Until a few days ago I couldn’t tell you anything about this song other than I always found both the music and the lyrics haunting. The music causes my emotions to well up, and the lyrics cause them to flow over. I had never really considered there may be debate over whether or not it is a “Christian’ song. I listen and I hear pain. I hear a person who has tried to be faithful to and believe in his god and failed. I hear an individual whose soul is incomplete and who is struggling to believe; to be saved. In short I hear a person that in many ways I can relate to.
Imagine my surprise when I followed a Facbook link to a version of the song performed by two gifted young men, and found a shocking discussion on not only whether or not the song was Christian in nature, but whether or not it was actually offensive to god. The first comment that surprised me was:
“Although this is beautiful, this is NOT a Christian song. Does anyone not hear the reference to orgasm in it?”
Actually I am not sure I do. I suppose there a couple places where it may be referenced in some version of the song, but I am not convinced. Even if it is when did orgasms become an affront to god? If orgasms are offensive and sinful than isn’t all life a result of human weakness? I was thinking to myself “this is why I don’t go to church” when I stumbled across this winner in response to the above:
“I totally agree with you. I also believe there’s a reference to Homosexuality as well. The line that says, “our love is not a victory march”, in my opinion is the line I refer to”.
Really? I thought God and faith were supposed to offer one a sense of peace and love? These people seem so fearful.
If the first few remarks shocked me imagine my surprise when Istumbled across this piece of commentary:
“The melody of the song is absolutely gorgeous… but the lyrics totally destroy it; it has such melancholy lyrics. I find it disappointing that it has no redeeming message or victorious joy at the ending. It breaks my heart that someone would use the name of our Precious Lord in such a vile manner, in a way to exalt the flesh above Him. Hallelujah means “Praise the Lord!” so how can you have a “broken” Hallelujah?”
Is she serious? How can there be a broken Hallelujah? How can there be no redeeming message or victorious ending? All I can say is there must be much bliss in a life so sheltered from pain as to not understand that too often there is no happy ending, or to have never found themselves in a place were they have questioned their faith or faithfulness. It would do some folks a lot of good to try and understand that their view of life experience is not the only possibility out there.
All this conversation inspired to me to poke around some and see what I could learn about the song. It was written by Leonard Cohen, who is apparently Jewish, and the song originally had nothing to do with Christianity other than making use of some biblical references. It has been covered numerous times with the late Jeff Buckley’s version probably being the most well known. There have also been numerous verses added and altered by various artists with the apparent intent of changing the songs feel and conveying the cover artist’s meaning. Any broad statement that this song is blasphemous cannot be taken seriously without specific reference to a particular version as there is not one “Hallelujah” out there, but rather many many interpretations of the nearly thirty year old original.
While looking around for some background and listening to different performances and the verses they chose I stumbled across this amazing performance of the song. Prior to this I was aware the song had been covered by women, but I had only hear male versions. These girls chose a great combination of verses and sing beautifully. This is without a doubt the best I have ever heard this song perfromed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do: