Archive for November 30th, 2008

Continuing the “Learning to Listen” series (where we examine “secular” voices in the world, in order to get an idea of what questions they’re asking and the answers that can be provided by the “hands and feet” of God in the world), I thought it might be good to pull in a song relevant to the Christmas season.

In this installment, I’d like to consider “One of Us” by Joan Osbourne:

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If God had a name, what would it be
and would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his Glory,
what would you ask if you had just one question?

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin to make His way home

If God had a face, what would it look like
and would you wanna see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
in things like Heaven and Jesus and the Saints
and all the Prophets and…

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin to make His way home
Just trying to make His way home
Back up to Heaven all alone
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin to make His way home
Just tryin to make His way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to Heaven all alone
Just tryin to make his way home

Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

Interestingly, the writer of this song, Eric Bazilian, is (by some reports) agnostic in his beliefs, although he’s written other songs with a theme about God (for his band, the Hooters, named after a unique-sounding accordion-like instrument that is a signature sound of the band). Osbourne, it should be noted, grew up Catholic, though she left the church when she left home, with no religious affiliation since.

This song has intrigued me for a number of reasons, primarily for the polar reaction I’ve observed from Christians (even in my own family). In a number of ways, it counterbalances the tension many Christians experience in trying to understand the incarnation of Jesus – as both God and man.

What if God was one of us?

That is the heart of the Gospel – God WAS one of us!  He came an dwelt among us, he lived, he ate, he drank, he partied, he mourned, he taught, he listened, he loved, he chastised, he laughed, and he cried – he lived our experience, and he was without sin.

But if he was one of us, but perfect (in terms of sin), was he also perfect in social grace and mannerism?  A number of Christians I know are uncomfortable with the theme of this song – particularly that God could be a “slob” like one of us.

Was Luther’s depiction of the infant Jesus (who never cried, a la Away in a Manger) an accurate one?  Did Jesus ever have a hair out of place?  Was he a neat-freak, or did he worry at all about his clothing and appearance?  Per a question asked of Mark Driscoll (earning the outraged umbrage of Steve Camp and other ADM’s)  – Did Jesus ever use the bathroom?

For many Christians, the question of Jesus being God is never in doubt,  However, we seem to have an uncomfortableness with him being man, apart from the nature of sin.

But I would argue that his humanness is just as much a part of the Gospel as his God-ness.  It is his humanness that allowed him to connect with those around him.  It was his humanness and the low social stature of his birth and life that make his message both real and compelling.  God WAS one of us, and he chose NOT to go to all the right parties, and he chose NOT to lead governments, and he chose NOT to lead violent rebellion, and he chose NOT to be in the ‘in’ crowd.

What if God was one of us?

Praise the Lord, He was!  This is the event we celebrate this time of year, and it is the defining moment of our worship.  This is a question we should be prepared to answer, easily and humanly.  As for the song, One of Us, I’ve found it to be a good conversation-starter, since it is both part of pop culture and since it asks the question that I have to be most ready to answer.

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