[Editor’s Note: Okay, so it’s been… let’s say a few years since I first wrote this one, and it seems to have gotten a lot of views since. I seem to have cranked up my rhetoric to an 11 out of 10 that day, so this is just a note to say I don’t write like this any more. Though “Hallelujah” is still totally not a worship song. For everyone’s info. ;-)]
A while ago, some young, female, Christian vocalists got together on a multi-artist tour, gathered around a guitar, and did a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Since then, the video has been circulating around the CCM community, been featured on Godtube, etc., etc. You’ll hear words like “amazing,” “powerful” and “beautiful” used to describe it, but… well, you be the judge. I believe “bedroom vocals” may be a more accurate description:
So, okay, if you managed to make it through the whole thing… I hope you weren’t too distracted by the performance to pay attention to what’s actually the most problematic thing about this video—the song itself. You see, these lovely, earnest but apparently not very bright young ladies seem to think this is a worship song. Or at least that it can be easily claimed as one.
Now, to clarify, there is more than one version of the lyrics floating around out there. Some, including the original, make it more explicit what meaning its author intended to communicate. Other versions, including this one, are still strange, but not so clear. However, the original version is popular enough that I can’t believe none of these girls have never heard it. And ultimately, all of the verses all fit together in a cohesive pattern, and the message they send is decidedly non-Christian.
I decided not to quote the two omitted verses because they are so objectionable (though readers are welcome to use google to confirm what I’m saying), but essentially, this is what they are about: First of all, verse two fleshes out the reference to David, this time focusing on his sin with Bathsheba. It describes his temptation, then uses the word “Hallelujah” to refer to the act itself. Needless to say, this is not worshipful in the least. But it gets even worse in the other explicit verse, which is borderline pornographic and contains a blasphemous reference to “the holy dove” descending on the couple in sin. (Of course this fit right in with the “make love not war” sentiment of the times when the song was written.)
Yet people will still try to argue that really, this song is all about repentance and brokenness, and the “cold and broken Hallelujah” in the most famous verse is a reference to our desperate need for God because we’ve screwed up, just like David did. But when we return to the final verse and put it into context along with the omitted verses I’ve just described, a very different meaning emerges:
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Clearly, the girls view this verse as the most worshipful of them all. What could be more worshipful than standing before God with “Hallelujah” on your lips? Insert closed eyes and raised hands here… yes? No. Look again. It’s a song of defiance, not worship. “Hallelujah” has already been established as having a sexual meaning. Yes, it was sinful, and yes, it all came crashing down. But the singer is proclaiming that he would do it all again, that it was worth it. This is really the opposite of worship. In fact, it’s blasphemous. And who is the “Lord of Song” anyway? Is it the true God? Or is it really a false god of carnal love?
Here’s what really scares me: the thought that those girls probably aren’t alone. What do you wanna bet you can find a church that uses this in its worship set today? I think it’s overwhelmingly likely. I would be interested if anyone could find a set list or video to confirm that.
What is the Church coming to? I declare, every time I think Christians can’t get any more blind and ignorant… they find a new low. How terrifying.