Psalms 40:2 – The Mountain Goats
In their song “Psalms 40:2” of their 2009 album The Life of the World to Come, The Mountain Goats depict a scene of a group of teenagers defacing the front of a chapel to show their frustration with the institution that it represents.
The songs is heavily based off of, you guessed it, Psalms 40:2, which read “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, [and] established my goings.” This is a verse about the redemptive nature of God.
Darnielle, the lead singer and principle songwriter, is singing as a group of teenagers that are heading “for the chapel with some spray paint for all the things we’d held in secret”. This is letting the listener know these kids have, ostensibly, grown up in a religiously overbearing environment and were never allowed to express what they really felt about the Church that they were apart of. The idea of putting messages on the face of the Church is in the tradition of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the All Saint’ Church in Wittenberg to protest what he thought to be the sail of indulgences. In the song however
Darnielle lets us know, though, that these are not children that lack morals and understanding. This is not a random act of vandalism. The teenagers plea to God to “send [them] a mechanic if I’m not beyond repair”. This, again, is like Martin Luther in that he was not denouncing God, just the practices of the people that followed him. They are looking to God to fix something inside of them, and this is the only way they believe they can tell him.
Throughout the song Darnielle repeats the derivative of the verse “He has raised me from the pit”. This is a reflection of the teenagers finally feeling some control in their faith and coming to terms with Christianity.