A Review of Derek Webb’s “I Want To Marry You All Over Again”

This article continues our review series on Derek Webb’s latest CD. Over the next two weeks, we will review and offer cultural analysis on every song from the “The Ringing Bell.” This post is written by Southern Seminary student Andy Williams. Previous posts from this series can be found under the category Derek Webb.

“I Want to Marry You All Over Again” is a lighthearted love song. If taken as a secular song, it would be among the cleanest and least offensive fare. I wouldn’t read too much into this addition to The Ringing Bell. It’s basically the tale of the meeting and courtship of Webb and his wife, Sandra McKracken. Whether or not every detail in the song is true, it shows a playful side of Derek, and a willingness to reveal what he was thinking at the time. He apparently enjoyed the process and would do it all again.

I wanna marry you all over again
I wanna meet you and I wanna be friends
I wanna chase you all the way to Tennessee
I’ll meet your parents at the airport bar
I’ll take you out in my rental car
I wanna court you on the record label’s dime

Most of the lyrics are simply about various, unrelated events pertaining to chasing her around on music tours form Tennessee to Kansas City. Upright pianos, rental cars, airport bars, and diamond rings . . . all reminders of the dating days. He recalls awkward moments of running into an ex-girlfriend or falling in love while insisting that “we’re just friends.” Even the line about courting her on the Record Label’s dime seems to simply recall the reality of dating while touring.

I wanna buy you an old upright
I wanna accidentally stay all night
I wanna read the Bible and I wanna make out
I wanna marry you all over again
I wanna fall in love and say we’re just friends
I wanna race you all the way to Kansas City

The two main lines that will make Christian listeners do a double take are, “I wanna accidentally stay all night”, and “I wanna read the Bible and I wanna make out.” It’s difficult to know whether Webb is defending these behaviors, encouraging them, or simply re-telling what happened without offering any moral commentary. I tend to think it is the last option.

I wanna give you a diamond ring
and then we’ll run into my ex-girlfriend
oh, I wanna sing songs while the sun’s going down

The early months and years of a dating relationship are full of mixed thoughts, feelings, and desires. It is very possible to have conflicting desires to both read the Bible and make out with your girlfriend, realizing that one of those should be cultivated and the other one held off. Derek Webb is known for inserting lyrics for shock value – to keep the listener from listening without thinking. While I don’t think he wrote these lines without knowing their effect – It doesn’t seem that he was trying to make any profound statements in this song.

come on baby let’s go back to the start
take it back sugar then gimme your heart
don’t you know baby I would do it all over again

On the Whole, It seems like this song, along with “Can’t be without you”, are simply included to lighten the lyrical mood of the album; a little lighter love mixed in with the more predominant “tough love”.

Posted By Andy Williams

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26 Responses to A Review of Derek Webb’s “I Want To Marry You All Over Again”

  1. matt redmond says:

    “It doesn’t seem that he was trying to make any profound statements in this song.”

    And that is the problem.

  2. bryan says:

    what’s a problem? a song without a “profound statement”? geesh…i’d be curious to see what your music collection looks like.

    furthermore, i think telling your wife that you’d do it all over again is a pretty profound thing to say. well, maybe not profound, but it’s more than just a throwaway lyric if you mean it.

  3. Matt H says:

    Right on, Bryan.

    I don’t think Derek really recognizes the secular/Christian distinction in music anymore. Music is of things common, so how can it be Christian? This song would be fine if it were secular? I don’t follow. Besides, is accidentally staying over all night before marriage sin? Fornication is. But staying the night? Accidentally? And what’s wrong with WANTING to make out with your future wife? Without even discussing the rightness or wrongness of actually making out before marriage, shouldn’t a man at least WANT to make out with the woman he’s going to spend his life with? “I wanna read the bible, and I wanna make out.” What an honest, wholistic, non-pietistic view of this pilgrim life and its desires.

    BTW, I’m glad you guys are doing this. Keep it up.

  4. matt redmond says:

    Of course, I did not think a song for his wife was the problem. As a student pastor, I am doing all I can to get them to ask better questions than “is it wrong?” I want them to ask “Will it give me more of Christ?” and “Will it glorify him in the midst of a watching world?” “Will others see his value in the Universe?” I am not content with getting as close to the edge of wrong as possible. I want to fly from it and I want my students to do the same. And not so they or I would gain God’s favor but so Christ would look great. Asking “is it wrong?” is not all that a profound question for a believer to ask.

