“Back to God”
Written by Dallas Davidson and Randy Houser
Have you ever heard the story of the Drowning Man?
Variations of it exist in most denominations of Christianity. Perhaps in other religions, too. Here’s an example of it:
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.
Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”
The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”
To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
“Back to God” is the musical equivalent of the story above: prayer divorced from action. According to this song, the whole world will be saved – and your broken heart, too! – if you just get down on your knees and pray to God.
Oddly, the song is dismissive of “making a wish” in the second verse, despite it being built around the idea that God is essentially a genie waiting around for us to ask him to do stuff for us. It’s reflective of the recent trend after a tragedy, where our legislators and leaders rush to the microphones to let us know they’re praying for the lives lost and that a similar tragedy doesn’t happen again, as if they don’t have the power to do anything, despite being the ones who were elected to do something. Like God didn’t give us free will, and he’s making all of our decisions on our behalf. You know, if we pray.
Dr. King once said that, “Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.” Reba sings “Back to God” beautifully, and her heart is truly in it. But at its core, the song advocates cowardice, not courage. God will give us the strength and fortitude to make this world a better place, but we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and get to work for it to happen. Those who do so? They’ll be the answer to the world’s prayers, as God works through them.