Catch For Us The Foxes

Rock band Mewithoutyou, the only fantastic rock band made up of Christians, released a while back their fourth album “It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All A Dream, It’s All True”: (listen on Spotify) to the resounding critical acclaim of those who have listened to it and are in the habit of making public critical judgements. I mention this for three reasons. The first is so that you consider buying it, because it’s absolutely brilliant barring some reservations as yet to be outlined. The second is because it brings up the perennial discussion as to whether or not they –and in particular vocalist and lyricist Aaron Weiss– are bonafide Christians. This, the identify whether someone is a Christian or not game, is a dangerous and stupid game to play, but seems a common hobby in Christendom. Let’s judge a brother by possible interpretations of lyrics from his pops songs is the cry, and let’s feel superior and smug about ourselves is the motivation. That’s not to say you can’t offer up an opinion on what they believe, nor that you shouldn’t call out those who are teaching falsely, even if they’re teaching through pop songs, but just that if you’re going to do it, do it with grace and humility. So, as I’m clearly going to write about the theology that underpins their lyrics, I’m clearing going to have to try to do it with grace and humility. Which brings us in a round-a-bout way to the third reason I mention Mewithoutyou’s fourth album; it allows for an interesting diversion into how Christian’s should respond to the use of the word Allah. So, to recap (and it’s a fairly poor situation that we find ourselves in when the first paragraph needs a recap) you’re about to read an extended essay about the theology of a rock band you haven’t heard of, but that’s okay because it should raise some issues of relevance.

The main reason people question Mewithoutyou’s lyrics, particularly on this last album is because of their tendency to reference non-biblical religious texts in a positive light, things like the Gospel of Thomas1, various Sufi poets2, and the Qur’an in English3 and Arabic4. And if that doesn’t get people questioning then they titled the closing track of the new album Allah, Allah, Allah. A few reasons to raise eyebrows there. Have they given up on Christianity in return for some every religion, where every God is the same God and every religion is the same religion? Where Tash and Aslan are the same person?

Well, I don’t think so. Because here’s the thing, whenever Mewithoutyou sing songs about God, whatever words they use, they’re singing about the Christian God. And they get the Gospel. Here, for example, are the lyrics for the aforementioned Allah, Allah, Allah:

It doesn’t matter what you done
It doesn’t matter what you done
What effect is without a cause?
It doesn’t matter what you done
Now lay your faithless head down
In necessities cotton hand
There’s a love that never changes
No matter what you done

If your old man did you wrong
Well maybe his old man did him wrong
If you care to sing forgiveness songs
Come down and join our band
We’ll cut you like sword
And sing forgiveness songs

That’s not the God of Islam. Also, see the lyrics for A Stick, A Carrot, & A String:

There’s a sign on the barn
in the cabbage town
“when the rain picks up
and the sun goes down
sinners, come inside
with no money, come and buy

no clever talk, nor a gift to bring
requires our lowly, lovely king
come now empty handed, you don’t need anything”

and the night was cool
and clear as glass
with the sneaking snake in the garden grass
deep cried out to deep
the disciples fast asleep

and the snake perked up
when he heard You ask
“if you’re willing that
this cup might pass
we could find our way back home
maybe start a family all our own”

“but does not the Father guide the Son?
not my will, but yours be done.
what else here to do?
what else me, but You?”

That’s not the good news according to Mohammed, that’s the gospel. And if you get the gospel then you win.

But I have reservations, and this is epitomised in the use of the word Allah for God. Some people say that because Allah is just the Arabic word for God, we should quite happily use the word Allah, it’s just translation, just like using the word Dieu and Dios in French and Spanish. And in one sense, yes, and if you were speaking with Arabic speakers there may be good cause to use the word Allah, but in spoken English the word has come to mean the God of Islam, and the Christian God, He is not the God of Islam. The God of Islam is completely and utterly indivisibly one, whereas our God is the glorious triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The God of Islam says he will reward those who work hard for him, our God offers forgiveness to sinners who have nothing to bring to Him. The God of Islam says to put to death those whose sins are too great, our God sends and dies for us whose sins are too great.

1 “If they ask you for a sign of the Father, tell them it’s movement, movement, repose” from Paper Hanger on Catch For Us The Foxes is a quote from the Gospel of Thomas verse 50.

2 “It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All A Dream, It’s All True” is a quote from a Sufi mystic called Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

3 “If all the forest trees were pens, And all the oceans, ink?” from The Dryness And The Rain on Brother, Sister is a quote from the Qur’an, Surah 31 verse 27

4 As far as I can tell, all of the sung parts in Arabic are various lines from the Qur’an.