Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

To Be Alone With You – Sufjan Stevens

In Sufjan Stevens’ song “To Be Alone With You” off of his 2004 album Seven Swans, he outlines the sacrifices Jesus made to be with his followers, and for their sins to be resolved.
Stevens begins his outlining of Christ with the lines “I’d give my body to be back again”. This is referring Jesus giving his body by being crucified so that mankind would be relieved of sin. The phrase “to be back again” is an obvious reference to his resurrection. This can also be seen in the line “You went up on a tree/ to be alone with me”. This is talking about the wooden cross that
Stevens delves further into the story of the crucifixion by saying “They took your clothes”. This is referencing John 19:23 describing the Roman soldiers taking his clothes right before he is crucified (“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments…”).
When Stevens begins to talk about giving up a “wife and a family”, he is referring to Hebrews 4:15 which says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin”. This is talking about Jesus being tempted with an assortment of things (including sex), but remained without any. That is to say Jesus chose a life without the things that many people strive to attain (like a family and spouse).
With the lines “You gave up your ghost”, Stevens is finally connecting how one can “be alone” with Jesus after his crucifixion. The “ghost” Stevens is referring to is the Holy Spirit, which, in Christian mythology, is considered, like Jesus, to be another manifestation of God. To Christians, you are only able to achieve salvation by accepting Jesus. Once that is done, Christians believe that the Holy Spirit resides in them. Thus, they are “alone” with Jesus, and through that connection, they are relieved of suffering and evil.

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One response

  1. Sufjan’s spirituality has always been fairly fascinating. Contemporary folk musicians who find significant success in mainstream music can rarely convey their personal beliefs about faith without coming across as heavy handed or pretentious. I think that Sufjan’s non-chalant attitude towards writing about his faith helps him come across as less preachy and more confessional. This gives his songs a chance to feel personal rather than confrontational and let listeners appreciate the song based on its own merits and not be obscured by the message of his faith.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm

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