A Beef with tobyMac…

Let me start off with a disclaimer: this issue isn’t one necessarily with just tobyMac. It just happens that I heard the abridged audio of the below video for the gazillionth time tonight on Air1, and it really got to me.

That being said, what are Christian artists portraying to the world if the words from their mouth, even if seemingly innocent, are glorifying something that really shouldn’t be glorified?

Now I’m not going to get into the whole “hip-hop” look he portrays, aside from saying that as a 49-year old, it doesn’t seem…authentic. That’s just my opinion.

But what I am talking about is just past the 1:00 mark in the video below, as he is explaining the song Steal My Show, using the phrase “kills it” when referring to a band’s performance.

Kills it. Really? Yes, I understand the meaning. I know what was meant. As a songwriter, he knows the power of words, yet chose that phrase.

In today’s world, riddled with violence, to use a phrase that makes light of taking the life of another? That’s a problem.

What do you think?

Let me start off with a disclaimer: this issue isn’t one necessarily with just tobyMac. It just happens that I heard the abridged audio of the below video for the gazillionth time tonight on Air1, and it really got to me. That being said, what are Christian artists portraying to the world if the words from their…


  1. I 100% get your point but in this case, I don't agree. You said you know the meaning of the words in that context so you should understand that it is a common musical/performance phrase. Parents tell their kids before a performance "Kill it", "Knock 'em dead!" or "break a leg" and they don't mean it literally. (This makes me think of those kids getting suspended for making "gun fingers".) Toby Mac has truly devoted his life to God and does so much good in His name, although he is human and he makes mistakes, just like the rest of us. I don't believe we should be picking apart our fellow brothers over things as minor as this. 
    But should we all be a little more careful with the words we choose to use? Absolutely! Could he have chosen better phrasing to get the same point across? sure! And someone in Toby Mac's position- he knows people are going to be watching him, judging him and making an example of him so he's really under the microscope. 
    So on the one hand, I see your point. On the other hand, we can take anything a person does and twist it in a manner to make it seem inappropriate if we try hard enough. Great topic of conversation though- we need to be more vocal about things like this and share opinions of what we do and do not find acceptable in role models and Christian leaders.

    1. That's in part my point. It's harmless enough in meaning, but as a songwriter, he understands–or should–the power of words. The choice was poor, but the fact that it's probably a common phrase for him is even more concerning.

  2. Then do you object to all the different usages of "kill" that don't involve the actual taking of a life?

    1. @PaulaGardner agree. but two points: since there are so many definitions, there are also many synonyms, so there are plenty of other words to use. second, is there really a reason to desensitize us to the word, given the myriad of other words available?

      1. @scotters Do you worry about it when people "kill" time? "Kill" bad breath?  "Kill" the motor?

  3. @LisaMason well now that Livefyre decided to work, here's what I'd initially replied: This was partially my point. As a songwriter, he should (I hope) understand the power of words, and even if there are other meanings, choose a better word to communicate what he meant.

  4. I think this is really a mountain out of a molehill. I think if most everyone knows what it means and that it has nothing to do with killing a person in any way shape or form, then it is simply looking for a problem to see a problem that really isn't there.
    You completely know that he wasn't at all saying anything at all about taking anyone's life. I mean, you COMPLETELY know that. There isn't any doubt in your mind what he meant. He meant they performed awesomely. "It" is the performance. Not a person. He knows it. You know it. Everyone knows it. 
    I think what we need in this world is a lot less looking to be offended. I really hope that this isn't the next direction of the PC movement. 
    I hear what you are saying, that we have so many choices in our lexicon, why do we choose these phrases. I would understand more if this was a new phrase. It really isn't a new phrase at all. It is one that is totally understood to have nothing at all to do with killing a person – unless someone decides to try to make it mean that.
    He wasn't glorifying violence or killing anyone and anyone rational at all can see that.  If anyone at all goes all Columbine or something and they point to this video as the reason they thought it was okay to kill anyone, then that person has bigger problems than all the PC sensitivity in the world can address.

    1. @mindykoch trust me, it's not PC sensitivity. i just don't see why using the phrase adds anything to a conversation. worse yet is using it to his young son. it's equating killing with something good…

      1. @scotters It totally is political correctness. I don't see how you can say that it isn't. Because of the political environment today, we are so afraid of anything having to do with killing. Kids can't make lego guns. They are getting suspended from school for having a piece of paper with a corner ripped out so that the paper even slightly resembles a gun or for talking about using bubble blowing guns.
        Seriously, think about why this phrase suddenly bothers you. It is a PC reaction to what is going on in the news right now. It is an IDIOM. That means it does not mean the literal phrase.
        You keep discussing the power of words. The power of words also means that they can be idioms that do not mean the actual phrase! Nobody literally dies of embarrassment. Very few people who use the IDIOM of starving to death are actually more than an hour or two away from eating or are in any danger of starving to death. Nor are they so hungry they could eat a horse. Nor is the rocker who is hoping that he kills it tonight at his performance thinking of actually killing anybody. 
        It is an idiom and seriously, his kid will grow up thinking that killing it means performing excellently. And he will be just fine. Just as he will think that stealing the show is just fine. Just as he will think that going to a restaurant that has killer buffalo wings sounds like a good meal.

        1. @mindykoch yes, it's an idiom. and yes, i understand the meaning. but my concern is more that:1. he's a Christian artist in the spotlight
          2. he's been in the spotlight as a Christian artist for 20+ years
          3. while it is just a figure of speech, it *is* equating killing with something good. 
          As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

        2. @scotters I have been pondering my defensiveness with this and I have to admit, I have been pricked in my conscience. I see your point. And honestly, there is quite a bit of merit and validity in it. So why fight against it? I realize that I am putting up a fight against feeling like here is one more place for people to choose offense rather than understanding.
          But, when I look at myself honestly, isn't that what I am doing? Choosing to be oppose rather than understand?
          I have decided to set pride aside and to choose understanding. Yes. It would be better had he said that a band performed brilliantly. I feel this way about profanity. I wish that people who choose profanity especially in front of children would exercise better judgement and a larger vocabulary. Why should you feel any differently about terms that involve killing.

        3. @mindykoch i have to admit that when i saw your FB comment about an update, i expected a bit of a fight to which i would have had to say that we just happen to disagree. but you hit on a big point i was thinking of making…and yes, this is stretching it quite a bit, but to make the point…what if the idiom used a reference to, say, rape, or pedophilia, or something like that?  i don't think there'd be much acceptance regardless of how it was meant. 
          but thank you…your responses, even if i disagreed, were important to the discussion!

  5. Since you ask what I think as much as I want to like this song. When I listen to the words all I hear is look what I did for you God… now let me step aside so you can shine….. hello. It is Gods show to begin with if it weren’t for God there would b no show. There is nothing any singer can do to add to Gods glory. God gave him the talent, God drew in those folks who came to hopefully worship God… so where is the acknowledgment … I don’t see it. Its all about I I I I will step out the way. Look great tune. Awesome beat but the words are off track. Quilt worrying about killing it Toby. Who cares what sells records, care about what glorifies God.