No Burger King theology, please

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Over at Open Book, I read a comment that basacally opined that the song "My Way" was the most anti-Christian song of the last several decades. I am inclined to agree.
For about 5 years in the 1980s I taught a name brand method of childbirth education that shall remain nameless here. (I am not interested in having the heirs to that name brand hunt me down and harass me for taking their TM in vain.) It's a very effective methodology, and I have no issues with its precepts (which btw are extremely politically incorrect). One of the things I remember from the main 'textbook' are quotes from two then-current TV ad campaigns. One was the margarine commercial "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature", and the other was the Burger King slogan "Have it your way". The basic concept of this childbirth method is that there is indeed a right way to go about the process of pregnancy and birth. If one subverts the process, bad things happen. I think that in Catholic circles, we would call this "Natural Law". God has written, on our very bodies, the truths of our humanity and how it relates to our eternal souls and our eventual destination.
The Pope has expanded on this in his monumental "Theology of the Body". I'm about 30% of the way through Christopher West's 10 CD set "Naked Without Shame" which is a weekend of teaching on the TOTB. It's dense, and I feel as if I am only getting maybe the top 10% of what I am hearing and am trying to learn. It has been a worthwhile struggle, though, and I recommend the 10 CD set to anyone who has long commutes.

What I learned about childbirth and have also tried to apply to the rest of my life (and it is indeed a struggle!) is that instead of seeking to have it "My Way" I should be seeking to have it God's Way. The (oft hidden and forgotten) truth is that there are absolute truths, and those who seek after knowledge are called not to invent but to discover. There are items that are a matter of taste but the more I learn about how intricately God has intertwined His creation, the more I realize how few decisions are simply taste rather than truth. For example, I may prefer lavender (calming) scent to citrus (stimulating), but the effects of each of these on my brain chemistry is profoundly different. And just because I happen to prefer to eat starchy foods swimming in butter does not mean that these are the healthiest foods for my body. Denying the truths that God has written in our bodies and on our souls will have consequences, often negative consequences, and it may be years or decades before I recognize the connection (if indeed I ever do).
Take music as another example. We are coming in to Lent, and that means that many of us will be subjected to the words and music of the 'hymn' "Ashes". Music, especially with a catchy tune, is a very effective way to burn memories on the brain. I bet that most of us learned the order of the alphabet by singing it, and there is a generation of adults that learned grammar and math facts from singing along with "Schoolhouse Rock". What is the message of "Ashes"? "We rise again from ashes" - sounds to me like the Phoenix legend, or possibly a version of re-incarnation. Not particularly Catholic or Christian, to my way of thinking. Compare that with my favorite Lenten Hymn, "Forty Days and Forty Nights". verse 2:
"Should not we thy sorrow share
and from worldly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
strong with thee to suffer pain?"
Is that not more in line with what we are called to do?
This Lent, let us "just say no" to the Burger King mentality. Dear Lord, grant us the grace to echo the words of Jesus in His passion:
"Not my will, Father, but Your will be done".


On the whole I agree when comparing songs from the era of Ashes with the older hymns.

But Ashes is not such a bad one. I think the word and mental picture of "ashes" makes people think of things destroyed, the end of things, something dark and sin and failure. Isn't this song about how it is when you realize that you have really screwed up, that you have just done again that thing you went to confession and promised you would wouldn't?

Ashes is like a prayer to God "de profundo." It says, God, I tried, but I didn't make it, I failed, I'm sorry, please accept me and let me try again.

Because we just don't all make it. We may resolve to be "strong with thee to suffer pain" and then totally wimp out. Should we then slink off and not even bother to try this God thing? Pretend we can hide from God?

Ashes, says "If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true, an offering of ashes, an offering to you." If you have really messed up, done something wrong, gotten drunk, crashed your car, lost your job, gone along with some dishonest thing going at your company and now you all got caught and are going to be there no place for you in church? will God give up on you? should you give up on God? You aren't going to feel like making grand resolutions to take on voluntary penances if you feel as if you can hardly bear to take the next step and face your burned up world each day. All you have to offer to God is yourself as you are right then...ashes.

I have been very moved by this song. Does it speak to where everyone is at the beginning of Lent? No. Does it say everything there is to be said about Lent? No. But does it say one valid and important thing? I think so.

Susan Peterson

If you like the Christopher West series (which I'd like to hear), you might also want to record EWTN's upcoming re-airing of Father Hogan in the 13 part series "Theology of the Body". It starts March 3rd. I plan to Tivo it. (Tivo, it's a noun, it's a verb...) :-) Hat tip to the latest CCL newsletter which mentioned it.

BTW, how are you enjoying your copy of "Politically Incorrect Guide to History"? I bought it a couple of weeks ago after you mentioned it and am enjoying it so far. It's always amazing to me how different thoughts of government were then vs. now.

But Ashes is not such a bad one. I think the word and mental picture of "ashes" makes people think of things destroyed, the end of things, something dark and sin and failure.


Well, sometimes we need to think on that stuff. And Lent seems like just the time to do it. After all, the priest says during the distribution of Ashes, "Remember thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."

I hope in the Mercy of Christ, at the same time I do not presume upon the Mercy of Christ. While the message in "Ashes" me be moving (and striclty correct), we have to look at the larger trends within the Church to get an understanding of how it fits into the larger situation of today. There has been a /huge/ shift from contemplating God's justice to his mercy. While there is nothing wrong with certain aspects of Revelation being accentuated at certain times, it's possible that we're taking this too far. We could very well be heading into Pelagianism.

With that in mind, I really feel we need to do some pruning. To me, Ashes is in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Great post, but I think you're wrong on one part. "My Way" wasn't the most pernicious song of the last few decades. For my money, that belongs to "The Greatest Love of All". Boy, you've given me such a flashback I have to blog it. God bless!

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on February 6, 2005 5:36 PM.

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