Friday, March 03, 2006

Sigur Ros @ Church: is there a problem with that?

It was our Thursday night cell group at a member's home...all present that night seasoned Christians; and experienced yet balanced in the prophetic I sensed the time was right to have them listen prayerfully to what to me was a profound song of worship; and reporting afterwards on what the Lord may have been showing or saying through the song.

Now this group is mature enough to know not only that all impressions are not of God, but that:

a)God can definitely use what might be seen as simplistic "easy-rhyme" worship we don't want to judge the validity or anointing of those types of songs even if we do not prefer them.

b)He is likely to speak through more complex, obtuse, creative or "out of the box" songs..especially for those who prefer that wavelength

Since this song was definite "B," and not a "CCM" staple, I assumed it would match their wavelength and yield a fruitful prayer time. I intentionally didn't tell them much about the song, other than to warn them the lyric wasn't in English ; this group was from another country (so the lyric was in their native language, and also perhaps partly in tongues/glossalalia and just spontaneous sounds/words that flooded out of the singer's soul). So I suggested that through the mood of the music and the "non-verbal" cues of the lyrics and tone, the gathered might sense a certain theme, or general impressions, regarding the worship song.

I also dropped that this band's music was starting to be used in many worship/church settings (often as background music or as soundtrack to prayer/ministry time) with great blessing and benefit.

Once the saints settled in, I spun (OK, that choice of terms betrays my age..I remember records!) the song.

Hey, I would recommend not reading anmore yet, but right now watching or listening to the song. Here it is:

Music Video Codes By

I had looked up a suggested translation of the lyrics; they felt like a prayer around mystical union with God, yet the pray-er was having a hard time waiting on His presence; yet persevered and found peace. But I tried pray a tabula rasa expectationless expectation into me as well.

It was a powerful experience for most; for some it was very visual. Whole scenes and scenarios opened up to them about, well, " prayer around mystical union with God, yet the pray-er was having a hard time waiting on His presence. " Some testified to significant healing and restoration. There were teardrops on some journals and Bibles.

We eventually moved on to a brief Bible Study, but it was clear top all that the song had been the God-centering highlight of the evening. I smiled as the gang left: "Next week I'll tell you the secret about that song."

I play dirty pool. I am a sneaky pastor. But I wanted to make a point. The point this article is leading up to.

The next week, folks were still celebrating the embrace of God they had experienced through my "worship song."

I put on a Paul Harvey smile and spilled a few beans.

"Oh, I never said that the artist was Christian."


They flinched for a moment, but got over it.

Just in time for me to drop the other bomb.

"Oh, by the way, the lead singer is gay. "


"Does anyone have a problem with that?"

Beans spilled, and jaws dropped.

But because these were no "fighting fundies," they didn't kill me.

I explained that the group was Sigur Ros, a creative band with an ethereal sound that indeed (some) churches were beginning to use. The lyrics were in Icelandic, Hoplandis (an improvised phonetic langauge) and sometimes glossalaia, Jonmsi, who yes is gay.

Okay, for those who need to hear it, let me be clear.

Here what I'm not saying:

1)I endorse everything about Sigur Ros.

2) I believe an active Christian should be actively gay .

3)We should use only non-Christian music in worship.

yada yada yada

These three points may be important for context; but in asking whether God can use the band, they are precisely not the point. We evangelicals can be too obsexxed to hear the voiceprints of God at Mars Hill. I love what Episcopal priest Beth Maynard said in a talk about U2 and Christianity: such conerns about God using a band that may or may not measure up to "standards" for Christian faith are somewhat "tacky and voyueristic."

Gee, who wants to be either of those?

And Bruce Cockburn ( a professing Chrsitian if it makes you feel better..but one who is brutally honmest) 's classic "Maybe the Poet" comes to mind and turntable here:

Maybe the poet is gay...

Let him l be heard anyway
Maybe the poet is drugged
But he won't stay under the rug
Maybe the voice of the Spirit
In which case you'd better hear it
Maybe he's a woman
Who can touch you where you're human

Good grief, evangelicals! Can God ever speak through a gay person (Guess we won't clue them in to Henri Nouwen, or this founder of the Jesus movement...or Billy Graham (okay, just kidding...about the last person!) And a how about God actually using a woman...even the emerging church is still lagging behind here (and I can't wait to see what happens when some bloogers find out the secret of the "emergent woman" they have quoting and linking to; like one of them.....)

