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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Kefirah or Kosher

Here are the lyrics to a song that have been troubling me for sometime. Is this song kefirah or it is kosher? Heresy or Holy? The lyrics are in bold- the rest are my rambling thoughts.

One of Us – Joan Osborne

If God had a name, what would it be
and would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him in all his Glory,
what would you ask if you had just one question?

This is interesting, since the Bible itself refers to God by many names, as do the many nations of the world. Is Ms. Osborne oblivious of this? Perhaps she means a first name like Fred, or Jamie, you know, something his friends call him when they hang out…
Would you call it to his face? Well it’s a sin to take the Lord’s name in vain so maybe not, however if you were talking to God perhaps using his name would be OK…
It’s a good question.

And speaking of questions: What WOULD I ask if I had just one question?
Where are my car keys?
What’s the meaning of life the universe and everything? (Sorry GH, I stole your bit, not that you own HHGTHG)
What do YOU want from me?

Something to think about…. Sounds alright so far, but wait here comes the lame-o chorus:

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

A few interpretations:

1) Irony: This meant to make fun of people who praise God. Like my father-in-law says (jokingly) before he eats “Rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the Grub, Yay God, Yay God!”
If this is her intention, then that’s heresy, because are we not supposed to praise God?

2) Seriousness: Joan Osborn really thinks God is great, yeah, yeah, yeah.

3) Joan Osborn writes sucky lyrics and needed to fill in the chorus with something…
(View from Joan’s brain) Ok I need a chorus…something about God.. now what can I say about God, he’s cool, he’s powerful, he created the world….OH, I KNOW! He’s good and great, I’ll just fill in the rest with yeah yeahs! Brilliant!
Moving right along:

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin to make His way home

Ok this is a little stupid too. At first I thought this was heresy for SURE. God as a SLOB on the BUS? I should think not!
But she does say “what if?”
Well Joanie, if God was a slob on the bus like one of us he wouldn’t be God now would he.
This paragraph cancels itself out. Not heretical, not even possible.

Lookout here’s an interesting bit:

If God had a face, what would it look like
and would you wanna see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
in things like Heaven and Jesus and the Saints
and all the Prophets and...

Well that is the question isn’t it? Do people really want God to prove himself?
Once he does we lose our free will. We HAVE to believe, and if we believe then there is no rational way to defy His authority.
On the flip side it could turn out like the scenario in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” an excellent book in which somewhere in the middle the author makes himself known to one of the characters who proceeds to deny his very existence despite the fact that he is a creation of the author.
It’s interesting to note that she mentions all the other things she thinks you’d have to believe in if God presented himself, but I guess that would only be true if the God who presented Himself to you was the Christian God. In which case I’d be in big trouble. No matter how you believe it’s an interesting question.

Then she returns to the lame refrain… Do with it as you will….

Yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah

Ok so to sum up, the woman has some good points. It’s a simple but somewhat thought provoking song. If it makes you think about your relationship with God then maybe it’s a good thing. If it feels like it’s mocking God to you then maybe it isn’t, but it doesn’t feel like heresy to me.


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to believe in a deity that couldn't handle a little bit of mocking, anyway.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Especially considering how much fun the Deity makes of us :-)

I like that song a lot. Now if only i knew the lyrics to the weird folksong thing that precedes it on the CD.
My feeling is that she's not trying to be heretical (she's Catholic, btw). I think the "God is great..." chorus is meant as a foil to the hypotheticals of "What if God was one of us?" She's saying, yes, I *know* that God is great, and good, and everything else — don't you dare call me an apiqores — but c'mon, think about it, *what if* God were one of us? How would that change your way of living?

Interestingly enough, according to Rashbam, the name we use for God, isn't God's actual name; as a form of the verb yihyeh "he is / will be", it's in third person. The name God uses when Moshe asks "who should I tell the people is sending me?" is Ehyeh (Asher Ehyeh) — the same verb, in first person form. So God calls Godself by the same Four-Letter-Name as we use, except in *first person* (with an initial alef instead of yud).
Which makes me think that maybe the answer to If God had a name, what would it be and would you call it to his face? would be that same verbal name form, in *second person*. T-H-V-H.

PS: other good songs by Joan Osborne are "St. Teresa" and "Spider Web"

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I give you blogging and THIS is what you discuss!!!

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

by the way, that joan osbourne is a whiny little tramp. Soon, I'm going to fix her wagon good.

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Shifra said...


Would you prefer I went back to talking about snoods and deoderant?
Check out Steg's comments, they are kinda scholarly...

Also, have You seen my keys anywhere?

At 1:47 PM, Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

i once saw this somewhere:
if your image of god is angry and discounts everyone aside from you and yours, you've probably made G-D in your own image

At 3:11 PM, Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

shiffy please help the gadol hador he doesn't get it

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For you, Steg:

Oh, one of these days at about twelve o'clock
This whole earth's gonna reel and rock
Things they'll tremble and cry for pain
For the lord's gonna come in his heavenly airplane

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Thanks so much, Shanna!
You're the woman! :-)

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post - and comments!

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

Thank you See Bee.
I agree, great comments guys!

At 3:04 PM, Blogger BBJ said...

I agree that the chorus could use some work, but the song resonates for me. I liked it as the theme for "Joan of Arcadia", worked very well.

"Why don't you ever do any miracles?"

"What do you call that?"

"It's a tree."

"Can you make one?"

At 3:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get a clue: Joan didn't write that song. She does write songs, but "One of Us" was written by Eric Bazilian.


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