and disillusionment. As one Cohen fan once told me, “He started out trying to write a religious song and ended up with an erotic one.” Now that is worth listening to!

  12. @ Steve

    An erotic Hallelujah — that is great !

  13. i didn’t respond to your poetry. it was too beautiful! i am honored and we are in agreement!

  14. L

    New reader here, late to the discussion. I couldn’t resisting commenting, though. As a Christian, I cannot stand that song at all – I’ve managed to sit through it once, but ugh! I THINK what she is trying to say is God doesn’t mind it when we are upset and a mess, that He just wants us to talk to Him. But the words DO NOT convey that AT ALL, Amy!!! Totally unclear and confusing! Ahem. Er, yeah, anyway I agree that it sounds really ghoulish.

  15. @ L
    I am glad a Christian chimed in to agree with my ghoulish impression! Thanks L.

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  18. carrie

    The point behind the lyrics is this: Many people can stand in church and say “Hallelujah!” and “Praise God!” While it is absolutely wonderful to praise Him, a lot of times, unfortunately, there are people that just like to “show out” in church, or sometimes it’s just out of habit or tradition. But the HONESTY behind someone crying out to God in times of need is beautiful. The point of the song is… God loves an honest heart that is seeking Him, and realizes their need for Him.

    Think of this:
    You are in war. You carry a gun around with you for months. You never see an enemy. Everything is always wonderful. Noone ever tries to attack you. Yes, you may be thankful for that gun, but you don’t really feel that you NEED it.

    Now, you’ve carried it around for a long time, and you put it down for a few minutes thinking “Well, I’m just gonna grab a bite to eat real quick. Noone ever attacks me. I’ll be ok without my gun for a few minutes. Then, the enemy fires. You immediately reach out for your gun, and use it for protection. You are safe, and you are reminded of how much you actually NEED it. Your appreciation for it grows, and you cling to it stronger than ever.

    It is wonderful to praise God all the time. But it is when we are broken that we realize how much we need God, and when we cry out to Him in a time of need, He loves that we come to Him.

    Like a child…. my daughter will play all day long, and not want me to hold her or rock her. But when she is hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or bumped her head, she comes crying to me– only me- noone else. I know she loves me all day long, but she really shows it when she needs me, and it makes my heart smile.

    You can think of it however you want. You can think it is a terrible song. You can think God is horrible if you want. But… I know my God. I know He loves me. I feel Him all the time. He carries me through, and for that, I am thankful.

  19. Ed

    @ Carrie… Your belief and certainty is obvious. So is your strong imagination. Which, at times can be useful. I always hesitate to tell others what they need. However, in this case I am making an exception. Get spell check.

  20. carrie

    In response to Sabio Lantz’s
    “I can envision a god that where you see that god as existential peace and that you have to abide in for peace but the effort lies with you. But I see no intervening god helping us out in suffering — not practically. Just enough that you keep telling yourself an invisible spirit cares even though you can see no action or change happening by the supposed miracle god”

    I do see action from my God. When a random stranger who doesn’t know you, and has no idea of what you could possibly be going through, comes to you and says “God laid it on my heart that I needed to come pray with you” during a time of absolute need and suffering, tell me that God isn’t in action. When someone that really isn’t very informed on my situation comes and says “God laid it on my heart to buy you a car” and then they actually bought and GAVE me a car, when I was in need as a single mother with no income and no way to get a job without a car, TELL ME GOD DOESN’T MOVE. When I get a job offer for a job that I didn’t even apply for, and it happens to be EXACTLY the kind of job I need as a single mother, TELL ME GOD DOESN’T SPEAK TO PEOPLE! You can live in darkness all you want, but MY GOD LIVES.

  21. Ed

    @ Carrie… Ummm, just because people are nice to you and you get things you want on the material plane does not prove a god… at best it proves statistical probability…

  22. carrie

    sorry if i had any typing errors. dealing with a one year old while hurrying to type leaves little room for proof reading. and yes, God has provided me with some material things that He obviously sees that i have need for. but He has also given me love, peace, and happiness that are beyond anything i have ever felt before. it is ok that you don’t believe. i’m not here to force God on anyone. i am just speaking truth. it’s each person’s individual choice to follow God, or live in darkness. while my compassion for lost souls is strong, and i do not want anyone to live without God, if you don’t accept Him, i just knock the dust off my feet and keep on goin.

    just wanted to share. God bless you all. don’t believe i will visit this site again.

  23. @ carrie
    Thanx for stopping in. I remember the days when I interpreted my days as you do. It sounds like it is serving you well for now. Best wishes with the little child!

  24. Jess

    Yea, I’m not to crazy about the song either. I think Carrie did a good job at explaining it though. Like she said, it’s not that God likes that we are miserable, he loves to see His children run to Him when they are in pain, just as a parent wants their own child to come to them when they are hurting, so the parent can comfort them. Concerning the comment about God delighting in the burnt flesh of animals and so on… the penalty of sin is death, and since we have all sinned, something has to die. Either we have to die, or something has to take our place. In the old Testament, that was an animal, In the New Testament, that was Jesus. Also, the sacrifice of animals was a picture of what was to come, Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus is often called the sacrificial lamb, comparing Him to an innocent lamb being sacrificed. Also, it’s not so much that God delighted in the actual sacrifice itself, but in the act of it. Kind of like if a little child gives their parent a toy that they really, really love. The parent obviously doesn’t want the toy, but the fact that the child loves them so much that they would give it to them makes the parent very happy:) I definitely don’t want to get in any kind of argument, just wanted to give my opinion. Thanks for allowing us to do so!

  25. @ Jess
    Thanks for visiting and sharing. As you probably know, I don’t believe what you said when you claimed:

    “since we have all sinned, something has to die”

    Actually, it is a very bizaare idea to me, and to all Atheists, Buddhists, Shinto, Confucians, Taoist and many more. Heck, I don’t even think all Christians buy into it.

    But, you wrote that you are not hear to argue which is great, because our worldviews may be too far apart for that to be effective, but just as you wanted to give your opinion, I am giving my counter-opinion after your major assumption.

  26. Brenda

    It is a matter of perspective. If you are not close to God through a broken heart or a bruised spirit you cannot understand. People like to criticize things they do not understand. The “Truth” is God is close to the broken hearted and we are a mess but He sees us as beautiful. Amy Grant says exactly that and put it to music. Call it what you want; I call it truth.

  27. Any’s song is perverted. There’s nothing greater than a Hallelujah, first of all. It is the highest praise. Second, the lyrics are very backwards. Romans 5:3-4 says, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”

    So, even when Christians experience hardships, we can still cry Hallelujah. Amy’s song is all backwards.

  28. mcg99

    I too have problems with this song – if the angels cry holy, holy, holy, 24/7 and other angels that praise and worship him daily, this should tell us that we are to PRAISE him. I also think that the lyric “beautiful the mess we are” is wrong – when we mess up, we are to REPENT and ask Him for fogiveness -the beauty here is that HE DOES forgive us when we come with a sincere and genuinely repentant hear! Amy Grant is a compromiser – not crazy about her music -seems like she wants to please the world and christians – sorry Amy, your compromise is glaring!

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