Confusion: Relevant or Relative

Posted: November 8, 2014 in Faith, Life, Music

I’m confused by something. Over the last month I’ve several instances of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” almost like a worship song. There are too many covers of the song, and even more versions of the song (oddly enough) than covers. At least one appears on godvine.com website. At the end of another rendition one can hear one of the vocalists saying “Thank you, Jesus” at the end … but the songs lyrics have nothing to do with Jesus … at all.

Now, I love the song, personally. I have several different covers of it in my iTunes playlists and most of them have five stars (oddly enough Cohen’s own version is not one them – one of those weird situations where someone else performs a writer’s song better than the writer himself, in my opinion). Nor am I opposed to Christians singing “secular” music. At least half of my own compositions have nothing to do with faith or Christ or church (and I’ll confess that a few would need an “explicit” label if they were ever produced).

Maybe I’m completely off base but it seems to me that the Christian sub-culture hears a soulful utterance of the word “Hallelujah” and goes bonkers, treating it as some sort of worship song. The song (which, again, I enjoy very much) seems to be a passionate, sensuous, almost sexual song about relationships, love, heartache, betrayal, etc. All the muck of life which makes for great art.

When I hear or see a cover of the song in which the anguish of the content can be heard in the voice and seen in the artist’s expression I am moved and appreciate the longing and pain of the moment. But when the vocal tone is worshipful and expressions rapturous as though the artists were leading a worship set in church, something in my gut twists.

I’m confused by this and I wonder if this is another example of the loss of biblical understanding, orthodoxy and truth in the Western church’s teaching and preaching.

To completely steal a line from one of my favorite films: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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Comments
  1. Caedmon says:

    First, my comment isn’t any sort of slam. It’s critical, but in the academic sense.

    Western Christianity has not generally taught Christians to be discerning. The anti-intellectual movements haven’t helped. Instead, we’ve been trained to latch on to catch phrases (I’ll note AA and similar programs share this struggle). The hope is that hearing the catch phrase will evoke a more complete teaching, like the sermon Jesus hides in just a few phrases on the cross. The problem is that the catch phrases have a tendency to usurp the complete message. The bodily and emotional response to hearing the phrase is enough. So, any time we hear “Hallelujah,” regardless of context, we will experience that bodily and emotional response, at which point, we are only capable of receiving the content through our Christian context.

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