Be Moved to Contemplate ‘Hebrews 11:40’ by The Mountain Goats

Paul Keggington

April 09, 2010

Alive to the newness and hope of each new day, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity spotlight The Mountain Goats‘ stream Hebrews 11:40 during this Easter Season. Like the best songwriters,  John Darnelle artistically

Mountain Goats stream Hebrews 11:40 on Franciscanized World blog.

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature The Mountain Goats' Hebrews 11:40

translates the raw material of his own life, from the joyful to the anguishing, into songs that resonate with the pure catharsis of simply expressing the truth.

At first one wonders how the sentiment of Hebrews 11:40 – “God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.” – could be reconciled with the tragedy of  John’s own terrible experiences of being an abused child. Read on for John’s own comments, and his courageous sense of hope and desire to draw good from the tragic. In the wake of Easter, on the road to Emmaus… in the confusion the presaged Jesus’ appearances…in Thomas’ understandable doubting and eventual encounter with his Savior, we can all hope for our own Resurrection and beginning of renewed life, whether from healing of traumatic events or simply discerning how to take our place in time and history.

Hebrews 11:40 was written in the back of a tour bus as the Last Happy Night of Your Life Tour rolled toward Salt Lake City. Everybody else in the bus was asleep except for Phil, our beloved driver. So I worked in solitude in the back lounge, musing about what I know about Mormon teaching – especially how important the physical body is to them. I come from a Catholic tradition, and to me, the notion of the body as a container for who-I-actually-am is very strong; I left the Church long ago, but this idea that my body is what carries “me” through this world persists.

The song, to be blunt about it, is about coping with the longstanding effects of having been physically abused as a child. It is no coincidence that I have spent a lot of time considering what the connection is between the body that carries me through this world and the spirit that resides within it. It would take a mighty, mighty God to restore the sense of wholeness — of union between body and soul – that’s often the first casualty of abuse. In this song I try hard to believe in just such a God, and I tell Him, in terms I know He can understand because He knows all and sees the secret desires of our hearts, what the struggle to believe is like. It is a lot more cryptic than my other songs about the same struggle, but I hoped when I wrote it that people who have walked paths like mine will recognize themselves in it, and will share my desire to hope earnestly in some future restoration.

-John Darnelle

Hebrews 11:40 Lyrics:

Masks hanging on the tomb walls
Where the coven grieves
Witches hiding in the brambles
Ground level down where the dry leaves
Blow and burn slowly
No ground is ever gonna hold me

Bright candles in the manor
Where the curse takes hold
Bodies reassembling down where the worms crawl
Make your own friends when the world’s gone cold

It gets dark and then
I feel certain I am going to rise again
If not by faith then by the sword
I’m going to be restored

Build fires to keep the beacon flashing
Where the earth lies flat
Blood calls to blood as the hours draw down
Invent my own family if it comes to that
Hold them close, hold them near
Tell them no one’s ever going to hurt them here

Steal the treasure and try to leave town
Fight my way back down
Don’t want to hurt anyone
Probably gonna have to before it’s all done

Take to the hills right away
I’m gonna get my perfect body back someday
If not by faith then by the sword
I’m going to be restored


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