Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Giveaway: Butterflyfish, Great and Small

I've posted before on the wonderful children's band, Butterflyfish, headed up by Harvard theologian and all-around-nice-guy, Matthew Myer Boulton. The band now has a new album, Great and Small – and they've kindly offered a giveaway copy, so leave a comment to enter the draw.

I can't recommend this album highly enough, especially if you (a) have children in your house, (b) get migraines from the usual clatter of kids' music, (c) enjoy a bit of gospel-jazz-country music, and (d) think that children are actually smart enough to understand the Christian faith, not just pious banalities.

The new Butterflyfish songs (also blogged about here and here) are a jubilant celebration of music, life, forgiveness and grace. My favourite song, "You Be You", is a gorgeous, musically luxuriant duet about the joys of singing and making music – I dare you to try listening to it without grinning from ear to ear. 

The title track, "Great and Small", is based on the Hasidic saying that each of us should carry around two pieces of paper, one in each pocket. One piece of paper says "I am but dust and ashes": I read this when I'm feeling proud and self-important. But when I'm feeling worthless or ashamed, I read the other piece of paper, which says: "For me the world was created." The song reflects this humble-yet-proud duality of our relationship to God:

Deep down here inside my pocket there’s a little piece of paper
I take it out and read it when I’m feeling out of shaper
To keep my fears at bay,
It says you are great

Deep down in my other pocket there’s another piece of paper
I take it out and read it when I’m getting into shaper
When I’m walking tall, 
It says you are small

Dust to dust we shall return
The whole wide world was made for us to learn
That we are great and small
We are tiny and tall
Remember through it all
We are great and small

Another song, "The Gospel Story", serves up some serious theological reflection on the relation between our world and the coming kingdom of God:

I ain't goin' up to heaven in the sky
I ain't flyin' with the angels when I die
I ain't gonna rise up in the clear
Cause I do believe my dear
Heaven's comin' down here

That's the gospel story
That's the gospel plan
Kingdom of glory's right here at hand
So don't you worry, woman and man
That's the gospel story
That's the gospel plan

This is a fun and colourful song, but the theology is potent. Honestly folks, is there anything more disturbing than the way Christian books and music for kids cultivate a life-denying obsession with the afterlife? A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a young church-going kid. I asked what she wants to do when she grows up, and she replied right away: I want to die and go to heaven to be with Jesus. If the gospel teaches our children to be in love with death, is that really better than not hearing the gospel at all? Of course I'm not suggesting that the eschatological hope should be erased: but the point of eschatology is that it floods this world and this life with the light of hope. 

The other day my six-year-old daughter (who loves to draw) asked me about heaven. I gave her my own theories on the subject, and then she said: "I think heaven is where I won't make any mistakes in my drawing." I told her that I couldn't possibly improve on that definition.
Anyways, leave a comment if you'd like to be in the running for a free copy of this terrific new album, Great and Small.

Oh and in other musical news, last night I enjoyed a long and lively conversation – about ghosts, haunted houses, Karl Barth, Abraham Kuyper, fireplaces, pickled eggs, and special revelation – with Eric of the indie band Fielding. They have a new album, The Voice of Us, which I've been listening to lately. My favourite song is "Asher" – you can hear on their Myspace page. The album is available from iTunes, Rhapsody, or eMusic.


Dave Belcher said...


Five reasons why you should send the CD my way:

1. I am the first to comment, which is awesome;
2. I have two young children who love music;
3. My children are certainly not too dumb to learn about the Christian faith (they probably know the Lord's Prayer, and the Magnificat, and the Phos Hilaron, and lots of other prayers and canticles, way better than most folks);
4. I am a musician and someone doing work in liturgical theology;
5. Most importantly: I'm too broke to afford to buy this myself!

All in good jest, but of course I really would enjoy this. Peace!

Evan said...

We'd love the cd! We have a two-year-old daughter and a son due to arrive in late November.

