Monday, July 11, 2011

The evisceration of the heart of the gospel

e·vis·cer·ate [v. ih-vis-uh-reyt; adj. ih-vis-er-it, -uh-reyt] verb, -at·ed, -at·ing, adjective

–verb (used with object)
1. to remove the entrails from; disembowel: to eviscerate a chicken. 2. to deprive of vital or essential parts: The censors eviscerated the book to make it inoffensive to the leaders of the party.

I know it’s only Monday and much too early in the week to be up in arms, but I am nonetheless. This time I’m ranting about, of all things, an otherwise lovely rendition of a song that was intended to uplift, encourage, and inspire.

The song is “I’ll Walk With God” from the operetta The Student Prince, written by Sigmund Romberg in 1924. You may remember the 1954 film version that starred Ann Blyth, Edmund Purdom, and “the singing voice of Mario Lanza” (Mr. Lanza did not appear in the movie; Edmund Purdom, who never sang a note, was lip-synching to Mr. Lanza in the same way that Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle was lip-synching to Marni Nixon in My Fair Lady).

Or rather, the song should have been “I’ll Walk With God.” Instead, it became “I Walk With God” in a Sunday-morning performance on February 21, 2010, by the choir of the Crystal Cathedral of Garden Grove, California (where Robert Schuller was pastor for so many years) with tenor Brian Vu in the Purdom/Lanza role.

A minor change, you say. But wait. There’s more. Much more.

I have an idea. First, watch and listen to “I Walk With God” by the choir of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California (where Robert Schuller was pastor for so many years), featuring tenor Brian Vu.

Pretty good, you say. What’s wrong with that?

Just about everything. Now listen to “I’ll Walk With God” from the soundtrack of The Student Prince, the 1954 film based on the operetta by Sigmund Romberg, featuring the voice of Mario Lanza.

Did you notice the changes?

Here, graciously provided by yours truly, are Exhibit A and Exhibit B:

Exhibit A. The Crystal Cathedral version:

I walk with God from this day on.
His loving hand will lead me on.
I pray to Him this humble plea:
Help me, Lord, come closer to me.
I walk with God, all day, all night.
Why should I fear while He’s on my side?
His love will stay forever,
And He’ll forsake me never.
He will not fail me.
I’m weak, but my Lord is strong.
He watches over me all day long.
I walk with God, He takes my hand.
I talk to God, He understands,
Hears ev’ry word I say to Him,
And He knows what’s in my heart as I pray.
Lord, guide my steps and lead me on,
And I’ll never walk alone since I walk with God!
I walk with God from this day on!

Exhibit B. The original version:

I’ll walk with God from this day on;
His helping hand I’ll lean upon.
This is my prayer, my humble plea:
May the Lord be ever with me.
There is no death, though eyes grow dim.
There is no fear when I’m near to Him.
I’ll lean on Him forever,
And He’ll forsake me never.
He will not fail me as long as my faith is strong,
Whatever road I may walk along.
I’ll walk with God, I’ll take His hand.
I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand.
I’ll pray to Him, each day to Him,
And He’ll hear the words that I say.
His hand will guide my throne and rod,
And I’ll never walk alone while I walk with God!

To my feeble mind, Exhibit A is filled with all the positivity and lift-oneself-by-one's-own-bootstraps mentality for which Rev. Schuller and his old friend Norman Vincent Peale are famous. Exhibit B seems to show a much more humble approach. The worst change, in my opinion, is that “I walk with God, all day, all night. Why should I fear, when He’s on my side?” has replaced “There is no death though eyes grow dim. There is no fear when I’m near to Him.”

In the fifteenth chapter of a book called First Corinthians, a man named Paul wrote the following nearly two thousand years ago:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (First Corinthians 15:12-22)

So what I’m saying, or trying to say and doing so poorly, is this:

You can walk with God all day long, and know that He’s on your side, and know that you are weak and He is strong, and know that He knows what’s in your heart when you pray, and ask Him to guide your steps, and announce to the world that you walk with God from this day on, and if everything you say applies to this life only and you miss the part about there being no death (or, put another way, even though death -- humankind’s last enemy -- exists, it is swallowed up in the victory that Christ obtained for us when God raised him from the dead), you are of all men (or women) most miserable.

Exhibit A is filled with religion, arrogance, self-sufficiency, and pride. Exhibit B is filled with trust, humility, and hope.

A small difference in the lyrics, perhaps, but a significant one.

My rant is ended.

The really sad part is that someone must have thought the changes were an improvement.


  1. I would say that both "exhibits" are humble out the yin-yang.

  2. I agree with you - the "dumbing down" of the gospel(and the gospel songs) is a great disservice. The changes may seem at first glance to be minor, but they are actually pretty major in my opinion. The Bible is not for wimps; God is love, but He is also a lot more; and we need to depend on Him, not ask Him to defer to us. The FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!

  3. I haven't visited blogs for a long time. Wow! Yours looks much different than before, though you've probably had it this way awhile. Glad to see your 1943 photo still there.

    I never saw "The Student Prince", but in our pile of sheet music when I was growing up was "I'll Walk With God".

  4. Snow, not only would you, you did!

    Rosezilla, I especially like "we need to depend on Him, not ask Him to defer to us. The FEAR o the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"...Exactly.

    Jeanelle, I mean, JEANELLE!!! It's so good to hear from you again! I still have the sheet music for "I'll Walk With God." As for the change in my blog's appearance, I was experimenting with a "new" look one day and forgot to save the "old" template. I was never able to get it back. But I am happy with the new look.

  5. "Snow, not only would you, you did!"

    Rhymes, although Jesus made an occasional effort to appear humble (I say occasional because he was inconsistent in this regard), he was hardly on a par with writers who believe that God takes special satisfaction in hearing us praise him (God) extravagantly while at the same time denigrating ourselves just as extravagantly. As for which version of a particular hymn is true to the gospel, there are surely thousands of denominations, my point being that all of these people in all of these denominations read the same "gospel," without being able to agree with one another about what it says even in its minor parts--or even as to whether it contains minor parts.

    You will note, I trust, that since this is your blog, I not only capitalized the word God, I also cleaned up my language considerably. These things were such a strain to me that I very nearly suffered a hernia, but you're worth it.

    Oh, one final thought. Jesus spoke of his followers as his friends and as his brothers rather than as his subservients.

  6. growing up mario lansa was a favorite

  7. Snow, the only thing in your comment with which I disagree is the first part of the first sentence. I'm glad you didn't get a hernia.

    Putz, a favorite what?