Recently I was out shopping in a resale clothes store that played distractingly loud music. Oh, believe me when I say that I love music. You know those crazy people who can name a movie soundtrack after listening to it on Pandora for five seconds? That’s me.
Now, I admit to having selective musical tastes. Usually I listen either to Christian songs or to soundtracks or other instrumental music without words. On that day in the store, I remembered why.
Everywhere I’m looking now
I’m surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you’re my saving grace
You’re everything I need and more
It’s written all over your face
Baby I can feel your halo
Pray it won’t fade away
Those lyrics come from Halo by Beyonce Knowles, and they are downright disturbing.
Looking at the context (you can read the rest of the lyrics here, if you must), we see that this song is not about God or angels or any other such meaningful thing. Like every other secular song ever written, it’s about a boyfriend. Yet the song’s imagery makes him seem larger than life. Saving grace? Everything I need and more? Halo? If all this is true, Beyonce must have one remarkable boyfriend.
In all seriousness, however hyperbolic it sounds, the song has an agenda. Beyonce didn’t become popular for nothing, and she could not have completely overlooked the connotations of the images she chose. She wrote every word in Halo on purpose. The message of the song is clear: Now that I have a significant other, I need nothing else.
Normally I would have ignored any secular song, dismissing it as a waste of time and mental energy. However, I paid attention to this song for two reasons. First, I had always thought the instrumental version of Halo was so pretty (still do). And second, I had seen a similar theme develop in my new favorite show on Netflix, BBC’s Robin Hood.
For this discussion, all you need know about the series is that it has the indispensable love triangle, to which it devotes quite a bit of screen time. Both Robin Hood, the hero, and Guy of Gisborne, the bad guy (so to speak), are in love with Lady Marian. What is more, Gisborne pursues Marian so ardently, even at great cost to himself, that she eventually has to agree to marry him. At their wedding, we learn why this was so important to Gisborne: several years ago, he committed high treason and effectively ruined his own life, and in his mind, being with Marian is his only hope of forgiveness. As he says to her at the altar, “You will wash away my sins.”
Now, before you write off this show as a pro-Beyonce soap opera, listen to the ending of this story. At this moment Marian finds out about all his crimes and, further, his hope of being acquitted by marrying her. She promptly slaps his face and flees the church. How romantic.
Being a villain, Gisborne only sulks and blames everyone but himself for the trouble. But at least the audience learns a valuable lesson, contrary to what Beyonce would have you think: When you trust in something as a saving grace, be sure that grace is sufficient. Finite things can be stripped away at any moment, leaving you with nothing.
BBC stops short of explaining where we should put our faith; however, we as Christians already know the answer. The Bible tells us plainly. Paul writes in his second letter to Corinth that he has a “thorn,” some unnamed flaw or problem which gives him unending trouble, and he has repeatedly asked God to remove this thorn.
But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
To be human is to be flawed. There is nothing on earth that will ever suffice for our complete happiness or utter fulfillment. God’s grace is the only thing that is sufficient for us, weaknesses and all. God spoke the universe into existence. He made everything, knows everything, and controls everything. He won’t be frustrated or confused by anything; He invented it. When we believe this, we know our faith is secure with Him.
So, the question I would put to Beyonce and other artists like her is this: What happens when your angelic love interest slaps your face at the altar? when you lose your titanic self-sufficiency to illness or a tragic accident? when your wild party leaves you with a hangover and liver failure?
I don’t know about you, but I think I want to put my faith in Someone a little stronger than that.