There's A Bathroom On The Right

Have you ever noticed that people will sing along to a song and not really pay attention to the lyrics? Sometimes you are singing the words correctly but don’t realize that the subject of the song is just wrong.  It’s got a good beat and a catchy refrain that hooks us in. We don’t even realize what we are singing about. We kind of mindlessly sing along. Other times we are singing lyrics that we just think we are hearing and don’t stop to think that they don’t even make sense.  It doesn’t always occur to us that the lyrics that we are singing have to be wrong because they just don’t fit the song. Again, we just keep singing along.

There is a song that was sung by Creedence Clearwater Revival called Bad Moon Rising. There is a lyric in that song that goes don’t go round tonight. It’s bound to take your life. There’s a bad moon on the rise. You don’t know how many people that have mistaken “there’s a bad moon on the rise” as “there’s a bathroom on the right”…and they sing the song that way. Never mind that in a song about an apocalyptic event, it makes absolutely no sense to be telling people that there is a bathroom on the right. I see a bad moon arisin’…trouble on the way…earthquakes and lightin’…bad times…hurricanes…end is comin’ soon…rivers overflowin…voice of rage and ruin…Hope you are prepared to die…Don’t go round tonight…its bound to take your life…Oh, and by the way, be sure and stop at that bathroom on the right.  I am sure you are going to want to use the facilities what with the world ending and all. We just keep singing along. Not too sure what CCR meant by that line but it’s what I’m hearing, so that’s what I’m going to sing.  Maybe they are letting us know that the bathroom is a safe place to hide. But then we all know how hiding in the bathroom turned out for that guy on Jurassic Park. I’m pretty sure that the bathroom has little protection to offer in a catastrophe. Maybe they are saying that the bathroom on the right is the threat itself. Don’t go out tonight the bathrooms on the right have run amuck and are bound to take your life. Either way it still doesn’t fit with the song and it makes no sense. Why wouldn’t we at least check and see if those where really the right words?

Anyone that has read my blogs knows that I have a particular (peculiar?) affection for songs from the 60’s and 70’s. I do dig me some Creedence now and then. Up Around the Bend/Run Through the Jungle was one of my earliest acquisitions on a 45. I will have to admit, though, that there are a couple of their songs that I have mistaken some lyrics in. I have heard “howdy in the streets” instead of “out in the streets” and “you don’t need a pinhead” instead of “you don’t need a penny”, in the song Down on the Corner. I have heard “come on arise and win” for “come on the risin’ wind”; “there’s an import to what you say” instead of “there’s an ear for what you say”; and “where the neon points of wood” instead of “where the neons turn to woods” in the song Up Around the Bend. I don’t know what I thought all of that meant. I blame John Fogerty and the way he sings the words. He certainly has a voice that is unique and recognizable. I don’t know how he got what sounds a little like a Louisiana twang living in Berkley California, though. Sometimes you can blame the singer but not always. Hey, if I am going to write about the flaws of others, I guess I’d better admit my own. I have mangled a few song lyrics in my day, just like everybody else. It is not confined to CCR songs either. We won’t go down the list. Sooner or later, though, I figured out that those lyrics just couldn’t be right. So I looked them up to see what the real ones were. Funny thing, once you know the right lyrics those are the ones you hear from then on. You can’t imagine or believe that you ever thought the lyrics were the crazy ones you thought you heard and had been singing.  
Sometimes Catholics do something similar when it comes to the Church.  We sing along to a song that does not truly reflect the teachings of the Church. It does not reflect who we are supposed to be or what we are supposed to be about.  We sing along to a song that is wrong for us. Sometimes we sing the lyrics that we think we have heard even when they do not make sense. Sometimes we sing the song in a way that cannot be clearly understood by those who are listening to it.

The ways of this world can be a pretty persistent song. It’s what’s playing on the radio all of the time. Good beat, catchy lyrics with a hook. We often find ourselves singing along without realizing it. It gets into our heads. Next thing you know we start to think that way. We want the Church to change and think that way to.  We start to refer to the teachings of the Church as policies that we can change. We start to think that God changes with the world. We think that Jesus changes with the world. There is no constancy, there is no center only the current hit which will change again when the next hit comes along. We just sing along without realizing how wrong the song is for us. We need something to consistently tell us the truth so that we can come to the realization of how wrong that song.  We need something that doesn’t change who it is and what it is about, though it may change how it goes about it.  The truth is the truth, it doesn’t change…it just is. Nothing that we say, nothing that we try to change, in order to sing along with the world, will change what the truth really is. The Church is supposed to tell the truth, not just sing along with the current trend. With the Church to tell us the truth we can realize what these songs are truly about, so that we don’t automatically sing along with a song that is just wrong.

The song the Church sings is like an old standard. It has stood the test of time. It is relevant to every generation. It is as true today as it was yesterday and has been every day since it was first sung. The voice is unique and easily recognizable. You might set it to a different arrangement. You might sing it as a ballad or a rap. But the basic melody doesn’t change. It might not always be sung in the same way or in the same style. The lyrics, however, remain the same. What they are saying doesn’t change, only how they are saying it sometimes. It really has to be more about the lyric than about anything else. They need to be loud, strong and clear. If they are overwhelmed by the arrangement or style then the truth is not being heard clearly. If the voice, no matter how unique and recognizable, is not clear the lyrics will not be understood. And if it becomes about individual stardom and ambition, that just causes division and threatens to break up the band. Truth wrote the lyric, truth must drive the song.
The leadership of the Church has to keep its focus on the lyrics, on the truth. They may change some things so that the truth is more accessible to the people of the times. But it still has to tell the truth. How they tell the truth cannot become more important than the truth itself. Otherwise the truth gets overwhelmed and diminished by the desire to be more modern and current in the telling of it. It becomes diminished when our desire to attract people to the song becomes greater than the song itself. It then becomes indistinguishable from the other songs in the world. How are we supposed to know not to sing the wrong song when there doesn’t seem to be a difference between the two? The truth still has to shine through the sounds we are using. The truth has to be more important than the things we are doing to attract and to reach the current generation.  The bishops and the priests need to speak boldly, loudly, clearly in a unique and recognizable voice. They need to speak in harmony so that the truth is not lost, and that we are not dazed and confused by a discordant sound. If they are timid and mumble we will not hear them and we will be distracted by other songs. Because the other songs are not timid. They are in your face, they are persistent and they make sure that they get the radio play. The Church needs to be clear so that there is no doubt as to what the lyrics are and what the truth is.

The clergy must see their role in service to this truth. If their goal is the ambition of a cushy seat in the curia there will be division and discord. Because that is what ambition, the pursuit of power and the promotion of self brings. That may even be why Pope Francis is making the changes at the Vatican that he has. Maybe it is not about politics, about demotion and promotion, punishment and reward. Maybe he is just saying “Our goal is not to be the prelate of an organization in the Vatican.  We are in the service of the truth. We are supposed to sing the song loud, strong and with clarity. We can do that wherever we are and from any position. Wherever I send you in the name of the Church, in the name of Jesus, your job is always, first and foremost, to sing the song.
The Catholic laity is supposed to be taking this song out in the world. We are not supposed to be just humming it to ourselves. We can’t do that if we don’t know the lyrics. We can’t do that if we don’t understand the lyrics. We can’t do that if we are getting the lyrics wrong and they don’t make sense. It is the job of the Church to teach us and to lead us in the song. But we have a personal responsibility to the truth as well. It is our responsibility to listen, to learn and to try to understand. It is our responsibility to sing loud, strong and clear. It is our responsibility to sing in unison with the Church and with each other. It is up to us to avoid the discord of discontent and division. It is our responsibility to let the Church know when we can’t hear lyrics that are being drowned out or diminished by the techno. It is our responsibility to be informed by the right source. It is our responsibility to correct those who have gotten the lyrics wrong.  And if the lyrics don’t make sense it is our responsibility to find out why and correct ourselves when we need to. It is up to us to choose to sing the right lyrics when we know them rather than disobeying to sing the wrong ones because we prefer them.

When the lyrics don’t make sense we need to check them out. Maybe it is saying what we thought but we just don’t understand why it makes sense. Maybe the Church actually is telling us there is a bathroom on the right. Maybe they are letting us know that there is a place of safety when a bad moon rises. Maybe they are warning us. Maybe they are telling us to be careful. Maybe when we are running around in the dark we are about to run smack dab into the side of that bathroom on the right and, well, that’s going to hurt.  We can go to the Church and learn what they had in mind with that. We can read the catechism. We can read what the popes, the church fathers and the saints have said about it. We can pray that the Holy Spirit open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to understanding. We can study the scriptures. And having learned of it we can then explain it to others who are having trouble with that lyric. There are many truths within the Church that people have trouble understanding at first. There are mysteries as well that we will never come to a full knowledge of. That is when we do have to trust that the truth of Jesus Christ has been given to the Church and sometimes they do understand some things that we do not.
Most of the time, however, when the lyric does not make sense in relationship to the song it is because we somehow heard it wrong. It is possible that we got it mixed up with one of those songs from the world. We may have listened to the opinion of someone else, even someone with a teaching position in the Church. They got it wrong because they heard it wrong as well, they didn’t understand it or they couldn’t articulate it correctly. Sometimes we look in the wrong place and we find something that looks and sounds kind of like the Church but they are not telling you the right lyric. Through discontent or disobedience we may go looking for a substitute lyric. Or we think we have found something directly from heaven in a self-proclaimed seer or prophet. Sometimes we just think that we are smart enough on our own to come up with a lyric that is just as good. It is then that we need to know and understand that there is only one place that can give you the full and complete truth of Jesus Christ. That place is the one that he himself established, the Catholic Church. Though there may be other places that may have some truth, they will still be getting some of the lyrics wrong somewhere.

Once you have learned the truth it will never be far from you. The harder lyrics will begin to make sense. You will begin to recognize the ones that don’t. You will not be as susceptible to those hooks in the songs of the world. Even if you think you have left the song in the past it will come back to you when you hear it again. Just like when you are sitting there and an old song comes on the radio. You immediately remember the lyric and can sing along, even though you never could have sung it off the top of your head. The truth will never be far from you so that in times of darkness, chaos, confusion and even apocalypse when it is hard to hear the lyrics with your ears you will know that you know them and will be able to sing.

Whether we are singing the wrong song or we are singing the right song but the wrong lyric, it is just not the truth. Without the truth we can lose our way. Without the truth we might end up looking for that bathroom on the right that doesn’t even make sense and isn’t even there. When, in truth, there’s actually a bad moon on the rise. We might go out on a night that is bound to take our life. Our eternal life could depend on knowing the difference.


  1. This is SO GOOD. "The ways of this world can be a pretty persistent song. It’s what’s playing on the radio all of the time. Good beat, catchy lyrics with a hook. We often find ourselves singing along without realizing it. It gets into our heads. Next thing you know we start to think that way...." Oh, my, that is true. I just found this blog, and I'm very glad I did.

  2. Thank you Nancy, I'm glad you found it too. It's a quirky little blog but I am hoping that people get a little something out of it now and then.


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