Elmo and the Limits of Sincerity

25 Aug

My youngest son was watching an Elmo video the other day featuring many popular musicians from the ’90’s. The truth is I didn’t know most of their names, but I did recognize Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Hootie and the Blowfish and Ricky Gervais (didn’t get that one). Anyway, I did recognize the tunes to most of the songs, even from the musicians I didn’t know. The thing is, each song’s lyrics were altered to fit the Sesame Street model. So a song originally about love for a woman was now an ode to a letter or a shape. The most egregious example was a guy named James Blunt, who some years ago had a song called, “You’re Beautiful.” On the Elmo video, Blunt sang, with all sincerity, the song, “My Triangle.”

Here’s the clip (try not to laugh) . . .


Now, I get it, the video is for little kids. These celebs are doing a good deed, furthering education and what not. But what I see here is the slippery slope of sincerity. You see, here’s this hipster guy singing and man you can hear the emotion, he’s pouring out his heart. Oh, how he longs for that triangle. It’s not that he’s doing anything wrong, it’s just that he’s illustrating how easy it is to fake sincerity or to be sincere about something that is almost totally meaningless. Sincerity is a weaker virtue, one which is more of a by-product of the practice of other higher virtues. But our society highly values sincerity. You can do almost anything and get a free pass as long as you do it with sincerity. If I bash in your mailbox with sincerity, you can’t judge me, because I was just being real. I’m a sincere drunk, I’m a sincere adulterer, stop your judging.

Let’s make sure as believers we’re not singing odes to triangles all the while thinking we’re serving God. And let’s especially not sing with our lives odes to what’s evil and think we’re cool because at least we’re sincere.


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