Written as a part of a Lent 2017 project.
I recently had the pleasure of going to see Bear’s Den live in Glasgow. I was introduced to the band through a combination of a church board game group and my boyfriend, and they have quickly become of my my favourite new bands. Their music is a folk-rock, with the use of synth in their later albums, overlayed with some pretty heavy religious imagery.
In the latter half of Lent this year I will be taking part in National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). One of the things I will be looking to explore is my own use of religious imagery in my writing. Bear’s Den are a group I will be using as inspiration.
However it is also my birthday and I wanted to have a bit of fun. So here is a list of Bear’s Den songs graded for biblical accuracy.
An obvious one to begin with, this song is a reference to the character of Isaac from the book of Genesis. Long story short, Abraham is promised a son by God, but doesn’t have one until he is super duper old. God then tells Abraham in a dream to sacrifice his son, which Abraham obeys, up until the last moment when an Angel of God intervenes and gives Abraham a goat to kill instead.
Bears Den have a bit of a licence with this story. It is unclear as to who’s perspective the song is being written, but for my money I would say it is from Abraham at the moment of sacrifice. This is suggested in the lines:
“Isaac I have never seen you look so afraid
With your head pressed so hard against the stone”
Seeing as Abraham would have been the only other person there, and I doubt this is being written from the perspective of the goat. As such, the chorus line “I’m going to give all my love to you” becomes pretty creepy.
However, it gets a bit confusing in the second verse, with the line “I watched it from afar”. Now Abraham couldn’t have been watching this from afar, and we don’t have any other characters in the story (maybe the angel?). How can I take this song seriously if I don’t know the exact biblical circumstances?
There is an interesting double entendre with the title of this song. Agape (a-gayp) in its English derivation means ‘to be open in surprise in wonder,’ while Agape (a-ga-pay) in its Greek derivation is used to mean a love different from erotic/eros, usually used to mean describe spiritual love in Christian contexts – an ‘agape meal’ is a meal between Christians.
Now this gets a bit confusing in the context of the song. The cheery bearded boys at Bear’s Den seem to be singing to a lover (“but baby, I’m clutching at straws” / tell me how long, love, before you go”), which would be more Eros than Agape. The fear of the songwriter is that the love will ‘dissapate’, so it could be a loss of spiritual love?
I feel the songwriters found Agape to be a nice word that means love, and decided to use it as the header to their song. Its good, but its ‘clutching at straws’.
The Angel Gabriel is a popular Angel in the Abrahamic religions, notably the messenger that appeared to both the Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Jesus Christ, and to the Prophet Muhammad to deliver the Qu’ran.
We don’t know who is singing this song, but the subject of the song uses he/him pronouns (and in the darkness / I lose him every time). As such we could hazard a guess that this is sung from the perspective of Mary.
This is supported slightly by the later lines, “it’s not just a shadow, but a life I left behind / the person I am yet most despised” – could this be a young mother Mary as a refugee in Egypt? I’m not a huge fan of this theory, as I tend to think of Mary as a more revolutionary figure, but it is an option.