“I Can Be A Christian By Myself”

“Shut the door and I’m the people.”

christian churchIn the liturgy for the first Sunday in October, the New Testament scripture was  Ephesians 4:11-16. It begins, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers.” And immediately, I thought of the song I Can Be A Christian By Myself.

There are lots of scripture that suggests that the church is comprised of parts. 1 Corinthians 12 is possibly the most famous. “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.”

I Can Be A Christian By Myself was a sarcastic take about this understanding. Someone told me about the song maybe 35 years ago. This led me to a search. I couldn’t find a recording on YouTube. But I did discover this article from 2010.

“[Richard] Avery and [Donald] Marsh have an ironic song called I Can Be a Christian By Myself. The first verse goes:”

I can be a Christian by myself.
Leave my dusty Bible on the shelf.
I’ll sing a hymn and pray a bit.
God can do the rest of it.
My heart’s the church, my head’s the steeple.
Shut the door and I’m the people.
I can be a Christian by myself.

Wait there’s more!

I’ll break some bread and drink some wine.
Have myself a holy time.

I’ll take the off’ring then I’ll know
Where that money’s gonna go.

So please remember, Lord, when I die,
Give me my own cloud in the sky.

After this life with its labors
Don’t bug me with needy neighbors.

I discovered the song appears in  The Richard Avery and Donald Marsh Songbook, c. 1972. But instead of waiting to get an interlibrary loan page, I ordered a used copy of the collection.

This article quotes the exact same parts of the song. It then notes, “In John 17, Jesus prays about giving his love and glory to his disciples and to the community or church. It is not a prayer for the individual Christian but for the community.”

This has informed my understanding of the communal/communion/community sense of faith, as opposed to the individual sense of salvation.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on ““I Can Be A Christian By Myself””

  1. “Do you WANT heresies? ‘Cos this is how you GET heresies!”

    I’d argue some of the current crisis in American Christianity can be attributed to our extreme individuality, to the loss of the sense of community where people might not like compromising, but were willing to, because they understood that was how people worked together. Now a lot of people, if they don’t get their way, they’ll just leave a congregation they might have belonged to for 30 years…

    I’m also reminded of the old joke about the guy rescued from a deserted island; the rescuers saw three huts built there. They asked him, why three? And he responded: well, one is my house, one is my church, and one is the church I USED to go to…

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