Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Excuse me, Mr Williams.

I'm annoyed. Irked; riled; angered; peeved; irritated; vexed; and any other word that desires to throw my way.

The source of my agitation? Mr Robbie Williams.

I would like to state from the outset that in general I've never really had a problem with Robbie. Some of his music is good and he's a first class entertainer. He does have a tendency to come across as a little obnoxious and arrogant at times, but show me an A-list pop star who doesn't!

It's his new single that's got me blogging. It's called Bodies and you can listen to it here.

Musically I think it's a return to form. Very catchy and it's got a good anthemic vibe come the end. But have you heard the lyrics? Here's a slightly abridged transcript for you:

God gave me the sunshine
Then showed me my lifeline
I was told it was all mine
Then I got laid on a ley line
What a day, what a day
And your Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

Bodies in the Bodhi tree
Bodies making chemistry
Bodies on my family
Bodies in the way of me
Bodies in the cemetery
And that’s the way it’s gonna be
All we’ve ever wanted is to look good naked

Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection
I want perfection

Praying for the rapture
‘Cause it’s stranger getting stranger
And everything’s contagious
It’s the modern middle ages
All day every day
And if Jesus really died for me
Then Jesus really tried for me

Jesus didn’t die for you, what do you want?
(I want perfection)
Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on?
Oh Lord(Jesus really died for you)
Ohh(Jesus really died for you)
(Jesus really died for you) Ohh

I've bolded the stuff that's causing me a problem. It's obvious that the song is an outworking of all sorts of things that Williams has been thinking about. His interest in spirituality has often been a feature of his songs and I don't believe that he's intending to offend with his lyrics. But offend he does. I'm loathe to use the word offend actually. It's bandied about too often these days and has lost any real meaning. It might be better to say these lyrics upset me.

I'm a Christian. The absolute core of my beliefs is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, totally God, totally human, absolutely holy and pure, died an horrific and undeserved death in order to take the punishment that I deserve for my disobedience and rejection of God. This is a truth. Jesus died for me. Really. I would have no problem if Robbie was singing that Jesus didn't die for him, if that's how he feels. But it is heart-breaking to hear someone singing at me through the radio that my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ didn't die for me.

This also brings up an interesting situation. Who do I complain to? There's no real reason for me to complain to Williams (other than to correct him!) - he has a right to write and sing what he wants. Freedom of speech and all that. But should radio and TV stations be more responsible in what they are broadcasting? I'm 99% sure that if someone wrote a song denying in such terms something so integral to the Islamic faith, that the media would at the very least think twice before airing it. It is in fact only two lines of the song that truly affront. It would be very easy to edit out - they do it enough with swearing these days. You would be well within your rights to say, "But if it's only two lines then what's the big problem?" but those two lines - "Jesus didn't die for you", "Jesus didn't die for you, what are you on?" are killers. They come at the very end in the most anthemic part of the song and for Christians they have the capacity to cut to the heart.

Robbie's confusion and agnostic predilections are made clear by the fact that whilst he's singing these words the backing vocals are chiming, "Jesus really died for you". He would probably use that as his defence and it does diminish the insult a little. Although until I looked up the lyrics I thought that they were also singing "Jesus didn't die for you" - perhaps a slightly greater quality of diction is all that's required there!

Interestingly I've not heard a single word of complaint to any media outlet but I expect that a lot of Christians find themselves in a similar situation to myself - to whom do I complain? It makes me sad but for now I'll have to make do with responding to Mr Williams in a loud voice each time I hear his song: "Actually Jesus did die for me, thank you very much! Praise the Lord!"


Debbie Haughland Chan said...

I too am a believer but when I read the bolded words, what came to my mind is that it was an argument within himself and that the "you" is himself. I often will argue with myself so maybe I'm being too generous to the man's intent. I don't know the singer or the song.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely having heard the song on Radio 2 primetime. I am tempted to complain to the BBC.

Anonymous said...

don't complain, instead get every follower of Jesus that you know to pray for him - if robbie williams gave his life to Christ (for real) it would be a miracle for him (hasn't he been suicidal very recently?) and an answer to the prayers of others I know who pray regularly for him - as well as a very high profile and hugely impressive witness to the fact that God is real and Jesus really does love everyone!

J Hobbs said...

I, as a christian who has enjoyed much of Robbie's works am really offended by these lyrics. I am all for provoking controversy if it brings christianity to the public eye, but not in this way. His lyrics are blatant - 'JESUS DIDN'T DIE FOR ME'. It can't be clearer in his song. Why aren't we complaining. I honestly didn't think when I heard Robbie would be on X-Factor that he would sing this song, or that it would be allowed by the ITV. Maybe I am missing the point - but we all know that if these lyrics were talking about Allah it would be banned! Mat 10 v 33 is worth considering - couldn't be more public this!

Chris R said...

oh my. you can be offended by the song if you want to be, just as many people are deeply offended by christianity's homophobia, sexism and emphasis on guilt and suffering. given that we agnostics tolerate you, you will just have to tolerate us. thank goodness i can write a song, book or poem criticising organised religion, christianity, islam, sihkism and proclaiming my agnosticism. by the way, if you find that offensive, it's probably best that you avoid the vast bulk of alternative music, arthouse cinema and literature, because it takes a highly subtle, nuanced and sophisticated view of religion, society and faith. no doubt you would get terribly 'offended'.

Giraffe-a-licious said...

Hi Chris

Thanks for your comment. It having been a number of months ago that I wrote this I did have to go back and have a re-read to see what I'd said!

I still stand by it. I did mention in my blog that I wasn't a huge fan of the word 'offended'. It's one of those words that is used by the political correctness police too much. But I believe that I'm entitled to be upset by a lyric and to air those views. Freedom of speech is a grand thing. And yes, I'm glad that people can write songs (or blogs) that give voice to opinions and beliefs - whatever they are. I don't think my blog was particularly over the top. It was fairly measured and light hearted.

I definitely have issue with your saying that Christianity is homophobic and sexist but I'm more keen to answer your charge that Christians put too much emphasis on guilt and suffering. I would argue the opposite (surprise, surprise!). Trusting in Jesus Christ is about salvation and freedom. Freedom from any guilt. Salvation from what we deserve. The knowledge that guilt no longer needs to hang over us. If Christianity was all about guilt and suffering then I think we'd be a pretty miserable bunch of people and we're not!