The Case for Retiring “Home Where I Belong”

“They say Heaven’s pretty / Well, living here is, too.”

Living here is not.

I saw a man in his 50s driving an old white car on Thanksgiving weekend—by himself. His license plate bore the familiar Komen logo and the words “Driving for a Cure.”

I saw some of the sweetest little children I have ever known get scarred for life when their parents chose to go separate ways.

I saw a family welcome a little baby girl into the world, only to watch her unexpectedly stop breathing a few hours later. There was nothing the doctors could do.

You have undoubtedly seen as many hearts break as I have—perhaps more.

The song was written by Pat Terry at the peak of the youthful idealism of the Jesus Movement. After B.J. Thomas picked it up and popularized it, any number of artists across Christian genres have cut it. But the lyric’s idealism is ill-considered, and frankly, too inaccurate to overlook.

Though there are occasional glimpses back to the Edenic beauties, and sometimes even foretastes of the glory to come, this earth is far too fallen to say that living here is pretty or beautiful. It is time for “Home Where I Belong” to be retired.

Note: I’m happy to engage in debates over the views I express in most posts. This is an exception, so comments are closed.


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39 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. Agreed. “Too” does put them on equal planes.

    If the song had said “living here is somewhat,” or a more poetic equivalent, then I’d totally be fine with it.

    • Right. I realized immediately that you weren’t saying that God’s creation wasn’t beautiful, or that he didn’t bless us with some beautiful things. But the overall Christian experience in this world is one of unavoidable heartache, especially when compared to heaven. And comparing to heaven is exactly what the lyric in question is doing.

    • Take it in context. You’re almost ignoring the next two lines and the rest of the lyrics. “Living here is, too” is an afterthought. If the songwriter had spent the entire song favorably comparing life on earth to Heaven, I’d be more inclined to agree with you. But he doesn’t.

      Imagine you went to a concert with a top professional quartet and a local group. Afterwards, you’re discussing the concert with friends. Everybody raves about how high the professional tenor went, how low the professional bass went, how smooth the baritone was, how powerful the lead sang, and how splendidly the pianist played. Everybody talks about the pro groups’ arrangements, song selection, and stage presence. This goes on for thirty minutes.

      Then you notice that one of the singers from the local group is there, listening to the conversation.

      “The local group was good, too,” you quickly add.

      That’s how I see the “Living here is, too” line. I see your point, but I don’t think we need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  2. Actually Brian, I think that the deliberate placing of heaven and earth on equal planes is meant to be an expression of an incorrect and erroneous viewpoint, as a set-up for the rest of the song. To say, vaguely, that heaven is “pretty” is exactly that, vague. As many people have eloquently pointed out here, living here can also be “pretty.” Streets of gold, harps, and a tree of life don’t seem like much to get excited about when we can point out corresponding beauties in our own world.

    The song is meant to move beyond that, to say, “Actually, heaven isn’t just ‘pretty.’ We are homesick here, and we long for heaven for a reason. Earth is not our home, but heaven is.”

    And that is what we ache for and yearn for. We don’t ache and yearn for streets of gold and puffy white clouds. We ache and yearn to be made complete in Christ, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him. That, I think, is what the song is trying to say, and I think that the first couplet is designed to introduce that theme by presenting the shallow view so as to show what it means to go deeper.

    • New SoGo Fan, I agree. The lyric starts out “They say …” pointing you to a viewpoint.

    • I would agree with that NSF!

      “They say” – points to a superficial, hearsay view of heaven, as “pretty” confirms. Nowhere in scripture is heaven described in such a way.

      So,superficially we may say “…here is too”. And it can be, as has been described.

      But, as SGF well says, “our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him”.

      Daniel, I can see your point of view, but I think we should see the lyric as pointing up hope, not despair.

      • If I were to compare heaven to earth, I could describe the beauty of earth. If I were to describe Heaven…”error”. Database cannot find words to describe Heaven. Case closed. Heaven and earth are not on equal planes. Even the Bible says that “eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard the glory of what God has in store for his children”. (KJV. If there’s any errors, feel free to tell me. That was just off the top of my head, and I might have mixed up a couple archaic pronouncs and left out or put in a couple adverbs.)

