Nearly a month ago a small indie folk band released an album that instantly shot to the top of most music charts. Babel by Mumford and sons raced past albums by long time stars like Justin Bieber to make it the best selling album in 2012. After a few times of listening to the whole albums the angry lyrics of one song in particular captivated me. That song is called “Broken Crown.” Marcus Mumford was asked about the meaning of the song and replied “I’m never gonna tell you who or what it’s about.” To me that says this song is something very personal, possibly even about family.
The lyrics speak of sinning and being sinned against, in the same distressed voice. My interpretation is based on the fact that Marcus grew up as a pastors kid in the Vineyark UK Church. Yet today’s he doesn’t even want to call himself Christian, though he remains “spiritual.” Being a pastors kid and a fundamentalist church exile myself, I can understand this quite well, and I find some truths in the song. I think Marcus is speaking of the brokenness of the human condition, and that it offers only two, also broken, choices. The broken path, where one loses love and attention, or the broken crown, which one wears to becomes a hypocrite and earn love or attention. I think Marcus is admitting religiosity doesn’t work and refuses to wear its “broken crown.” He then bares his soul and admits that his way was full of weakness and ruin as well.
It is a song about a broken man who refused to wear a broken crown in a broken kingdom, and instead he took a broken path.
Below are some key lyrics, and my interpretation.
“Touch my mouth and hold my tongue, I’ll never be your chosen one“
He refuses to be the ‘chosen one’ in the church system. Perhaps he was encouraged or told that he has a specific role or calling. Perhaps he was chosen to perpetuate a broken religious system. Perhaps since he was a child he was told he would be a pastor in the system, like I was. He vehemently rejects this.
“Better not to breathe than to breathe a lie“
Marcus is tired of hypocrisy and pretending to be something. I once talked to a friend who said this same line. He left the church for a year because he was tired of faking he was perfect when he wasn’t.
“So crawl on my belly ’til the sun goes down. I’ll never wear your broken crown”
He prefers to be like the serpent in Genesis, condemned to crawling on his belly but he will not wear the crown, because the crown is broken. The crown represents goodness, righteousness, and authority, but all of this is broken. The religious church wears such a broken crown and he would rather be an open sinner who is mocked, than being a hypocrite who is adored and respected by wearing this broken crown.
“I will not speak of your sin. The mirror shows not; Your values are all shot”
With stinging pain he rebukes someone, perhaps the religious system or someone in it, perhaps even his father. He states this person or system has completely wrong values, but they cannot even see this in the mirror.
“The pull on my flesh was just too strong. But oh, my heart was flawed; I knew my weakness”
The crown is not the only thing that is broken. He exposes that he is broken too.
“So hold my hand; Consign me not to darkness”
With this he makes a final plea, a last prayer. But this prayer is not enough for his own darkness drives him away. He refuses to play religion, to pretend, to wear a crown that’s is broken.
“I took the road and I f*cked it all away. But in this twilight our choices seal our fate.”
He ends with these haunting words. He took his own road, he gave up being the chosen one for someone else, for example, the religious system. Now his fate is sealed to his broken path, if not his broken crown.
Alas, the song misses a third way, a better way. The way of a crown that was never broken, though the one who wore it, was broken for us. Learn more about Christianity.