>mewithoutYou "A Stick, a Carrot, & a String"

>Around a month ago I posted this entry, about my favorite track from mewithoutYou’s most recent album.

Anyway, I have listened to the album pretty consistently since then and I have been repeatedly drawn to the track “A Stick, a Carrot, & a String.”

The song begins, oddly enough, with the conversation of the animals in the stable where Jesus is born. In traditional Christmas carol fashion they pledge their service in some way, with the exception of a goat, who feels inadequate to sing praises to the child-king.

The response is a beautiful picture of grace.

“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”

Next the song makes an interesting turn to the Garden of Gethseneme, where Jesus contemplates his impending death.

“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?’
and the snake who’d held the world
a stick, a carrot and a string
was crushed beneath the foot
of your not wanting anything”

My friend Gabriel often observes that everything depends on how you tell the story, and this seems to be exactly what’s going on here. Like Marx, Aaron Weiss seems to be defining the human dilemma in primarily economic terms. The serpent of Genesis 3 is pictured with Looney Toon esque imagery: dangling an oh-so-tempting carrot on a string just out of the reach of greedy humanity.  However, Jesus’ desire to please the Father coupled with his divine contentment fulfills the protoeuangelion of Genesis 3:15, effectively defeating the power of the serpent.  Essentially, Jesus’ selflessness on the cross gives humanity an alternative way to to live. 

Although these things are true to a degree, it is extremely problematic to both (1) reduce sin to mere greed and (2) to see the crucifixion as being exclusively an act of selflessness.  Human selfishness is certainly a product of the fall, but it is one of many symptoms of heart with a larger sin problem.  Greed is just one manifestation of idolatry, which can be understood to be placing one’s ultimate allegiance or affection in any person or thing other than God.  Likewise, Jesus’ atonement on the cross is multifaceted.  It certainly was the most selfless act in human history, but the Bible also speaks of Jesus conquering sin on the cross, and bearing the Father’s just punishment for our sins.  Colossians 2:8-15 is one amazing passage that addresses both of these aspects! 
As followers of Christ we certainly are motivated to live selfless lives that reject the materialism that is rampant in our culture, but this is an implication of the gospel story- not the whole thing.  
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About mjbutterworth

I love drinking/making coffee, making/listening to music, riding bicycles, and reading about theology. I also like blogs that talk about those things. Most of all, I love Jesus because his gospel has changed my life.
This entry was posted in mewithoutYou, Music, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to >mewithoutYou "A Stick, a Carrot, & a String"

  1. Bones says:

    >I'm not sure there is anything lacking in this song as a presentation of the gospel.

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