The song “Is He Worthy?” is based on Revelation 5:9, which reads, “From every people and tribe, every nation and tongue, he has made us a kingdom of priests to God to reign with the Son.” In the video, the camera swings past all the white faces just before he sings that line.
Peterson called the sequence “the very definition of ‘painfully ironic.’”
Social media posts were quick to point out the oversight. One viewer wrote, “Man, that’s a lot of white people in one video!” Others said they wouldn’t or couldn’t share it with friends of color because it would cause them pain.
On his blog, titled “Waking Up to ‘Is He Worthy?’: An Apology” Peterson wrote:
“What was meant to be a video drawing attention to the glory of Jesus, one that opened the door for all people to praise him, had become, for some, a source of grief. I immediately thought of some friends of mine and wondered if I had unintentionally hurt them. I called them and my worst fears were confirmed. They were very encouraging even as they helped me understand what it was like for them to watch the video, and in the end we cried and prayed together on the phone.”
Peterson called the oversight unintentional saying they relied on an open casting call to fill the chapel where the music video was shot but only white people came. He said he didn’t notice the lack of diversity until “the fourth or fifth chaotic take.” Even then he wrote, “Honestly, the lack of diversity didn’t occur to us again until the day of the release when I read the comments.”
“So, as a white American singer/songwriter whose only hope is Jesus, I’m asking forgiveness of the friends and listeners to whom this video brought any measure of grief. I’m also asking the good people who have come to my defense to refrain from using social media to do so. Be silent long enough to really listen. And then, if the Spirit leads, engage with love and patience and humility. As I said, the only way to learn something is to screw up. What was only a small voice in my head a few weeks ago will, I assure you, be a loud, clear voice of wisdom in the future. I’m sure I’m going to make a mountain of mistakes in the days to come, but, Lord willing, this won’t be one of them.”
Peterson’s blog does not mention re-shooting the video but instead the singer hopes and prays “this song and the accompanying video will continue to be an instrument of peace in spite of the broken vessel through whom it came.”
In marketing the song to radio programmers Peterson wrote, “Every two or three years, a song that follows none of the rules and checks none of the boxes rises up and becomes something special, something bigger than a typical hit song. We think this could be that song…George Bernard Shaw said, ‘You use a glass mirror to see your face, you use works of art to see your soul.’ The human soul is drawn to beauty like a magnet. And if it’s our goal, and presumably your goal as a radio station, to engage people deeply on the level of the soul, we figure how can we not take a chance at this song?”
“Is He Worthy?” will be released on iTunes and Amazon on March 30.