It is brilliant.
While I was downloading it, I scanned the user comments in iTunes, noting several grumpy folks claiming that she was ‘inventing her own religion’ and needed to ‘get over what ever’s been done to her and move on with her life’. Which response is fair, and to be expected, I suppose– there’s something about tearing up a photo of the pope on national TV that will identify you as a cynic for life, and will permanently raise the hackles of those in branded religion.
But wait. This isn’t Sinead’s latest version of angsty artistry, or sonic assault on traditional religion– it is her singing the text of the Bible, for the most part. And she’s got it right, voicing the Hebrew prophets and psalmists as hurt and haunted, rather than only angry, and picturing a God who cries for the pain he feels and for the hope which he holds for his creation. Which makes me wonder why people seem to envision those who would try to follow God as socially conservative, warm-and-fuzzy observers of religious conventions, when in fact they more than anyone should feel forsaken and forlorn at the state of the world and what is done in the name of God, and simultaneously hopeful about the change that can come when people align themselves with God’s hopes and dreams for the world.
She calls this album ‘Theology’, but I think it should be called ‘Praxis’ or ‘Prophets’, since it’s not about words, not at all. Sinead channels the prophets, parting our hair with the pained laments and hopeful pleadings of people who sees that things could be different. And when she speaks for herself on occasion, we are equally undone:
I wanna make
For U and from U
To show U
To show U
I adore U
...I couldn't thank U in ten thousand years
If I cried ten thousand rivers of tears
Ah but U know the soul and U know what makes it gold
U who give life through blood
Oh I wanna make something
So lovely for U
'Cos I promised that's what I'd do for U
With the bible I stole
I know U forgave my soul
Because such was my need on a chronic Christmas Eve
And I think we're agreed that it should have been free
And U sang to me...