You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar: A Plea for a Hymnody to Open Eyes

Victor Chininin Buele

Every Sunday morning, I scan through the local radio stations on my way to church.  Sometimes, it’s oldies that catch me; sometimes it’s our Mexican radio station; other times it’s NPR; most often it’s random stuff, even boy bands from the 90’s.  If you know me at all, you would know I have a bit of an aversion for the Christian radio stations and you would also know why and why I’m trying to actually listen to them from time to time.  Suffice it to say that part of it is because I often need only two or three chords to realize I am listening to the Christian radio station.  And yes, it’s stereotypical, and it paints with a very broad brush the efforts of Christian men and women throughout the world to reach the world, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.  That will be for another time.

Last Sunday morning, a song came up twice:

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

I realized why I was so attracted to the song.  This was a hymn.  A very religious song.  A song very much like the ones I was driving to go play to lead the congregation of the saints to sing.  This post is not about or against feminism or women’s rights or anything remotely close to that.  That may be another time.

And immediately my heart broke.  I could picture a girl, driving away on a Sunday morning, getting on the same interstate on which I was driving.  But she would be leaving a strange bed, perhaps not even a decent bed, broken and betrayed, once again empty and without the affirmation and the affection she craved for the night before.  Or the months before.

I could picture a girl, desperate and afraid, ashamed of what’s to come.  I could picture another girl, determined to make it to the top and fully persuaded that she was making the right choice.  I could picture them both on a different day driving to our local Planed Parenthood.

I could picture these girls listening to this song.  I could see this song’s power to pump them up, to affirm their choices, to transcend their circumstances, and to tell them that they are the roaring champion.

We are all broken.

I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

This is the line.  It’s not the hook.  This is the line.

Where were we, Christian musicians?
Where were we, when this poor broken woman was led to realize that she stood for nothing and fell for everything?
Where were we, that we were not able to minister to this poor woman, pushed to the breaking point?
Where were we, to give aid to this woman, held down for a long time?
Where were we, that we missed the moment when she was brought to her knees and realized she’s had enough, enough of the nonsense?
Where were we, to tell her a different story?  Don’t we know the true Champion?
Where were we, to point her to the Maker of the thunder?  To the Avenger and Protector of the tired and broken?
Where were we, to point her to true freedom that transcends floating like a butterfly because of the stripes of a Savior who died so that she wouldn’t have to deal with the heartache and pain of attempting to be her own hero?
Where were we, like C. S. Lewis, to give her the story of the Roaring Lion?

The Lord Jesus spoke to Paul, and we have the account of that in Acts 26:12-ff.  Pay close attention to verses 17-18.  Jim Wilson makes the point in his excellent book Taking Men Alive: Evangelism on the Front Lines that Jesus told Paul that he must do three things: 1) open their eyes, 2) turn them from darkness to light, and 3) turn them from the power of Satan to God.   He gives the analogy of a dark room where a person is with her eyes closed.  She cannot see.  What happens if you turn the light on? Nothing! Because “light does not cause sight.”  What if she opens her eyes while the light is still off?  “Open eyes do not cause sight, either.”  “When we have our eyes closed, we naturally want darkness.  But if we are in a dark room with our eyes wide open, we long for light.  Closed eyes want darkness.  Open eyes want light.  Open eyes are hungry for light” (p.13, ff)

Why are we not writing a hymnody to open eyes?

Listen, there is a ton of explicitly Christian music for us to use on a Sunday morning service.  Too much, perhaps.  Only a fraction of the songs that are produced today will endure the test of time.  Just because we have a guitar or a piano and thirty minutes on a Saturday, that doesn’t create the next In Christ Alone.  What are we using our talent and resources to produce?

Don’t you see?  Katy Perry would not make a dime unless there were broken women who opened their eyes in a dark room.  They are hungry for light.  And instead of Light they are given cheap fireworks that will last only but a second and will not even give that good of a bang.

The opportunity is there, will we be content writing average or even below-average songs that will do nothing but pad our ego?  Most likely, you are not Beethoven, Stuart Townend, Bob Kauflin, Mozart, or Taylor Swift or her cowriters.  But know this, the opportunity is there, and we are missing the jeep to take us on the safari to see the Great Lion, who as that wise man once said, isn’t safe, but He is good.  “He is the King, I tell you.”

You Might Be More Like a Jehovah’s Witness That You Would Like to Admit

Victor Chininin Buele

It’s Saturday.  I’m up in my office reading through Galatians 1, agonizing to see if this is the right section of scripture to share with a dear friend today to encourage him, to point him to Jesus. I’m questioning for the fifth time the song choices for tomorrow’s service. Will these songs help the congregation acknowledge their need for God and allow them to freely show that they love Him?

It’s also the day when I have a higher probability of being interrupted by that typical knock at the door.  Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Are you ready for Armageddon? Oh, my dear friends, come in, come in…  And I do let them in.  It is both a hoot and the saddest thing.  The Holy Spirit confirms that I love Jesus, and I do love Jehovah.  And I am supposed to be a witness of what God has done for my soul.  So, why not?

My purpose with this is to show you how might be more like a Jehovah’s Witness than you would like to admit.

Who Says?

You know it.  You hate that knock on the door.  You practice your best line.  You open the door naked (well, maybe not).  It can become quite the fun game, “How to get rid of the Jehovah’s Witness?”  A few years ago, a dear friend of ours in Loja answered the door.  She came in after quickly dismissing our visitors.  I asked, lifting my head from the production problem of the moment, “Who was it?” “Oh, some people talking about how to have a better family,” she said.  I answered, “Who says what?”  And two things simultaneously hit me:

  1. It’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses!  Open the door, I must go chase them and talk to them.
  2. This is the one issue that matters for the whole Jehovah’s Witness system of thought–“Who says what?”

Allow me to explain.  The Watchtower Society is the only way one can understand what the Bible says.  That key statement is the most important belief in their system of logic.  It really summarizes it all.  They believe that nobody can ever understand the Bible without somebody from the organization explaining it to them, or at the very least, without using one of the officially-sanctioned publications available to you as a gift from them right there on the spot or available online in more than N number of languages.

The Christian needs not to tangle in heavy theological arguments about whether birthdays can be celebrated, whether Jesus is God, whether the Trinity is an invention of men, whether blood transfusions are allowed, whether we should vote for president. It all breaks if this key principle is false.  The entire Watchtower “theology” hinges on the belief that you are incapable of finding out the truth of the Bible without help.

How, then, might I be more like the Jehovah’s Witnesses than I would like to admit?

This is not an article about the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Books could be written about that.  The focus here is on ourselves.  How are you like the Jehovah’s Witnesses?  I want to leave you with these questions/points to consider:

Why do you actually believe what you believe? (Don’t say you don’t believe in anything, please, because you do.  You truly do.  Even if it is “I don’t believe in anything.”)  Do you believe because others tell you?  How do you go about confirming or denying what somebody tells you?  As Abraham Lincoln said, “Don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.”

Let’s take a perhaps controversial example–

Let’s say that you believe that the economy is recovering because of the numbers you hear on the media about unemployment and GDP growth.  How do you go about knowing if that’s true?  I remember that in my first economics class in graduate school, the professor kindly asked if we really understood what unemployment figures really mean.  Very few of the students knew what I had learned from my father’s books-that the number is based on the number of people actually actively engaged in the economy.  So, if you quit looking, you’re no longer counted.  That’s skewed.  (And so are all statistics to one degree or another).  Has the number improved?  Yes, but asking why is very important.

The other day I drove through Hazelwood, MO, home of the once vital St. Louis Mills Mall, an outlet mall.  The area surrounding the mall is dead, economically speaking.  Last week I was at the Chesterfield St. Louis Premium Outlet Malls.  I thought to myself, “Hey! That’s where everything went!”  So, aren’t we going to report that they numbers look great for the region because perhaps the gain in Chesterfield surpasses the loss in the other region? Does it matter what kinds of jobs are being added?  Do you actually call it a recovery if we see a larger percentage of retail jobs being added compared to high tech jobs?  How do you know if I’m messing with you, like I did with the Lincoln “quote” above?  How do you discern truth?

Because if you aren’t watching you may just be believing something because you heard your favorite talking head say it.  Or because you read it on the Internet.

And you are doing the same level of proselytizing that the Witnesses do:

– Fritanga is a great restaurant.  We were just there last night!
– My company is a great place to work.  You must join us.
– My children are great, like our picture on Facebook.
– Stay out of my body.  It’s my choice!
– Defend the sanctity of human life
– Keep your hands off my guns
– Protect the vulnerable children of schools from gun violence
– Don’t bully
– Friends don’t let friends vote for Trump
– Down with Crooked Hillary
– and on, and on and on…

We are evangelists by nature.  It matters what our message is.  It matters how we know it’s true because we will be passionate about telling others about it.  It’s in our design.