    I take my cue from Paul who said, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

    This song seems to be the parading of a liberty (which he has in Christ, to be sure) that he repented of 2 albums ago…and that is actually part of my cd collection.

  5. bryan says:

    i agree that “is this right or wrong” is not the best question…i like the “is this the wise thing to do” question much better myself.

    i really don’t see this song as parading of liberty, but we can agree to disagree there i guess. i think he’s just being honest as he looks back on his courtship with Sandra. i think there were times that he planned on going home but instead they just hung out together all night. i think there are times that he wanted to make out with her. i think there are times that he wanted to read the bible with her. personally, i can absolutely relate to all of that in my relationship with my wife. that’s why i like the song. it’s honest, it’s personal, and it’s got a killer bass line.

    and matt, i’m glad you’re pastoring students and asking the right questions. we need more people committed to doing that with our youth. keep up the good work!

    bryan

  6. matt redmond says:

    I do not buy into the “just being honest” motif. There is always a reason behind the honesty. I wish he had stared hard into the hearts of those who might be listening before writing some of those lines. Honesty for honesty’s sake cannot be virtuous for the believer. What does the honesty give the listener? Perhaps it tells them he is human also just like them. But I can tell you one thing I do know…the students are a dime a dozen who will hear those lines and relax in their exercise of wisdom.

    I could care less about honesty unless it has at its end the glory of Jesus and his work.

    The sad thing is my students will not have an inclination to question it because the song is cool. And that is all that matters. cool…and cool is so small.

  7. bryan says:

    i disagree with almost everything you wrote there. probably not worth arguing about.

  8. matt redmond says:

    I don’t want to beat a dead horse (you are not the dead horse) but did you disagree with me saying “Honesty for honesty’s sake cannot be virtuous for the believer” or “cool is so small”? Just a little curious.

    Ask any youth pastor (you may be one!) and they will most likely agree that music is a powerful force in the lives of their students. Give them a book, they might read it. Give them a cd, they will listen to it. And the music, if the beat is good enough and cool enough will have a profound effect on whether the lyrics will be influential in their worldview.

    I am trying to put both in their hands provided it points them towards Christ and rings with his glory among the nations.

  9. bryan says:

    “just being honest” as a motif – i mean, i guess if you take it to the extreme, honesty is not always the best rule (for instance, a song where Joe Schmo sings about spending all day battling lustful thoughts and describing the images in detail would not be good, despite being honest). but i dont see that to this extreme here. saying that you want to make out with your fiancee (or girlfriend) is a fact of life. we are sexual creatures and we can control our sexuality, we are not angels, we are not animals. if he sings “i dont care if its wrong, i want to make out with you because it feels good”, then i would think that might be irresponsible. but i dont see this as irresponsible.

    even your most devout youth group students want to make out with people. they just do. we need to tell them that it is a healthy urge, and we need to help them understand why boundaries are important so that they set them up and stick to them because they want to. we are not angels…we have sex drives, and we are not animals…we can control them.

    as for “cool is small”…yeah, i’m 30. i’m old enough to know that “cool” is very overrated. and i klnow how powerful that is with kids. are you saying derek shouldnt make “cool music”? that seems silly.

    i know how powerful music is in kids lives. thats why instead of trying to protect kids from anything that might not be 100% pure, i try to teach them to discern for themselves. and not just with music but movies and TV too. i got kids telling me that won’t touch “secular” music, but then recite line after line of innuendo-laced tv show dialogue. something wrong with that. they are missing the point. i want them to listen to things and discern for themselves. lets talk about “making out”? is it wrong to want to? is it wrong to do? what about staying all night at a girl’s house even if you dont do anything? is it wrong? this is the dialogue we need to be having.

    the problem is, for too long we’ve not taught youth to discern, only to make piles of the “good” and “bad” music. so when derek webb a “good artist” writes something that might be questionable, we freak out because its going to confuse the kids. well, it shouldnt. these kids should be taught to discern everything, dont just lump artists into one category or the other. dont do it with a CD either. maybe you dont feel like you shouldnt listen to that song…well then dont. that’s what the Holy Spirit is here to help with.

    also, you’re thinking about youth because it’s your job (and mission and calling). Derek is not writing songs thinking, “how can i best say this for the 15-yr old boy listening?”. and i dont think he should be. he’s writing songs about where he’s at, and most of the time that will resonate more with people his age. will youth buy it? of course. i think in the end his responsibility is to make music that he believes in, that doesnt compromise his beliefs, and that in doing that, he honors God with his talents.

    fyi…i’m not a youth pastor. i have worked with the youth at our church as a volunteer for about 5 years now, but i’m not a pastor.

