You Don’t Own Me

In March of 2015, the Australian artist, Grace, released a cover version of the song “You Don’t Own Me,” originally recorded by Lesley Gore in 1963. The song became the number one hit on the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) charts. It was also featured in one of the trailers for the 2015 film Suicide Squad. The music video has been viewed over 213,000,000 times on youtube. You can listen to Grace’s version here.

Total Freedom?
The original version of the song is about a girl who is making a statement to her boyfriend—that he does not own her. He doesn’t get to objectify her, treat her like a pet, or control her as seen in the lines “I’m not just another one of your toys,” and “Don’t put me on display.” The song was very influential and perceived as liberating for women at the time. We ought to be sympathetic to this. It is undoubtedly true that at times women have been treated in this degrading and controlling way. That is a travesty. It is a failure to treat each other as image bearers of God. After all, in the beginning God created humans, both male and female, in his own image (Genesis 1:27).

The song, however, goes beyond this basic idea. It quickly devolves into a larger statement about life.

“I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please.”

We can almost imagine these words in the mouth of Adam and Eve when they rebelled against God. Humans do not like to be told what to do. In fact, we will not be told what to do. Like Adam and Eve before us, we want to do things our own way. We will not have God’s authority in our life. And the Bible, that archaic relic, need hardly be regarded as a source of trustworthy revelation that we ought to obey. We have been liberated from the tyranny of God, the Bible, and restrictive morality. At least, that’s what we think.

Blind Obedience?
So are we advocating a blind obedience and faith instead? Absolutely not. As Dr. Myers states, “Mindless mimicry is not the goal of our conformity to Christ.”¹ Nor is it always wrong to question authority. Often, authorities need to be challenged when they depart from what is good and true. Jesus himself was known to challenge the religious establishment of his day. Christians should always be ready to challenge authority when it has overstepped its bounds.

But this does not mean that I get to “Say and do whatever I please.” What this song and its specific mentality advocate is not just the ability to make free choices, but the desire to be free from all restraints placed upon us; even if the desires and impulses of our hearts are wicked and harmful to others. This is borne out by an alternate version of the song, where Grace teams with the rapper G-eazy for some additional lyrics which objectify and say some rather nasty things about women. The inconsistency is glaring.

In the end, God claims authority over our lives not because he wants to own us, but because he wants us to know him. Saint John put it best when he said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV). This is why listening to and obeying the Bible is a worthy endeavor. Knowing God is a life-changing experience. It is eternal life; but in order to know God, we are going to have to lay down our desire to live however we want and do whatever we please. We are going to have to trust in and submit to the authority of the One who knows us, loves us, heals our brokenness, and makes us new.

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Ben Keiser

Ben Keiser is a writer, teacher, and student of theology, whose chief interests include biblical theology of heaven and earth, C. S. Lewis, and early Christianity in the first three centuries. Ben has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Liberty University. He resides in Colorado where you can often find him hiking in the mountains.