Chris Rice and the Great "Cartoons" Controversy
- Dave Burchett Crosswalk.com Weblogs
- 2006 3 Mar
WARNING: The following post may contain humor. This blog was produced in a program where irony and satire are processed. May contain sarcasm fragments.
I think that singer Chris Rice may understand my plan to post the humor/satire warning. Rice is a wonderful song writer. My iPod features many of his songs and his lyrics resonate with me. I could have written the song "Clumsy" (if I had any musical talent)
You think I'd have it down by now
Been practicin' for thirty years
I should have walked a thousand miles
So what am I still doin' here
Reachin' out for that same old piece of forbidden fruit
I slip and fall and I knock my halo loose
Somebody tell me what's a boy supposed to do?
I get so clumsy
I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You're sayin' You love me
And You're still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
Cause You're makin' me holy
You're still makin' me holy, yeah
But recently the Spiritual Hall Monitors finally got the best of Chris Rice. Let me explain. Fifteen years ago Rice wrote a silly song wondering what would happen if cartoon characters got saved. I guess because I am a Bad Christian I didn't take the premise real seriously. My lack of spiritual depth caused me to presume the song was fanciful satire. But some actually took the premise of imaginary characters without souls getting saved seriously. And somehow they had access to the internet and even to transportation. Finally Rice had enough of people debating the theological ramifications of Fred Flintstone endorsing the faith. Others wondered if Astro the Jetsons' dog should be praising the Lord. I wish I was kidding. This appeared at a blog called "They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts" (love that title).
"Apparently, it's (Rice's song "Cartoons") supposed to illustrate that Christians can have fun too. Is it just me, or does it seem sacrilegious to have Astro from The Jetsons sing hallelujah (ra-ra-ru-jah, to be exact)? I thought worship was about reverence toward God. I just dislike the entire thing. I'm even more disgusted with the cult following surrounding this song. I don't usually advocate censorship, but if someone wanted to organize a CD burning party for this song, I'd bring the beer. That all sounds very harsh. I know some people love the song and think it's just a clean, fun song that Christians can listen too. I just wonder when turning faith in God into a nursery rhyme was ever healthy for anyone involved."
COMMENTS. Spreading the message that Christians can have fun would not be a bad thing. As for Astro ... well I was most blessed that he had been saved. I love that dog.
Even though his sin nature seems to be prevailing in the photo it is wonderful that Astro is in the family. If you listen to Chris Rice's entire body of work you will see that his lyrics demonstrate great reverence to God. I thought the idea of having a kegger at a CD burning party was a mature and godly response to the song. My biggest disagreement with this blog is his use of adverbs and adjectives.
"That's one of my major concerns with the Christian subculture. All we do is pander to the lowest common denominator. We never push forward. We never ask real questions. Maybe I should be thanking Chris Rice. Maybe he's showed us that constantly pandering does not edify the church but in fact forces us to devolve until we're speaking in cartoon voices. I don't want to speak ill of Chris Rice, a man I have never met. I just wish to point out one of the many reasons I believe Christian music is irrelevant and in many cases detrimental."
All Christians do not pander to the lowest common denominator. Many are pushing forward and asking very real questions. Using words like "all" and "never" do not advance the dialog. I think using this little ditty as an example of pandering is more than an over reaction. I think I will need to see the rest of the reasons that he believes that Christian music is irrelevant or this case gets thrown out of court.
"Bad Christian" subscriber Randy (last name withheld to protect his waning reputation) sent me the following obituary that was recently posted at Chris Rice's website. My comments are italicized.
After 15 wonderful years of trouble-making and laughter, the beloved song about cartoons has finally been laid to rest. Well, actually just retired from live performances.
I wrote it about 15 years ago, as a joke. I threw it together in about 10 minutes and only intended it to be heard by a few people. It was a skit for a junior high youth group in a small church in Tennessee. Before singing it, I explained to them, in a light-hearted manner, that it's weird how we try to make Christian versions of everything. Then I said, "I'm sure someone will try to do that with popular cartoons one day. Here's what I mean..." I then launched into the cartoon song for the first time. The kids laughed really hard. The youth minister, Robin, asked me to sing it for the whole church, so I sang it again. They laughed really hard too. So the next week, I sang it for another group of students. Yeah, they laughed too. And before I knew it, I was singing "Cartoons" at a lot of camps. About 8 years later, after hearing me sing the song for a group of college students, my record label insisted that I record the song on my second CD. I resisted strongly, having never intended for such a silly song to be made popular.
