DiM | “Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

October 13, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney which currently sits at #20 on the 20theCountdownMagazine’s top 20 chart.

Well… I hope that this song has popped onto the top 20 charts is a short-lived anomaly. There is nothing in this song that conveys a Christian message. No Law, No Gospel, just a few words and some imagery taken from Christianity.

Mat Kearney VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Air I Breath

Born and raised under the rain and a Western Wind
Felt the weight trying to live up to they say I am.
Is it any wonder Shame comes calling my first name
Is there any question if I’m the one here left to blame

It’s the same fight all over again
It’s the same bite breaking on my skin
It’s the same light when you let me in
You let me in you let me in.

You are the air I breathe
You are the song I bleed
You are the war that I can’t win
This is my white flag in the wind
Every word you speak
Is the air I breathe.

I feel like a contender
Bringing my fist to pistol war
I surrender that I need you now and you’ve loved me more
It’s like an ocean over my head and I’m under the light
In slow motion tonight

It’s the same fight all over again
It’s the same bite breaking on my skin
It’s the same light when you let me in
You let me in you let me in.

You are the air I breathe
You are the song I bleed
You are the war that I can’t win
This is my white flag in the wind
Every word you speak
Is the air I breathe.

I hear you calling my name out name out
Is there any other way now
I hear you calling my name out name out
I got nothing left to say now say now

You are the air I breathe
You are the song I bleed
You are the war that I can’t win
This is my white flag in the wind
Every word you speak
Is the air I breathe.

Discussion

Who is the target audience for this song? I have no idea. Not from the lyrics, nor from the video. None. Is there any reason to assume it is a song being sung to the Christian God of the Bible? Well… lets work through the song.

Verse 1. The singer felt the weight of trying to live up to they say I am. What does that sentence mean? If the use of “I am” at the end of the sentence is supposed to point to the LORD God who told Moses how to refer to Him?

Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV)

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

If this is what is intended, why slip in the “they say” piece? Are you accusing folks of misrepresenting God? The weight of living up to God’s Law is unbearable for sinful man. For those whose hope is in their own righteousness, there is no hope. All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of the Great I AM. That’s the Law. The Law crushes us, exposing our sin and killing us for it. If this is indeed the intended meaning of this line, we should expect a Christian song to then share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Call the crushed sinner to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin.

But, no… after rightly pointing out that our sinfulness rightly brings shame upon the sinner, the song then jumps to some odd reference about being left to blame. To blame? The unbeliever stands condemned by his unbelief. Guilty. In one sense, I could see it saying “as a sinful man, you have no one to blame but yourself”. That’s not the vibe I’m getting from this line. Let’s move on and see where it goes.

Pre Chorus. It’s the same fight all over again It’s the same bite breaking on my skin. There is a mention of a fight and a bite breaking on the skin. Is this the war against our flesh of sin? If so, without having mentioned the Gospel of Grace, this isn’t a war that the unbeliever fights. The unbeliever is dead in sins and trespasses. So the singer is a Christian? If so, then what’s with the crushing weight of trying to live up to God’s standard. There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We walk by faith according to the Spirit… when we sin, the Law convicts us of our sins, leading us to repentance. I hope the chorus clears this up.

It’s the same light when you let me in You let me in you let me in. Wait, who is letting whom into where? To whom is this singer singing? Is it to the “they say” who blame the singer for not living up to the I AM? Suffice it to say I’m a little baffled by Mat Kearney’s theology at this point.

Chorus. So, who is now the air that the singer breathes? The politically correct, benefit-of-the-doubt answer would be “God”. But so far, there is no compelling reason to substantiate that assertion. Watch the video… there is a general cloud motif with people faces where the backs of their heads are morphed into clouds or vegetation. Are we dealing with some sort of pantheism or panentheism? No clue… play this song on a secular radio station and that line could simply be the singer’s girlfriend. You are the song I bleed. Well, we have a blood reference, must be the blood of Christ, right? wait… no… somehow the singer is bleeding… a song. A song that is also the air that he breathes. You are the war that I can’t win This is my white flag in the wind. and a war that the singer can’t win, so he’s surrendering. wow. So, if the singer is singing to God, he’s finally “surrendering” as he breathes God in and bleeds the song of God while fighting a hopeless war against God. That is, if God is the referent.

