Around Yule I posted about secular seasonal music. Commenters seemed to have fun with that, providing their own awesome suggestions, and I learned a lot of great new music. Well, spring is upon us, so I propose a new musical showcase! Here are some of my favorite secular songs that make me feel all inspired on a religious level, and I want to hear yours in return! Rules of the game: 

  1. The song cannot be by a religious artist; I’m looking for music that’s basically secular but has a deeper resonance for you.
  2. If you can, explain why it inspires you (and you’re welcome to include a snippet of lyrics!)
  3. Post a link to the song on YouTube or other media if you can so we can hear it and be inspired, too!

Africa by Toto

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
Sure as Killimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

There’s this sense of restless awe that I feel when thinking about the incredible diversity and beauty of the Earth, and this song seems to reflect it, the balance between childish awe at what’s here and the adult responsibility we have to take care of it.

As Cool As I Am by Dar Williams

And then I go outside and join the others – I am the others
Oh, and that’s not easy. I don’t know what you saw; I want somebody who sees me.
I will not be afraid…

This song is about ending a relationship that needed to end, and I love it it because it’s also about standing up for yourself, not blaming other people for your problems, and finding the courage to get to a place that’s emotionally healthy and fulfilling for you, despite what other people may think. I listened to this song a lot when I was coming out of the broom closet, and this particular lyric always struck me. There’s something terrifying about stepping outside the group norm and having that “other” label applied to you (for me, it was the first time in my life I’d felt that way), but I also knew I wanted to be authentic; I wanted my friends and family to “see me” for what I really was – a pagan. I’d drive home from work with this song on repeat to help psych myself up for facing life as an “out” pagan.

Into the Light by Sara Bareilles  (no video; just sound)

You’re the air in my breath, filling up my love-soaked lungs.
Such a beautiful mess, intertwined and over-run.
Nothing better than this, knowing that the storm can come
You feel just like the sun, just like the sun.
And if you say we’ll be all right,
I’m going to trust you…

I love Sara Bareilles; her music speaks to me. This song is about trusting in goodness, and it helps me remember that there’s nothing wrong with faith. I’m no more foolish to believe good things can happen than I am to believe bad things can happen. So why not add to the positive side of the equation?

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac (although I admit to listening to the Dixie Chicks version more often)

Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

GG pointed out when she read my Convert/Convict post that the fear I had leaving behind an old faith reminded her of Stevie Nicks singing, “I’ve been afraid of changing because I built my life around you,” and I started listening to Landslide again. I’d always thought of it as a great song, but I hadn’t thought about it in a faith context. The questions and the doubts the song raises are reflective of the natural doubts I think we all have about the things we choose to believe in and the self-doubt that comes with change, and I have a new appreciation for this song with GG’s help.

Long Road to Ruin by Foo Fighters  (For those who haven’t seen the video, it’s a serious piece of WTFery that has nothing to do with the song…)

For every piece to fall in place
Forever gone without a trace
Your horizon takes is shape
No turning back, don’t turn that page

I know, I know, you heard this song on the radio one too many times. 🙂 But it came out when I was working on a novel that I very quickly realized was an allegory of converting (it’s about an angel who falls in love with a dragon). The song celebrates a willingness to break out of what you know and charge into new fields (despite everyone telling you that you’re heading for “ruin” and losing your shot at a heavenly forever). It became a kind of anthem for my little angel in her quest to win the dragon and keep her soul.

Strange Fire by The Indigo Girls

I come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path.
I want to harbor you from the anger. Find a refuge from the wrath
This is a message of love. Love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired.
I come to you with strange fire.

I think this song is actually about same-sex love, but the way they talk about finding different ways to love and to connect totally resonates with me on a spiritual level. Strange fire is that passion that may be different from the way other people perceive it, but it’s difference doesn’t stop it from being powerful, beautiful, and very real.

We Are by Ana Johnsson

You keep watching from your picket fence
You keep talking but it makes no sense
You say we’re not responsible
But we are

I loved this song the moment I heard it. It’s totally about how we have to question the standards we’ve been given and look for how we can be solutions to the problems inherent in modern society. Whenever I need a “get out there, do good, and ignore the nay-sayers sitting on their asses” pep song, this is it!

The Change by Garth Brooks

This heart still believes that love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage and so many say
That love is all but pointless in madness such as this
It’s like trying to stop the fire with the moisture from a kiss
And I hear them saying you’ll never change things
And no matter what you do it’s still the same thing
But it’s not this world that I am changing
I do this so this world will know
That it will not change me.

I had to save this one for last. Most people don’t seem to know this song, but, for me at least, it’s one of the most inspiring pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It’s an awesome reminder that the only thing I have control of is me – but I sure as heck have control of me. If everything goes to hell, but I’m still doing what I think is right… then something is still going right. A lyric I didn’t include is, “If one heart still holds on, then hope is never really gone.” Each of us has the ability to be the light that keeps the darkness at bay, If we just stubbornly keep shining… well, no matter how small the contribution feels, we’ve done our part, we’ve held the line. You rarely know what impact your actions have in the long run, but you always know the world is a better place because somebody – because you – had the courage to do something.

I think secular inspiration is so important because it works for everyone, no matter what the specifics of their faith are. It’s something we can put on the stereo and bring people from all walks of life together to feel good about themselves and feel inspired to make a difference. I hope you found some of these uplifting, and I look forward to being inspired by your contributions!

* Featured image by Sean Loyless