      • Indeed they are not Samuel! Which is the song’s point exactly. “They say that heaven’s pretty” is a colloquial, shallow way of referring to heaven, reducing heaven to the point where we could say earth is just as good. The point is to get beyond that.

  3. The drive-home lyric and underlying theme of the song still is that earth is not where we belong. Heaven is home for us. It’s a song written by a human being. Interestingly enough, I believe that many of the fans who protest a human lyric like this are the same kind of fans who stand for legalistic lyrics that are still false theologies.

  4. Let me better clarify my statement…it is a song written by a human being from a human’s perspective. I’m sure the writer is not necessarily ranking earth to heaven in that lyric. I never read into it that way. At the same time, I know I have a different mindset from most.

  5. This lyric is good in this fact…there is beauty in reality, much pain and sin, yes, but so many wonderful things. And to only think of the bliss of heaven everytime we go through pain and suffering is ridiculous. God obviously allows pain and suffering because there is joy in it. “You will be persecuted if you follow me”. Take it in, soak it up. The ultimate goal of a believer should NEVER be Heaven. I think if Southern Gospel writers wrote like this, artists’ ministries would be even more magnified. I may actually write one now entitled, “Heaven Ain’t The Sole Reason”. That would flip some heads. Probably wouldn’t get cut though. I know people won’t agree with me, but good post Daniel!

    • I think I understand what you’re trying to express, but I think I could word it better.

      When this song (and in fact many other songs) talk about “Heaven,” they aren’t referring simply to “the bliss of Heaven.” That would be a shallow way to think. The ultimate goal of a believer is the beatific vision. But I think that’s exactly what the song is saying: The reason why heaven is our home is that we find our home wherever God is. The pleasures and bliss of heaven are the wonderful things that proceed from that, but our ultimate desire should be to look God in the face.

      If I read you right, that’s what you’re trying to say, but I wouldn’t then apply that remark to say that all songs about heaven are shallow, because many of them are agreeing with you. 🙂

  6. however the Lord leads. Be sensitive to the Spirit!

  7. Now, I disagreed with closing the comments (not your right to do so), but surely you must realize, Daniel, that none of us makes the right decision every time, that some things are subjective and a matter of opinion, and that no matter which way you go you will NEVER please everyone all of the time. Christ was perfect and did everything right and HE didn’t please everyone. Yet for some reason we (I include myself) try to and don’t like it when we don’t. Don’t let it get you down. Such is life.

    • Yes, and Daniel didn’t actually have the comments closed from the very beginning. They were open for a short time, and for whatever reason he subsequently chose to close them. I will also say that although I have my differences with Daniel on the topic at hand, we shouldn’t question his “right” to do what he does with the blog. It’s his property, after all.

    • In case the way I phrased it leaves any question, I too meant he has the right to close them whether I agree or not. I should have probably worded it (not with your right to do so). 😀

    • It’s not my right to decide whether to have comments open or closed on my site? Interesting assertion.

      Thanks, though, for the encouragement at the end! 🙂

      • No problem. My wording was bad. I am glad you did so I could correct it (just not quite quick enough as they already started typing replies. 😀 )

      • By the way, Daniel, you have no right on how to spend your money. That is our right too. 😉 😉

  8. I like that Terry. 🙂

    They say that Einstein’s brainy
    And Daniel Mount is too
    But if they said that I would have to choose between the two…

    (All in light fun Daniel, worry not. 😉 )

    • LOL
      [Your comment was a bit too short. Please go back and try again.]

    • Einstein didn’t know a thing about Southern Gospel, though.

  9. Honestly, I can see both sides of this. However, to me, I appreciate the song for it’s transparency and simplicity.

    Most people are focusing on the first line of the song:
    “They say Heaven’s pretty, and living here is too.” While I can understand how one might look at that as a comparison statement, I feel the words “they say” preclude a general statement about what OTHERS have said.

    The writer corrects that statement, in my opinion, by going on to the

    “But if they said that I would have to choose between the two, I’d go home. I’m headed home where I belong.”

    I agree that there is beauty in this world, but none of it will compare in the slightest to the beauty and glory awaiting us in Heaven.

    But from a song standpoint, I love the song and could listen to Mark Lowry sing it forever. His delivery of it is very sincere and profound to me.