Jonsi is blind in one eye, too. Is that okay?

It may or may not be okay to ordain him in your tradition. or even have him be a full member of your church...but that's not the question at hand.

It may be that Len Sweet has not overstated the case: "It may be for the first time in history, God is more active in the world than the church."

I would recommend this survey of various articles about Sigur Ros, either from a Christian perspective, or valubale in the conversation (here ). After all, this is the band about which Melody Maker said, "They sound like God weeping tears of gold in heaven."

I have heard no moe prophetic and accurate assesement of said sound.

Then there's this hilarious piece below by Geffery Wilson :

1. If you can imagine the mix-tape Jesus makes every Christmas for Buddha, you
might approximate half the overall impact of Ágætis Byrjun.

2. Lead singer, Jonsi sounds as though he's (having himelf) reorganized by seraphim wielding
sold platinum vise-grips.

3. This album shimmers--Stars are going to have to find another word for whatever it is that they do.

4. If the Mormon Tabernacle Choir teamed up with Handel to record the collected liturgical music of the Hare Krishnas, the result could not be so transcendent as Ágætis Byrjun.

5. . . .like God using Radiohead as hand-puppets.

6. How perversely ironic that only Icelanders have found a way to pack a winters' worth of radiant warmth onto five inches of plastic.

7. The lyrics, written in a combination of Icelandic and an imaginary language called "Hopelandic," sound startlingly like retarded Cherubs placing an order in a Korean restaurant. 8. . . . like freebasing Mercury Rev through a unicorn horn.

9. Ágætis Byrjun on the car stereo turns rolling through the Burger King drive-thru into a cinematic slo-mo transaction with sublime

10. A big bunch of (wimps) making such exquisite sounds, you barely want to (kick 'em around)

An intrerview with a band member:

GEORG: Yes, we like different venues, more like theaters or churches, mainly
because these places have a certain atmosphere: You walk into the room and
there's a certain atmosphere already there. But you walk into a normal rock 'n'
roll venue, and there's no atmosphere except rock 'n' roll. And I don't think
our music is purely rock 'n' roll--it's some sort of rock, maybe, but it's the
atmosphere that really matters.

LAUNCH: I've heard that you get some pretty emotional reactions from audiences everywhere.

GEORG: Yeah, there's a lot of fainting going on at our concerts, and I don't know why. Often you see people crying, and that's good, that's what our music is about: emotion. It's music for your whole body, not for dancing--it's for your whole head.

So is the music listed on "Essential music for theologians," (of course, Sigur Ros makes the cut)but how many artists would claim to be biblical Christians? Musician and Christian Todd Evans, in a candid HM magazine interview is frustrated with the "Christian affiliation keep me from my calling", and asks aloud this about Sigur Ros:

Why are there so many bands not affiliated with Christianity that touch
something in the heavens that many believers do not? I experienced the best
worship at a Sigur Ros concert.. Absolutely amazing. They went to a place
and took us there. How can they do that? Many refuse to let an industry, or money
dictate to their mind how to express themselves. Many are broken and
reaching out for answers...and finding new places creatively in their broken of the walls in their soul are down. WE NEED TO BE BROKEN. WE


If you are still reading, you will be open enough (or bored enough) to actually see or hear the particular song ("Svefn-G-Englarsong") we played at cell group. I'll give some links, but may or may not work for you; sometimes it's just a style thing...I am a sucker for "ethereal music"...but it's deeper than style. I was disappointed not to find the Iceland Opera House live video of the song, but here'sa Google "Sigur Ros"video list here

official site several audio videos here

Svefn-G-Englarsong we did at cell grouip here : One set of sugested lyeics is here

Vido version online live at Iceaklnd Opear house. goodle it down
Thismay work...

Stve Collins of Small Ritual (stole teh photo of Sigur Ros at top) exgellent obsdrevations reuring Sigy Ros cobert
.a la Bono:


"God is interested in truth, and only in truth. And that's why God is more interested in Rock & Roll music than Gospel... Many gospel musicians can't write about what's going on in their life, beacuse it's not allowed ..If you can't write about what's really going on in the world and your life, because it's all happy-clappy... Is God interested in that? I mean, 'Please, don't patronize Me! I want to go the Nine-Inch-Nails gig, they're talking the truth!"
-Bono (audio clip of this quote in context is here)

This was a very important discussion,. We often miss the voice of God if we limit it to just "Christian" songs, or just a certain style. The contributers were from a variety of ages and styles, yet no judgement..and what wonderful eclectic lists.
amazibng list here

"Supper's Ready" "Afterglow"

Peter Gabriel:
"Red Rain"
"Secret World"
"Solsbury Hill"

all U2:

"Elvis Presley and America" "Walk On" "40" "Bad" "Where the Streets Have No Name" "Wake Up Dead Man" "When I Look at the World" "hawkmoon" "Unchained Melody" (yes, they covered the old classic) "scarlet" "gloria"....NO END IS SIGHT WITH U2 SONGS//I JUST HAVE TO STOP!!

Traffic: "Dear Mr. Fantasy"

Pink Floyd: "The Final Cut" "Comfortably Numb" "Time" "Great Gig in the Sky" "Wish You Were Here" "Run Like Hell"

Alice Cooper: "Generation Landslide" "Cleansed by Fire"

Charlie Peacock: "Monkeys at the Zoo"

DC Talk: "Satellite/hardway"

The Choir: live version "Restore My Soul"

The 77s:
"The Lust, the Flesh, The Eyes and the Pride of Life" "The Jig is Up" "denomination blues" "Pray naked"

Steve Hackett:

"Spectral Mornings"

Violet Burning: (i can't pick here!)

"Song of the Harlot" •••••••••••••• "Invitacion Fountain" "Elaste" "Low" "Eleven" "Blood of Jeus" "ilaria" "nobody Else"

The Frames:

"Fitzcarraldo" "The Blood of Jesus Never Failed Me Yet" "Santa Maria"

Sigur Ros:


Delirious: Spontaneous songs from 1996 live; "Great is the Lord"

Brownsville: "Happy Song" "Lover of My Soul"

David Ruis: "Find Rest" "Can it Be"

White Heart: "heaven of my heart'

creedence clearwater: Green River (??????), Pagan Baby (!!!!!!????)

Brian Doerksen: "Prodigal Son Suite" "More"

Raspberry Jam: "Surrender "

Robin Mark; "Days of Elijah"

Steve Taylor/Chagall Geuvara: "violent blue" "hero" "finish line" "on the fritz"

Rush: "hemispheres" "new world man"

yes: "starship trooper"

mike rutherford: "smallcreep's day"

" Audioslave: "Show Me How to Live"

Keith Green: "Asleep in the Light" (the first "Christian" song I ever really heard. it midwived me)

Michael W. Smith: "Agnus Dei"

Radiohead: "fake plastic trees'

bruce cockburn: "maybe the poet," "rocket launcher"

johnny cash: "hurt" "san quentin" (and with u2:"the wanderer"

spiritualized and jeff buckley will likely make my list once i grow into them

billy joel: "captain jack"

elton john: "ticking"

iona: "dancing on the wall"

sting" if i ever lose my faith in You"

the call/michael been: "i still believe," "i don't wanna", "To feel this way"

mark heard or the call: "we know too much"

joan osborne "what if God was (one of us)"

Sixpence: "love salvation and fear of death', "love"

passion worhsip: sweep me away, wonderful king, knowing you, you are my king"

bob dylan: "ring them belsl" "most of the time"

charlie peacock: "lie down in the grass" "monkeys at the zoo"

mike knott/cush: "i am no christ" "the bomb was brighter than the stars"

the cure: "pictures of you" "trust"

king's x:"moonjam'

the who: "won't get fooled again

the clash

zappa:"watermelon in easter hay"

paul mccartney: "maybe i'm amazed"

eagles: "last resort"

sinnead o'connor: "thank you for hearing me" sinnead with u2: "thief of your heart" sinnead with the edge:"heroine"

nilsson "without you"

neil young: "cortez the killer" "old man"

beatles: "day in the life" "golden slumbers/carry that weight/the end"

the prayer chain: "healer" "sky high"

dave matthews: "pantala naga pampa" (totally thanks to jason for sneaking in as a call to worship..awesome) "cry freedom" "don't drink the water"

simple minds: "new gold dream" "soul crying out" "waterfront"


  1. Love Sigur Ros and God. They do encourage worship and adoration. The new song Gobbledigook is very different. Will you be playing the new video for the church to see? Only if they like Adam and Eve.

  2. played the song, not the vid (:


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!