Soul music

April 29, 2007 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

Source:  London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Sometimes the best insights into faith come from the most obvious places.

Take America, for instance – a country founded by ‘pilgrims’, where 98 per cent of the people believe in God and close to 50 per cent attend church every Sunday. No wonder its balladeers, folk singers and rock icons have so often filled their songs with echoes of gospel truth or travesty. From the unequivocal Christian heritage of ‘grassroots’ groups such as the Carter Family through to contemporary hip hop and indie music, Jesus is frequently namechecked – and not just when someone’s picking up a Grammy.

Often it’s in praise, sometimes it’s in derision; but there is also many a time when his mention invokes the reverence American artists have for him (if not always for his followers).

        I feel Jesus in the tenderness of honest, nervous lovers.

        I feel Judas in the pistols and the pagers that come with all the powders.

        Lost in fog and love and faithless fear,

        I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere.

    ‘Citrus’ from The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls in America

Then there are those who recognise that wrestling with the political and social conscience of America means also addressing the faith that undergirds much of its ideology. Ben Folds, a long-term indie favourite, could be a modern-day Isaiah, calling disingenuous religion to account in his song ‘Jesusland’:

        Town to town

        broadcast to each house, they drop your name

        but no one knows your face.

        Billboards quoting things you’d never say

        you hang your head and pray

        for Jesusland.

North of the border, things are much the same. The latest offering from the Canadian band (and darlings of the music press) Arcade Fire, The Neon Bible, is shot through with religious references and apocalyptic thoughts. Hardly surprising, perhaps, from a band who recorded the album while holed up in a church for 18 months and whose lead singer has a degree in scriptural interpretation.

Of course, it would be misleading to read religious revival into the current preoccupations of pop culture, but at least it’s heartening to hear music from across the Pond that provides a little more food for thought than controversy-courting raps about bling, cars and girls.

I’ll leave you with a plea from the Arcade Fire song ‘Windowsill’ – one I hope to hear reverberate around the globe:

        MTV, what have you done to me?

        Save my soul, set me free.

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Entry filed under: Culture, Economics, Literature, Media, Missions, Religion, Society, World.

Boring Yeltsin, history, history teachers But if not…

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