Armor and Sword

The latest Rush album, ‘Snakes and Arrows’ has several songs on it with religious themes and references. One of the songs is called ‘Armor and Sword’ which seems to be an obvious commentary on Christianity and those who seek to live it. Part of the lyrics appear to be based on the familiar verses from the Bible regarding the armor of God. So first, the biblical verses:

Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherein take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17)

The lyrics to the song (for those who don’t have them memorized yet) are given below:

The snakes and arrows a child is heir to
Are enough to leave a thousand cuts
We build our defenses, a place of safety
And leave the darker places unexplored

Sometimes the fortress is too strong
Or the love is too weak
What should have been our armor
Becomes a sharp and angry sword

Our better natures seek elevation
A refuge for the coming night
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

We hold beliefs as a consolation
A way to take us out of ourselves
Meditation or medication
A comfort, or a promised reward

Sometimes the spirit is too strong
Or the flesh is too weak
Sometimes the need is just too great
For the solace we seek
The suit of shining armor
Becomes a keen and bloody sword

A refuge for the coming night
A future of eternal light
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

Confused alarms of struggle and flight
Blood is drained of color
By the flashes of artillery light
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

The battle flags are flown
At the feet of a god unknown
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

Sometimes the damage is too great
Or the will is too weak
What should have been our armor
Becomes a sharp and burning sword

There are a couple of ideas expressed in this song that really strike me. One is the statement, ‘No one gets to their heaven without a fight’. This seems to agree with what Paul was talking about in his letter to the Ephesians. Life is simply not going to be easy. In fact at times it will be a battle, one that we need to prepare for.

The other idea that is expressed a couple of times is that of the occasionally inappropriate use of the sword. When reviewing the armor of God, the list is all defensive armor clearly meant to protect a part of the ‘body’ from attack. But the sword is different. While it is listed as part of the armor of God, and could be used to block the unpredictable attacks at random parts of the ‘body’, it can also be used as a weapon if one chose to. It is interesting that this sword is used to symbolize the spirit. Many of us might prefer to think of the spirit as something warm and fuzzy. A sword is not generally warm nor fuzzy. And even if the spirit is like a sword, is it something to be used as part of our defensive armor exclusively? Or may it be appropriately wielded as a weapon?

There is an interesting verse in the song that uses the old ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ line in a new way. Might there be times when we feel the warning influence of the spirit, and because of the weaknesses of our flesh, we use the sword of the spirit as a keen and bloody sword, when we should have used it as part of our personal protective equipment?

8 Responses to “Armor and Sword”

  1. 1 danithew July 17, 2007 at 9:02 am

    What?! No radio blog to post the song on – so we can listen to it?


  2. 2 Eric Nielson July 17, 2007 at 9:30 am

    We’ll put that into the suggestion box I suppose. I don’t know anything about radio blog. Is it a free thing?

  3. 3 JKC July 17, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t think we can “use” the spirit at all. I often hear lessons in EQ, (and I remember this especially from my mission), that urge us to “use” the spirit to accomplish this or that goal (usually in the context of pressuring someone to make and keep this or that commitment) as if the spirit is something to be controlled. I even heard a high councillor tell our EQ that the spirit “is a wonderful tool.”

    But Jesus tells us that the spirit “bloweth where it listeth.” Paul’s advice is to “quench not the spirit.” These ideas convey to me the concept that the Holy Ghost is not some object that we can manipulate, he is God, a person of the Godhead. We can’t “use” him, we can be open to him, to let him use us. He is not, to use C.S. Lewis’ metaphor, a “tame lion.”

    When we attempt to “use” the spirit in an aggressive manner, as you suggest the song gets at, then we aren’t using the spirit at all, because, as Joseph Smith tells us, “the spirit is grieved” and leaves us. To answer your question, no, we can’t use the spirit as a bloody sword, because if we try to, he just takes off.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson July 17, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks JKC

    I think you may well be on to something here. But ultimately are we not the ones who must react to what we feel the spirit is influencing us to do. We are free not just to be acted upon, but also to act.

    I think you make a great point in that if anything we are the tool, to be used by God, not the other way around. Yet we often must act, or choose not to act, based on impressions.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.

  5. 5 Dan Ellsworth July 17, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Ah, another Mormon Rush fan.
    I have not given a listen to the new stuff; The Camera Eye is my all-time favorite Rush tune.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson July 18, 2007 at 5:03 am

    Thanks Dan. I am beginning to wonder just how many of us are out there. I used to feel completely alone.

  7. 7 Andrew Hernandez August 6, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I’m a non-denominational Christian. Thanks for posting about this song and your ideas about it. It’s always a risk to put out opinions on any topic, but especially religious topics.

    I have to point out that the passage in Ephesians is not saying the sword is the Spirit (of God). It reads “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” I consider the Bible to be the word of God and therefore the sword. We use the Bible in defense and offense as we wage war against Satan and the world. Defense against temptation of sin, offense in converting others to Christianity.

    I’m over 40 now and have been a Rush fan since high school. I almost went to their show last Friday but my friend backed out right when I was about to get the tickets. They are the only group left on my “must see before I die” list. Maybe next time…

    Separate topic, I notice that you don’t capitalize Spirit. Is that on purpose?

  8. 8 Eric Nielson August 6, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Hey Andrew:

    Thanks for visiting BofJ and for leaving a comment. Nice call on the word of God thing. Also that was my bad on the lower case s. I am occasionally spelling and gammatically challenged (I’m a volunteer, not a professional….you can tell can’t you?)

    I saw Rush for the first time on the Vapor Trails tour. My 14 year old son and I are seeing them in Detroit on August 28!

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