Our daughter is not so theologically adept as Dave's kids, though. Her favorite biblical character is Goliath, which strikes me as worrisome. All the more reason to educate her with this cd!

Unknown said...

Our first child is imminent.

And we currently only have a cassette of Psalty the Singing Songbook.

This would go a long way in boosting our collection.

Jason said...

I, too, would love this cd! My wife and I have four kids (5 and under) who love to sing and listen to music, so this would be a great addition.

David Hoffer said...

My son loves the ladybug CD.

Here's to hoping the second one is as winsome.

Cordially in Christ,
David Hoffer
w_d_hoffer@ yahoo

jedidiah said...

Do not choose me because I am the greater than all these commenters. Set your affection on me because I am the least.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any kids. This music annoys me. Risk an impossible possibility and give it to me. Be a knight of faith starting today.
Regards, Dylan

Erin said...

Glad to see they're still putting music out. Teaching theology to children should have a much bigger role in church. Just these songs, getting to people before the concrete sets would make for a very different church experience. And fewer conversations about the rapture....

Anonymous said...

Entering the draw!

Beau said...

I would like to enter this drawing, please. Thanks!

Mike Crowl said...

I can't say anything greater than any of those who've gone before; my smallness in commentating abashes even me.

Henry said...

I would like to throw my hat into the ring! I know just who to give this CD to for Christmas.

Highanddry said...

Here's is two cents...

I don't know how theologically adept my four-year-old is. He thinks Jesus is going to put another baby in my wife's tummy and he has asked Jesus if it could be a girl please.

Go figure.

Jon Coutts said...

I have four young kids and I'd like to enter this draw. Knowledge of the very existence of such a CD is a refreshing thing in itself!

Craig said...

My kids are 20, 18, and 15, but I promise to save it for my grandchildren. But I will definitely listen to it first! Thanks for the recommendation.

byron smith said...

I bought the first album on the strength of your glowing review and loved it. We then bought the second one and our 10 month old loves it (and so do we). So don't send it our way because we already have it, but I add my appreciation for introducing us and my recommendation for this second album.

Tim said...

My wife got a maybe on a pregnancy test today (maybe our first child). Perhaps giving the CD to me will tip the test to a yes tomorrow.

Rachel said...

It seems a pity to compete with so many desperate people for a children's CD. Nevertheless, our regular 6-8 hour roadtrips between cities would be much richer for this music. Fortunately our car stereo can be faded to the back seats when the kids get really attached to a song...

Student said...

I have no children, and am an orphan myself. But all's well and I adore music! I would be honored to own and play this wonderful CD!

Lucidus said...

Thank you for this post - the music is joyful and the lyrics thoughtful. I think our children's minister at church needs to have this CD.

Paul Tyson said...

Thanks for giving us hope about ‘children’s music’ Ben. A friend of mine described Sunday school as theological child abuse, and I haven’t come across a better description yet (we don’t let our children near it). But it is worse than that. It seems that ‘Sunday school theology’ is really what most adults believe (alas, church isn’t much better for children) only stripped down and naked, in all its vile obscenity. I am very taken by these descriptions of “Great and small” and “The gospel story”. I read Ellul’s “Subversion of Christianity” recently and both of these songs align with Ellul’s critique of Christianism as an aberrant form of Greek philosophy. Ellul notes that Aristotelian logic (the law of non-contradiction in particular) is profoundly at odds with the deeply paradoxical understanding of reality embedded in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Paradox, crisis and freedom in basic reality belief, the always moreness of God in comparison to our reductive power-centric epistemic categories etc – this is rich and living in the Christian scriptures. Doctrine – as coherent intellectual premises of propositional belief – is never the essence of faith. Children get this big time, but Sunday school is typically designed to knock living faith out of them. And of course this ‘Platonic’ (not that Plato ever had such an idea) notion of Heaven as a ‘spiritual place’ that our sole goes to when we die… this is very foreign to the Hebraic mind. Bravo Butterflyfish!

kim fabricius said...