    (and no angry tone or anything written in this post, so hopefully you dont read it as such)

  10. Matt H says:

    Bryan, again, right on.

    I was thinking the same thing about audience. Sure youthgroupers will listen to Derek now and then, but for the most part they are not his audience at all. It seems silly to me to assume that all popularish sounding “Christian” music must be aimed at teenagers. In fact, Derek’s music never has had such an audience (by and large). Even since the early days of Caedmon’s he’s been a “college artist.”

    Also, I’ve said this elsewhere (mostly on my blog and over at Colossians Three Sixteen), so now I’m the one beating a dead horse, but we seem to be on the issue of “Christian” music vs. “secular” music. MR, your comments in comment #4 lead me to believe that you are saying Christian artists should explicitly glorify Christ in all their art. (I could be misreading you; if so I apologize.) First, “Christian” music is, for the most part, an illegitimate category. Music is not “Christian.” So, is it possible to glorify Christ in our art-making by writing about things common to all mankind? Yes. Must our art be carefully whitewashed of all things that might reveal aspects of the artist’s depravity? No. You’re right, “Is it right or wrong?” is not the right question ultimately to be asking. But we should ask it nonetheless. Once we get ourselves and our youth over the idea that any artist’s work is “Christian,” then we can learn and teach to be discerning about ALL art, whether it comes from a Christian or a pagan. Discernment should be the goal here, not censorship.

  11. matt redmond says:

    Bryan,

    A few comments…

    First on calling it a “healthy urge” when a teenager wants to make out. Yes, they were created as sexual creatures but their urges are shot through with sin. They are not altogether free from sin and its fruit in their lives. And yes they all want to make out to some degree. However I have a few who fight what you call a healthy urge. They do not even date because they do not want the hearts of others to be sport in what is for most young people a recreational activity. Calling the sexual desires of my students…any students, a healthy urge, is simplistic.

    The angels and animals paradigm is a straw men argument.

    You talked of Derek’s honesty and used that as a defense (“he’s just being honest”). I agree it is honest. But honesty is no defense…maybe an excuse but not a reasonable defense. Honesty must have the glory of Christ and the good of our neighbor in its purview. Maybe his honesty does these things. My point was honesty must have a goal and it must be better than being provocative and shocking. Provocative and shocking can be helpful I recognize.

    You may think my concern with cool is silly. But I am quite willing to be drawn that way. I am of the opinion that I should be afraid of the epidemic concern for being cool as I should be afraid of wealth. For I assume it is not only hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven but it is hard for the cool man to enter. Both are a fight for me everyday. And if I am fighting them after 36 years so are my kids.

    When it comes to media and entertainment I am always asking them not whether or not it is a “Christian” but “will it give you more of Christ”? I am harder on Christian artists than those who are not. Patty Griffin may give them more of Christ than a Christian artist. I set up no rules for them save the questions outlined above regarding the glory of Christ and God who is all in all (Rom. 11:36).

    Also, my students and I regularly listen to music and watch movies and TV shows and discuss them. We call it Learn to Discern. And we want to discern what glorifies Christ and what does not by listening closely and reading slowly. Christ and his glory and our good and the good of our neighbor is always in view. I am uninterested in my students keeping their noses clean. I am not interested in what is permissible, I am interested in what will buildup others and what will display the incalculable value of our risen Savior.

  12. Tony Kummer says:

    This seems to be a profitable discussion. I’ve enjoyed reading your responses and I appreciate respectful attitude of everyone.

    It seems like we keep dancing around a solid definition of art. How would you guys define art?

    Should a Christian artist allow their worldview to affect their art? Why or why not?

