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I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words". The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am. Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly:
I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am
The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she is the subject. More importantly, she is unique by virtue of being her "own special creation". She has called herself into existence musically, but more specifically in life. Four times we are reminded in the song that the issues at stake pertain to life. And of course such an act of self-creation can only be “special”. As creator, she is inevitably the owner of her very life and the world it inhabits. This is “my world and not a place I have to hide in”. As creator and owner she is secure in her kingdom. What she asks those around her is nothing less than acknowledgement, “give me…ovation”. Come and worship at the altar of this new self created person.

The listener is confronted in these opening lines with a new human being that is self-existent, self possessing and seeks fellowship and worship. This view of man elevates human nature to satanic proportions. It is a view of man that answers to no authority. Man is not just a god here, like mythical creatures of old, he is purported to be God himself. The uncaused cause of all things in her world. Who wills herself into existence, with the inevitable contradiction of having a beginning and yet claiming to be God. The Bible says, we all are the product of the Almighty. In the words of Job's friend, “the spirit of God has made me, the breath of the Almighty gives me life”. We cannot make ourselves. The verse is an encouragement to engage in a perverse form of idolatry and unbridled arrogance. But it is also a denial of basic logic. All that comes to exist must have a prior cause. We did not just pop ourselves into existence! 

If the first verse seeks to enthrone man as the new lord of the universe, the second verse seeks to make an evangelistic appeal to all of us join in the madness :
I am what I am / I don't want praise I don't want pity / I bang my own drum / Some think it's noise I think it's pretty / And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle / Why not try to see things from a different angle / Your life is a sham till you can shout out I am what I am
At first glance it seems the first line is contradictory. The singer who wanted an ovation now appears to shy away from praise. But the statement is about the two “don’t wants”. It is an assertion of not wanting or more precisely not “needing”. A declaration of independence. I am who I am, I don’t need anybody’s praise or pity. This independence streak is further emphasized by the next line, “I bang my own drum”. I sing my own tune. I am my own song! I am my own guide, my own happiness! All of this is her definition of “pretty”. Its beauty is found in the “diversity” it brings. It is a different sparkle, even a different bangle. But it's a costly diversity because it comes only when everyone shifts positions. Everyone’s "noise" must be swapped for her angle. If only everyone would see things from her perspective, they would embrace her beauty. She must be acknowledged as the centre that everyone must shift around for until they do, theirs is a life too narrow - a sham even.

Her position therefore reveals that far from seeking diversity, she is looking for unity. For how else can we all co-exist? The position reveals man’s dilemma of the ages. How do we have unity and diversity at the same time? She is totally oblivious to this contradiction. Much worse she is unappreciative of the fact that diversity extends to what we regard as a life worth living. To regard those who disagree with the way she plays her “drum” as living a sham is intolerance. And in here we find the great contradiction of  most self proclaimed moral “liberals”. They are liberals only about their moral freedom. The moment your freedom clashes with theirs it is your life that is a sham! Her position can never be the basis of a cohesive society. True unity in diversity comes not by asserting my independent beating of the drum, but by looking to the Great Conductor of the heavenly orchestra. Only when we dance to the One who is inherently both one and many (Trinity) can we have real diversity in unity. He who holds the whole universe together. All other pursuits to make sense of unity and diversity are futile. 

With her enthronement secure and her independence asserted, the singer now proceeds in the final verse to share the moral vision that underpins such stridency:
I am what I am / And what I am needs no excuses / I deal my own deck sometimes / the aces sometimes the deuces / It's one life and there's no return and no deposit / One life so it's time to open up your closet / Life's not worth a damn till you can shout out / I am what I am / I am, I am, I am good / I am, I am, I am strong / I am, I am, I am worthy / I am, I am, I belong
She is faultless with no excuses to make to anyone. Much more than that she is perfectly good as she declares towards the end, “I am good”. That is of course consistent with her self-enthronement. As an independent spirit she defines good and has declared herself morally perfect. Being faultless naturally means she owes no one any explanation. But even if she did, it would not matter because she is unstoppable – she declares, “I am strong”. No one can stand in her way, what she wants she gets. With such qualities, she is clearly pricessless, and so we are reminded, “ I am worthy”.

These are not abstract ideas, but views shaped by her understanding of the nature of human existence. She believes that life is random. It is like a pack of cards. She has her own deck. She can’t determine what comes next. She is at the mercy of chance. Sometimes good happens (“aces sometimes”). Sometimes not so good (“the deuces”). But not only is life random to her, it is also materialistic and finite. This life is all there’s to it. She has “one life”. And so we have the deadly combination of randomness and finitude leading only to one conclusion – “time to open up your closet”. Regardless of what is in the closet, bring it out and live it! It is not your fault, life is a random occurrence. So just live it out as soon as you can because you have little time to live it out! And until you live out your darkest aspects of you, “life is not worth a damn”.

The chain of thought is therefore simple to follow through the song. Man is the centre of everything. He is the new I am who I am who has enthroned himself. God has now been overthrown. This is the rebirth of man – “I am my own special creation”. All worship and ovation must now be directed to him. The apex of his glory lies in him independent will to be what he wants to be. And as an independent self existent being he is necessarily good and necessarily worthy. Ethics no longer matter because life is random. All is determined by chance.

Of course if life is all random and meaningless, why bother to write the song? We can also ask, if man is this new god, why a song to tell god that he is so? It is all illogical and delusional. But if delusion was all there was to it, we can laugh it off. But this is Satanic. The singer claims things that belong to God alone. Not only that it is a pure embrace of darkness that is openly evangelistic. Its message is that you too are a product of chance and so is your morality. Your darkness is as a good as the light. Come out and celebrate your deep darkness and embrace it – get out of the closet and live perversely to the full. You answer to no one. The Bible says the opposite. It says, there's none who does good, not even one. We are all like sheep that has gone astray. Each one to his own way. God through Jesus is beckoning us to return to Him, with arms stretched out wide on the cross of Calvary, saying "come back".

As Christians we must stay on guard against such messages contained in songs such as this. It is shocking that among the crowds that day and in our living rooms were many Christians who through lack of discernment proceeded to “beat their own drum” along and pumped the fist in the air, without asking the touch questions. Without hearing the real voice of the I am what Iam. His seat is not vacant for you to take charge. No that chair is eternally occupied. He will always be Jesus the Messiah, Lord of Lords and King  of Kings!


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