A theological challenge from Robbie Williams

  • Question 153, from Ian, United Kingdom

    In his new song ‘Bodies’ Robbie Williams sings about Jesus and that “Jesus didn’t die for you.” What should Christians make of the song?

    The interplay between Christianity and music is always interesting, with Jesus himself being increasingly mentioned by popular recording artists, in addition to Christian imagery and language like ‘Hallelujah’. In many ways, ‘Bodies’ does appear to be just another song using Christian images in its lyrics, but what Robbie Williams is saying about Jesus is worth analysing as Christians could use his statements as an interesting starting point in discussions about faith.

    For the benefit of readers not in the UK, Robbie Williams started his musical career as a member of British boy band Take That, who were very popular in the UK and Europe, but had little impact in America. Robbie left the band in 1995 and embarked on a very successful solo career – as a solo artist, he has sold more albums in the UK than any other British solo artist in history and has won more BRIT Awards than any other artist to date.

    Robbie’s album sales stand at over 55 million worldwide. His World Tour in 2006 sold 1.6 million tickets in a single day – a Guinness World Record and in 2004, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. ‘Bodies’, the song in question was released in September 2009, and marks his return to the UK music scene after a two-year absence. In the music video, Robbie cruises through the American desert, with no religious iconography to mirror the lyrics of the song.

    A religious miscellany
    The song lyrics reference several ‘new age’ beliefs and religions. For example, he sings “I got laid on a ley line” and makes a reference to divine ‘Qi’ energy:

    “Wanna feed off the energy,
    Love living like a deity.”

    The first line of the chorus is “Bodies in the Bodhi tree” – a reference to a Buddhist sacred fig tree in India, allegedly at the site of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama’s Enlightenment. Cuttings of the tree have been transported to various other Buddhist sites as it is regarded as sacred. How much the listener should draw from the reference is a matter of personal opinion. Lyrically, ‘Bodhi’ sounds like ‘Body’, so it fits into the song, and that may be the reason it’s mentioned.

    The references to Jesus are slightly more contentious. In the ‘bridge’ section of the song, Robbie sings:

    “And if Jesus really died for me
    Then Jesus really tried for me”

    But the idea that Jesus has died for anyone is firmly rejected at the end of the song – and it may be intentional that this is the only part of the song that Robbie actually sings in the video. Accompanied by a backing choir, he repeatedly sings: “Jesus didn’t die for you.”

    A lack of hope
    Robbie’s real religion, a narcissistic nihilism comes through in several other lines. The second half of the chorus runs:

    “All we’ve ever wanted
    Is to look good naked
    Hope that someone can take it
    God save me rejection
    From my reflection,
    I want perfection.”

    When he claims to be “Praying for the rapture,” what it seems he’s really praying for is an end to everything. This lack of hope is seen in the first half of the chorus, which includes the following lines:

    “Bodies in the Bodhi tree,
    Bodies making chemistry
    Bodies on my family,
    Bodies in the way of me
    Bodies in the cemetery,
    And that’s the way it’s gonna be.”

    So, basically, we’re all going to end up in the cemetary, and that’s where the story ends.

    In conclusion
    The mixed-up spirituality of ‘Bodies’ offers the listener a glimpse into the confused, and confusing, mind of one of the UK’s most successful musical performers of the last two decades. Robbie Williams seems to be desperately seeking something, but has not found an answer in religious faith. What he actually advocates is a materialistic nihilism that actively dismisses the possibility of salvation or redemption.

    Some Christians may find these lyrics unsettling, but they could provide a very useful starting point in discussions with people who are looking for meaning and are examining the truth-claims of Christianity. While the decision to listen to this song is a matter of personal musical taste, it is worth bearing in mind the singer’s philosophy. This song offers an insight into the soul of contemporary culture and as such is valuable to Christians.

    According to one interview (cited on www.purerobbie.com), the lyric “Jesus didn’t die for you” is a criticism of President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. It has been claimed that President Bush saw the invasion of Iraq as a ‘holy war’ and this lyric is questioning whether Jesus really died in order for people to go to war in his name. If true, this political statement is yet another aspect of this intriguing song.

