Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World

jesus loves the little children

Snark and humor ahead

For those of us who grew up in the Evangelical church, we likely sang Jesus Loves the Little Children in Sunday school or junior church. The song goes something like this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red & yellow,black & white
they’re precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Jesus cares for all the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus cares for the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children
All the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white
They’re all precious in His sight
Jesus came to save the children of the world

Jesus came to save the children of the world

Did you start singing along?  Can’t get it out of your head? Sorry.

According to the Share Faith website, the original lyrics were somewhat different:

Refrain:
Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Alternate Refrain:
Jesus died for all the children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the children of the world.

Jesus calls the children dear,
Come to me and never fear,
For I love the little children of the world;
I will take you by the hand,
Lead you to the better land,
For I love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Jesus is the Shepherd true,
And He’ll always stand by you,
For He loves the little children of the world;
He’s a Savior great and strong,
And He’ll shield you from the wrong,
For He loves the little children of the world.

Refrain

I am coming, Lord, to Thee,
And Your soldier I will be,
For You love the little children of the world;
And Your cross I’ll always bear,
And for You I’ll do and dare,
For You love the little children of the world.

Refrain

Written in the late 1800’s by Christian pastor C Herbert Woolston and put to music by George F. Root, the song is one of the most popular songs in American Christianity. Conspicuously absent from the song is any mention of people with brown skin color. In the late 1800’s, the brown horde from the south had not yet invaded the United States and I suspect Woolston considered brown-skinned people a tan version of white. According to Wikipedia, Jesus Loves the Little Children is sung to Root’s 1864 Civil War tune Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! Here’s the original lyrics for Root’s tune:

First Verse:

In the prison cell I sit,
Thinking Mother dear, of you,
And our bright and happy home so far away,
And the tears they fill my eyes
Spite of all that I can do,
Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.

Chorus:

Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching,
Cheer up comrades they will come,
And beneath the starry flag
We shall breathe the air again,
Of the freeland in our own beloved home

I suspect if this song was written today it would not include the last line of the verse ‘Tho’ I try to cheer my comrades and be gay.’ But then again, Evangelicals might want to leave the line as is. After all, since it says “be gay” it reinforces their belief that gays choose to be homosexuals.

I’ve heard a rendition of Jesus Loves the Little Children that includes brown in the race jingle, but I found that adding brown to the song made the lyrics clunky.

Calvinists can’t sing Jesus Loves the Little Children due to its heretical Arminian theology.  Perhaps they could change the song to:

Jesus died for all the elect children,
All the elect children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All the elect are precious in His sight,
Jesus died for all the elect children of the world.

To make the song more inclusive, some churches and songbooks replace the ‘Red and yellow, black and white line’ with ‘Ev’ry colour, ev’ry race, all are cover’d by His grace’. Another modern adaptation has a verse that goes like this:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Fat and skinny, short and tall,
Jesus loves them one and all,

When I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, the church and Pat Horner had actually gone through the Baptist Hymnal and corrected the words that were at odds with their Calvinistic theology.  ‘Rescue the perishing’ became “rescued when perishing’. We can’t have Calvinistic Christians rescuing sinners, that’s God’s job.

While Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World is sung regularly in thousands of American Evangelical and Independent Baptist churches, most of the people singing the song are white. Jesus might love red, yellow, black, brown, and white children, but Evangelicals prefer they go elsewhere to church. This is especially so in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Originally, this post was meant to be about the whiteness of the Family Research Council (FRC). It morphed into something completely different, but let me finish this posts with a couple of screen shots from FRC’s staff/leadership/team page. These screenshots will visually show what the average Evangelical church looks like:

frc staff

frc leadership team

frc experts

frc team

frc team 2

Walk into the average Evangelical church and this is what you will see. If Evangelicals want to point the finger at one reason for their decline, they should point to the subtle and not so subtle racism that flourishes in its churches. While they pride themselves in being past the days of racist Bob Jones University, their churches still reflect that they are a whites-only club. Missionaries are sent overseas to evangelize the red, yellow, brown, and black, while the most segregated place in America is the local Jesus loving Evangelical, IFB, and Southern Baptist church.

Notes

The funniest music related thing that happened at Community Baptist is when a song leader who was raised on the eastern seaboard decided to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Some church members refused to stand up and sing the song. Ah yes, the Confederacy lives on!

Yes, I am painting with broad strokes in this post. I am aware of Evangelicals attempts, in some corners of America, to become more racially inclusive. However, most churches and pastors find this hard to do since they know history clearly shows that Jesus was a white man.

