Here are some of my favorite pop/rock lyrics that talk about spirituality (or its absence), question organized belief, or decry religion-caused injustices.
“TEEN FOR GOD,” DAR WILLIAMS. The sun burns down, leaving God's bright stamp on Peach Branch Horse and Bible Camp, where we're splashing in the water, joined in song, swimming with the Spirit the whole day long. I'm a teen for God. God is watching, teen for God. The girls have looks and the girls have rules. They came here from their Bible schools. They can make you pay attention to the way you dress and eat, make you trip over your own two feet. And they kneel down on their towels at night, their nightgowns glow with a holy light. And we pray for the sinners and their drunken cars wrecks, and vow that I'll never get high and have sex. I'm a teen for God. God is watching, teen for God. And God made every leaf on every tree, each grain of sand, God has a plan for what we're meant to be. I gotta wait for God. Dear Lord, I plan each day, the things I will not do or say. But I'm driven by a passion. Is it only there to tame? It fills my heart and it calls my name, and this world that you made for us, I know, I know, is dangerous. So I ride a lot of horses, and I never even swear. Sorta like praying, I'm just not there. Oh God. God is watching. But God made love, God made the rivers run. And cowboy boots and bathing suits, and the foreskin dries in the sun. You gotta help me, God. Help me know, four years from now, I won't believe in you anyhow. And I'll mope around the campus, and I'll feel betrayed, all those guilty summers I stayed. But then I'll laugh that I fell for the lure of the pain, of desire to feel so pure. And I'll bear all the burdens of my little daily crimes. Wish I had a God for such cynical times. Far from today, but for now, I'm a sacred vessel. Rip me open. I spread your word like a milkweed pod. I'm a radio station, your holy transmission. Even more, like a lightning rod, I'm a lightning rod, a teen for God.
“THE MAGDALENE LAUNDRIES,” JONI MITCHELL. I was an unmarried girl. I'd just turned twenty-seven, when they sent me to the sisters for the way men looked at me. Branded as a Jezebel, I knew I was not bound for heaven. I'd be cast in shame into the Magdalene laundries. Most girls come here pregnant, some by their own fathers. Bridget got that belly by her parish priest. We're trying to get things white as snow, all of us woe-begotten daughters in the steaming stains, of the Magdalene laundries. Prostitutes and destitutes, and temptresses like me. Fallen women sentenced into dreamless drudgery. Why do they call this heartless place Our Lady of Charity? Oh charity! These bloodless brides of Jesus, if they had just once glimpsed their groom, then they'd know, and they'd drop the stones concealed behind their rosaries. They wilt the grass they walk upon. They leech the light out of a room. They'd like to drive us down the drain at the Magdalene laundries. Peg O'Connell died today. She was a cheeky girl, a flirt. They just stuffed her in a hole! Surely to God you'd think at least some bells should ring! One day I'm going to die here too and they'll plant me in the dirt like some lame bulb that never blooms come any spring. Not any spring. No, not any spring. Not any spring.
“SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN,” POISON. Well, I see him on the TV, preaching 'bout the promised lands. He tells me “Believe in Jesus,” steals the money from my hands. Some say he was a good man. Lord, I think he sinned. “Twenty-two years of mental tears,” cries a suicidal
“PENDULUM SWINGER,” INDIGO GIRLS. I meet you for coffee. We get together periodically. I got a bad case I can't shake off of me, the fevered wandering round, wondering how it ought to be. If you work in the system, you see possibilities and your glistening eyes show the hell you're gonna give 'em when they back off the mic for once and give it to a woman. I dream like a mad one, brutal fantasies I catch as catch can. I'm a psychic and a laywoman. I see love and I like to make it happen. What we get from your war walk, the ticker of the nation breaking down like a bad clock. I want the pendulum to swing again, so that all your mighty mandate was just spitting in the wind. It doesn't come by the bullwhip. It's not persuaded with your hands on your hips, and it’s not the company of gunslingers. The epicenter love is the pendulum swinger. She is. She is. She is. It's fine about the old scroll Sanskrit, Gnostic gospels, the Da Vinci code a smash hit. Aren't we dying just to read it and relate? Too hard just to go by a blind faith? But they left out the sisters. I’ve been praying to a father god so long I really missed her. The goddess of benevolence, and you should listen to your mama if you have a lick of sense left. Pushed under by the main press, buried under a code of dress, relegated by the
“BREAD AND CIRCUSES,” BILLY BRAGG, NATALIE MERCHANT. Crowds gather round, kneeling at the feet of common thieves. Hungry for the word but God would never speak through such as these, who offer healing hands and balms and redemption if you would cross their palms. They'll tell your troubles to the Lord for how ever much you can afford. Hands holding hands, in the circle of the sinners and the saved, memories that linger from the cradle, placing puzzles in the grave. No mortal skin and bone can live on bread and circuses alone. The spirit needs must drive the mystery of why we are alive. They look in their Book and they read but their cold hearts say, "Follow me." Dance in the dust in the frenzy of the desperately in need, led by the voices of the men who invoke ritual to hide their greed. Come every tongue, every eye across the crumbling earth and cracking sky. The gates of hell stand open wide but the path of glory you walk single file. These men make a cage for the very souls that came here to be free then they turn off their lights, fold their tents they're fixing to leave. They'll close their Book and leave but you'll remain still in pain.
“HEAVEN,” BRETT DENNEN. Beyond the rules of religion, the cloth of conviction, above all the competition, where fact and fiction meet. There`s no color lines, castes or classes. There’s no fooling the masses. Whatever faith you practice, whatever you believe. Heaven. What the hell is heaven? Is there a home for the homeless? Is there hope for the hopeless? Throw away your misconceptions. There’s no walls around heaven. There’s no codes you gotta know to get in, no minutemen or border patrol. You must lose all earthly possessions, leave behind your weapon. You cannot buy your salvation and there is no pot of gold. Heaven ain`t got no prisons, no government no business, no banks or politicians, no armies and no police. Castles and cathedrals crumble, pyramids and pipelines tumble. The failure keeps you humble and leads us closer to peace.