When the secular becomes sacred… Mumford and sons

Mumford and sons released their new anticipated album “babel” this week on September 24th, 2012. While I have never met Marcus I have had the privilege of meeting John & Eleanor Mumford, Marcus’ parents. John & Eleanor oversee the vineyard movement in the U.K. and John is the point person for the international vineyard executive team. They are amazing people and you can count on what you are experiencing from Mumford and sons to be real, raw and born in the heart of a Kingdom life.

Here is Liz Riggs encounter with the sacred in the secular through the band Mumford and sons.

“I’ve passed my funnel cake off to a guy who has his own name tattooed on his fingers, and I’m sweating more than anyone has sweated—ever. And I have uncontrollable chills over my entire body because I’m being jostled between hundreds of people, all singing at the top of their lungs: “Awake, My Soul.”

But I’m not at the Presbyterian Church I grew up in and loathed, and I’m not at Church Camp. I’m at a Mumford & Sons show at Bonnaroo. And I’m worshiping.

Let’s note that while worship music is never intended to be about us, but rather about God, it still connects to us in a profound way. So many songs seem to address lots of the bright and shiny emotions we feel about God, but sometimes, we can be left feeling detached when trying to worship.

It’s that feeling you have in church when you’re almost too hurt to sing about God’s goodness and miracles because your stomach is somewhere closer to the concrete floor. So what about all of the other honest (and sometimes shameful) human emotions we have that we want to express, but can’t? Or what about the songs we hear outside of the church that channel an avenue of praise in us we didn’t know was possible?

Can those songs be a means of worship?

It sometimes seems as though the notion of “Christian” music has become so pigeon-holed and cookie cutter, there isn’t much room left for worship music outside of what seeps its way through the church walls. Songs that doubt are conveniently left out of the worship canon, songs that question or confuse, songs that speak about God in a way we don’t always hear: these songs get sidelined.

There’s uncertainty here; there’s a distinct desire for truth, for answers {in many of their lyrics.} We’re all prone to question—and if we don’t, how will we grow? The more we search and grapple with what God has given us, the more we can discover.

This is the most raw form of growth, except we often don’t see it in contemporary church worship.

David’s expressions throughout Psalms, and several other places in Scripture, certainly express many of these emotions. Still, it is particularly intriguing to see them through a “secular” lens—a place where perhaps the writers are unknowingly experiencing a form of worship.

So what about the struggle, the haunting bits of shame and frustration that often leave us feeling unworthy to sing along with the lyrics on the projection screen …

When up-and-coming folksters Mumford & Sons sprinkle these thoughts throughout their lyrics, they do it without the listener noticing.

“Can you kneel before The King and say, ‘I’m clean’?” they ask, when later they vow: “Lead me to the truth, and I’ll follow you with my whole life.”

Suddenly, the listener realizes what he’s singing along with—and it’s not just a song on a mixtape anymore; it’s not just another notch on the set list. It’s a way of relating with God. And the chill that can overtake your soul when hundreds of unbeknownst worshipers shout this in unison is almost unsettling—because it’s usually happening in a place where you never expected to worship.

With all the doubt, the longing, the uncleanness—all the things we believe Christ can conquer—what do we do when we’re still frustrated? Keep humming along thoughtlessly with the CCM song of the week?

Even though we might really be thinking about something we’ve done that’s gnawing apart our insides, or thinking about someone we’ve hurt who desperately needs an apology, some redemption or at least an affirmation of wrongdoing.

But what about when Mumford & Sons say something about f—ing up? A moment of accountability and admittance, coming from the very heart of conviction. Except they confess it using profanity one song and then later making, perhaps, their most profound statement of praise:

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die/ Where you invest your love, you invest your life/ Awake, my soul. You were made to meet your maker.

I’m not saying we bring profanity into the church, or that we all express our frustrations with faith using swear words. Rather, we can take a look at how a moment such as this can be so deeply rooted in a relationship with Christ. And isn’t that how our relationship with God works sometimes?

One second we feel the need to curse, to shout out in frustration and confusion and plea for insight or answers, and the next second we praise, or maybe we glimpse a moment of understanding and truth.

And yet, most of the songs we sing—out of the hymn book or the WOW worship mix—don’t address a lot of the feelings we inevitably come across in our relationship with God

So, at the end of it all, this is not to say that what we sing in church, or what we come across in the hymnals, isn’t powerful, praising or identifiable. It’s simply that worship music doesn’t end when the standard four-song medley ends. It’s everywhere—it’s interposed in moments of “secular” songs by “secular” bands. It’s written on the walls of bar bathrooms and shouted amongst audiences by people who may not even realize what they’re quoting—but that’s the thing.

It connects with people in a vastly authentic way because it reaches a genuinely sincere feeling in the human soul. We need our God, and sometimes we try to exist without Him. And all these songs, whether written or not, are about just that.

Liz Riggs

Liz is an English teacher in Nashville, TN who eats stories like grapes and has a very serious appreciation for macaroni and cheese.

~ by blueporch on September 25, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s