CCM and Beatles Mantra

As I was driving home the other day from teaching, the radio played George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” In my mind, I found an eerie resemblance between this Hindu mantra and many worship songs sung in churches, such as “Forever” by Michael W. Smith:

My Sweet Lord by George Harrison Forever by Michael W. Smith
Chorus 1: My sweet lord
Hmm, my lord
Hmm, my lord

Chorus 2: I really want to see you
Really want to be with you
Really want to see you lord
But it takes so long, my lord

[Chorus 1]
[Chorus 2, with hallelujah]
[Chorus 1, with hallelujah]
[Chorus 2, with hallelujah]
[Chorus 1, with hallelujah]
[Chorus 2, with hallelujah]
[Chorus 1 (with hallelujah]


Hm, my lord (hare krishna)
My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
Oh hm, my sweet lord (krishna, krishna)
Oh-uuh-uh (hare hare)

 

Now, I really want to see you (hare rama)
Really want to be with you (hare rama)
Really want to see you lord (aaah)
But it takes so long, my lord (hallelujah)

Hm, my lord (hallelujah)
My, my, my lord (hare krishna)
My sweet lord (hare krishna)
My sweet lord (krishna krishna)
My lord (hare hare)
[Repeated 9X to other Hindu gods]

(hare krishna)
My sweet lord (hare krishna)
My sweet lord (krishna krishna)
My lord (hare hare)

Note:“Hallelujah!” is a strong command to “praise (hallelu) Yah(weh)!”

Give thanks to the Lord, Our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise

With a mighty hand and outstretched arm
His love endures forever
For the life that’s been reborn
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

[Chorus]: Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever and ever, forever (2X)

From the rising to the setting sun
His love endures forever
And by the grace of God we will carry on
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

[Chorus]

His love endures forever (8X)
Sing praise, sing praise
Sing praise, sing praise

[Chorus]

Notes: The song attempts to paraphrase Psalm 136. However,
(1) “From the rising to the setting sun, his love endures forever” is not what verses 7-9 mean.
(2) The song does not tell what is meant by, “With a mighty hand and outstretched arm,” which usually refers to God’s powerful redemption of Israel from Egypt.
(3) “For the life that’s been reborn” is nowhere in Psalm 136.

Compare this CCM mantra with Psalm 136 and its metrical version in the 1635 Scottish Psalter:

Psalm 136 (English Standard Version) Psalm 136 from the 1635 Scottish Psalter
(Verses 1-12, 23-26) • Sing – Constance
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

 

4 to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.

1 Give thanks to God, for good is he:
for mercy hath he ever.
2 Thanks to the God of gods give ye:
for his grace faileth never.
3 Thanks give the Lord of lords unto:
for mercy hath he ever.
4 Who only wonders great can do:
for his grace faileth never.

5 Who by his wisdom made heav’ns high:
for mercy hath he ever.
6 Who stretch’d the earth above the sea:
for his grace faileth never.
7 To him that made the great lights shine:
for mercy hath he ever.
8 The sun to rule till day decline:
for his grace faileth never.

9 The moon and stars to rule by night:
for mercy hath he ever.
10 Who Egypt’s first-born kill’d outright:
for his grace faileth never.
11 And Isr’el brought from Egypt land:
for mercy hath he ever.
12 With stretch’d-out arm, and with strong hand:
for his grace faileth never.

23 In our low state who on us thought:
for he hath mercy ever.
24 And from our foes our freedom wrought:
for his grace faileth never.
25 Who doth all flesh with food relieve:
for he hath mercy ever.
26 Thanks to the God of heaven give:
for his grace faileth never.

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6 thoughts on “CCM and Beatles Mantra”

  1. Ever read Psalm 118? Michael’s song follows it pretty closely. In fact, more closely than most metrical Psalms follow the scripture. So what is your problem with it? That you don’t like the musical style?

  2. Raul, the subject of worship is very important. Calvin, in his treatise On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, placed it above salvation in significance. Sadly, music these days has come to the forefront of public worship, ahead of preaching and sacraments.

    “Nonsense” and “mantra” have been used by scholarly theologians in describing CCM music in the churches. You can read a couple:

    “Evangelicals on the Durham Trail,” by Professor D. G. Hart, finds a common thread between liberals and evangelical worship, and characterizes contemporary praise song (“four words, three notes and two hours”) as “mantra-like repetition of phrases from Scripture, displayed on an overhead projector or video monitors (for those churches with bigger budgets), and accompanied by the standard pieces in a rock band” (emphasis mine).

    “Looney Tunes: Praise and Worship Theology is Goofy,” by Michael Spencer of Oneida Baptist Institute, describes P&W musicians as having “drooling theological nonsense” (emphasis mine again).

  3. I was first impressed with your site the minute I read the postings……a few months ago. It’s Biblical and aligned with my beliefs…..(most of it). But the bottom line, I concurred on most of your topics. But this one I think has gone over the edge for me. As Christians, I think we have more important things…at least I am..to worry about on whether Michael W. Smith’s songs is considered” pagan mantras”. To me there is no comparison to George’s song( Hari  Krishna). The purpose of worship song is…to worship God..to praise Jesus. “Nonsense” is a strong word.  So what if it’s repetitive? But this is your website…and you can post anything you want.

  4. “Forever” is a prime example of a CCM song that is very similar to pagan mantras, of which Jesus warns us (Matt 6:7). The ESV Literary Study Bible’s introduction to Psalm 136 says,

    The most distinctive feature of Psalm 136 is that it is the famous example of an antiphonal poem in the Psalter: each verse consists of an assertion made by a speaker or group, followed by a response in the form of a refrain from another speaker or group. The effect is that of a main melodic line that carries the thrust of thought forward and a refrain that balances the first half of each verse. Each verse is thus a combination of something new (an action of God that is named) and something repeated. The main melodic line is a conventional praise psalm that begins with a call to praise (vv. 1–3), is followed by a catalog of God’s praiseworthy acts (vv. 4–25), and ends with a concluding call to thanks (v. 26). The praiseworthy acts of God are drawn from three arenas—God’s creation of the world (vv. 4–9), his acts of providence and deliverance during the exodus (vv. 10–22), and his general acts of deliverance and providence (vv. 23–25).

    Notice that the psalm moves from a call to praise God, to reasons why we praise God, and then sums up with another call to praise God. In contrast, “Forever” is a trite repetition of the same praise words, without any sense of why we praise God. The lyrics are unrelated to or taken out of context from the Biblical text, e.g., “For the life that’s been reborn,” “From the rising to the setting sun,” “And by the grace of God we will carry on.”

    Many CCM songs are just trivial nonsense, e.g., “Celebrate, Jesus, Celebrate.” Of course, there are also many “traditional” songs that are of this same sort, such as, “In the Garden,” “Surely the Presence of the Lord,” “There’s Something About That Name,” “Mansion Over the Hilltop,” etc.

  5. Actually, I could not see the resemblance since the other is taken from bible verses. For me no matter how repeatedly the bible verse is as a song like the Lord’s prayer, just like in bible verse memorization and bible study, there’s continuing lessons that we can extract from it. It is best if anyone can memorize Psalm 136 in which singing it is the best memory retaining method. People have their daily life experiences and memorizing a bible verse in a song even if refrains or 1 or 2 verses is of great help already.

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