    All lyrics in this post are under copyright and are reproduced under fair use legislation governing reviews and commentary. The analysis of lyrics in this post may not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Robbie Williams or other copyright holders.

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    1. Stephen Oct 15

      The ending of the song does indeed repeat “Jesus didn’t die for you” but then moves on to saying “Jesus really died for you”
      This is a bit different to your interpretation of the songs lyrics as it implies a change of mind. i do not know if this is any reflection on the songwriter’s personal convictions or intended as ironic in some way. I just thought it worth mentioning.

    2. Vitor Oct 15

      I don’t know what it is with Christians these days but it seems that they are loosing their mind and not being the salt of the earth as Jesus said that we need to be. It seems just because it is Robbie Williams then no one is bothering into fighting agaist this outrage that is the song Bodies from Robbie Williams. It gets me angry that people like to call themselves Christians and do not fight for the truth. Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them and it looks like so called Christians are not showing the fruits of Holy Spirit regenerated hearts which should be to not like what is wrong just like God does not like sin. Robbie williams says at the end of the song “Jesus didnt die for you, what are you on?”,he is basically saying that we are on something (i.e. drugs) because we don’t just believe BUT WE KNOW that JESUS DID REALLY DIE for us. We need to get together and fight agaist people that are trying to destroy the Gospel and stand up for the truth.

    3. Alan Oct 15

      Stephen, I’m not sure which version you’ve heard, but the single definitely ends with “didn’t die for you”. I read a review/comment on one of the lyrics sites that said the song was probably written as Lucifer’s words…. It’s certainly provoking comment!

    4. Vitor Oct 15

      Yeah mention as you might but the fact that he mixes a bunch of religious views and says stuff like that, it is quite obvious that he is not Christian neither did he change his mind. One thing I know is that people don’t stand up for these things because they are too laid back and cannot be bothered to fight for justice.
      “Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

    5. auntyamo Oct 16

      I’m not a Robbie fan so hadn’t heard the song. V interesting; I’ll give it a listen.

      I do remember the line from “Feel” that says, “I sit and talk to God, and he just laughs at my plans” I’d love to know if he believes THAT’S true; based on Psalm 2:1-4!!!

      I doubt very much the Robbie is a Christian. The fact that he is singing stuff about Jesus may not mean anything except that the writers of his stuff thought it was worth writing.

      But i think we should deffo take every opportunity for discussion

    6. Anna Oct 16

      It is frustrating that this song is freely played on radio but that, as a matter of principle, radio stations do not play overtly Christian songs or even songs by overtly Christian bands. Of course, many of their listeners may not want to hear Christian lyrics, but do Christians want to hear anti-Christian lyrics? If personal taste is involved, I enjoy the range of songs Radio 1 (for example) plays – I don’t like them all but I don’t stop listening to the station just because I don’t like one song they play. So why is the DJ deciding that so many of his/her fans could be so offended by one teensy-weensy Christian song that they’ll switch off forever. Get a backbone!

    7. Anna Oct 16

      (Get a backbone is to the radio stations)

    8. Ang Oct 20

      Was very plesantly surprised to find this discussion on the web as in the last few days i have been mulling over the lyrics of this song myself and i have to say, was rather despairing at how the ideas in this song can be so casually aired in what i feel is just a shallow bit of sensationalism. Mr Williams is of course totally entitled to his own opinion on Chirstianity but i hope the weary cynicism does not rub off too much on the young impressionable public that buy into his song – there’s too much of that in secular society today as it is.

    9. Trev Oct 21

      You say there is ‘with no religious iconography to mirror the lyrics of the song’ and that is true (i.e. images matching the lyrics synchronously). But as others have pointed out eleswhere, the motorbike has ‘6’ on the left hand side, ‘6’ on the front and ‘6’ on the right hand side.

      Someone called ‘CallMePsycho’ has posted an alternative plausible interpretation on several other sites .. e.g.

      As a christian song writer, it has challenged me in how I can get more engagement through lyrical imagery than before. We have lots of songs that are full of truth (and thats good and necessary) but we also need songs that we dont just ‘karaoke’ along with, but challenge us so that we engage our heart, MIND and soul.

      I hope Robbie is searching.

