Right in the middle of Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Volume 2 is a song that doesn’t even pretend to be for children. This one is for the parents:
Hear, O Israel—
The Lord your God, the Lord is One.
These commandments that I give to you today
Are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children.
Talk about them when you sit at home
And when you walk along the road.
When you lie down.
When you get up.
And when you ride around in your minivan, it could have said. And when you’re fixing lunch, and when you’re tempted to plop the kids down in front of the TV just to get them out of your hair for a little while, is that too much to ask?
Randall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible records don’t just offer up that kind of Scripture-saturation as an ideal to strive for; they create the conditions under which it becomes a reality, even a norm. Since I got my copy of Sing the Bible, Volume 2, my car has become a rolling Scripture sauna, where my kids and I breathe the shared air of word-for-word Bible verses. I say my kids and I, but often it’s my wife and I, or me, myself, and I, because, from a strictly musical standpoint, there is more than enough complexity and wit for a grownup to sink his or her teeth into. Randall talks about making music that the whole family can agree on. With the help of producer Ben Shive, he has created more common ground for families.
Since we’ve started listening to Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Volume 2, it has become commonplace for my family members, out of nowhere and apropos of nothing, to absent-mindedly sing the deepest truths of the Christian faith.
“By his wounds we are healed…”
“We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ…”
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…”
It’s like living with a bunch of theologians. And it’s a sight better than getting the Gilligan’s Island theme song stuck in your head, or “The Final Countdown.”
Sing the Bible’s great gift to the Christian family is its mixture of practical biblical advice with the foundational theological principles that make it possible for us to live it out.
“Each of you should give whatever he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion because God loves a cheerful giver.”
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”
“Let your light shine so that men may see your good deeds.”
That’s great advice, but how on earth am I supposed to do any of it with consistency? That question is answered abundantly, in song after song.
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
“It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God.”
“You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
Randall’s treatment of the Ten Commandments nicely encapsulates the method, the philosophy, and the theology of Sing the Bible. Here they are—ten relatively straightforward rules about how best to live your life. The music makes the Ten Commandments easy to remember, and an appearance by Frankenstein and Count Dracula spices things up. Classic Slugs & Bugs. But what really makes this classic Slugs & Bugs is the chorus that Randall added:
The Ten Commandments. No one can keep them all.
The Ten Commandments. Even on your best behavior.
The Ten Commandments. No one can keep them all.
The Ten Commandments. That’s why we need a Savior.
Not even the Ten Commandments end with the Law. Randall doesn’t treat the Ten Commandments as an opportunity to tell kids to straighten up and fly right. He takes them as an opportunity to point to the truth that all of us need a Savior, grown-ups and kids alike.
In the Mary Poppins movie, there’s a scene in which Mary Poppins gives Jane and Michael Banks a spoonful of sugar to help them choke down a disgusting tar-like medicine that fairly bubbles on the spoon. “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” she sings brightly. Maybe so. But it doesn’t do a thing to help the children love the medicine. One of my favorite things about Sing the Bible is that it awakens us to the truth that Scripture itself is sweeter than honey. Yes, there are lots of sweeteners in this record to make things more fun than they have to be. There is an unusually generous raccoon who gives away a Smokey and the Bandit pinball machine. There is a chorus of grown men shouting things like “You first, You first!” and “I don’t mind, you go ahead” in ridiculous unison. But those spoonfuls of sugar are very different from Mary Poppins’s. Rather than masking the flavor of the medicine, they are an expression of gospel joy and sweetness.
The gospel does its work on us because it is already sweet. The goodness of God leads us to repentance. We love because God loves us first. We obey out of gratitude rather than out of compulsion. These deep theological truths can be hard to convey to small people (or to people of any size, for that matter). It is tempting to aim lower with our children. Sing the Bible calls us to something higher.
[Sing the Bible Vol. 2 is now available in the Rabbit Room Store.]
Jonathan Rogers is the author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy, one of the finest biographies of Flannery O’Connor we’ve ever read. His other books include the Wilderking Trilogy–The Bark of the Bog Owl, The Secret of the Swamp King, and The Way of the Wilderking–as well as The World According to Narnia and a biography of Saint Patrick. He has spent most of his adult life in Nashville, Tennessee, where he and his wife Lou Alice are raising a houseful of robustious children.