I reluctantly agreed to record the song only if it could be a hidden track, and it would not be acknowledged in print on the CD booklet. My hope was that it would go unnoticed. I was naive.|
Here is where it gets really weird. People listened to this silly little song and somehow got offended by it's theology! We are talking about cartoon characters here.
They are less real than pro wrestling. It is obviously a good natured satire. What is wrong with a few of you people? (Notice careful use of descriptive word.)
Met With Opposition
The song was immediately met with a sudden uproar by fans who disagreed with the song and its theology. Hundreds approached me and wrote to me to voice their opposition to the song.
I would not be inclined to believe this if I hadn't written a book called "When Bad Christians Happen to Good People" and this blog. But I have learned how seriously some readers take everything. I have had people write scathing rebukes to me because they disagreed with one thing I said out of two hundred plus pages.
Chris Rice is so authentic about his journey. Even if you hate this song how about looking at his entire body of work and I think you will quickly see what this song is. A simple little skit for a junior high group that developed legs. But the Spiritual Hall Monitors let Chris know what he had done wrong.
Some of their reasons were:
- Hallelujah is a Hebrew word that means Praise the Lord, so I was misusing the Lords name by changing the phrase, and using it in such a flippant and silly way. Okay. Let me get a sense of your indignation. You are offended because cartoon characters are saying Hallelujah as their cartoon character would say it? You should be grateful Yosemite Sam wasn't at the meetin' you flop eared varmits!
- By not letting Beavis and that other guy get saved, I was giving the wrong message to people, that God only loved certain types of people. It was just a humorous...sighhhh...never mind.
- I should not refer to Beavis and "that other guy" in a Christian song, for "obvious reasons." Why? Because Christians can't say butt? Crap, I said butt!
- I should not refer to the Smurfs in a Christian song, because they do magic, and are therefore demonic. The first basic concept that I agreed with but not because they are demonic. I think the song should not refer to Smurfs because it might cause that song to stick in my mind all day.
Night after night, while singing this song in concerts, I spot people with their arms folded across their chests, making it clear they do not approve of the song. Right next to them there are fans singing along with their eyes closed and their hands raised, as if we were singing "How Great Thou Art." Neither was my intended reaction. It has left me baffled and amused ... we humans are funny! That is very kind, Chris.
Taking Back the Remote
Then in a bold move in November 2004, after hinting at it for several years to my live audiences, the day of retirement finally came. Little by little, fans have been discovering that I no longer perform the song live. I am met with many "thank yous" as well as many (believe it or not) angry fans who demand that I (and my band) keep performing it. After every show, as I sit to sign autographs and talk to people, I hear one fan explain in a very spiritual tone why the Cartoon song is so important, and only seconds later another fan corrects my theology and suggests that I stop performing the song. Both cite "biblical" reasons. That's the nature of public work. Its really true – you can't please everybody! I want to do excellent work. I want to reach a wide range of people. I have heard all sides of the reasoning for and against the "Cartoons" song – literally thousands of times. Well, when you cant please everybody, you just have to check your own motives for purity, and then follow your own heart, and hope people will try to understand. So, I have laid the song to rest. You can still hear it on the radio quite a bit, just not in live concerts anymore.
I have actually considered having one of Chris Rice's songs sung at my funeral. No, it won't be Fred Flintstone singing Yabadabadooya, he's gone! I am considering having Rice's "Untitled Hymn" sung at my memorial.
And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace,
and laugh on Glory's side,
and Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live.
Those words demonstrate the depth and heart of Chris Rice. "Cartoons" is just a silly little song. Look at his entire body of work before you cast your verdict.
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Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award-winning television sports director, author and Christian speaker. He is the author of "When Bad Christians Happen to Good People" and “Bring’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church.” Dave is available to bring his unique perspective to your conference, meeting, or broadcast. Dave and Joni, his wife of twenty-nine years, have three grown sons.