    10. Pete Walker Oct 21

      Don’t like Robbie, never have, he’s a buffoon. Bodies has quite a good backing track (not surprising as Trevor Horn produced) so it’s a pity it’s wasted on what appears to be a deliberately offensive song – a childish ‘pushing the boundaries’ anti-Christian statement (I doubt he’d do an anti-Muslim one). I do find the record offensive as a Christian but we should take the opportunity to engage in discussion about the ‘statements’ that Robbie makes – for those who are prepared to discuss songs such as this with their acquaintances there is certainly plenty material for debate. Essentially Robbie is someone who sees no hope beyond death and believes Christianity is a con. So he’s just like millions of other people, except that they don’t get to shout it on the radio. The challenge for believers is to engage with them, not condemn them, and give them our more positive point of view.

    11. Dan Hodgson Oct 22

      I think this is yet another of Robbie’s songs which nibbles at the edges of religion, with no obvious aim other than to incite a little bit of controversy.

      As a christian, I do have a problem with this song, as it quite clearly chants “Jesus didn’t die for you” at the end. Whether there is an intentional change of mind afterwards is arguable, but most people will not think that deeply about such nuances.

      I’m actually a strong believer in freedom of speech, and fully support Robbie’s right to record and release this song. I am concerned at the double-standard of censorship applied in broadcasting – songs with overtly pro-christian lyrics rarely get airplay and support on air (Bodies was “record of the week” on Ken Bruce’s radio 2 show a couple of weeks ago), and you could imagine that if the song said “Mohammad was not really a prophet” that there would be an outcry.

      This comes in a week when I have been challenged about whether I will take a stand for the truth and for what I believe, and I have been asking myself what is appropriate action in this case.

      Radio 2 is my main music station. I am going to find a relevant email address at the BBC and politely explain to them why this song offends me, and why I feel they have a double-standard. I am going to ask that they reduce the frequency at which they play this record, and/or recognise that this song is offensive to some christians, and I am going to tell them that as a form of peaceful protest I am going to turn off or turn over when this song is played. Oh and I am going to email my christian friends to tell them what I am doing and why, encouraging them to do the same if they feel the same way and to also pass on the email in what is often called a “viral email campaign”.

      I don’t think angry responses, knee-jerk reactions or uninformed demands are helpful, but I feel that this is a reasoned, and reasonable way to be assertive without being belligerant. I would invite anyone reading this who feels the same way to join me by contacting their music radio station of choice in a similar way.

      I agree with several posts above saying we need to stand up. Let’s do it.

    12. James Oct 24

      On the point that the end lyrics say “Jesus didn’t die for you’ the printed lyrics I read had a question mark at the end.
      Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on?
      I took this to read :
      “if you think Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on?”
      This is then followed by a statement “Jesus really died for you.”

      I do like CallMePsycho’s interpretation mentioned above; very well thought out.

    13. John Oct 30

      When I first heard the song I thought it says ‘Jesus really died for you’ all through but from the various posts.I din’t know it says otherwise as well, how i hate the song right now.
      But i think is also important to have Robbie’s or his writer’s explanation of the song if possible. I think it is offensive and shows lack of respect to his numerous fans and christians. As for me, i will turn off the radio or change channel each time i will hear the song playing. I will also bring it to the notce of my friends/families who are really aware of the lyrics. Thank God I am aware of this now.

    14. Ang from Down Under Nov 2

      Maybe I’m just a lazy Christian, but I’m actually not offended by this song as you all above are. After hearing this song on the radio for a couple of weeks I finally got round to ‘google-ing’ the lyrics to see what Robbie actually sings and see what other people are saying about the song. Fair comments – but I love that this song can and will indeed be used by God to start conversations about the spiritual. Although ‘Jesus really died for you’ is not pure scripture word for word, it is however pure truth, and God’s word does not go out and return empty. Yes, Satan may have an influence, but God is greater/stronger and I think He will make good use of the truth. Wow – thanks Robbie…now millions of people world wide have heard the concept/message that Jesus is not a swear word, but actually a Person, Who DIED FOR ME!! Regardless of whether the statement is questioned or not later in the song, the statement is now OUT there. God’s truth is OUT THERE! Millions have just heard God’s truth that JESUS DIED FOR ME, he really tried for me! And like “James” Oct 24 above said, I took the line “Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on” as a question IF JESUS DIDN’T DIE FOR YOU, THEN WHAT ARE YOU ON? What is keeping you up/going/living if He didn’t. As for the references to other religions…the first words I heard when hearing the song for the 1st time (and many times thereafter) where… JESUS – not Buddha, not new age, but JESUS. Just the very name is above all other names and thousands of people are now bopping and singing along in their cars to JESUS REALLY DIED FOR ME. Gotta love that!

