Monday, December 14, 2015

What The World Needs Now Is Love. Corny? Yes. True? Absolutely!

Corny (adjective) 1. old-fashioned, trite, or lacking in subtlety  2. mawkishly sentimental
--Random House Dictionary

When someone is about to say or write something corny, they usually begin: “I know this sounds corny, but….” So as a warning to readers this week: I know this sounds corny, but…here’s what I think we all need to remember in these days of terror and fear, demagoguery and cultural conflict.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. No, not just for some, but for everyone.” I didn’t coin that familiar phrase. The songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David actually penned that sentiment fifty years ago and their song, “What the World Needs Now Is Love”, sung by Jackie DeShannon, made it to number 7 on the Billboard Top 40.  These days about the only place you can hear it is on elevators or as background music at Wal-Mart.   

The song’s oh so obvious message was corny then, is corny now. I actually rediscovered the tune a few weeks back when I purchased a three CD collection of Bacharach’s greatest hits at my local church fair for $3. Such a deal! It features even more corny music: “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B.J. Thomas, and what may be the corniest love song of all time, “Close to You”, by the Carpenters.  And yes those songs might just be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry.

Back to “What the Word Needs Now Is Love”. In the days after Paris, I just couldn’t stop playing the song in my car, singing along to it while stuck in traffic. Then when San Bernardino happened I played it even more. Finally after one Presidential candidate declared last week that all Muslims should be barred from entering the United States, a whole class of people condemned, compassion be damned: well, I just had to cue up the song again. 

Yes, it is so corny, this obvious and clichéd ideal: that what the world really needs now, more than anything else, is love, sweet love.  For everyone. Yes, it’s cheesy, simplistic in its declaration about the lack of human love on our planet. DeShannon sang it against a backdrop of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and on the cusp of what was a violent time for America. John F. Kennedy had been gunned down just two years earlier. Three years later Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy would be also murdered by gunmen. Cities would erupt in riots and flame. It felt as if the whole world was imploding in a morass of hatred and fear. 

Strange days then. Strange days now. So maybe what the world needs still needs now, is love, sweet love.  Maybe love is the only thing that there’s just too little of.

I don’t think we need more guns. On the Friday a week after Paris, Americans applied for 185,345 background checks, all so they could purchase a gun.  That’s a one day record.  What the world needs now…is even more guns? I don’t think we really need any more suspicion and fear against Muslims or folks who even look like Muslims.  There’s plenty of that to go around.  Ask the worshippers at two California mosques that were firebombed last week.  What the world needs now is…bigotry and bias?

Call me corny, but as a person of faith I still actually believe that what the world needs now is love. Sweet love. More love. God’s love. Courageous love. Generous love.  Peaceful love. Welcoming love. Neighborly love. Heck, even love for the stranger, the one who wanders the earth looking for a safe place to call home. 

I know that sentiment won’t be tough enough for some folks in our world who are instead sure that what we really need to do now is lock and load and take aim at the enemy. I know my clichéd hope for peace on earth and goodwill to all people is old fashioned, the stuff of idealistic dreams, not very realistic I suppose, in a world of wars and rumors of war, of calls for retaliation by our fearful leaders and citizens.

But I’m not yet ready to give up on the world.  And I’m not yet ready to give up on love.  So cue up the CD.  Turn up the volume. And just keep on singing. “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

Corny? Yes. True? Absolutely.


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