Posted by: Adam Roper | June 15, 2009

Questions regarding Mewithoutyou

A couple nights ago a friend of mine, who works with a local Christian retailer, told me that Mewithoutyou’s new record, “It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All a Dream, It’s Alright” is not being carried or sold. The main reason for this, my friend mentioned offhandedly, was that the distributor of music for the said retailer thought the album was too controversial because of the closing track- “Allah Allah Allah” (you can listen to the whole song here).

I really appreciate this retailer because they have a full selection of great artists/bands, and they have a commitment to supporting smaller musicians, though I do have my critiques. I’m trying to understand the standard this song violated- what there is about the song that deems the album unacceptable.

So my question: What is there that is offensive in this song? To begin let’s take a look at the lyrics:

In everywhere we look (x6)
Allah, Allah, Allah
In everywhere we look

In everyone we meet (x6)
Allah, Allah, Allah
In everyone we meet

In every blade of grass (x6)
Allah, Allah, Allah
In every blade of grass

It doesn’t matter what you done
It doesn’t matter what you done
What effect is without a cause?
It doesn’t matter what you done
Now lay your faithless head down
In necessities cotton hand
There’s a love that never changes
No matter what you done

If your old man did you wrong (x3)
Well maybe his old man did him wrong
If you care to sing forgiveness songs
Come down and join our band
We’ll cut you like sword
And sing forgiveness songs

In what ways has this song crossed the line or failed to meet the standard?

Is this album not carried because the content would offend some Christians? This might be the response of a Christian retailer seeking to reach every congregation, disqualifying art that would appeal to one type of Christians though would offend another type. But why, then, does the retailer choose to carry books that support an Emerging/Emergent worldview which is criticized heavily by, among others, John MacArthur?

Is it because the song seems to support a worldview other than an agreed upon worldview? Does all this talk of “Allah everywhere we look” come with the danger of contradicting Christian theology?

I could talk for hours about this and give my opinion at length, but I would rather have a conversation. What do you think? Why is this controversial?

For the record I do recognize that this is not a big deal. You can still buy the album on iTunes, Amazon, and at HMV (hint hint) so why does it matter that one retailer doesn’t carry it? I could always buy it somewhere else (and you could also 😉 ). Maybe I’m just focusing too much on the negative. Yes, I am.

Even so. Let’s talk.

Cheers.

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Responses

  1. Hmm…there are so many ways this could go.

    If this is a song about praising Allah, it would be in direct contradiction of Christian beliefs. In that case, it’s totally understandable that this company would not carry it.

    Then there is the argument that this song really is about Christian faith and they meant to say Alle (short for alleluia, but they spelled it wrong). Somehow, I kind of doubt that’s the case too…especially after reading all of the lyrics.

    It could be a “conversion” song. Either for Islam (from a standpoint of if you’re not Muslim then “lay your faithless head down”), but even that seems far-fetched considering the “there’s a love that never changes” line. Wait a minute, now it’s starting to sound like a conversion song from Islam to Christianity….you know, that whole love and forgiveness thing.

    This is a song that really makes one think and examine not only the lyrics but our own beliefs and perspectives. I think that the more we examine and question what we believe and try to see things from more than one perspective, the more we grow in the faith that we do have.

    Since faith is the basis of Christianity, it seems to me that this company should stop being afraid of offending people and help people grow. I’m guessing that’s why they exists and cater to Christians anyway, right?

  2. True, the basis for a Christian company should be to help people grow, and there are substantial books and music at this store that will help people grow.

    As much as there are benefits to seeking to reach a larger audience of Christians there are also exclusions, some of which don’t make much sense. The imperfections in the almost unspoken standard were seen the most clearly when a) Amy Grant was pulled from shelves for “turning secular”, and b) Evanescence was pulled because one of the band members swore in an interview.

    Then again, a notable sociologist, carried by the retailer, has been known to swear in public. Why is his stuff not pulled from shelves?

    Not to be cynical or unfair, but I still do have trouble trying to understand the standard which excludes this album.