    15. Mike Nov 3

      James, I also felt the last few lines were somewhat reverse Psychology and the meaning came out backwards for me as well.

    16. Joanna (Netherlands) Nov 3

      As a Christian AND a Robbie “fan” (don’t actually like the word), I was pleasantly surprised by this song. Why? It tells me Robbie’s still searching for the truth. His beloved Nan was a devout Christian and as he loved her dearly, she must have had a positive impact on him.
      Fellow christians: our job on this earth is show people a glimpse of Jesus’ love for (all of) us to one another. Trust God.
      All others: I love you from the depths of my heart and… Jesus really died for you 🙂

    17. travelbab Nov 3

      I also found this song unsettling hence looking online for the lyrics to understand better.

      I also took the “Jesus didn’t die for you, what are you on?” as a question towards those who say he didn’t.

      I find all Robbie’s work highly thought provoking especially the ‘B-side’ type songs that don’t get released into the charts. I find for me he is a good role model. He wears his heart on his sleeve allowing you access to the turmoil in his mind as he tries join up who he is, with how he knows he should be. Though I recognise the importance of having a role model who is good at being a Christian they are often an example out of reach to those who aren’t. It’s reassuring to know that someone is having the same difficulties and still striving to understand how they should be living their life.

    18. travelbab Nov 4

      As for using the number 6 on the bike… the number of a bike always go on the front and both sides so it would be written 3 times…. and if we’re really going to put meanings to numbers isn’t the number 6 classed as a good number? God created man on the 6th day

    19. Lisa Worthen Nov 5

      I just discovered Robbie on You Tube this morning! I thought where in the heck have I been, this man can sing. I listened to several songs, watched a few video’s then this song was the last song I played. It made me instantly sad, it broke my heart. I really couldn’t even say why. I was next motivated to look up his biography, not too much there, other than I can’t believe I haven’t ever heard of him before. Then this site popped up after I googled ” Robbie Williams religion. I had this drive to find out if he worshiped the devil or something, seriously the song just felt disturbing to me.
      I know Jesus died for me, I am not a over the top christian, but I feel strongly about the statements in the song. It is sad, to love music, to have such a gift, who else is there for him to thank?

    20. Lisa Worthen Nov 5

      okay, well I looked up a couple other versions that end with Jesus really died for me. Very interesting that it is making people think. I am gonna buy the cd for myself and listen to it. lol
      What else can you do? I know when I am convicted about something, I know when I choose to act on those convictions, something very compelling about this man,

    21. Pascal André Feb 14

      To my sisters and brothers. Know your enemy: the devil is the only one true enemy of all the humanity: we, Christian believers, were also enemies of God in the past! We are only accepted by the grace, the mercy and the forgiveness of God, not by our theology. The faith is very simple to understand but not always easy to live because of our unbelief: to believe is the only way to please God, I mean to love Him because He is love! Jesus had made everything perfect on earth because He knows He could believe His father was taking good care of Him.
      Are we ready to love our “enemies” as Christ does and commit us? It is a challenge for us, not to defend God but to love those who are hating us! God doesn’t need I defend Him! He is almighty! I don’t need to defend the church or the truth because the true church, I mean the true believers all around the world, is the spouse of the Lord of the lords, the Truth him self! He is alive and He takes good care of his brothers! I only need to love my brothers, my neighbors and with softness. The fruit of the Spirit is a character: love, joy, peace, kindness, and others. Do we live as the Christ Jesus live? People needs to see Christians living their faith not to hear dogmatic theory but practical theology! The goodness of God in us will provide opportunity of sincere repentance. Are we ready to die to ourself or do we prefer standing “pure” and “apart” holy people gathering together as religious ones, letting the people without God die? We are sent to people by Jesus and not trying to catch people for our church! Christians belong to Christ and not to a human system. When I am hearing something “offending”, I don’t judge but offer the forgiveness of God! It would be forgiven also to people saying wrong things against Jesus, if they repent. Could we be good as the holy Father?
      Pascal from Belgium

    22. Believer Jul 26

      The most important thing that Jesus wanted to pass on to mankind, was the word of god and to make sure people understood it in order to live in harmony with natural and universal laws created by God. Jesus didnt die for us. It wasnt his destiny from day one as he entered our world to die. He discovered that mankind wasnt ready to embrace and understand gods word. He was willing to die in order to pass on the truth of Gods word onto the people. If we had taken and absorbed gods word , his task would have been completed. His purpose was not to be cruzified by the romans and die so we could be forgiven for our sins. How ridiculous does this sound. In 2011 much hasnt changed. Wé would still ridicule, imprison, and persue anybody who claims to have abilities or a special connection with God, or perhaps if Jesus wandered our earth in flesh once again history might repeat itself.

    23. Ayzay Aug 30

      Watchout for the tricks of the devil on the media, we got many wolves in sheep clothing, i wish i could squeeze meaning outa that song

    24. Evanetti Jan 26

      Recently bought Robbie’s Greatest Hits double CD and LOVE IT!!
      I believe Robbie is saying
      “What? Jesus didn’t die for you? What are you on… drugs??? OF COURSE HE DIED FOR YOU!!”
      I’m sure you’ve all had conversations like this when you talk some sense into someone, a friend… a colleague…
      There is much historical evidence of Jesus’ deity. I’ll provide links if asked
      Those of you whom put your faith into a man-made religion rather the person Christ, He still accepts you in your religion if you trust Him :-

    25. terry Jul 10

      Robbie williams is a beautiful man in alot of pain he hurts himself to understand
      a deeper emotion that yearns for only real love listen to his songs feel angels better man most of his songs are songs of redemption yeah christians should shut their mouths and stop judging cause only god can judge and christians arent god robbie has pain that needs to be expressed and i believe god gave that song angels to robbie to show christians how wrong they are god knew people were hurting robbie and everyone hated him so god chose him and you christians better be careful if you want to judge robbie cause hes one of gods angels and you christians all deserve whats really coming to you

    26. terry Jul 10

      Even god forgives the devil god loves the devil and the devil will recieve a greater forgivness and love from god cause he suffered more than all and he will deserve it cause he will have a greater understanding for he was so lost he will be so found for he was so hurt he will be so loved for he was evil he will be good those that keep him in pain will remain in death for he did wrong to make right no one is evil for i have made you holy they who choose to know have chose to know why through sin with this no one can do evil without doing it for the sake of good to know is to hurt but when youre known its to love you can be like eve and blame the devil as christians do or you can eat the apple and blame yourself when the truth is known the truth is told and robbie williams has told it

    27. mexican guy Dec 18

      well,i´m sorry for my english but i don´t practice it so much, i ‘ ve read this comments and i dont know i think the song it´s a refflection of the stuff that happens every single day inside of us, believe or not?, i mean without God, what else do we got? nothing really, we’re all bodies and there´s nothing else and it´s so horrible, so we got 2 choices, actually it,s in us to believe in it or not. About the lyrics, let´s remember the fact that he was in need of controversy for a poor single, nowdays that all is about sex and dancing and that is not his style, well it´s my opinion and i believe in jesus and in the way that he died for remaining for our sins, but as a human being i have this internal battle evereyday but i always ask god for help and he gives it to me and that´s the way in which he bless me and nothing else matters i think.

    28. CMCL Jan 9

      Probably worth a mention that indeed, as has been overstated, he mentions and toys with the concept of redemption and the validity of Jesus in ‘The modern Middle-Ages’ so; therefore the song is more overly the thoughts of condemnation and rebellion against the precepts of god. ‘God gave me the sunshine’ and still the ever-present concept of death being the driving force of humanity is held against it. The struggle is with a modern, broken world that god had created but then abandoned in Robbie’s eyes.

      The struggle with understanding god is fought by all, but ultimately it is his pedestal like fame that makes an this song incredibly destructive towards Christianity in the eyes of many.

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