Dear Christian: Sigh No More

Art & Literature, Culture, Media, Music — By on March 1, 2010 at 12:05 am

As if four vocalists, two drum sets, guitars, organ and piano aren’t enough, Mumford & Sons also employs banjo, dobro, mandolin, and well-crafted lyrics to pierce their listener with sublime melodies.

A brand new folk indie-rock band based out of London, Mumford & Sons‘ first album, Sigh No More, was released in the US by Island Records on February 16th, but since its October release date in Europe, it has already made the BBC’s Record of the Week and reached #1 on the Australian Albums Chart and #7 on the UK Albums Chart.

Strains of other artists such as Sufjan Stevens and the Fleet Foxes can be heard in their sound, which neatly blends technical intentionality with a nearly tactile passion. Harmony and musical craftsmanship overflow in the tracks, which you can preview on iLike, serving only to enhance the emotional intensity of the album. Displaying mastery of utilizing dynamics—that is, orchestration of volume—as well as their instrumental arsenal, Mumford & Sons weaves tracks brilliant both in and of themselves, but and as soundtracks for the deep, narrative poetry normally known as ‘lyrics’.

In a word, Mumford & Sons is worth a listen.

Band member Marcus Mumford’s parents are head of the Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdom–this perhaps partially explains why the lyrics address spiritual issues while also maintaining a fierce and raw affirmation of life.

Nevertheless, the affirmation is accompanied by a pain—perhaps even a bitterness—towards the faith that the narrator has evidently abandoned. In the song “The Cave,” we can hear Mumford cry this simultaneous ‘Yes’ to life and ‘No’ to his past:

I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again.

Oh come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down:
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand.
So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want.
I will not hear what you have to say
Because I need freedom now,
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be.

As in “The Cave,” Sigh No More conveys a consistent criticism of religious faith, though it never names Christianity specifically: it makes people sigh—it is, as philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche would say, ‘life-denying’. Even in this penitential season of Lent, the critique is worth taking seriously. We know that Christians are called to a life of self-denial, but do we equally make known the self-affirmation arising from self-denial? In other words, is our Christianity a form of self-cannibalism, or a healthy dietary regimen? Practicing self-denial is for the end of spiritual health, not spiritual emaciation–which do our lives demonstrate?

Sigh No More is an honest reflection on faith that I would encourage any Christian to examine.  When Mumford promises, “And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears. / And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears,” he conveys a true human desire that we should fully identity with–the desire for peace and the ability to rest in the vulnerability of love. We can affirm this desire and point to its full realization in Jesus Christ. By holding to this hope, I believe we’ll learn how to sigh no more. ‘


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  • Jonathanheller3

    I disagree. I find all the lyrics from “the cave” to be a light on his understanding of his depraved life before Christ. I believe his specified enemy in this song is the world’s calling, not the calling of Christianity.

  • guest

    Why does there always seem to be an evangelical habit of questioning the Christianity or faith of others? Is it possible that there are true Christians out there that are not lock-step automatons? I ask the author of this review, Why does questioning or struggling with ones faith suggest a rejection of it? Let’s be honest, being a Christian is hard. Its difficult to live in a world that glorifies every sort of temptation and treats your faith as a sign of weak intellect.
    I do not pretend to know the relationship between Mr. Mumford and God; but a man who write lines such as: “Awake my soul, you were meant to meet your Maker.” and :You told me that I would find a hole
    Within the fragile substance of my soul
    And I have filled this void with things unreal
    And all the while my character it steals”
    or”It seems that all my bridges have been burned
    But you say ‘That’s exactly how this grace thing works’
    It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
    But the welcome I receive with every start”
    is a man of faith.
    Christianity is not about going to church on Sunday and smiling all of the time. It is a relationship- and relationships are hard. Pretending that having a relationship with God is easy and that life is great perfect after becoming a Christian is foolish and does nothing to help the plight of the Christian within our culture. Maybe if more people of faith explained their fears and emotions the way Mumford does, more non-Christians could empathize.

  • emptymindemptywallet

    I agree to some extent, because I don’t think that Mumford has abandoned the faith. I get the impression that his writing expresses the difficulty of trying to live a righteous life and, like you said, self-denying life for God while trying to have fun and indulge in our humanly desires and passions. I think his lyrics represent a real battle of consciousness. Conviction(The Holy Spirit) vs. Disobedience(Myself).

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  • Vox Populi

    Since we have no way of knowing the authors mind – could this article simply be a way of minimizing and marginalizing the message?

    What I heard in this song spoke something to me I have not heard in ages, but am beginning to become aware of all around me – and maybe it is because my world-view harbored and nutured the concept that God intends men to be free (I need freedom now), that God does not want man indebted or beholden to other men (I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck), he could also be speaking to man’s age old desire for a ruler/king instead of a relationship of dependence/faith in God (you can understand dependence when you know the maker’s hand), it could be that the singer is rejecting mankinds answer – if it rejects his God (so make your sirens call/sing all you want/I will not hear what you have to say), he seems to be establishing a rejection of Nietszche – NOT endorsing him (you take what is yours and I’ll take mine/now let me at the truth/which will refresh my broken mind).

    Think about it – Nietzsche can’t be invoked by anyone trying to follow Christ – because Nietszche said religion was a lie! It is moronic to assert otherwise. The self-endulgent snobbery of invoking Nietszche in this article speaks to the dismissal of Christianity as a myth and by marginalizing Christians (followers of Christ) as fear-sponsored myth believers – is not only dismissive, it is offensive. By invoking the father of National Socialism and Communism – the mass-murdering anti-religioun substitutes – you minimize the danger of follwoing Nietszche. You had better hope he was wrong, or you will get many more beautiful beasts that only lack will to attain and maintain power. I think the author finds Nietzsche bankrupt – he doesn’t want to hear man’s justification for living without God because he can STILL see widows and orphans from the post he’s strapped too – Nietzsche DID NOT free men – he tied man to a post that stripped individuals of wealth and distributed to ONLY certain widows and only CERTAIN orphans.

    Of course, I think this way because my worldview (alluded to previously) has MUCH to do with how I view this song. I am a Protestant Christian, born and raised in America, on folksongs about why America is great and what made it so…our people came OUT of those who used religion to control man – it was a light noose (at first) and it was only jerked once in a while (at first) but eventually we all grew tired of being enslaved to work on our brothers behalf (mostly when they simply did not want to work themselves), simply because governments sought to earn the votes of those they redistribute “wealth” to. As our elders taught US – governments make slaves of BOTH parties when they alone decide to take from those they do not agree with and give it to those they need to maintain their power.

    We are the faith of second-chances, but we do not suffer fools – and this article was written by a snobbish, dismissive fool.

  • Lindsay Stallones

    And this response isn’t snobbish or dismissive at all…

  • guest

    totally agree with that dude

  • Mindpucker

    Check out chapter 5 of GK Chesterton’s biography of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is literally what “the cave” is about. Mumford is an admitted fan of Chesterton and you can find the chapter here:

    http://www.john1334.org/sa/gkchesterton/gk-chesterton_saint-francis_05.html

  • Aubs77

    Thank you so much for this sentiment. I totally agree! How are non believers supposed to be exposed to our faith if we keep it to ourselves? Many “Christians”  send their kids to Christian school, listen to “Christian” music and only expose themselves to that lifestyle. Faith is a journey and not always a pretty one I might add. But extremely rewarding! Thank you Mumford and sons for dealing with the journey of life and faith of any kind!! Such beautiful and thought provoking lyrics can be enjoyed by anyone……..

  • Rachel Goode

    I don’t think he has bitterness towards his faith.  I always thought his line “i will know my name as it’s called again” was a reference to the book of Revelation where all believers will be given a new name. As for this line “I need freedom now/and I need to know how it’s meant to be”… this seems to be a reference to Jesus and Paul’s teachings on how only Christ can set us free, and that freedom is defined by being in God’s will — meaning how God meant them to be.  I this part of the song is saying that this world may tempt him, it may make pretty siren’s music — but he will stay focused on God.  It is a corageous determination to find grace — regardless of the bridge he’s burned — because he knows Christ gives us grace even when we don’t deserve it, so long as we seek Christ.

  • Rachel Goode

    Awesome!

  • Brenny7777

    resigning to mores’ of traditional Christianty can sometimes seem inconvient, but the radical outcome of denying these things often provide more pain than it is worth, in the sacrifice of personal indulgences.  Christianity should never be viewed in the sense of a list or a criteria, in saying that, if one does percieve that as their Christianity it disolves the mystery of the encounter between the natural and Supernatural. Christ as a unifing figure can not be swallowed acutely, but wholely; in any other case it is a complete fail……..

  • Chuck

    I love the conversations here. And, recently listening to Mumfords words for the first time I found myself praying “Lord I wish I could form poetry for you with this type of skill”. It is obviously not up to us to decide the relationship between Marcus and God, but there is no doubt that their is a relationship, and it overflows into the lives of both believers and non regardless of what that relationship may be.

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  • Alexei D84

    Mr Mumford’s songs are delightfully refreshing. To me they speak of one’s experience of God and life. They do not deny, but are extremely aware of the spiritual “side” of our life. Neither do they confine it to organized religion. It is this very quality, that makes his music true, heartfelt. Well done and good luck on your life journey!

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