Verse 2. I wanted to stop, but the thought from the chorus seems to carry over a bit into the second verse just before the rather wonky breakdown underwater.

I feel like a contender
Bringing my fist to pistol war
I surrender that I need you now and you’ve loved me more

I’m completely lost in whatever scenario Mat is trying to convey, much less where his theology rests. Does he really think he’s fighting against God? Sinning against God, yes… but that’s not us resisting God like a child who refuses to be hugged. That’s the wrong idea of sin. It’s the wrong understanding of surrender, too. It’s not like we are resisting being loved and forgiven and if only we’d just let go, God would be able to hug us and forgive us. That’s nonsense. But that seems to be the way in which Mat here is trying to depict Law and Gospel.

I’m not sure how to diagram the rest of the song… verse 2 has that odd breakdown and then we’re back to the pre chorus and some refrains… and I’m pretty much done with this song.

Other Notes

You may have noticed that at the end of the song lyrics, there are no citations for production, copyright, or writers. I normally pull the lyrics from KLove or Air1, but neither has any of the attributions for this song. The VEVO video, KLove, and Air1 all say that this song comes from his latest album “Just Kids”. Even Mat Kearney’s website has the VEVO video we are using. So, I thought I’d check out what information I could find on the CD sales page at Amazon. Found the album, but this song isn’t listed. The following comment explains why:

matkearney01

I looked for the Target.com version, still no bonus track. It seems to get a version of this album with this song on it, you have to order from Christianbook.com

Why do that? Unfortunately, I read through several bios of Mat Kearney, and listened to a few other songs on this album… He isn’t a Christian artist seeking to glorify God, he’s a musical artist seeking to earn a living appealing to both the secular and Christian markets. He only manages to nominally work in some “churchy” phrases here and there, but they don’t make sense in a Christian context, not when we try to discern his theology.

Conclusion

I’m disappointed that CCM would promote this song that only exists in special “christian” versions of his album. That’s terrible. As for this song, it doesn’t stand on its own. There is no redeeming this contorted mangle of thoughts set to a beat. In closing, let us look to the encouragement found in 2 Peter 3.

2 Peter 3 (ESV)

The Day of the Lord Will Come

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Final Words

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

2 thoughts on “DiM | “Air I Breathe” by Mat Kearney

  1. Sheesh! Let’s not over think it. Using “I am” is not exclusive to referencing God nor is it wrong to say something like “I am driving to work” or “I am taking the bus today”. These examples are not saying God is driving or taking the bus. When the singer says he “felt the weight of trying to live up to [who}they say I am. ” (lyric misprinted) it’s obvious he means that he was burdened by trying to appeal to people thus feeling shame in failing to do it. In the chorus he says God is the air he breathes and that he cannot win the “war” and surrenders to Him. As for “the same fight over and over again” How many times do Christians fall into this trap? It’s an ongoing fight that we constantly need to surrender before God. I “got” this song the first time I heard it and love it when I hear it at Wendys among the other pop songs.

    • These lyrics lack clarity. We reveiw songs marketed as “Christian” looking for sound doctrine in the lyric. This one was quite frustrating to review. You can pull phrases out and try to rescue them, but there isn’t a cohesive Gospel message in the song. It’s an emotional pick-me-up with spiritual overtones, but it doesn’t present the Gospel. It also misrepresents our struggle with sin and leans heavily on a “surrender” theme.

      Christians sin. The Christian life is one of repentance. Daily, hourly, continual repentance. The gift of the Gospel is forgiveness in Jesus’ Name.

      As for the trap you’re referring to, maybe its the traps of works-based righteousness? If that’s so, then the problem is synergistic theology. Sound doctrine is the best way to counter the pitfall of despair in trying to live up to what the world expects to see in us. Such a focus takes our eyes off of what Christ has done for us and fixes our eyes on ourselves. The song doesn’t provide a clear remedy, it engages in mystical (and nonsensiscal) imagery (calling God both his war and the air he breathes).

      Our problem isn’t a need for “surrender”, it’s a need for repentance and absolution.

      -Jorge

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