Have you heard the Sara Bareilles song, ” King Of Anything?”
After I got past the infectious melody, I was pulled into the lyrics. They remind me of some of Suzanne Vega’s, a bit. A really compelling potrait of a moment just snipped out of somebody’s life.
As I pondered those lyrics, it occured to me that the whole thing can be a metaphor about the best and worst ways to talk about Jesus. I’m pretty confident that this was unintended. I don’t know anything about Sara Bareilles’ spirituality. But looking at this song is the best way I can think of to get at a point.
It seems that the intended meaning of the song is to play a conversation between two people. Perhaps they were in some sort-of romantic relationship. That doesn’t seem to matter though.
Here’s the first few lines of the song:
Keep drinking coffee, stare me down across the table
While I look outside
So many things I’d say if only I were able
But I just keep quiet and count the cars that pass by
We have this don’t-ask/don’t tell policy about spirituality in our society. And it is deadly. On the surface we might be greatful for it. It might seem like the fact that most people are too uncomfortable to talk back to us is a good thing. But it isn’t.
When we talk about Jesus, I think lots of people wish that they were able– or atleast comfortable– speaking about these things. But many people are not. And so we don’t know where they disagree, or why they disagree. And this does not help.
The song continues:
You’ve got opinions, man
We’re all entitled to ‘em, but I never asked
So let me thank you for your time, and try not to waste anymore of mine
And get out of here fast
I hate to break it to you babe, but I’m not drowning
There’s no one here to save
Those next couple lines demonstrate one of the reasons why it’s so bad when people don’t feel comfortable to disagree with us. Who wants to be part of a one way conversation? The natural reaction is to want to leave the conversation entirely.
The last couple lines quoted above really get at the root of a problem. Because as Christians, we believe that we’re all drowning. And it’s a complicated thing, expressing this idea; convincing people that they are drowning when mostly they have convinced themselves that they are not.
Who cares if you disagree?
You are not me
Who made you king of anything?
So you dare tell me who to be?
Who died and made you king of anything?
I think these were the lines that helped me make the connection to Jesus in the first place. Jesus was king. But we are not. And more importantly, Jesus was the most bizarre king in all of history. His kingship is entirely upside down. And so often we forget this.
We often act like the world’s kind of king. When we do we look rather ridiculous because of that. We hold ourselves, sometimes, with this air of pompousity. We can act like we’re bestowing our favors on the court. This of course is a problem.
You sound so innocent, all full of good intent
Swear you know best
But you expect me to jump up on board with you
And ride off into your delusional sunset
I’m not the one who’s lost with no direction
But you’ll never see
A criticism that is true about evangelizing: some portion of it is about our own insecurities. Sometimes, it only looks like we are trying to convince others. It is really about convincing ourselves. We act like we care for the other person, but it is really about putting these mental notches in our belt.
There is this understated aspect that permeates the whole song. There’s this feminist streak to it. Put simply, there’s this idea that is basically “I don’t need some stupid man to tell me what to do.”
(Just for the record, I’m in full agreement with that mentality. Women don’t need some stupid man to tell them what to do.)
The relevance is that when there is a legacy of opression between two groups, anything the (formerly?) dominant group says will be suspect. It will be viewed with understandable suspicion. This is the reality that we live in.
Opression casts a long shadow. And I get so frustrated when history tells us that something had gone on for centuries and people think that the opressed group ought to have gotten over this in just a few years. (Never mind the fact that it is often still going on in subtle and countless ways, anyway.) This is one of the worst things about opression: it makes it hard for the opressed group to recognize the truth when we offer it to them.
But, I suppose I digress.
The thing I’m trying to say is that it’s a complicated thing, trying to change somebody’s world view. We have a bewildering medly of motivations of attitudes about this act; and so does the person we’re trying to change. It’s not enough to have the truth. The way we hold this truth in our heart is at least as important as what that truth is.