  13. matt redmond says:

    Matt H,

    Believe it or not I never frame the discussion with my students on the level of Christian music vs. secular music. And some of my students do listen to Derek Webb even down here in the Mississippi Delta.

    And the issue may not be whether music is “christian.” You say it is not. I would ask then “why was it given”? For if it is true that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” (I minister in the PCA), and I believe it is per the Bible’s testimony on this head, then I assume that all activities of man must be subordinate to this chief end. Including music.

    I insinuate nothing and make no rules. I only want to point out 1 Cor. 10:31 and assume that “all” means music.

  14. matt redmond says:

    Tony,

    While I am here I will go ahead and give you my 2 cents. I do not think I should attempt to define art. But I will say that I would be skeptical of the faith of any artist who’s faith/worldview did not affect their art. I would say the same for economists, politicians, teachers, preachers, seminary students, athletes, stockbrokers, etc.

    There is no formula but the Holy Spirit changes people and therefore changes their disposition towards reality and fixes it in a Godward direction. Art at a minimum is about expression. So the expressions of such a Godward disposition must necessitate art affected by a Holy Spirit sanctified worldview.

  15. Matt H says:

    Matt Redmond,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I too am a member of the PCA and believe wholeheartedly that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”. I think our disagreement lies in our ideas of HOW God is glorified in our music. Must it glorify him explicitly? Maybe I should ask, must my gardening glorify him explicitly? (I know that I am hyperbolizing your view; please forgive me.) Can simple honesty about life experience glorify God? I would say it can. See, I don’t think I could disagree with anything you’ve said in your most recent comment to me. And yet, I still disagree with your assessment of DW’s music…

    Respectfully,

    Matt Haeck

  16. Matt H says:

    Tony,

    Thanks for bringing this up. Though I believe a solid definition of art is probably impossible, this very thing is something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately as an artist and as a blogger. Some of my readers have asked me to do some posts toward a definition of art, and I am working on that now. I have some preliminary thoughts here, here, here, and here. Sorry for the long list o’ links. ;)

    MH

  17. matt redmond says:

    Matt H,

    Of course gardening and the spoken or sung word are very different things. However, they should both glorify God explicitly and implicitly. However, the spoken word will glorify him in a very different way and will peculiarly be more explicit in its nature. No one would expcet them to achieve the same. General revelation and special revelation tell us this. One tells us there is something bigger than ourselves. The other tells us there is a Savior and our need for him among a host of other things.

    It is hard for me to swallow (and this is not how I have always felt for I am a minority voice in my denomination and generation) that music was not given for us to explicitly glorify him. Not every song must be a worship song or RUF hymn of course but the gift of music must have a purpose in the giving. It is no accident we have imperatives in the Scriptures to sing praises to God.

    And of course, I do not deny the talents of non-christian singers and artists. They were created in the image of God and so their creation of song and music reverberates to his praise implicitly when others celebrate it and explicitly when the believer marvels not at the gift but at the Giver of the gift.

  18. Matt H says:

    Matt R,

    I don’t believe they necessarily are. Both are common things under common grace. And I don’t see how music necessarily must EXPLICITLY glorify God (i.e. in outright statements of giving him glory), LET ALONE GARDENING! (Sorry for the caps, I’m too lazy to use the html for italics!) Of course everything we do must glorify God; thus, so must my relieving myself. (Sorry for the crudeness of this example.) The common/holy distinction is an important one to make. And we must be absolutely clear that there is NOTHING evil about the common in and of itself. (Evil is an ethical category, not an ontological one.) So what of a poem about, say, sunsets. Must it explicitly say, “And it is God who giveth the blazing beauty and warmth to the eye in the pre-nocturnal descent of the great fiery orb. Praise his glory!” ?? May not the poet glorify God implicitly by merely describing things the way they are, meanwhile living a life that testifies to the grace of our Lord?

    Also, I’m not sure I’m following your reasoning on spoken word vs. gardening in general and special revelation. Not all words fall into the category of special revelation, but only the words of Scripture.

    I can agree with you 100% that music was given to us to glorify God explicitly. But where is your support for saying that it was given to us for the EXCLUSIVE purpose of glorifying him EXPLICITLY? (If indeed that is what you are saying.) Of course we are commanded to sing praises to God–explicitly. That is an aspect, I believe, of corporate worship. But, as an artist personally and as a worship/song leader in my church, I keep those things somewhat distinct so as to protect the worship of the church from the influx of the non-regulated and to keep my own art genuine, broad, and universal/common.

