Song of the Day #1,898: ‘Come to Jesus’ – Mindy Smith

mindy_smith_one_moment_moreHere’s one of those cases — so often unearthed on Random Weekends — of an artist who wound up in my music collection under circumstances I have long since forgotten.

I don’t know who Mindy Smith is or why I own her debut album, One Moment More. I don’t know if I’ve heard any or all of it. I vaguely remember liking her cover of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene,’ the final track on this record, but I can’t imagine I bought the record as a result.

At any rate, here it is. And today’s random SOTD raises a very interesting question.

This is an excellent song in terms of construction and performance, but the subject matter is off-putting. It’s the kind of evangelical pablum I can hear on public access television or deep on the AM dial.

So what do you do with it? Like it for its strengths or dismiss it for its weaknesses?

If the lyrics were equally trite but not religious, would I be so turned off? Of course not. I have hundreds of songs with lyrics that are either poor, unintelligible or indecipherable and I enjoy them without a second thought.

Hearing this, I’m reminded of Randy Newman’s ‘He Gives Us All His Love,’ a track from his classic album Sail Away. That song, on its face, is as pure a celebration of God’s love as this one. It has even been covered by gospel artists. And yet I love it.

I love it because I know it appears on the same album as ‘God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind),’ a blistering take on religious faith. In that context, ‘He Gives Us All His Love’ becomes the subtlest satire.

But absent that context, it’s a love song to the Almighty. Like today’s SOTD.

Oh, my baby, when you’re older
Maybe then you’ll understand
You have angels that dance around your shoulders
‘Cause at times in life you need a loving hand

Oh, my baby, when you’re prayin’
Leave your burden by my door
You have Jesus standing by your bedside
To keep you calm, keep you safe,
Away from harm

Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

Oh, my baby, when you’re cryin’
Never hide your face from me
I have conquered hell and driven out the demons
I have come with a life to set you free

Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Oh, my baby, when you’re dying
Believe the healing of His hand
Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival
Here in Heaven you will finally understand
Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival
Here in Heaven you will finally understand

Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

13 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,898: ‘Come to Jesus’ – Mindy Smith

  1. Dana says:

    I don’t find this song sufficiently musically interesting to make up for the overt non-satirical religious lyrics.

    As for Newman’s “He Gives Us All His Love,” I never considered the song anything other than satire, and find it amusing that it has been covered by religious artists at face value. It reminds me of songs like “Every Breath You Take,” which is often mistaken as a love song and even played at weddings even though it is basically about a stalker.

    Here is part of Wikipedia’s discussion of “He Gives Us All His Love:”

    The tone of the song is bittersweet; the succinct lyrics include the assertion that the divine witnesses human suffering (“he hears the babies crying / he sees the old folks dying”) and include the implication that being seen, and loved, might comfort. More explicitly, the narrator tells the listener “…you can lean on him.” The song is arguably critical of religion, as it portrays a god who witnesses human suffering but merely “gives us all his love” while allowing suffering to continue. Its presence in the film Cold Turkey certainly supports this ironical interpretation, since the song is played over the closing credits, as the town which has tried to be smoke free for the duration of the movie is rewarded with a new factory, spewing smoke into the atmosphere.

  2. Clay says:

    I don’t doubt that Newman meant the song as satire, particularly given the other songs on that album. But on its face, the message of a God who “gives us all his love” is pretty consistent with Christian beliefs.

    You and I read the lyrics “He sees the babies crying, he sees the old folks dying and he gives us all his love” as pretty biting… why doesn’t he stop the crying in the dying if he’s all-powerful??

    But a Christian would say that receiving God’s love in the face of suffering and death is a remarkable gift, and it soothes us in our times of woe.

    Of course, many Christians also pray for Uncle Bob’s cancer to go away, as if God might step in and send it into remission, which flies in the face of the previous sentiment.

    For me, ‘God’s Song’ is what lifts the veil and reveals ‘He Gives Us All His Love’ as pure satire:

    “I burn down your cities – how blind you must be; I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we; You all must be crazy to put your faith in me; That’s why I love mankind… you really need me.”

    • Dana says:

      Well, Wikipedia seems to agree with our interpretation, though they do note that the song has been covered straight up by other artists who clearly don’t see it as satire.

      Frankly, though, I don’t think Newman’s song can be interpreted as anything other than satire. I mean, some particularly tall artist could do a cover of “Short People” and argue that it perfectly expresses his sentiments about short people having no reason to live, but that doesn’t in any way change the fact that Newman intended the song to be unabashed satire. The funny thing, however, is how many people were offended by that song when it was on the radio. Obviously, there are many people who just don’t get satire.:).

  3. Clay says:

    Does it matter what Wikipedia thinks, though? Or even what Newman himself intended? If the song, as is, can be read as a straight-up religious celebration, who’s to say it shouldn’t be?

