I don’t care if “I’ll Fly Away”

Perhaps it is the case that I theologize more than average.  I would, however, take issue with someone suggesting I theologize too much. This thought came into my head the other day, and I’d like to share it with you all.  I would be happy to receive your responses.

Like many other songs that Christians sing, “I’ll fly away” is one that raises serious concerns for me theologically.  I summarize it this way: “I hope and pray this miserable, pathetic, hopeless life ends soon so I can go to heaven where everything will be great!”

I believe this is a very un-Biblical way to see the world. We who follow Jesus are called to be a part of God’s welcoming the Kingdom of God into this world, during our lifetimes. We are invited to experience the goodness of God’s presence now, not just later.

Yet, the tune is really catchy and nostalgic.  I don’t want to sing this song because I don’t like the message. And I want to sing it because I enjoy the tune, the harmony, the memories it evokes, etc.

How closely do you analyze the messages of songs you sing?  Do you pay closer attention to the lyrics you sing in church than those you sing along with in the car or shower?

I really don’t care if “I’ll fly away.” I do care what you think.


12 thoughts on “I don’t care if “I’ll Fly Away”

  1. Seems to me that the message is very similar to what Paul is saying in Phil 1:21, so I don’t think it’s a bad or un-Biblical message.

    At the same time, I don’t think that v. 21 is the central point of Phil 1, much less of the full letter or certainly of Scripture. I think Paul might be a bit dismayed that we have made a whole song from that mindset.

    • I almost cited Phil 1:21. It seemed different to me than the way I interpret this song. This song seems to me to say something closer to “living in Christ is barely worth it, but when I die everything will be great.” Paul, on the other hand, as I read it, is really quite okay with this life WHILE looking forward to the next.

  2. Steve, I love the insight here. I am increasingly becoming aware of the “heaven on earth” idea of the “Kingdom of God”. We are doing the Preposterous study on Wednesday nights with our youth and that’s a theme throughout the Sermon on the Mount (if it really was one sermon). The thing I try to remember about this song is it was written in 1929 during the Great Depression. It was written during one of the most difficult financial eras in modern history (for Americans anyway). So the thought of brighter days was a tremendous hope to families that were seriously struggling financially. Likewise, it can still bring a hope of things to come for people who are currently going through difficulty. I don’t think the message negates the idea of the Kingdom of God being present on earth. I think it simply focuses on a different aspect of the Christian life, one that has maybe been overemphasized too much by the church universal. Good thoughts.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Jason. I have relented in my strong opposition to singing this song, and your additional perspective helps me feel better about having done so.

  3. I don’t care if I fly away either, and am committed to the work of the Kingdom of God here on earth. I can see the way in which that particular hymn could be comforting to many who had no control of their life experiences. But that’s not most of us these days.

    I am always paying attention to the words to the music in my life. I think music is a powerful teacher. And I am often frustrated that pastors and church music directors don’t think about the words to the hymns they choose and what theological teaching each conveys. Music can very much inform our theology which then informs our life.

    In the words of Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, “You can grow what you want, but one day it’s gonna rise up. So plant what you need to make a better stand.” This lyric has stuck in my brain and often acts as a guide in my work.

      • I think that lyrics stay with us and guide us much more than we realize! If learning the periodic tables in a song is an effective way to remember all the elements, then why wouldn’t the same be true for theology?

  4. I completely agree with you. This post resonates with me as I have found myself more and more in general thinking about things theologically. I have especially found myself doing it in contemporary worship in regards to the songs that are sung.

  5. Some of those songs were written at a time where life wad oppressive. They may have helpes through the rough times. That may feel true to some now, but I agree that it isnt really in line with our model. I too have think a lot about lyrics. But there were songs as a youth that I didn’t think about. “Like a Virgin” comes to mind.

    • I pay close attention to lyrics, both in spiritual and secular songs. God can speak through both. I was listening to a Classic Rock station while driving one day. I’d stopped at a red light and looked up to see the most beautiful sunset I’d ever seen. I was just admiring God’s handiwork when the radio blasted the words, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” I know that’s not what that song is about, but it spoke to me and gave me both an appreciation for this world’s Creation and a greater desire to see what’s coming in the next one. I do look forward to heaven. Certainly I enjoy life on this earth, and believe I need to do a lot more to help other people enjoy life on this earth. But ultimately, it’s about what’s to come, isn’t it? Jesus said He would go to prepare a place for us. I really want to see what He has up His sleeve.
      And Steve, I love that you theologize a lot. It helps me exercise both my mental and spiritual muscles 🙂

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