My wife often says to me, "You act like a two-year-old." If I win the CD, it will make both of our days.

Daniel Clark said...

My then four year old daughter once asked me "What happens after heaven..." must be the youngest NT Wright fan around

Anthony Douglas said...

My daughter has a bugcatcher and dreams of landing a butterfly for it one day. I think it's just large enough to fit a CD insde...

Thatjeffcarter said...

I have two children (9 and 11) who ask theological questions and make astute observations. My son objected to the Percy Jackson movie because they used the song "highway to hell" as the characters headeed for hades "Hades isn't hell" he shouted in the theater.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Molly would love this CD

Nate Kerr said...

This comment is unashamedly partisan, and is an unabashed attempt to stack the deck: If I win this, please send my copy of the CD to Dave Belcher. Right behind Zoe, his kids Sam and Sophia are in a close tie with Felicity, Anna Grace, and Jamie for the coolest kids ever.

Paul Tyson said...

That was shameless Nate, but apart from the fact that you forgot my kids, pretty close to true!

Dave Belcher said...

to Nate:


besideourselves said...

A) We have seven (yes 7) kids.

B) Worse than migraines; the usual kid's music clatter actually imperils my sanctification.

C) "Gospel-jazz-country" is the title of my favourite playlist. "Reggae", "Rock" and "Kid's Clatter" get their own categories respectively.

D) My children's theology is usually better than mine; I want the CD for ME!

E) I'm a theology student with seven kids; I don't believe in conspicuous Providence, I rely on it.

Otherwise, I vote for Dylan.


besideourselves said...


Paul: we hold much the same opinion about Sunday school (and never allow our own kids near it) but seldom raise a hue and a cry because;

A) Sunday school theology is seldom worse than that of the pulpit.

B) Sunday School theology is seldom worse than that of the parents.

It's nice to see that Harvard Divinity School has stepped into the breach ; )

Tony Hunt said...

As the father of two beautiful daughters, I'd like to put myself in for it. As for why...? I'm stuck in an American mainline denomination.

Pamela said...

I teach scripture to kindergarten students (five and six years of age) and we would love this cd. I have some fine dancers in my class, and better than average singers. PLEASE.

Terry Wright said...

Isaac (aged 2) loves music, and he especially loves Lady Gaga. He needs something less, well, exposed to focus on.

John H said...

For me the world was created. That includes that CD. You know what to do. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I should win the CD as the originator of the gentle, pastoral rendering of the parable of the lost sheep in a cover of Rage Against The Machine's "Killing in the Name" (chorus: "Stuck ewe she won't do what you tell her" repeat 94 times, crescend).

If I win I promise to record it with a leading Canadian worship leader and post it on my blog.

Ali said...

Well I have a three-year-old niece who drives her parents mad singing, very loudly, all day long, so I am sure they might all appreciate it!

Stacy said...

Please save us all from another round of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

Peter Lockhart said...

Hey Ben, why not give it to someone who may benefit from the message not the already converted who can afford it? Surely you know a Zacchaeus (cf Halik) who would celebrate with you as you take around to share a meal and music at their place. Or do we only live in a ghetto of theological elitism and hoard the good news whilst looking down on others in their 'little' or no faith?

Paul Tyson said...

Hi Peter, what makes you think 'we' theological elitists have faith???? I'm praying that my kids will convert me one day before we convert them.

Unknown said...

Hope I get picked! This sounds like something my 18 month old would love! Thanks for the review.

Student said...

Forgot to mention I teach Sunday School to fifth and sixth grade. I could really use this music in the class!

Ordinandy said...

I'd love to win it, as I'm blessed with children (1, 2 and 5 - going on 18) who get "migraines from the usual clatter of kids' music" (thankfully), and love a good theological debate with daddy.

kgagne said...

Yes, but can you dance to it?

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