    In my opinion, the song poses a very accurate view of this world. There are a lot of things that are “pretty” here. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t have a desire to fall into the things of this world. Ask non-Christians, they would tell you great things about the world. And Christians alike. But it’s the Christians who know that with all of the good and bad this world brings, we have the promise of a place that is beautiful beyond anything our minds can fathom!

    • On a side note – Thank you, Daniel, for being willing to put yourself and your opinions out there knowing you will encounter extreme opposition. While I completely understand your reasons for initially closing the comments, I think it speaks more highly of your character that you chose to open them and be strong and honest enough to stand your ground while allowing others to voice contrasting opinions. I have a great deal of respect for you.

  10. It’s interesting to see that this particular lyric set off a theological hot button for you as a listener.

    I’m a little surprised that this older song is a *current* sticking point for you, since many newer SG songs are careless in explaining theology, presenting substantive truth, and using the right approach to reach the intended audience. However, I support any effort to stay solid — and this IS a sloppy song in many ways. (The hook and the melody are the strongest parts of the song.)

    Your desire to avoid discussion on this also proves that music is very personal. I imagine you have a memory attached to this song that is unpleasant; otherwise, you would be more analytical about it.

    Maybe the next post can be an open discussion of OTHER songs that have sloppy lyrical theology!

  11. Heres another angle on this discussion that we’ve used recently: Where would you place the periods?

    Here is the verse after I’ve removed all punctuation:

    They say that heavens pretty and living here is too but if they said that I would have to choose between the two I’d go home going home where I belong

    Now, I think this is how most people are separating thoughts:

    They say that heavens pretty and living here is too / but if they said that I would have to choose between the two / I’d go home / going home where I belong

    While I certainly understand that, and it makes perfect sense, what if we try something else:

    They say that heavens pretty and / living here is too / but if they said that I would have to choose / between the two I’d go home / going home where I belong

    Does that change anything?

    • I don’t really know, except that there’s been some discussion over whether “living here is too” is being attributed to what “they say” or to something the author is saying.

      I would sort it out thus:

      They say that heaven’s pretty. And living here is too. But if they said that I would have to choose between the two, I’d go home, going home where I belong.

  12. The scripture pertaining to “swallowing a camel, and straining at a gnat” comes to mind in this discussion.

    • I think that’s what most of us are trying to say Don. 🙂

  13. One last thought: Maybe “living here is, too”, not because of the condition of the world, but because the writer has committed to “serve Him gladly and sing Him all these songs”.

  14. So, it should be changed now.

  15. I marvel at how often the Christian community gets caught up in taking a definitive stand against things (songs) that have no eternal relevance and don’t affect our daily living for Christ in any way. Choose your battles man!

    • Separate from the question of the pertinency of this particular discussion, let me address your underlying assertion: It is vitally important that Christians have a sound theology, and have the discussions (and, as necessary and as the case may be, debates) to ensure we are standing upon a firm foundation.

      In this life, having a sound theology is second only to having accepted Jesus as our Savior – after we have made that life and death decision, whether our theology is solid and accurate will define and determine the course of the rest of our life.

      • If we are looking to develop “theology that is sound and accurate” because it will “determine the course of the rest of our lives”, we probably shouldn’t be looking to a gospel song that is decades old for our foundation.

      • I don’t think that either I or a number of the people who have disagreed with you about this particular song could be reasonably accused of having unsound theology. (Not that you are doing so, I’m just making it clear that what you’re saying isn’t really relevant here.)

      • …but that’s because I was replying to a comment that wasn’t really relevant.

      • Well, I think the comment was saying that you should choose your battles, and this topic isn’t important. In this particular case, I would actually agree with him, although there obviously are songs that really do have bad theology and really do need to be opposed. I don’t think he would disagree with you on that general point—that some songs need a vigorous rebuff.

  16. WOW. Just WOW. Ya’ll are making a mountain out of a molehill. Do you not care – or realize – how silly this makes you all look to the ‘world’? Wouldn’t your time be better spent in sharing The GOOD News of The Gospel of Christ with folks that are Hell Bound? No wonder it’s so hard to get folks to listen to SG music, and come to churches that still sing it. Why not re-direct your magnifying glasses toward Jesus, and let the world see what a great Savior we have. They need Him, and need to let Him change their lives. By the way, Living Here IS Pretty… Just not as much as HEAVEN is… That’s why we want to go there.

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