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One of the extraordinary things about Protestant hymns is how they have progressively become less and less Christian.

For instance, not many of them, even nineteenth century ones, mention the Holy Trinity. Few mention the Crucifixion and Resurrection. And even fewer, it seems mention the words 'Christ' or 'The Son of God'. True, quite a few do mention 'Jesus'. But then the name 'Jesus' is simply a Jewish forename (shared by Joshua and the son of Sirach). Apart from being a forename, 'Jesus' is in fact the name used by Jews and Muslims alike to refer to the person they regard as the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter (not that of the Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead).

In general, it would appear that many Protestant hymns could quite easily be sung by Jews or Muslims and they would in no way contradict their beliefs. Perhaps we should not be surprised: Protestantism, after all, is based to a surprising extent on the tenth-century A.D. Hebrew translation of the Old Testament, much of which is revered by Muslims who honour 'Jesus' as one of their prophets.

Worse still, as the more sober, old eighteenth and nineteenth century hymns of Protestantism are increasingly pushed aside by modern happy-clappy hymns, we increasingly wonder who exactly is the centre of worship of contemporary Protestantism: the Son of God, or some vague, disincarnate New Age spirit of 'happiness', belonging to some universal, syncretistic religion, as preached by the 'World Council of Churches'?

The latest example of this decline is the new song of the teenage pop idol, Gareth Gates. A very young man from a modernistic Protestant background, his rock and roll song 'Spirit in the Sky' appears to have more to do with Non-Christianity and even Anti-Christianity than anything else. It may seem harsh to criticise a pop-song which appears to be preaching some sort of spiritual message. After all most pop-songs are pure commercial creations and spiritually empty, so why criticise a song that appears to have a message? The reason is given below; it is the nature of the spirituality which is disturbing.

Sobriety and even decency are lost in this song which pulses to the beat of rock and roll. Surrounded by half a dozen Hindu girls who whirl sensually around Gareth Gates in veil-skirts, their midriffs bare, and erotically sway their bodies, the singer proclaims that you:

'Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He's gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky'.

Jesus here is not the Son of God, but 'a friend'. But who is 'the spirit in the sky'? In Orthodox Christian theology, the spirits who live in the sky, in the 'aerial realms', are the demons, who strive to obtain our friendship. Those of us who would like to give this naïve teenager the benefit of the doubt then have to listen to the following words:

'Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He's gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky'.

Are these the words of the demons? They are certainly words that they want to hear: 'Never been a sinner I never sinned'.

Then he continues:

'When I die and they lay me to rest
I'm gonna go to the place that's the best'.

And where exactly does this young man hope to go? What is the place 'that's the best?'

Here is a disturbing vagueness, the lack of confession of the Holy Trinity, of Christ the Son of God incarnate as man, of the Resurrection, of the Kingdom of Heaven, and instead a belief in 'the spirit in the sky'. No wonder that Hindus are quite willing to take part. Is this the New Age? Is this the new religion that twenty-first century Protestantism has degenerated into?

Whatever it is, it is not Christianity. In fact, it sounds more like the religion of Anti-Christianity. Let us hope that we are wrong.

Since this article was posted, we have been informed by Benjamin Waterhouse on the Isle of Wight that this song was first released by a Jewish singer, Norman Greenbaum, in 1969. He was not then and is not now a Christian. For further details see the website

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