Sting's Sacred Love -- Is He Searching for God?

I have been a fan of the rock/jazz musician Sting since I first heard Roxanne shortly after its release back in the 1970s. I have always enjoyed his music, and have all of his albums from his very greatest efforts(Nothing Like the Sun and Ten Summoner's Tales) through his very worst (Mercury Rising). His latest release, Sacred Love, has left me wondering: is Sting seeking God?

The album's name alone should alert the reader that he is somehow seeking something of the divine since "sacred", by definition, is something related to deity or deserving of worship. In Christian thought, "sacred love" is what Jesus demonstrated when he died on the cross in forgiveness of sin. The album is dedicated to the memory of a couple of individuals, and this leads me to believe that the album is intended to be an introspective look at Sting's own life and mortality, and in many ways that is exactly what the album delivers. Sting admits that he has been thinking about Christianity in the song "Sacred Love" which he concludes with:

I've been thinking 'bout religion
I've been thinking 'bout the things that we believe
I've been thinking 'bout the Bible
I've been thinking 'bout Adam and Eve
I've been thinking 'bout the garden
I've been thinking 'bout the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life
I've been thinking 'bout forbidden fruit
I've been thinking 'bout a man and his wife
I been thinking 'bout, thinking 'bout
Sacred love

The album is littered with some very unmistakeable references to the Bible.

The first song, "Inside", gives a look inside Sting's heart by comparing what is happening inside with what is happening to the world outside. For example, he begins, "Inside the doors are sealed to love, Inside my heart is sleeping", while "Outside the stars are turning, Outside the world's still burning". In the course of this examination, he notes:

Inside my head's a box of stars I never dared to open
Inside the wounded hide their scars, inside this lonesome sparrow's fall
Inside the songs of our defeat, they sing of treaties broken
Inside this army's in retreat, we hide beneath the thunder's call

Now, I don't know exactly what Sting was thinking, but the references in this verse are keenly interesting to me. It seems to talk about the fact that we have within ourselves untapped potential that we don't dare to open. Why not? Because it is inside where we, the wounded, hide our scars. Now, this is certainly subject to several interpretations, but the next line makes me think that he is talking about the fall since he refers to the fall of a sparrow which echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:29 and 31: "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And {yet} not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. * * * So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." Is Sting recognizing that he is one of the sparrows for whom Jesus expresses care in Matthew, and the scars are the scars that come from the fall? Are the treaties broken our covenants with God? Is "thunder's call" the voice of God?

The album continues with Send Your Love which is seems to be the side of Sting that responds to the questions raised on "Inside" with the words of the famous Beatle song, All You Need is Love. Several songs on the album are like Send Your Love in that they seem to not only to embrace this idea of "we can change the world with love alone" (which may be the "sacred love" to which the album title refers), but seems to reject religion altogether. But I will come back to this particular song later.

The next song, "Whenever I Say Your Name", has direct Christian allusions. For example, consider the first couple of lines:

Whenever I say your name, whenever I call to mind your face
Whatever bread's in my mouth, whatever the sweetest wine that I taste
Whenever your memory feeds my soul, whatever got broken becomes whole
Whenever I'm filled with doubts that we will be together

Wherever I lay me down, wherever I put my head to sleep
Whenever I hurt and cry, whenever I got to lie awake and weep
Whenever I kneel to pray, whenever I need to find a way
I'm calling out your name

Bread and wine? Lay me down (to sleep)? Whatever got broken becomes whole? Whenever I kneel to pray and need to find a way I'm calling out your name? Am I the only one recognizing these Christian themes? A couple of lines later, the song continues:

Whenever I say your name, Whenever I say your name, I'm already praying, I'm already praying
I'm already filled with a joy that I can't explain
Wherever I lay me down, wherever I rest my weary head to sleep
Whenever I hurt and cry, whenever I got to lie awake and weep
Whenever I'm on the floor
Whatever it was that I believed before
Whenever I say your name, whenever I say it loud, I'm already praying

Now, this brings back the give and take nature of this album. The previous song talks about there being no religion except things like "There's no religion but sex and music, . . . sound and dancing, . . . line and colour, . . . sacred trance," but then this song seems to change and adopt a very Christian outlook to the world. Is this the reason he says "whatever it was that I believed before, whenever I say your name . . . I'm already praying"? Is this reflecting a change in belief?

"Dead Man's Rope", the next song in the album, could almost be sung in church as an offering of music because it is that overtly religious. If a singer were to adopt the lyrics as is and merely add a few "Jesus"es it could pass for a devotional to God. Consider the following lyrics from the song:

If you're walking to escape, to escape from your affliction
You'd be walking in a great circle, a circle of addiction
Did you ever wonder what you'd been carrying since the world was black?
You see yourself in a looking glass with a tombstone on your back

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I'm just hanging here in space

Now I'm suspended between my darkest fears and dearest hope
Yes I've been walking, now I'm hanging from a dead man's rope
With Hell below me, and Heaven in the sky above
I've been walking, I've been walking away from Jesus' love

This seems like an admission that Sting admits that he has been wandering and now finds himself torn between heaven and hell. He needs to make a decision -- especially since he has been walking away in emptiness, sorrow, anger, pain and mostly "away from Jesus' love". Then, comes the kicker:

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
Now I'm walking in his grace
I'm walking in his footsteps
Walking in his footsteps,
Walking in his footsteps

Did I read that right? "Now I'm walking in his grace, I'm walking in his footsteps." Whose footsteps? Who has grace? The answers seem rather apparent to me. In an interview, Sting says of this song:

"That song to me is about death," he says plainly. "I had the image of a man suspended on a rope between heaven and hell, suspended in a 'well of memory.' Having fallen into the well of memory when I was working on my book, I know how it feels, and it's not all pleasant.

"The other image in the song," he continues, "is of a man walking, day after day, a lifetime of walking away from responsibilities, from his pain, hoping it will go away. But at some point you have to be in one place and deal with reality, and that's where 'Dead Man's Rope' is. Once you've accepted that, then comfort arrives. You can't walk away from everything. I've tried."

So, what is the reality that Sting is dealing with? Jesus' love? The reality that he is needing to walk in his grace and in his footsteps?

The songs that follow seem to be somewhat out of touch with the rest of the album, including a song about a woman who leaves a man, a song about a car thief and a song about war (obviously critical of President George W. Bush). The last of these, This War is the only one that caught my attention because of another allusion to Christian teaching:

You may ask, what does it profit a man
To gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?
Is that your body you see on the rocks below
As the tide begins to roll?

"The Book of My Life" continues the debate seeming to take back the strong confession of faith found in "Dead Man's Rope" since Sting seems to be looking at his life and saying that he doesn't understand why it is what it is or where he's going. He says:

Though the pages are numbered
I can't see where they lead
For the end is a mystery no-one can read
In the book of my life

There's a chapter on fathers a chapter on sons
There are pages of conflicts that nobody won
And the battles you lost and your bitter defeat,
There's a page where we fail to meet

There are tales of good fortune that couldn't be planned
There's a chapter on god that I don't understand
There's a promise of Heaven and Hell but I'm damned if I see

The most intriguing lines in the song come near the end where he makes a statement that there is only one thing he can see, but it is not clear in the slightest who it is that he is seeing.

Now the daylight's returning
And if one sentence is true
All these pages are burning
And all that's left is you

He could be talking about a woman, or he could be talking about God.

Sacred Love continues with the title song, "Sacred Love" which seems to suggest that the person he was referencing at the end of "Book of My Life" was a woman. The song starts off talking about a woman who seems to be his sacred love:

Take off those working clothes
Put on these high heeled shoes
Don't want no preacher on the TV baby
Don't want to hear the news

Shut out the world behind us
Put on your long black dress
No one's ever gonna find us here
Just leave your hair in a mess
I've been searching long enough
I begged the moon and the stars above
For sacred love

But the song is not nearly so cut and dried, and the song almost seems to treat this woman not as a real flesh and blood woman, but as a personification of something else. He continues:

The spirit moves on the water
She takes the shape of this heavenly daughter
She's rising up like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
The sky grew dark, and the earth she shook
Just like a prophecy in the Holy Book
Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not doubt that this love is real
So I got down on my knees and I prayed to the skies
When I looked up could I trust my eyes?
All the saints and angels and the stars up above
They all bowed down to the flower of creation
Every man every woman
Every race every nation
It all comes down to this
Sacred love

So, is sacred love a woman or something more? The word got made into flesh and blood? The sky grew dark and the earth she shook like on the day Jesus was crucified? He got down on his knees and prayed, and when he looked up he saw this "flower of creation" whom the angels, saints and stars all worshipped? Hmmmm.

