Derek Webb Bringing The Controversy?  

Posted by Adam

Lots of controversy about Derek Webb's new song. Derek is no stranger to controversy, but he seems to have upped it a notch with the new album and this song in particular. I'll save my reaction for now, except to say that I don't think he'll be getting much airplay on Christian radio.

What do you think? I'd really like to hear your reactions.

WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS!!! (well, ok...there are like two words you wouldn't want your kids to say, but I've given you fair warning.)



Lyrics (unedited):

What Matters More, by Derek Webb

You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak

'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn't silently consent when the liars speak
Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings

'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin' today

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at Tuesday, July 14, 2009 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

21 comments

*Sigh* I'm not sure how I feel about that. I get his point obviously. It should matter more to me that 50,000 people die rather than the cuss words in his song...but I'm not sure that motivates me to care more.

Todd Agnew wrote the song "My Jesus"...that song was raw, uncut(except for when it was played on Christian radio) and it hit me in the face. It had some shock content to it but overall it was the story Todd was telling that was so compelling. I think there are better ways and more classier ways to motivate people rather than shock them like Derek does.

"Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth" ...the next line doesn't say "unless it is useful for proving a point".

July 15, 2009 at 1:51 PM

I'd like the song with or without the word shit. The word itself doesn't offend me in the least. Heck, I use it on occasion. But I was a bit disappointed that Derek's first use of that particular cuss word in one of his songs is a somewhat cliche in Christian circles. I mean, seriously, how many of us have heard that story (told by Tony Campolo?). I'm more impressed with the fact that the song mentions the topic of sexuality.

Again, I like the song. Even if it is just a marketing means to create controversy. :)

July 15, 2009 at 2:42 PM

It's merely baby steps (but definitely going in the right direction!)

FYI... I'd do my best to teach my kid those 2 words instead of the words like hell, God's wrath, judgment, saved, set apart, conversion, tithe, and torture.

Words like "damn" and "shit" sound down right appealing compared to the hatred and condemnation we toss around so casually in our Christian buzzwords.

July 15, 2009 at 2:50 PM

"You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak" - find this statement to be a bit ironic. I guess he wasn't "reckless" with choosing to put damn and shit in his song - he was probably very intentional. I guess I just don't see the need to be "raw" to connect with people, whether they be believers or non-believers. If you're trying to sell records and create awareness I guess this works, but I wouldn't want my kids going around singing this song.

July 15, 2009 at 4:23 PM

...and one more thing. The whole guilt trip of 50,000 people dying...it's not so much about people dying, it's more about how I'm living and following after God. The 50,000 people dying is God's business...it's His responsibility. My only responsibility is to be obedient to what God has called me to. As Christias I think we're inundated with guilt trips - whether it be on Sunday morning, in the books we read, or in the conversations we have with other believers. I don't know about you, but I could use a little more encouragement and a lot less guilt.

July 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM

I think I'd be a whole lot more impressed if the song was good. It seems to me he spent more time on the words than the song as a whole, so it's just boring.

July 15, 2009 at 4:47 PM

When did this suddenly become about kids? I'm pretty sure your children will hear worse standing in line at the grocery store, or even (especially?) at school.

But then again, "We can talk and debate until we're blue in the face." I think all this controversy proves Derek's point. We as Christians get so wrapped in pointing out little faults and slip ups...and being proud that WE avoid _____...that we utterly miss the point.

July 15, 2009 at 4:51 PM

If I were to use such language, there would be two reasons. The first would be to accurately depict, as much as I can, my thoughts/emotions/direction of whatever context I would be using it in. The second reason I would use such language would be to create a reaction. As to the reason Webb did, and it may be neither of these, I cannot say. I don't have a problem of the language itself, I feel that as long as Webb saw fit this to be appropriate within the context of the direction he was taking the song, then so be it. Ultimately, I hope the language conversation leads to something else; it would be a shame to allow the language to dilute any message to be conveyed.

-Dan Jones

July 15, 2009 at 5:07 PM

@Chris: I encourage you to rethink your second post. You said you wanted/needed encouragement. :)

July 15, 2009 at 5:32 PM

I think that a lot of the question would be whether or not the act of loving gay people is holy or is not.

the best man at my wedding, my oldest friend is homosexual. He was rooting for me to be more of a theist when I was a philosophical athiest.

but I am disgusted by gay culture in NYC. It is mean, nasty and yes, promiscious.

I do not think that AIDS should be attached to the ethical judgement of homosexuality.

I know that homosexuality is something that some people are born with. I do not have to proclaim homosexuality to proclaim christianity or christian living, I merely do not have to exclude my best friend.

Derek Webb is properly challenging us. let us repent of prejudice. I do not repent of the disgust that I naturally feel of gay male practice. but not everybody is just like me.

I know that there is a difference between myself and some people. i am okay with that as a christian.

July 16, 2009 at 3:46 AM

There's another music video receiving equal amounts (maybe more) of controversy. Head (former guitarist of KORN) wrote "Flush" and his music video has spawned a flood of conservative nit-picking. I love that Jesus found a way to speak the very heart of the law, and expose the tangential tomfoolery the elite were engaging in. Head and Derek have this in common with our Lord, IMO.