    All that said, I agree that, even in art, the believer must ultimately marvel at the Giver of the gift, not the gift itself. That is one way in which I think believers can make good art that glorifies God IMPLICITLY.

  19. matt redmond says:

    Why would the poet not discuss God as he writes of the sunset?

  20. Matt H says:

    He may. But he may not too, perhaps for the same reason the (good) painter doesn’t paint Scripture verses into the lines of his painting, the (good) politician argues for biblically sound policies without appealing directly to the Bible, and the (good) quantum physicist doesn’t speculate in his peer-reviewed journal articles about why God made atomic particles behave the way they do.

  21. Paul Cable says:

    I’m sorry this might be off topic…

    I think there’s an interesting contrast between the last line of the chorus: “I would do it all over again,” and the rest of the song (and the title) which doesn’t say “would,” but “wanna.” I don’t think he meant for the song to have a moral, but I think I disagree with the assertion that he wasn’t trying to say anything profound. I think this contrast is pretty profound and speaks to the struggle of keeping vitality and freshness in marriage. He looks longingly back at the time of courting his wife. The courtship days, in the memory of a married couple, have a certain silver glow that makes us not only blandly affirm that we made the right decision, that “we would do it all over again,” but that we’d actually long to go back and experience the anticipation, the newness of the romance all over again. This sentiment can be especially strong when the routine of marriage grinds some of the fire out of the relationship, and this song reminds me of the necessity of keeping that freshness and vitality in my marriage (of only one year) so that I don’t often yearn for our dating days (and so that she doesn’t either), and so that I don’t identify too much, too often with the profound lyrics to this song.

  22. Andy! I didn’t know you blogged, although you would be a good one to ask about this stuff. Well posted.

  23. mindy is submarine says:

    You know… maybe I’m just musically old fashioned, but I think that this song should be taken for what it is, a song. Its beautiful, and simple, and its the way he feels about his wife. Can’t we all just leave it at that and let Derek do what he loves to do, without starting wars over lyrics?

  24. Caroline says:

    I’m finding this debate on music and lyrics quite fascinating — and pleasing in the fact that it has not deteriorated into mud-slinging. Keep up the dialogue, y’all!

    As for the song, I think it’s charming, but I can understand someone’s concern about the phrase “wanna make out” in an ostensible Christian artist’s song, regardless of whether that artist makes ccm or Christian punk rock or ska or easy listening music.

  25. agnostic says:

    There is more to a song then just it’s lyrics. The review didn’t note the catchy guitar riffs, the progressions…nothing except lyrics. I knew I was going to read the review and then there would be everyone commenting on “making out”. Reviews should be about the music, how the song made you feel etc.; not about lyrics that make christians do a “double take”.

  26. Trisha says:

    this is silly! nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that things like “making out” are sinful! it DOES warn against doing things that will cause us to sin, and if kissing or spending the night (even if you’re in the next room) puts us in a compromising situation…we shouldn’t do it. THAT is personal conviction. it’s something like what i’ve discussed before on the topic of drinking…the Bible does not tell us that drinking is a sin, however drunkenness is a sin, and so is taking even a sip when you know it will make you want a lot more. if that line is hard to draw…don’t do it. i believe God places within all of us conviction to determine what will and will not benefit us in our walk with Christ. for some, this means they will not kiss their significant other until they’re married to avoid sexual temptation, for some, this means they will not take a sip of alcohol because they know they will not be able to draw the line or they simply do not feel right about it. but really…our personal conviction is not everyone else’s. yours is not derek webb’s…i venture to guess that derek had a very meaningful and godly relationship that God has obviously blessed abundantly and that many of us could learn from him. you have no idea the ministry derek webb’s life could be in people’s lives…people that hear his music and see him on tour or interact with him. i’m not saying that he converts people upon hearing the line “I wanna read the Bible and I wanna make out”, but that line should not be judged and so scrutinized because it doesn’t align with your idea of how a Christian should act. wake up and realize not every Christian is convicted the same way. and really, is arguing whether a Christian artist should mention making out furthering YOUR ministry??

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