But first, I should say that I have some personal history with this song. A band I was in tried to make a Christian/Gospel song out of this. It seemed an obvious choice, since being a "believer" is what the Faith is all about. As a Calvinist, I thought the line,
"Ooh ... I'm a believer; I couldn't leave Him if I tried"
was a clever way of saying that our election in Christ is beyond us, and that nothing (not even we ourselves) can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
What I did not realize until later was that it obliterated the internal rhyme of "believer" with "leave her", stripping the chorus of its verbal "hook."
But tonight, I heard the Monkees sing the song in its original (not my modified) form, and it struck me as horrific. It appeared to me (finally, after all those decades) as idolatrous. Idolatrous, because the singer has placed the sort of hope in a girlfriend that properly should be placed only in God. Such a hope that love itself meant nothing until he "saw her face."
That is a lot of pressure to put on a young woman. What if, one day, her face is not quite as lovely? Does one at that point revert back to not believing in love? Idols (whether human, animal, or inanimate) will ALWAYS let us down eventually. My thought is that the sooner we are let down, the better. The sooner our illusions that some other human (or object) can stand in for God is dashed, the better.
But do you know the line which horrified me most in this song? It was this:
"I'm a believer; I couldn't leave her if I tried."
What a terrifying thought, that one could be so enslaved by another being that even if it seemed best, and try as one might, one would be unable to leave that other person. Even, I presume, if that other person's toxic nature became apparent to one. You'd still be stuck. You could never leave.
Idolatry is hard to quit, even when the idols disappoint us. I think it would make a fine Old Testament drinking game to read through the books of Kings and Chronicles, and to take a shot every time it is recorded that, "Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away."
May God deliver us from the horror of idols, the failure of idols, and the terrible inability to leave them!