Was he thinking about my country
Or the color of my skin
Was he thinking about my religion
And the way I worshipped him
Did he create just me in his image
Or every living thingWhen God made me
When God made me
Neil Young is asking questions in this poignant song. He is trying to make sense of what goes on in the world from a man-in-the-world perspective. A man who is deeply spiritual, with no answers, just questions. When he sings it, you can see and hear his inner torment.
Neil Young did not have a very religious upbringing. His parents were worldly liberal humanists, but he was eventually confronted with religion, as the Journey Through the Past film shows, where he exchanges with the 70s Jesus Movement types. As with the songs like The Bridge or Soldier, where religion is mentioned, he always sees the incoherence in religious discourse, and his songs ask questions that pointed out the parts of religious teachings that just don’t add up to him. NY has said that the redwood forests are his cathedral, and probably the nature of his faith.
Later in life, after coming face-to-face with the Grim Reaper, during his aneurysm scare, he’s willing to adopt the use of the word “God” and take for granted the existence of an overarching spirit and higher power in “When God Made Me”. That doesn’t mean his church has changed at all though. “God” has an infinite number of definitions, depending on who you talk to, and it’s just the closest word in our vocabulary to express what NY has always reflected upon under the redwoods.
He’s still asking pointed questions in WGMM, a radio station licensed to serve Corning, New York. He exposes the hypocrisy of those on the right wing who call themselves Christians but take positions that are at total polar opposites of what Christ taught in the Bible.
Was he planning only for believers
Or for those who just had faith?
Did he envision all the wars
That were fought in his name?
Did he think there was only one way
To be close to him?
When God made me
The decision lies in our hands
It sings like a lullaby. It makes one think right there on the spot, the beautiful attributes of man and what we do with them. Further, it makes one think of how fortunate we are and how incomprehensibly intelligent a being would have to be to create us with said attributes. How can we choose who we love instead of being forced by blind genetics? How can we see the beauty and more so horrible sights that will certainly change us because we have free will?
Did he give me the gift of voice
So some could silence me
Did he give me the gift of vision
Not knowing what I might see
Did he give me the gift of compassion
To help my fellow man
Neil, in the end, leaves it for us all to decide and he does it more beautifully and with more class than anyone before. He does it coming from a somewhat radical background of political activism but a background devoid of hypocrisy and hatred. A background of true tolerance, from such a background it is no wonder he is such a beautiful man and artist.
Take this time to have soul searching with Neil Young’s “When God Made Me.”
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