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10 Comments

  1. Matilddaa

    I was always slightly puzzled as a child in church by the ‘yellow’. I vaguely understood it meant chinese, but the only asian couple in my community, who ran the chinese takeaway, didn’t look the colour of a daffodil at all.

    Reply
    1. B.E. Miller

      Ah-ha-ha-ha. I remember that sort of idea. We had some kids in our school who had Vietnamese mothers and American dads, but the moms weren’t the color of a yellow crayon. The reference to ‘red’ also confused me, because there were a couple Native American kids in school and they certainly didn’t seem sort of vermillion-ish.

      I was complaining about the ‘red’ reference to an adult relative on my dad’s side (who was from Washington and Oregon.) He explained to me that Native Americans used to have a reddish tone to their skin back when Europeans landed, because they put some sort of plant stuff on their skin to repel mosquitos and biting flies. The ‘red’ reference made more sense after that, because obviously the writer had forgotten that modern Amerindians use “Off” now, rather than obscure plant sap.

      Reply
    2. Non PC

      Here’s the most hilarious thing about this false humility and sympathy over ” yellow people not being actually yellow” or red people not being red, the color brown not being included…
      Are white people actually white? Is it racist for saying white people are the color of chalk, or snow, when most are not? Or for saying black people are black when they are not?
      Isn’t it racist to insist on being called brown when some would argue that if you’re brown you’ve got some black in there somewhere? Very few people have the actual brown crayon color. How do we distinguish them? Jesus loves the light brown, dark brown, and burnt sienna children??…
      There is nothing more sickening than when people who don’t even have a heart for children try to dismantle songs that have comforted and encouraged them for hundreds of years.
      I remember even at 2 and 3 years old when my grandmother taught me this song, it filled me with so much joy and peace!
      So get off of the sarcasm and fake concern over diversity, Jesus does love all the little children, and you don’t have make the song politically correct to prove that.
      Peace

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Non PC, You have memories of having fun and feeling good about this song? That is fine but has nothing to do with the lie at the centre of it. Jesus, or more realistically, the myriad churches who claim him as their God guide etc., do not treat all children as precious at all. They torture them them with sick theology that tells them they are worthless worms and deserve to burn. It saddens me to hear that you cannot value children enough to protect them from hateful Christian ideas. The Jesus guy who tramped around would never have approved of the church owning real estate and building pretty edifices to gather in for worship. It is a mockery of what he seemed to teach. The church does not love little children at all but wants to ruin childhood and fill young heads with delusional ideas. It will do the same sort of damage to adults too if they are harmed enough to agree to being worms and unworthy of love without the imaginary magic man. The fact that you felt the song was fun and it gave you something positive may have to do with your human connection to your grandmother but you would be mistaken to assume that other children shared your experience. I certainly did not.

        Reply
        1. anotherami

          I’m late to the party on this one….

          I do not remember not knowing this song. I also have to say that I credit this song with protecting me from the extreme racism that existed within the non-Quaker side of my family, especially as a small child. It is why I didn’t understand why I couldn’t play with the little girl across the street or why my great-grandmother was so angry when I asked to; I was about 3 at the time. For me, the song was less about religion than about racial equality, though 50 years later I clearly see how the lyrics are still racist or at least patronizing. But way back then, it was a powerful vaccine against the racism that surrounded me in the early 1960’s.

          Reply
  2. Knoxville Freethinker

    What I want to know is who Shannon Royce thinks she is to have such authority over men? Doesn’t such a responsible job as “Chief of Staff” take away from her God-given role of being a wife and mother? /snark

    Reply
  3. Ian

    Racist songs, there are plenty of them in the church. Here’s one of my favorites, From Greenland’s Icy Mountains. Verse 2 says:

    What though the spicy breezes blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle;
    Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
    In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
    The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

    So, because someone worships stone, we shouldn’t show God’s love, according to this song.

    Reply
  4. Katie

    The word “gay” means happy in the context of the song!! Before homosexuals started using the slang term gay, it’s root meaning is happy, lighthearted, free.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The line in my post you are referencing was meant to be taken sarcastically.

      Reply
    2. Brian

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay
      The term gay was not introduced by gays exactly, and you are sooooo gay to suggest it. 😉 It was used to refer to homosexuals and others (?prostitutes) and then became more common usage as time went on…. You actually have to back a long way to get to the definition you suggest was changed by homos using it, Katie.

      Reply

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