July 16, 2009 at 10:21 AM

Unfortunately, the cuss words will serve as a distracting “speck” for those whose “plank” he is trying to point out. They shouldn’t, but they will. The rest of the song personally didn’t leave me saying “Oh, snap!”, but I could see it being controversial to many. So, I am not sure if this can really start a needed, honest conversation in some circles or if this will be just another jab in a long fight. Not that I have anything against jabs. That’s my two cents…

July 16, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Derek has always been an artist that feels compelled to highlight the damage that is done by the prejudice and apathy that have come to characterize large portions of "Christian culture." Whether or not the methods of his approach obsecure the very truth that he is seeking to convey is a matter of personal opinion. I am personally not offended by his work and believe that part of being a great artist is to create art that generates personal reflection and public discourse on a deeper level even if it is considered "shocking."

July 16, 2009 at 9:00 PM

Okay. I get the point. But it's an old point. "Today 20 children will die of starvation in this city and you don't give a damn." Pause. "And the sad thing is, you're more upset I said 'damn' than you are that the children die."

It works when preached by an old man with grey hair. It doesn't sound like it's just for the shock value. But when we put it in the kid's music, it sounds like it's just to shock us.

July 17, 2009 at 4:13 PM

My reaction is similar to a lot of people's reaction here: I get what Webb is trying to do here with the cuss words and all. But nobody seems to be talking about the song's message of love and justice being contextualized in concrete ways (the gay community, ministries of social justice, etc.).

I suppose that's really the point of using the cuss words, isn't it? To move us past our personal pieties and convenient ignorances toward an authentic, engaging faith. You can debate the methodology, but the ideology is one that resonates with me.

July 18, 2009 at 10:38 AM

I'm struggling to find a message of "love and justice contextualized in concrete ways." Sounds more like a, "let's kick all those useless traditionalists in the balls like everyone else is" kind of songs.

I have no sympathy for the traditionalist agenda, but I think that Derek Webb didn't try really hard to undermine it. There's a difference between lobbing Molotov cocktails and playing your part in the divine conspiracy.

July 20, 2009 at 6:19 PM

Many people are focusing on the "cuss words." Forget the main point or the argument, and go after a couple words. Derek Webb is spot on yet again. Multiple avenues packed into the song. And he presents no more of a guilt trip than the vast majority of the shallow CCM out there.

It's a song with a clear, emphatic message. Appreciate and understand the message, then judge whether he's right or wrong.

And for a Christian to every say the 50,000 dying are merely God's problem is to absolutely denounce the words of Jesus himself.

July 22, 2009 at 11:56 AM

I think Derek is using the word "shit" to sell albums. That's it! And from what I hear it is working. I have all of his albums and I think this is his worst one.

July 22, 2009 at 12:30 PM

I have always been and continue to be a Derek Webb fan. He is a necessary voice to a sleeping generation.
Having said that, however, I am a little saddened at the tone of this song that perpetuates the myth that all of Christ's followers are gay haters.
It is hard enough standing for the truth as a believe in this day and age without immediately being labeled. The most difficult person to be in this age is a straight white middle-class male. We are supposed to feel guilty for discriminating against other races, whether we do or not (if we claim not to be racist, by the way, we are just in denial), we are supposed to feel guilty about not being poor and we are supposed to feel guilty about being a male who keeps women down. Additionally, as a Christian we are supposed to take on the weight of the crusades, the conservative parties that misrepresent what Christ taught and feel guilty because we believe that Islam and Buddhism doesn't bring you to salvation.
Oh, we're also supposed to feel guilty about what our ancestors did to the blacks and the native americans (My relatives came from Hungary in the early 1900s, how am I to blame????).
I repeat, I love Derek Webbs' music and his edginess. I just wish he hadn't taken the path of lumping all believers together and then bashing them along with everyone else (That is what it seems he has done in this song).
The more difficult path is to to what Derek is essentially trying to get us to do through this song, namely to separate the sin from the sinner or, in this case, the unloving behavior from the believer who really wants to walk as Christ would.

July 24, 2009 at 4:43 PM

I'm just coming into this and am still getting a feel for what this is all about, but I have to say that there can only be so many analogies. Human words will always fail to explain God.
I have to think that sometimes as followers we forget the real reason for the things that we do.
I just think about all the people out there who need to wake up from their lives of judgment or scorn for others, and the purpose behind Webb's song.
But back to my first statement: there can only be so many analogies. One may contradict the other as they are human words. Just because someone is speaking the same words in Chinese and another in English does not mean either of them is right or wrong, they are simply using different methods of communicating.
That is how I see Derek Webb's music.

August 6, 2009 at 6:38 PM

Chris, about your comment that 50,000 people dying is "God's business... it's his responsibility." That is simply not true. Our calling as a Church (and thus, as individual believers) is and has always been to participate in the redemption of the world. You absolutely cannot say that it's only about our own salvation, and nothing else matters as long as we're getting to heaven. If we as a Church become completely inward-looking and simply sneer at those on the "outside," we are betraying our deepest purpose. Our Lord came not for the healthy but the sick. To seek and save the lost. To give sight to the blind and life to the dead. Some Scripture for you:

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" 1 John 3:17


"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

Regardless of how you feel about this song, our calling as believers is to bind up the sick, to seek justice, to seek out the lost, because that is what Christ came to do. If we claim to be in Him, that is what we will do also.

September 1, 2009 at 8:18 AM

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