Last night, I tuned in to The Voice. The beginning of the show was a tribute to the Sandy Hook / Newtown victims. I applaud this on many levels. It was a touching tribute in terms of the sentiment that was communicated and a showing of unity and support.
Make no mistake, we ALL mourn the loss of precious life due to a senseless and evil act. I saw the front page of a Hartford, CT newspaper today on which was published a photo of each victim’s face. I sat in my office and wept seeing each innocent, smiling face and thinking of the grieving families who long to see those faces again.
The biggest problem I have with what The Voice did was their choice of song. They sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. This song has been covered approximately 1,354,569 times by every artist from Kermit the Frog to Jeff Buckley. The best way I can describe my relationship to the song is like watching a car wreck. It’s bad and one ought not look, but curiosity and one’s own blood lust takes over and you have to look.
The title of the song and the word most often repeated in the song is the only reason they chose to sing the song. It was NBC’s way of trying to communicate a spiritual sentiment without having to really be spiritual about it.
I read one tweet that said “they sang the hymn Hallelujah…” See? The song is no more a hymn than Sweet Home Alabama, but since it has hallelujah in it, well, it must be deeply spiritual and meaningful, right?
A few thoughts:
Hallelujah is a transliteration of the Hebrew phrase for “Praise Yahweh” or Praise the Lord. It’s a wonderful phrase and the only thing of redeeming value in the song. The rest of the song makes very little sense. It’s a marriage of several paraphrased Biblical excerpts and various and sundry nonsensical lyrics. [Click HERE for lyrics] However, the musicality of the song with its compelling hook and cool chord progressions make it feel like a song that has some deep spiritual quality.
Full disclosure: I have heard and loved several renditions of the song, but I refer you to my earlier car wreck analogy. I’m not proud of myself.
The real problem is that people get confused at times like this. When there is a crisis of life and death on the magnitude that we experienced last Friday, people who have no basis of faith in Jesus Christ (who is the Way, the Truth and the Life) do not know how to reconcile their feelings. Often in an effort to cope, people wrap themselves in things that feel like spiritual warmth though it is just a shadow, an empty shell that quickly disintegrates. This is what NBC tried to do.
If you are okay with singing a song entitled “Praise the Lord” (that Lord specifically being Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ) why not sing a song that actually might herald some real hope and comfort for people? A real hymn?
The answer to that question is elusive. That answer could also explain why people, in general, prefer a pseudo faith to the real thing. People throughout the ages have developed elaborate theories to explain our existence, the meaning of life, what happens after death and other perplexing questions. The funny thing is the answers man has come up with, in many cases, are far more outlandish and far-fetched than the truth that we are a product of God’s infinitely wise plan.
This Christmas my prayer, like many Christmas prayers before it, would be that wise men would still seek the Christ; that hurting people would turn to the only true source of comfort; that lost people would step out of the shadow and embrace the Light of the world.