The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

£0.00 0 View Basket

What would you like to explore today?

Donate
Back

Discover something new this Sunday

Never miss a thing!

04.07.2019

Grace at Glastonbury | Connecting with Culture

‘Lord I’ve been broken
although I’m not worthy
you fixed me, now I’m blinded
by your grace
you came and saved me.’

It may sound like a worship song, but these lines were sung to – and by – over 100,000 people at Glastonbury festival last Friday.

Stormzy, a 25-year-old grime artist, played his two-part song ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ during an explosive 90-minute headline set at the UK’s biggest music festival.

He began his performance of ‘Blinded By Your Grace pt. 2’ by saying ‘we’re going to take this to church, and we’re going to give God all the glory right now’. This was a change in tone from the rest of the rapper’s performance, which consisted of stark political and anti-racist commentary with strong language throughout.

It was an unusual moment. An audience of over 100,000 were chanting their criticism of the current political status quo, but in the same performance, they were singing out a clear theology of grace: ‘You saved this kid and I’m not your first / it’s not by blood and it’s not by birth / but oh my God what a God I serve.’

Like so much of contemporary pop culture, Stormzy’s performance at Glastonbury has divided Christians: those who immediately and unquestioningly celebrate such a clear declaration of gospel truth, even using his performance in church services; and those who write him off completely due to the bad language and questionable morals presented in the rest of his music.

Although it may be difficult to reconcile the gospel message of ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ with the lyrics of his other songs, we should perhaps be wary of writing him off completely. But we also shouldn’t accept and condone his music unthinkingly. As with so much in our culture, there is much to be affirmed and much to be critiqued here.

Whatever our conclusion, however, it is clear that this artist – the second youngest ever to headline Glastonbury, and the first ever black British solo artist to do so – has introduced the Christian concepts of grace, salvation, prayer, and brokenness to an audience who may otherwise never come across them.

We do not have to affirm everything about Stormzy’s set and his music, but we can and should celebrate that – and pray that God would give the increase.

 

Nell Goddard

Author

Nell Goddard

Comments

  1. Many Biblical characters have pretty colourful ‘other sets’!

    By Jill - 5th July 2019
  2. Great article.

    I think we still need to be in the world but not of the world, if we’re to reach the world. As you say, some of his lyrics in other songs aren’t totally aligned but God rarely uses ‘perfect people’ – Saul is a prime example.

    For me, the moment Stormzy steps out he’s lost the very people he needs to reach. I think God has him planted perfectly. How many other artists could get 100,000 people singing those lyrics – and I mean they were sung from the heart; who knows what seed has been planted and how many lives WILL be changed from that experience.

    Thank God he uses imperfect people!

    By SB - 5th July 2019
  3. I would just like to thank you for all your contributions to the LICC Connecting with Culture thread: they are always a real blessing.
    Be blessed and enjoy your day.

    By Reg Blake - 5th July 2019
  4. I am a bit bemused as to why strong anti-racist commentary is seen as somehow not ‘of God’? Surely uncovering and owning the complicity of western Christianity in a culture of racism is one of the urgent tasks of the Kingdom?

    By Wendy-May Jacobs - 5th July 2019
    • Hi Wendy-May,

      I thought I should let you know that wasn’t my intention at all. My line about ‘Blinded by your grace’ being a change in tone was tied in with the presence of strong language in the rest of the set, which was much more likely to offend some listeners.

      In addition, if you watch Stormzy’s whole set, you’ll see that there is a distinct change in atmosphere and tone between the two parts of ‘Blinded by your grace’ and the rest of his music. My piece could perhaps have made that more clear, so I hope this additional comment has helped. Please do let me know if you have any further questions.

      Many thanks,
      Nell

      By Nell Goddard - 5th July 2019
  5. I’m glad at least one other commentator has picked up on a dichotomy here: like Wendy May, I’m concerned at the implication that “stark political and anti-racist commentary with strong language” should be any less of the Kingdom than a clear hymn of grace. Personally I long for Christians of all stripes to be as forceful in “their criticism of the current political status quo” as some of our more secular brothers and sisters. As someone who is both a Bible believing Christian and politically active, I passionately believe that we are called to engage more in the struggle for justice, fairness and truth alongside preaching grace and peace through Christ, which will often find us sitting alongside colleagues of other faiths or none. Political comment – however forceful – is too important to be left to other people.

    By David Alcock - 5th July 2019
    • Hi David

      Thanks for your comment. As you will hopefully have seen from my reply to Wendy-May’s comment, I was not intending to suggest that political and anti-racist commentary was less important than the lyrics to ‘Blinded by your grace’, but merely that they came under a different genre, and there was a clear change in tone and atmosphere between that song and the rest of his set.

      In addition, Stormzy’s set did include him encouraging the audience to chant the f-word at the government and at Boris Johnson which – no matter your political stance – could be deemed offensive, and *is* a stark contrast to the worshipful stance Stormzy later took in ‘Blinded by your grace pt. 2’.

      I completely agree that as Christians we should be engaging in political comment and, when required, criticism, but I would be wary of condoning it done in this way, which could be interpreted as aggressive and dismissive, rather than inviting civility, kindness, and active listening into the conversation. For what it’s worth, I personally think Stormzy is using his platform brilliantly, and I am of the opinion that the comments he is making about the political status quo are deeply relevant and extremely important. I was merely questioning his method of doing so, and commenting on the change in tone between that and his performance of ‘Blinded by your grace’.

      I hope that clarifies my point, but please do get in contact if you have any further questions – I’d love to hear from you on nell.goddard@licc.org.uk.

      Thanks,
      Nell

      By Nell Goddard - 5th July 2019
  6. Excellent post Neil. We need more Storm Z out there in the market place. Blinded by Your Grace and Crown both featured at the spin class at my (secular) gym last night!

    By Mark Withers - 5th July 2019
  7. Great piece & comments.
    One thing that struck me, paradoxically in light of some points made above is…
    when I first heard ‘Blinded by your grace’, I felt one of the reasons such a piece could gain widespread acceptance and love in post-Christian UK youth culture, is the deep sense of authenticity that Christian faith has when seen in black church culture – with its deep powerful roots of gospel music etc. In contrast to much of white church culture. Stormzy is able to make the gospel look radical and cool. Not to be simplistic, I know there are various factors, but that struck me as one.
    I’ve used the song at the end of at least one of my radio pieces, conveying dimensions of the gospel to mainstream audiences at Christmas & Easter on UKRD commercial radio stations.

    By Bruce Gulland - 5th July 2019
  8. Great piece. I haven’t heard this song and will check it out. I’m 50 and although I love music Stormzy wasn’t really on my radar. Fair play to him for being outspoken about his faith in an era when he could and maybe does get mocked for it

    By Philip Hamilton - 5th July 2019
  9. Great writing Nell. What does ‘give the increase’ mean? Thanks, Katy

    By Katy Friese-Greene - 5th July 2019
  10. Glastonbury is not my thing as an 85 year old, so thank you for drawing our attention to it.
    I will be using it in a sermon on Thursday.

    By Peter Gowlland - 6th July 2019
  11. Paul says to the Phillipians 1:18
    “The important thing is that in every way whether from false motives or true Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice “w e debated this in our bible study and came to the conclusions which you expounded Nell, We must shake off our old stuffiness and rejoice in Pop culture when it speaks the truth. Mary

    By maryquenby - 7th July 2019

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *