A Prayer for England


Album art for 100th Window featuring “Prayer for England”

“In the name of and by the power of the Holy Spirit…” If there were any doubts in one’s mind that the song “Prayer for England” was going to be about religion, the first line quickly dispels all of those. Written by the band Massive Attack, nowadays most commonly known for the show House using one of their songs as its theme, oozes with religious overtones, but not necessarily in the way one might think. Featuring Sinead O’Connor for vocals, many interpretations of the song have pegged it as anti-Catholic. It certainly gives a different perspective than many modern religious songs. While many self-proclaimed religious bands write songs praising God or other religious aspects, Massive Attack takes the viewpoint of an outside observer subtly criticizing the Church. The first verse is entirely about the Holy Spirit saving children from all of the terrible scenes they have seen, and saving those that have been taken. This is obviously a direct result of the kidnappings and child murders that took place around the time that the song was written and subsequently released. This verse is a pretty standard prayer, but after that it starts to get quite interesting. The rest of the song continues with lines such as: “See the teachers are representing you so badly” and “Beliefs kill children, too.” These lines obviously refer to the child abuse coming from priests that at times has been rampant throughout the Church. While the children believed in God and their priests, they were betrayed. The teachers of God deceived the population and gave the entire Catholic faith, or at least those in power, a bad name. As I’ve discussed previously, England has a state religion, but still celebrates religious diversity, but it is uncommon to see criticisms of the Church. While Massive Attack may no longer be as popular as they previously were, but when the album containing “Prayer for England” came out they carried a significant amount of clout, so to see (and hear) celebrities such as them criticize the Church was certainly not taken lightly. Religious institutions will always be criticized just as politicians and social movements are. Celebrities often make public statements, which consequently are circulated in newspapers and magazines, but often those are glossed over and forgotten in a matter of days or weeks. Public criticisms in media such as music, however, carries a lot more weight, since it is circulated around the world and will be listened to for years to come. While critiques aren’t always a bad thing – they often keep people and institutions in check – and Massive Attack certainly made their point clear in “Prayer for England.”

Political cartoon on child abuse in the Church


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