Of the songs I’ve written, Nothing Less is one of my favorites. Musically it fits nicely into a rock style, and performing it with the electric guitar is a blast. On the recording, I played the electric and acoustic guitars, the Hammond Organ, and sang the lead vocals. Jenny Kelly sang harmonies, and studio musicians from StudioPros.com handled the drums and bass. One part of the song I really love is the guitar/bass duet during the solo; I wrote the two to work together, and the bassist did a great job with it.
Lyrically, this song is interesting, because I am sure if I wrote it today, it would come out a little differently. In fact, I originally wrote it nearly a decade before recording it, and I remember altering the lyrics significantly for the recording. Since this is a song that is critical of the church, these changes reflect how my own relationship to the church has changed over the years.
The core message of the song hasn’t changed, and it is one that I feel deeply: a criticism of not living out a Christian ethic that requires both truth and love, and failing at the latter. Scripturally, I am on solid ground, as Paul makes that point quite clearly in 1 Corinthians 13. How well that describes modern day Christians is the debatable point, of course, and that is where my thinking has evolved over the last few decades (the song itself is probably around 20 years old).
When I wrote Nothing Less, I saw the church I was in as a flawed vessel: an institution with good motives that sometimes overemphasized truth over love. At the time, I’d have said that other churches would do the reverse: emphasize love and not truth. I was not criticizing those churches in the song, as my goal was to call for change for myself and my church. I wanted to praise our desire for truth, while pushing us to be better at loving.
By the time I recorded the song, I was a bit more skeptical of motives, as I’d gone through a painful episode with a church that showed me sometimes the lack of love was not just falling short, but bad motives. I added lines like “We like to bolster our pride”, with an emphasis that I could see all of those same motives in myself. The core idea of the song was still living out the truth in love.
If I wrote the song today, I would not aim it at the church at all. I would self reflect how both truth and love can get out of balance in my own life. As an individual, I feel like I am far more balanced and do not generally overemphasize one or the other (which means I fall short at both, depending on the situation!). My view of the evangelical church that had been my home and identity for so long is something I feel outside of now, so I would be far more reluctant to be critical. I prefer my songs to be self-reflective. Other people write better protest songs!
I do not believe any of this invalidates the song; I regret a bit of the we/they language, just because it can create “out” groups that make contempt easier, but it is not strictly wrong. I am certainly part of groups (the church and otherwise) that can easily stray into being bold in proclamation of truth and failing in action of love. So a song like this can help me remember that “nothing less [than love and truth] could ever be enough”.
At the end of the day, I hope this song can serve as that kind of reminder. Boldness and strong belief are not wrong, but if they do not produce love in the form of action, they are worthless.