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but you let it go…

By July 6, 2013 2 Comments
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A few weeks ago Jes Kast-Keat wrote a post about Vampire Weekend’s new song “Ya Hey.” (You can read it here…) For the past two weeks I’ve bee listening to it over and over. Its a personality flaw, I hear an interesting song and beat it to death. A few years ago it was Johnny Cash, then a Pearl Jam flashback…now I’m stuck on this song. Jes wondered in her post if this song represents a religious side to Vampire Weekend; I wonder if it’s the opposite. The song is a protest, not against the suffering of the world, or the stupidity of believing in a God; its a protest against God’s incessant love for creatures who don’t have any interest in loving God back.

Oh, the motherland don’t love you
The fatherland don’t love you
So why love anything?
Oh, good God
The faithless they don’t love you
The zealous hearts don’t love you
And that’s not gonna change

Believer and unbeliever alike push God to the fringe, neither one living a life of love. Both obsessed with asserting whatever truth or untruth that gets us through the day, until we start it all over again when the sun comes up. This isn’t, however, what really irks the singer; he’s more irked by the fact that God doesn’t give it up, throw in the towel, be done with the whole thing. Why doesn’t God just move on? Humans certainly have…

All the cameras and files
All the paranoid styles
All the tension and fear
Of a secret career
And I think in your heart
That you’ve seen the mistake
But you let it go

But you let it go… that’s the rub. Like a lover who sees her beloved turn his back, like a lover who sees his beloved move on to someone else, only to let it go! God is a spurned lover who lingers, who refuses to go away. This is the insanity; this is the real scandal. The singer begs God to give it up. 

Through the fire and through the flames
You won’t even say your name
Only “I am that I am”
But who could ever live that way?

This song is a protest of a singer who wants God to give it up, to let it go, to move on, so that humanity can get on with life. Is it a song of faith? 

Truth be told, I’ve been listening to this song as I’ve been immersed in the prison letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These are letters in which he discusses how modern life (and postmodern life) has pushed God to the fringe; these are letters in which he discusses the possibility of a “religionless Christianity.” In the context of Bonhoeffer’s letters “Ya Hey” is a song of faith. To come to the place where we protest God’s grace, where we protest the recklessness of God’s love, where we finally throw up our hands and “let it go” – only there, for Bonhoeffer, is the possibility of faith.

“Human religiosity directs people to the power of God in the world, God as deus ex machina. The bible directs people toward the powerlessness and the suffering of God; only the suffering God can help.”

                                                                                                   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

2 Comments

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Thanks for this Jason. It's important stuff, that this great God suffers so much unbelief. Such constant humiliation. The doctrine of Eternal Punishment may be a way to preserve God's dignity, that God will get us back. I don't believe the Bible teaches Eternal Punishment, simply that "the wages of sin is death," that's it, that's all. Which means that God turns the other cheek against our easy unbelief, our easy disregard. Quite an unexpected God. Who could honor a God like this?

  • Hot damn this is good! Woo–> "The song is a protest, not against the suffering of the world, or the stupidity of believing in a God; its a protest against God's incessant love for creatures who don't have any interest in loving God back." Now that's some honest talk that I can respect.

    I'm glad you've had this on repeat. It's been stuck in my head, too.

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