There’s a song that has been going around Christian circles recently called How Can It Be* sung by (a relatively unknown) Lauren Daigle. You can view the YouTube clip here. This type of song is disturbing because it contains some truth but, apart from what I personally consider to be a harmful theology of penal substitutionary atonement (for further information read the excellent articles found here and here), it also contains a dangerous undercurrent of downright negativity and falsehood about who we are in God’s sight. Here’s the first verse:
I am guilty Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become These hands are dirty I dare not lift them up to the Holy one
“I am guilty.” “I am ashamed.” “My hands are dirty.” “I dare not lift them to the holy one.” Who told you this? If we read the New Testament, we see that we have been reconciled to God, declared righteous, called “holy” and “beloved of God,” and urged to lift up holy hands in prayer. This is dangerous because it tells us and our families, our children, that they are intrinsically dirty, shameful, not desirable to God, unloved, and that they dare not approach God. Now, obviously, the songwriters continue by showing how Jesus steps into this gulf between who we are and what God demands, and this is the primary message of a penal system where God demands his son die to appease his own wrath against humanity. It also relies heavily on legal language and views human salvation as an transaction between Jesus and God and between God and individual humans.
You plead my cause You right my wrongs You break my chains You overcome You gave Your life To give me mine You say that I am free How can it be How can it be
And then verse two:
I’ve been hiding Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt That You could love me But in Your eyes there’s only grace now
Do we want to feed our souls with such a fear-based, guilt-inducing message? “I’m afraid. I’ve been hiding. I don’t know how you could love such a person as myself. But there’s grace in your eyes now. Earlier? Maybe not so. But now, there’s grace.” The repeating chorus echoes that phrase “How can it be?” Incredulous that such a wretch (or “worm” in the words of another old hymn) as I should be able to lift my head to the Holy God. This is not a song that speaks of love, our endearment to God, a thriving relationship or being the beloved ones of the Divine.
That said, the real reason this song–and songs like it–arte so dangerous is that music has a way of binding itself into our mind and affecting our soul. It can change the course of a life. It can reinforce good thoughts or drive home a despairing view of life that adds to the already-burdensome load we carry. We don’t need the added weight of shame, guilt, and despair. We need music that will lift our spirits, deliver truth of who we are into our hearts, and declare the universal and eternal love of God. Unfortunately, How Can It Be is not that kind of music. Songs like this really need to be left as (possible) artful expressions, but not repeated and rehearsed and made part of our life.
* Publishing: © 2014 Sony ATV Timber Publishing (SESAC) / Sony ATV Timber Publishing & Open Hands Music (SESAC) / Ponies Riding Shotgun (ASCAP Writer(s): Words and Music by Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson