A Punk Band Wrote a Folk Song That’s Actually a Pretty Good Advent Hymn

I first heard Bad Religion‘s “Sorrow” on the radio in it’s acoustic version, sung and played solo by its lead singer Greg Graffin. To me it sounds like it could be a folk song from the ‘sixties. Only after I went to the internet did I find out that it was originally recorded with the full band in their standard punk arrangement. I like the version above. Here are the lyrics (for some reason the first verse is omitted in the version above):

[Father can you hear me?
How have I let you down?
I curse the day that I was born
And all the sorrow in this world.]

Let me take you to the hurting ground
Where all good men are trampled down
Just to settle a bet that could not be won
Between a prideful father and his son.

Will you guide me now, for I can’t see
The reason for the suffering and this long misery.
What if every living soul could be upright and strong?
Well, then I do imagine
There will be sorrow,
There will be sorrow,
And there will be sorrow no more.

When all the soldiers lay their weapons down,
Or when all kings and all queens relinquish their crowns,
Or when the only true messiah rescues us from ourselves,
It’s easy to imagine
There will be sorrow,
There will be sorrow,
And there will be sorrow no more, no more.

There will be sorrow,
And there will be sorrow,
And there will be sorrow no more.
Yeah, there will be sorrow,
And there will be sorrow,
There will be sorrow no more, no more.

The first two verses describe a conflict between a son and a father, and the third line, “I curse the day that I was born” echoes what Job says at the beginning of his profound meditation on suffering in that ancient Biblical book. Then the song begins to shift to something hopeful. The lyrics describe a time when there would be “sorrow no more”, when the soldiers lay down their weapons, when the kings and queens lay aside their crown, the true messiah rescues us from ourselves – which all seems to be a reference to the eschatological vision from the Bible, especially Isaiah and Revelation:

So the ransomed of the Lord shall return . . . and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 51.11)

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

All of which makes me think this would be a good song for Advent, especially in this long season of Covidtide. I could imagine, at the beginning of an Advent service, a soloist singing this song, perhaps even without accompaniment.

Despite their name, Bad Religion is not opposed to faith as such, but rather in unquestioning faith in institutions and religious leaders. Also, they’re a punk band, and the gimmick with a lot of punk is to be offensive. As one member put it,

The name Bad Religion and the crossbuster logo came to pass in the minds of two fifteen-year-olds who were trying to find the most offensive name and image they could possibly find for the punk band they were starting in their garage … These are not people who thought that 21 years later they would be on the telephone doing interviews.

No one will mistake Bad Religion for a Christian rock group, but I find it interesting that a bunch of people who are so suspicious of religion nevertheless make use of the themes of Christianity. Indeed, in 2013 they even did an album of Christmas songs.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been thinking about as we approach the beginning of Advent. I hope you like the song.

About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Canadian. Husband. Father. Christian. Recovering Settler. A priest of the Church of England, Diocese in Europe, on the island of Crete in Greece. More about me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bruce-bryant-scott-4205501a/
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