-- Gospel Of Bondage --
22 February 1987. Toronto, Canada.

Found on:

Big Circumstance (1988)

Rumours of Glory - box set Disc 4 (2014) [compilation album]

Tabloids, bellowing raw delight
Hail the return of the Teutonic Knights
Inbred for purity and spoiling for a fight,
Another little puppet of the New Right

See-through dollars and mystery plagues
Varied detritus of Aquarian Age
Shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind -
We kill ourselves to keep ourselves safe from crime.
That's the gospel of bondage...

We're so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
We can only placate with state security laws
Whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks
Whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross
But God must be on the side of the side that's right
And not the right that justifies itself in terms of might -
Least of all a bunch of neo-nazis running hooded through the night
Which may be why He's so consipicuously out of sight
Of the gospel of bondage...

You read the Bible in your special ways
You're fond of quoting certain things it says -
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?

Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
But if God stays silent, what else can you do
Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you'd surely see
That God won't be reduced to an ideology
Such as the gospel of bondage...

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • 27 February 1988

    INTO THE home stretch of his recent two-hour solo concert on the U.C. Berkeley campus, Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn flipped off the religious right, a movement that distresses him as both a Christian and a progressive. Introducing a brand-new song called "Gospel of Bondage," he called Pat Robertson a "grinning skull" and said of the candidate's reactionary evangelist brethren, "They scare the hell out of me and also irritate me, because i've gotten tired of saying, 'Yes I'm a Christian but I'm not one of them.' So here's my way of saying fuck you' to them." Cockburn doesn't mince words. In a phone conversation from his Toronto home a few weeks before the show he called Robertson and his ilk "scum-bags"...

    - from "Pop Proselytizing: Bruce Cockburn. At Zellerbach Hall, U.C. at Berkeley, Friday, Feb. 27th.", by Derk Richardson, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, 9 March 1988. Submitted by Bobbi Wisby.

  • 18 March 1988

    "Some of them got a little nervous when I started talking about politics," he adds, "because you're not supposed to do that if you're a certain type of Christian -- especially if you're a songwriter. I got a lot of letters from people, especially after the album 'Stealing Fire,' and there were a lot of people in the Christian scene who found 'If I had a Rocket Launcher' very difficult. Because they weren't used to thinking about those things."

    "There were a lot of Christians who did understand it, the more liberal, for want of a better word, turn of mind," he points out. Nonetheless, "A lot of people wrote letters urging me, exhorting me, not to lose the way. At no point was I threatened with excommunication, but there was definitely a kind of standing back and going, 'What is this?' on the part of a lot of people."

    [Cockburn may upset even more listeners with one of his new songs.] "Gospel of Bondage," which, he says, is "addressed to the so-called Christian right in America." But he doesn't worry. "I am a Christian songwriter," he says. "I just don't fit the Christian music scene."

    - from "The Social Commentaries of Bruce Cockburn" by J.D. Considine, Sun Pop Music Critic, Baltimore Sun, 18 March 1988. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

  • 12 January 1992:

    "To me, the message of Christ is so evidently love and freedom, I just don't understand how anyone can read into the message and get anything but that," he says. " And it . . . [angers] me . . . when I see people hustling that other kind of knee-jerk belief -- all rules and conformity and non-freedom -- exemplified by some of the TV evangelists and David Dukes of the world, spouting off this stuff that they claim is Christianity. I hate the idea that people might actually think this is what it's all about. Their message is so anti-love."

    - from "A Rising Northern Star: Canadian Bruce Cockburn Wins More U.S. Converts" by Brad Buchholz, Dallas Morning News, 12 January 1992. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

  • Help out! To add material to this section, see this page first.

    Song Index | Alphabetical Song Index | Chronological Song Index

    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.