    Maybe it’s obvious, as much as I don’t want to believe it is. Perhaps this song brings up un-discussed issues of the middle-east conflict, in the context of a nation of Churches that either support, choose not to support, or rally against war.

  3. I believe they meant ‘Allah’.

    Allah is aramaic for Lord. Do we honestly believe that those from Arab nations must use a foreign word for God? Do we ask the Chinese to say ‘Lord’ in English? What about Jesus (Isa, in the arab tongue)? Honestly, if we have a problem with the words Allah and Isa, we should ONLY ever be referring to God and Jesus as YHWH and Y’shua.

    I think this album was banned for two reasons: One, the controversial use of the word Allah for God, and second, for the Universalist undertones. Whether it is said out loud or not, Christians by and large do not believe that Christ offers unconditional forgiveness. They believe that Christ offers conditional forgiveness to those who seek it and apply their version of His word.

    The first lines also hint at what some people would say is pantheism – Christians do not usually believe that God is IN everything, but rather that he is above everything. Most Christians do not think of God as active in a very real way in everything that goes on here on Earth.

    This is a shame.

    I’m not surprised, when looking at those two facts, that this album was pulled. Disappointed, a little, but not surprised at all. Christians like their nice little unmessy worldview, and they do not like anyone coloring outside the lines.

    Color outside the lines. God is there too.

    BTW, I like the new blog layout.

  4. Agree with Jordan that Allah was exactly what was meant by MWY. Allah as the arabic word for God refers to the same God that Christians, Jews and Muslims (Abrahamic religions) all “believe” in.

    While pantheism is a dangerous slope for Christ followers and the worship of the created is likewise a trap, I don’t believe that either of these ideas is endorsed by this song. Rather it seems the artist is stating that God can be seen in everything, everyone, everywhere…all creation testifies to the truth, our ability to recognize and worship the one true God in response, varies.

    The crux of this song is that forgiveness and unconditional love is waiting for those who recognize it. A call to see God, accept his forgiveness and forgive others in return is the message Jesus brought us.

    Christian retail outlets refusing to carry this album or this song speaks only to ignorance…the money driven machine that we call Christian commerce and apply holier than thou due to content. On the other hand I don’t expect Target to carry my favorite Indie band either…so I guess Christian retail has its place and caters to a mass “christian” need. I guess I just don’t need like others.

  5. Whether it is endorsed at Christian book stores is irrelevant. You can find whatever you want in a Christian book store, whether orthodox, or not.

    This cd has produced a wrestling match between my preconceived notions and actuality. So, I have done my research and time listening to countless interviews with Aaron. Sufism has been quite the topic, one that has piqued my interest.

    There are some underlying issues that I (may the Lord grant me grace if I be found a liar, or misled) have become concerned with. With the ’emergent’ church movement there is this growing uncertainty to say anything as ‘truth,’ as though anyone who makes absolute statements is arrogant. Now, this depends on what you believe about Scripture. If you believe the Word is Inerrant, well then you are not making truth claims because God has made them, and they are true whether we desire them to be or not. But, if you don’t believe the Bible is inerrant, the door becomes wide open, or can become. I know this is widely controversial, so spare me the pitch forks. From interviews I found that Aaron dropped the doctrine of inerrancy. Also, that Aaron worships at his mothers mosque. (I’m sorry I do not have the links available right now, but if you desire I could probably find them again.)

    To me, this is dangerous ground to tread. It can turn Jesus Christ into another Gandhi, Buddha, or Mohamed. No offense, but none of them where the Christ, the Son of God, and none of their deaths achieved for me Salvation. So, this view might be portrayed as narrow minded, but it’s the only truth I know. No works can bring me closer to God, only the shed blood can.

    So, there are some of my concerns. I apologize for the fragments of my mind, but if you have any questions then ask away. As an artist, I have the greatest respect for Aaron Weiss and the lyrics He crafts, but spiritually I do feel some concerns. If you can clarify anything for me, please feel free. Take care.

  6. Spiritually, this song doesn’t concern me in the least. I believe there is great spitual depth to this song worth exploring.

    For a second let’s move away from the lyrics and look at the sound quality- while some Christian artists carry a proper theology, it is packaged in a mediocre art form. “If its bad art it’s bad religion” Madeleine L’Engle said.

    And, to be frank, some of the most profoundly spiritual records being made right now aren’t being made by overtly Christan artists (AA Bondy, Ryan Adams, and Noah and the Whale come to mind).

    At this point in my life I want to assume it’s not about making sure my salvation is secured (I say this with the assumption that the term Salvation is often misunderstood). I think it’s far more important to discover art that is real and tangible, and seek to create with authenticity.

  7. “If it’s bad art its bad religion”…. That would assume everyone in the world is a gifted artist, which clearly isn’t true. The Christian ‘art scene,’ or lack there of quality ‘Christian Art’ scene doesn’t make Christianity false. If I misinterpreted your quote, I apologize, but it seems as though your saying the validity of truth is based on the truth of the subject.

    I don’t believe in such a thing as ‘Christian art’ per se, but I believe in Christians who create art as an act of worship for/to the Lord.

    And if theology isn’t Orthodox (recognizing I believe lies about God too) we need to strive towards Orthodoxy, before all religions bleed into one. Both Christian and Muslism’s hold to exclusive truth. One says Christ died on a Cross for substitutionary atonement, and one say’s He was took up to Heaven… two very different stories. One is false and one is true; due to the fact that Jesus was a historical character, not a abstract concept of ‘love’ in our generations definition of love.

    So, Rumi can have beautiful words to say about God and be a wonderful poet, but if in the end He believed falsely it would be vain. And movies made by atheist’s can be full of truth with amazing story tellers, yet be enemies of God.

    And yes, I agree music/art that is ‘real’ (from the core of a being, in honest truth) is profoundly distinct from cheap art, yet if a band is being packaged as Christian, shouldn’t it be orthodox? If not it could be leading people astray.

  8. Some atheist film makers have better things to say about elements of the Christian faith than some Christian artists.

    Bad art, in my mind, is art that tries to make a point while sacrificing artistic quality. This is a cheap way of doing art on the part of some christian artists.

    Mewithoutyou doesn’t package themselves as a Christian artist.

    Another question i want to ask is, who is the music for? Are we, as Christian artists, only supposed to make music Christians understand? I think it’s far more helpful to make art that can be understood in a human context.

    Where exactly are people being lead astray? Is there only one direction to go with the Christian faith? As listeners I think we are called to explore many viewpoints other than our own, and part of this is seeing how people who don’t ascribe to Christian doctrine respond to God.

    it is my belief that what Jesus said is true- “No one comes to the father but through me”, but let me suggest that there are many ways to get to Christ.

  9. Sorry, but just to clarify, what does you mean by “many ways to get to Christ?”

    Yeah, for the most part, I agree with all you have to say about art.

    As well, I agree that we should potentially understand other view points, so that we know those in whom we inter act with, but how far do you take that? If it becomes tolerance as we know it today (not disagreeing yet remaining peaceful, but having to agree with all others beliefs systems or ideologies) then I have no use for it.

    People may be led astray that they can worship along side Muslims. Not that we should be hostile towards Muslims, but we should be hostile towards their doctrine as it contradicts God’s Word.

    Music should be universal, in that, all can understand it. I agree, yet only a Christian would interpret such songs about atonement, sin, salvation… ect as applying to the reality that surrounds them.

    mewithoutYou doesn’t package themselves as Christian? Well, being on Tooth and Nail may be deceiving a lot of folks then. I know through interviews Aaron Weiss doesn’t like the Christian label, but being on a Christian label sends forth a message with certain connotations.

    If you don’t mind my asking, do you write music yourself?

  10. Jordan hit the nail on the head. In every way imaginable.

    About the music… truthfully, I detest lyrics that do nothing but praise God. That is entirely false. No one praises all the time. Humans have troubles in their lives, sometimes great troubles; people have doubts, insecurities, and contradictions- even in their faith.

    I have come to respect music, like mewithoutYou, that actually has meaningful and true lyrics rather than false, regurgitated words. The lyrics in “Catch for Us the Foxes” hit hard.


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