On Church and Mumford and Sons


In my last post I was musing about how much I missed going to church today, and it led me to thinking about Mumford and Sons.
 
Mumford and Sons first hit my consciousness when my best friend, Holly, sent me a link to their song “Little Lion Man” back in February of last year. It’s a really nice song, but I find I have to listen to the radio edit, because the repeated use of “F-bomb” is jarring to me. It may have been said “bomb” that caused me to overlook Mumford and Sons until October 26. I know the very day, because I was listening to KGSR, and the DJ announced that the song had been released the day before. The song hit me from the very moment I heard it. I listened carefully after it was over, and found out the song was called “The Cave” and it was by Mumford and Sons. Color me surprised. Those guys who love the “F-word” so much? I went straight home (it was a Tuesday, and I had some kid-free time) and sat in the grass in my back yard with my computer and looked up the song on YouTube and listened to it and watched the video over and over and over again. I called Jeremiah and made him listen to it over the phone. I called Holly and left a blubbering message on her voice mail about how great that band she had introduced me to was. The next day I downloaded the album, and over the next week listened to it so often in the car that I think my kids know the songs by heart (except the one with the “F-word”, of course). A month or so later I introduced “The Cave” to my dad, who had a similar reaction to it as I did. And, then a month later, the band played the song at the Grammy’s and the bloomin’ thing exploded.
 
If you haven’t heard the song yet, do:

 
So, why today, particularly, am I thinking of Mumford and Sons?
 
By now you know about my foot situation. (Are you SO SICK of hearing about the FEET yet?!) In a lot of ways it really has been nice to have this period of slowing down in which other people are doing all of the care-taking that I would normally do. I am so very thankful that I have the kind of job for which I can take off this much time. And, I am even MORE grateful to those who have not only taken over my jobs but also who have been taking direct care of me. All that said, it can get kinda depressing. It’s been five full days since I left this house. So, what has been playing over and over again in my head today is that line from “The Cave” that goes “I can see widows and orphans through my tears.”
 
In general, I think that verse is an admonishment to oneself to remember those who are truly in need no matter how sad or hurt or disillusioned one may feel. A reminder that there is no cure for depression like service to the depressed. But, do you know what that song verse really is? It’s a direct reference to James 1:27 which says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (New International Version 2011). Surely everyone can see the beauty in that passage from the Bible. The book of James has some of the most down to earth representations in the Bible of the true religion of Christianity. The author is thought to be James, the brother of Jesus, who did not believe in Jesus as the Christ until after his resurrection and who later became one of the leaders of the church of Christians in Jerusalem. You should read the book of James – again, as the case may be! It’s very short, and very encouraging.
 
My point is this: wait, what’s my point? Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mumford and Sons. I’ve been thinking about how many references to God and Christianity they make in their music. In addition to the above, here are a few other direct references:
 
From their first full album Sigh No More*:
 

  • There are lyrics in “Awake My Soul” that seem pretty specific in terms of referencing God, namely the verse, “Awake my soul. You were made to meet your maker.” But also, the verse, “In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life” seems to me to be a reference to another Biblical passage. Matthew 6:19-21 says:

    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (New International Version 2011).

  •  

  • The song “Winter Winds” has many references that can be taken as spiritual, but this little bridge verse is overt:

    Oh the shame that sent me off
    from the God that I once loved
    was the same that sent me into your arms.
    Oh, and pestilence has won
    When you are lost, and I am gone
    And no hope, no hope will overcome.

     
    Go ahead and give ‘er a listen as well:

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  • In a more subtle reference: the song “Timshel” is titled after the Hebrew word meaning “Thou Mayest” and its meaning figures prominently in the Genesis account of the story of Cain and Abel. The meaning of the word itself is discussed pretty extensively and beautifully in Steinbeck’s East of Eden.****

 
In fact, a person who posted here on a blog on the internets (however reliable that is) writes, “Several of Mumford and Sons are Christians, actually. They go to Holy Trinity Brompton, a big Anglican church in London.”
 
I think that just about sums it up. Pretty direct references for such a mainstream UK band. I love it. I wish there were more bands like them.**
 
On to the reference section here, and then I’ll wrap up.
 
* The album’s title is quite probably a reference to one of my favorite Shakespearean poems from Much Ado About Nothing. And, instead of transcribing it here as I am wont to do, I will just thrust you over to another web page to read it. PLEASE read it. http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/shakespeare/sigh_no_more_ladies.html. I say it is “quite probably” a reference to the play, because in the title song, the first line “Serve God love me and mend” and another line “Man is a giddy thing” are also from Much Ado About Nothing.
 
**If you like Mumford and Sons and have not yet heard of these other artists, check them out:

  • Laura Marling (who was, until recently, Marcus Mumford’s girlfriend and who, before that, the girlfriend of the lead singer of the next band…)
  • Noah and the Whale
  • The Avett Brothers

 
*** Ok, one more. Please just bear with one more. I absolutely must transcribe here for you the most salient part of the discussion of the word “timshel” from the book East of Eden. It is really, really great.

“Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?”
“I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.”
“Ten years nearly,” said Lee. “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”
Samuel nodded. “And his children didn’t do it entirely,” he said.
Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”
Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. “Lee,” he said, “don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!”
Lee goes on to tell a story as to how he came to study Hebrew, and the conversation continues:
Samuel said, “It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?”
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

 
Oooo, I love John Steinbeck. You’ll be hearing more about Mumford and Sons from me. Jeremiah and I have tickets to their Austin performance on April 26th. I will try to share pics and stories soon after. WOO HOO!
 
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4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Rock Hudson

    Nice job, honey. :)

    April 10th, 2011

  2. Marlea

    So, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I was totally thinking you were writing about Sanford & Son, and that’s what I was picturing in my head. I hadn’t heard of Mumford & Sons; I like them better (than Sanford).

    April 10th, 2011

  3. Andrea

    I love Mumford and Sons, too! I was pretty devastated when I couldn’t get tickets and realized you had them and then sold them. I ended up listening to the broadcast of their show in New Orleans the next night and was moved to tears. My kids even sing the lyrics to The Cave. Luckily, the British accent of the “f-bomb” obscures it enough for my younger child, because I have the regular version.

    May 5th, 2011

  4. Oh, Andrea! I wish I’d known! I should have at least posted that we were selling them on Facebook. I’m so glad to know I have another M&S fan to talk with, though!

    May 5th, 2011