XTC: Dear God

DearGodC.S. Lewis was once quoted as saying that in his youth he was “very angry with God for not existing”. It’s a common, though paradoxical, statement. If God did exist, then surely he would see all the suffering and pain in the world and do something about it. The fact that he hasn’t stepped in and got rid of all the bad stuff in the world is surely evidence that there is no God. Isn’t it?

In 1986, the band XTC had a surprise hit with their song Dear God. How much of a surprise? It was released as a B side on another single. (Side note: Do people even remember B sides? Do I need to explain what a B side is? I feel so old.) There was controversy and outrage over this song. How dare they release a song that was so heavily atheistic in nature? “If there’s one thing I don’t believe in, it’s you. Dear God.”

Check out the video for the song:

For the singer of the song, God is someone who is made up, a product of fiction. “Did you make mankind after we made you?” Yet this fictional God is responsible for how the people of this world misuse his name and commit evil acts in the name of God. This is not a reasoned, rational argument. No, it is a passionate, heart felt cry.

As the song builds, as the music and the vocals grow more intense, it becomes clear that the singer is in pain. And not because he has accidentally hit himself with one of those hammers. He is feeling a deep, emotional pain. He feels like God has let him down. “You’re always letting us humans down.” He lives in a world that doesn’t make sense. Where lives fall apart. Where children are starving. The visual of the family in the tree suggests that there has been a family break down involved. If God is up there, if he is listening, why doesn’t he do something?

I believe that God exists. I do not believe that he is ignorant of our suffering. When Israel cried out to him when they were in slavery in Egypt, he heard them and he rescued them. When David cried out to God to rescue him from plight in Psalm 40, God heard him and lifted him out of the pit. When God sees the suffering and pain and hurt in this world, he hears us. And on top of that he has acted. 2000 years ago.

Jesus Christ entered the world to save us from sin. Sin is the cause of all the suffering in this world. When he died and rose again, he defeated sin. When he returns, he will permanently remove sin from this world. This is what we have to look forward to. A world where there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Suffering will be a thing of the past. God has promised us this.

The singer of XTC is not alone in feeling abandoned and alone, seemingly cast aside by a God that they can’t bring themselves to believe in. If this is you, know that God loves you. He wants to bring you back into relationship with him. He wants to make it all better. He wants you to know that his son Jesus has done all the hard work for you. All you need to do is put your trust in his death and resurrection and follow him.

This song is on The Master List, a list of songs about Jesus, God and the Bible. I’m always looking for new additions to the list.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.

2 responses to “XTC: Dear God”

  1. Shamelessly Atheist says :

    The singer doesn’t feel abondoned and alone at all. He’s pointing out the problem of evil, something which no theologian has ever successfully navigated. As such, it it far and away the best explanation that gods are an invention of humans. It’s pretty difficult for an atheist to feel abandoned by God. It’s like saying that he/she is lonely because all the unicorns left.

    How dare they release a song that was so heavily atheistic in nature?

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you were being a little sarcastic here and this is not a personal statement. But we do see a lot of this attitude today. Look at the hubub over simple, innocuous bus ads. There’s a message there for those that listen. The religious right is okay with free speech so long as it is their free speech.

    This song is a personal favorite of mine, and not just because of the message. I also happen to like gospel music, for instance. I find it uplifting, but not in any spiritual sense.

    • Joel A Moroney says :

      You’re right, that statement is not one that I feel. I believe in freedom of speech and therefore support any song writers right to say what they feel. Provided there is allowed a right of reply. From what I have read though, this was a pretty common statement in 1986 when the song was released, where record stores would refuse to stock the song for fear of backlash.

      I find it interesting that the singer addresses this passionate address to an entity he believes doesn’t exist. Here we dwelve into the world of interpretation, where anyone could be right, but probably wrong. The phrase “I don’t believe in you” doesn’t appear to the very end. Instead, the repeated refrain is “I can’t believe in you”. The singer wants to believe in God. But the problem of evil holds him back. And it’s not evil in a theoretical sense that is affecting him. The tone of the final part of the song, where he is banging hammers against the tree, suggest that this is a personal, emotionally charged evil. Something or somethings have happened in his life to bring this on. And the answers of Christianity haven’t brought him satisfaction. It’s this emotional charged nature of the final part of the song that leads me to believe that he feels abandoned. Otherwise, why feel so angry? Why not have a laugh at the people who still believe in God and move on? If God does not exist, why be so moved to emotion to yell at an imaginary being?

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