The final song is a remix of "Send Your Love" where he sings that there's no religion but sex and music, etc., etc.

What's the conclusion? I don't know. It seems to me that, at minimum, Sting has been considering the claims of Christianity. He seems to have dabbled enough with the ideas and the themes that he was ready to consider giving his heart to the one who can give grace, Jesus. But then, if the songs are in an order that is intended to communicate a message, in the struggle for his heart he has turned away from God to a woman who he has veiled with the deity rightfully deserved only to God. Thus, his idea of sacred love is the love that we, as humans, can give to each other. It is not the love of God who he seems to have concluded is not sufficiently real to warrant his love.

I have not seen many comments by Sting himself about this album, so everything that I have said here is based solely upon the reading of the lyrics. His sole comment that I found was in an interview where he noted that the Sacred Love album followed on the heels of the tragedy of 9-11, and he says "Even then, while I was working on the songs, there was uncertainty, but this time around, as you can see from the lyrics, it resulted in some confusion." Another interview says that Sting sees "sacred love" in the typical New-Agey way.

"There's something happening in the human spirit, and we're all connected to it, whether you're American or British or from the Islamic world. We're connected to some energy in the world, and we need to sort out what it is."

For Sting, the name of that energy is embodied in the title of his new album: Sacred Love. "Every man, every woman/Every race, every nation/It all comes down to this/Sacred love," he sings on the exuberant title track. Other songs on the album demonstrate how the failure to love can lead to self-deception and betrayal, to irrational fear and cataclysmic violence. But what finally comes through is the truth that all soul singers know: Love can save the day.

I don't know how much faith to put into this interview, however, since the interview seems to completely miss the Christian overtones of Dead Man's Rope.

Regardless, I think it fair to say that even if Sting is struggling with faith in Jesus, he did not come to the conclusion that Jesus is the one and only true Son of God. I pray that God will continue to work on his heart.


Anonymous said…
Very good essay indeed. Thank you.
I did not like this Sting album first - to me it sounded too electronic.
But recetly I've wacthed DVD - Inside The Songs Of Sacred Love and would like to listen to the album again.

Sting's 1996 album is called Mercury Falling, as far as I remember.

Artyom (Moscow Russia
Unknown said…
This was very interesting. Sting is very talented- the lyrics here are powerful. Thank for this essay. I hope Sting opens his heart to Christ. "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13
excellent, It is really important to know because yo can read some important things that the people use to unknown , I feel so happy with this kind of read!
Anonymous said…
Wouldn't it be so awesome if Sting knew the Jesus of the Bible. I mean, he really got it! I think we would know if he did. I think theres some serious warfare over his spirit! I pray he let's Jesus take it!
Blog Rx247 said…
I love Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in black communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. Its African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note. From its early development until the present day jazz has also incorporated music from American popular music.
Prince Blake said…
I was playing my upright bass, singing "Roxanne" when the image of the Savior appeared the night before 9/11. For 11 years it was blocked from my consciousness because of what happened that September day when I had spent a year trying to stop that awful plot! Jesus turned away the mob's anger at the poor woman saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." They say Jesus never knew sin. But if that were true, he would have been obligated to throw the first stone. My guess is he intentionally took away one of their stones and threw it far out of harm's way. That awesome throw revealed he was without sin.
Prince Blake said…
Hugh Kelly was a horseman and quite a story-teller. He once threw a can of blessed dirt a priest had given him to sprinkle over the body of a local orphan who had died. No sooner than the priest had blessed it and handed it back to the young boy did Hugh hurl it as far away as he could. Hugh was upset that the priest was not willing to spend time giving the boy a proper burial but had given him instead a can of dirt which even Hugh himself had to fetch from the garden. I don't suppose Hugh was without sin but he was without patience and as soon as he was old enough, he left Ireland for America.

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