The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Value of Old Sunday-School Songs?

Something in another thread reminded me of some old Sunday School Songs.
Looking back now, I have considerable doubts as to their merits.
Can you remember any old SS songs and do you think they had/have a positive effect or otherwise?

I’ll start the ball rolling:

"Be careful little eyes what you see
Be careful little eyes what you see
There’s a Father up above
Looking down on you in Love
So be careful little eyes what you see

Be careful little ears…

Be careful little hands…

Be careful little feet…"

What message do you think this portrays to young children about our heavenly Father?
What does it say about His relationship with us?

Any thoughts most welcome.

No-one else worries about what a song like this instils into young minds?

How about:

"Mr Noah built an ark
The people thought it was a lark
Mr Noah pleaded so
But into the ark they would not go
Down came the rain in torrents…

And only eight were saved".


Either no-one else sees a problem or no-one else is interested. That in itself is informative and thanks to those 21 people who took a look.

Sorry I try to read every post, but it’s been a bit hectic with the Rob Bell storm.

I’m honestly struggling to remember any Sunday-School Songs :neutral_face:

Oh, I have one :smiley:

Maybe we sung this too often and that’s why I turned out to be a universalist :wink:

Everything else popping into my head are Christmas carols :unamused:

Only a boy called David
Only a babbling brook
Only a boy called David
Five little stones he took
One little stone went in the sling
And the sling went round and round
One little stone went in the sling
And the sling went round and round

Round and round and round and round
And round and round and round

One little stone went in the sling
And the giant came tumbling down

Wounded for me wounded for me
There on the cross he was wounded for me
Gone my transgressions and now I am free
All because Jesus was wounded for me

Deep and wide deep and wide
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide (halleluia)
Deep and wide deep and wide there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide

Great and small great and small
Jesus died for sinners great and small (halleluia)
Great and small great and small
Jesus died for sinners great and small

Listen to my tale of Jonah and the whale
Way down in the middle of the ocean
What did he do there?
Whatever did he wear?
Way down in the middle of the ocean
Preaching he should be
At Ninevah you see
he disobeyed (a very foolish notion)
But God forgave his sin
Salvation entered in
Way down in the middle of the…
Way down in the middle of the…
Way down in the middle of the ocean

How greatly Jesus must have loved me
How greatly Jesus must have loved me
To bear my sin
To bear my sin
In his body on the tree

And many many more… :smiley:

Hi Alex. Thanks for the reply. I have to say, the ‘Rob Bell’ issue is great news. I have already spoken to a couple of church leaders who I work with and asked them if they rate JB and if they trust his outlook. “Oh yes” they said. “Really sound!” (bells usually are). I’ll wait to hear what they think in the coming months :wink:

As for your songs. I love the first one but the second one touches on the problem- ‘little ones belong to Him’ surely implies that older ones dont. ie baby universalism?

The first song I posted seems to portray (to me) a Big Brother figure who is watching constantly waiting for any misdemeanor.
I just think that many of the songs have an underlying threat and may be fear - based.

God bless

Hi Jeff

I like your SS songs although I wonder what young minds make of killing, and fountains of blood (implied not mentioned).

I suppose I now view many bible themes as extremely adult.

Do you think all your SS experiences were positive?

When I now think of my second posted song “Mr Noah…” I wonder how mass genocide or ‘cosmicide’ can have been treated so casually.

Reading the story of Noah to my 3 year old, it struck me how awkward it was explaining what happened to everyone who wasn’t on the ark :neutral_face:

Also “Jesus love me” is a bit too “me” centered for my liking.

The song that was most problematic for me went, “Rub a dub, dub, 3 men in a tub.” :laughing:

Ok, I was being really silly and I really do think, Pilgrim, you are asking an important question. I also have difficulty with certain songs and even points of certain stories that are taught to my children in SS, but I’m sure the people teaching them think they are unavoidable truths, that must be taught. They believe in the ideas expressed and the picture of God it gives. I don’t, but that’s because I’m an evangelical universalist. Unfortunately, I’m in the minority. But not forever!

Hi Pilgrim,

My most formative years were spent attending a Plymouth Brethren assembly here in the UK. My great grandfather switched from being a Welsh Baptist after attending a week of special meetings at a small Brethren meeting hall on the top of the mountain where he lived. My whole family (on my mother’s side) were converted and as a consequence these blood soaked choruses and stories were hammered into me with the double intensity of both friends and family.

The Brethren (as you may already know) are a King James Bible toting hell-fire and damnation sect. Every week for Sunday school I had to learn by heart a different set of bible verses (most of which are still burned into my memory). Despite many songs about the love of God I was always disturbed by the fact that their surety of eternal damnation meant that they had to stress it with at least equal intensity.

Adolescence in that sect (especially as my parents had both died by this time) was a nightmare for me and is in large part responsible for my current theological position (agnostic as to the existence of God but hopeful that if I’m wrong that UR is correct). Which is why I have been rubbed up the wrong way by certain hell-fire board members here on occasion (oh alright… more than a few occasions :wink: )

For me this thread strikes at deep chords within (no pun intended).

Of course as I grew older the songs got worse…

Are your garments spotless are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Are you washed? (are you washed?)
In the blood (in the blood)
In the soul cleansing blood of the lamb?

Hi Amy
thanks for the response.
I’m in the teaching profession and perhaps I’m overly concerned about the influences on young minds. Many of the songs I remember are dealing with great tradgedy or horror, almost like some of our fairy tales, the difference being they’re supposed to be true.
I found this on ‘tentmaker’: … ldren.html
Of course, no-body sings them, but they make an important point.

God bless

Personally, I don’t have any impressions of being hurt by Sunday School songs… but no doubt some are, and I wouldn’t choose to teach my kids (or anyone else’s kids) songs that didn’t appeal to me personally. There’s certainly a place for concern. Fortunately, I think a lot just goes over the heads of most kids. At our church, the kids usually sing modern popular christian songs, which are mostly ok.

The first song you mentioned, I don’t think is very bad, because it says the Father is “looking down in love”, and love is a good motive for seeking to please Him.

I was going to mention “He’s got the Whole World” but Alex beat me to it! :cry:
That’s a good one!

Maybe a lot of how we (and kids) interpret them is dependent on our doctrinal foundation. We never thought of that song as being universalistic–which surely would have been condemned by the Calvinist church I grew up attending–but it sure sounds that way to me now!


“Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness”

“Light and Life to all he brings, present with healing in his wings”

“Mild he leaves his throne on High, born that Man no more may die”

“Born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth”

“Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king”

One curious by-product of my Sunday School upbringing is that I still retain the ability to sing the names of all 66 books of the bible in order (in no way theologically useful but a neat party trick all the same :wink: ).

Hey pilgrim
(feels like I’m trying to talk like John Wayne…!!)

Just discovered this thread and it’s fabulous question.

Don’t know much about you, but I have three kids who are now adults and my wife and I raised them to take very seriously our church traditions. And that included church participation. We were both very involved in what for us was Sabbath School – given that we worship on Saturday, the biblical Sabbath… But no matter, same idea I think…

I’ve got NO trouble with the song you mention… It affirms the simple fact that it is, as one founder of our denomination has said, critical to “guard the avenues of the soul…” — so of course a child should be taught to “be careful little hands and ears and eyes” and so on… Lesson being just don’t let any old sloop fill your plate! We have control over what enters our minds in many ways! (I mean why should I let anyone else fulfill this task which should be, rightfully, a parents??)

For my money, whats more important is the guiding parent – not the song itself!

That said, (and maybe I’ll think of some more songs to comment upon) I must wonder about a song which I was raised with. I grew up in Africa to missionary parents. (Ethiopia, 1959 - 1969) And there was this song…

Satan makes my heart all BLACK with sin…
Jesus makes it WHITE when He comes in…

Wow – not exactly easy to explain in THESE days is it!!

And I’m incredibly curious why you would ask such a question!


Hi Jeff - yes, I learned that song too: “66 books in God’s Holy Word, telling the story of Jesus my Lord…” and I still recite it in my head sometimes when I’m trying to find a bible-book. I wonder if it was one of the more useful songs taught.

Hi TotalVictory - and all the best in talking UR to your church.
I used to have nightmares when young (maybe most do) and I wonder now I’m old and grey how I was influenced as a child by my ‘religious input’. I think that whilst ‘God loves you’ was pre-eminent, there was always the underlying threat. I think that a lot of fear was instilled very deeply and ECT is quite a concept to young minds.
I just wonder how many of the old SS songs had this underlying message of ‘the REAL Bogy-man in the sky’.
‘Mr Noah built an ark’ for example is dealing with a matter worse than genocide.

You are probably right. Maybe different children with various dispositions may take different things from it.
Although it mentions ‘looking down in love’ the over-riding tone for me was a sort of 1984 Big Brother watching for anything less than perfect. Note how the ‘Father looking down in love’ isn’t interested in taking pleasure over seeing a child do good, or rewarding good actions. The only interest this ‘song-Father’ has is looking for any blemishes. Does that portray how you or I love our children?

I agree that without doubt I owe my faith to the living faith I saw in my parents. They are the biggest influence but good parents would also want to eliminate any harmful influences from outside the family.

You mean the good guy is always dressed in white etc.? Yes. Thank the Lord we have moved on from that.

How about this one I sang:
“Satan is a sly old fox
If I catch him then I’ll put him in a box”
-seems like nonsense to me.

“Round the walls of Jericho…”
which is about God killing His ‘enemies’.

contrasted with:
“How did Moses cross the Red Sea…” - I have no problem with this one as the primary message seems to be the salvation of people from slavery.

As I get older, I tend to think that the influences in formative years are embedded very deeply and maybe we could ‘clean-up’ some of the messages we pass on to the next generation.

and may God bless you too. Thanks for the interest.

I think it portrays that if we cross certain boundaries we are giving a foothold to the devil.
“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Gal 3:6

That exact song is used with great effect in Casting Crowns’ "Slow Fade" (click here)

The man in the video was not careful what his little eyes saw and where his little feet went. . .
Destruction, in his case, was the end of his marriage and the wreckage of another broken family. . .

Hi Gem:

I wish I could see that in the song myself. If I could, I’d have no problem. It mentions nothing about how we give a foothold or how we put ourselves in jeopardy. Instead, it talks about the Father, rather than the Devil.
Thanks for your thoughts though.