This article continues our review series on Derek Webb’s latest CD. We are reviewing and practicing cultural analysis on every song from the “The Ringing Bell.” This post is written by Southern Seminary student Trevin Wax from Kingdom People. Previous posts from this series can be found under the category Derek Webb.
“A Love that’s Stronger than our Fear” strikes against the notion that an action can be justified based on its intended outcome. The first verse throws down the gauntlet by forcing the listener into a situation where one must choose to lie or face death.
what would you do
if someone put a gun to your head
and ask you to tell them a lie
what would you say
if you were pushed that way
to betray yourself to keep yourself alive
is life worth so much
Is staying alive worth “betraying yourself?” At what point do the ethical lines get blurred? Do they get blurred at all? The second verse reverses the situation. Here Webb goes after “torture” as a way of coercing someone to tell the truth. The first verse is questioning. The second is more dogmatic.
what would you do
if someone would tell you the truth
but only if you torture them half to death
tell me since when do the means justify the ends
and you build the kingdom using the devilâ€™s tools
can time be so short
Webb decries torture as one of the “devil’s tools” and disagrees with the notion that time is so short one must resort to torture to resolve a situation. In the first verse, the listener is a victim being forced to deny something true. In the second, the listener is the torturer seeking to elicit truth from the victim.
thereâ€™s got to be a love thatâ€™s stronger than our fear
of everything being out of control
everything being out of control
The chorus provides the beginning to the answer which ultimately comes out only in the bridge. Webb believes there has to be “another way,” and he sees Christian love as the answer. The new day has been inaugurated, but is not yet here fully (Webb doesn’t find a more creative way to describe the “already-not yet” paradigm of eschatology.) Our job is to “proclaim” this love by “showing that there’s a better way.”
there is a day thatâ€™s been inaugurated but has not yet come
that we can proclaim by showing that thereâ€™s a better way
Musically, “A Love that’s Stronger than our Fear” is more rock-based than most of Webb’s previous work. The lyric sits well on the catchy melody, though the five-syllable word “inaugurated” from the bridge sounds a little contrived. The ending is abrupt, but fits the message of the song well.
When I listened to this song, I couldn’t help but think about the television show 24. It seems like Jack Bauer is always doing terrible things “for the greater good.” The goodness or badness of any given action is based on the way things turn out – including torture and murder. Of course, 24 is simply a fictional expression of what is actually allowed and condoned in a time of war.
I understand Webb’s reticence to embrace torture as a legitimate method of interrogation. But I am confused at the reference about “building the kingdom” with the devil’s tools. Is there a place where Christians are seeking to build the kingdom of God by employing torture as a methodology? Where is this happening? What Christians are condoning this? Or is the “kingdom” a reference to earthly empire – namely America?
Webb asks good questions in this song. But many of his questions leave the listener with more questions rather than answers.
Posted by Trevin Wax