    You mentioned people treating ‘Every Breath You Take’ as a love song. In that case, the lyrics themselves argue against that interpretation. He comes right out and says that the woman has left him. And there are lines like “every smile you fake” and “every vow you break” that point to his bitterness.

    But you could print the lyrics to ‘He Gives Us All His Love’ on a Sunday school handout and not raise an eyebrow.

    Does Newman really believe that “if you need someone to lean on, you can lean on him” — I doubt it. No more than he believes that “short people have no reason to live.” But a lot of people do believe the former, so why would they consider this song in any way satirical?

    • Dana says:

      What in the lyrics to “Short People” would give away that it is anything other than a straight-up prejudicial bashing of short people?

      You apparently don’t see the possibility of taking that song at face value because of the absurdity of thinking there are actually people out there who would harbor those sentiments about short people, but you see a valid non-satirical interpretation of “He Gives Us…” simply because there are religious people who actually believe what Newman says to be true?

      Now, maybe this all gets obfuscated by the fact that Newman is using the absurdity of short people prejudice to demonstrate the absurd (but far more common) prejudice toward minorities, blacks, etc. So, what if the KKK recorded Newman’s “Rednecks” with, among other choice lyrics, the refrain of “keeping the niggers down?” Perhaps they (and you?) would say there is nothing in there that gives away it is an unabashed ode to racism. Would you still say you would need to know that Newman is a satirist to tell the KKK crooner that his interpretation is incorrect?

  4. Amy says:

    Okay, I’m coming to the conversation a bit late, but the first thing I thought of when I read the lyrics of today’s song were the twin “Chimney Sweeper” poems by William Blake. Both are critical of the dire conditions in which children were working in London at the time, but the one (“Innocence”) written from the perspective of the child who is reassuring his young friend that all will be well once they’re dead and God can look out for them is the far more scathing and powerful piece because it is written from a straightforward, seemingly unironic, perspective.

    In other words, I don’t think you can ignore the intention of the artist. (well, obviously, one “can” do so, but I don’t think such a choice should be supported!!) William Blake was did not think it was okay for children to work themselves to death on earth but be rewarded in heaven (anymore than Randy Newman does, or, perhaps, does Mindy Smith?! 😉

  5. Clay says:

    Amy raises an interesting point. None of us knows a thing about Mindy Smith… why should we assume her song isn’t satire as well?

    We believe Newman’s song is satire because we are familiar with his other work. But absent that knowledge, it is a simple song about God’ love. The lyrics don’t suggest satire at all.

    The same is true of today’s SOTD.

    “Here in Heaven you will finally understand” — if Newman wrote/sang those lines, we’d feel pretty confident it was satire.

  6. Dana says:

    True, I guess there is some satirical work that is obvious on its face as satire, while other satirical work is more subtle and requires context either regarding the artist creating it or the juxtaposition of the work with other factors (such as the placement of Newman’s song in an ironic ending to a movie).

    Still, in addition to the lyrics you and Wikipedia cited as evidence of satire, doesn’t the thought of God “smiling down” on us raise anybody’s satirical eyebrow?

  7. Clay says:

    I found plenty of references to God smiling down with a quick Google search. Granted, they weren’t by the sort of people I’d like to hang out with!

  8. Amy says:

    I can’t read these lyrics and not take them as satire. Jesus is standing by the bedside keeping the sons and daugters calm and safe? A good satirist will reveal her tone through diction, hyperbole and other subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) clues, but the reader should be able to find evidence within the text itself without having to go to outside material to determine whether satire was intended.

  9. Clay says:

    Oh, come on. This kind of talk is par for the course in Christian songs and writings.

  10. Amy says:

    From earcandy.com — “Come To Jesus” is the most powerful song on the CD. Her vocals expressively evoke the awesome emotion of the song. While there are Christian undertones in her music, she makes it clear that she is not a “holy roller.” She admits that she “is kind of a lousy Christian.” She believes that “God is very forgiving….and the ideal Christian is someone who screws up.” She adds that when she wrote the song, “I was struggling, I was pissed-off! I was tired of losing, and I didn’t understand why. I just thought what would God say to me if He were in the room with me? He answered that question with that song. It was more of a ‘don’t you question me’ kind of song answer.” The song is either embraced or rejected by those who hear it. While I find it a powerful expression of anger and acceptance, some may be turned off by its bold assertion that “Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival, here in Heaven you will finally understand.” There is a sense of humility in the belief that we as humans cannot fully understand God and His will, at least until we arrive in Heaven. I can see how many right-wing Christians may not accept this viewpoint. ”

    So she was pissed off when she wrote it!!! 😉

  11. Andrea Katz says:

    “… the reader should be able to find evidence within the text itself without having to go to outside material to determine whether satire was intended.”…well put, Amy. I completely agree.

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