Christianity in Runrig’s music

One of my favourite bands is the Scottish folk/rock band Runrig. They primarily sing songs about Scotland, occasionally with an overtly nationalist bent but more typically about the Scottish landscape, history, people and culture; they also sometimes cover other themes. However, it was only after I’d been listening to them for about eight years that I realised some of their songs were explicitly Christian.

Now, by ‘explicitly Christian’ I mean in the sense that some of U2’s songs are Christian, not in the sense of Townend and Getty. I’d always known they used Christian imagery in their songs, but that is common: neither Ash’s Shining Light (“An epiphany that burned so pretty/Over Royal David’s city” nor Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ could in any way be described as Christian.

The song of theirs that gave it away was Every River. The first verse and chorus hints at Christianity, but the second verse completely gives it away:

But you came to me like the ways of children
Simple as breathing, easy as air
Now the years hold no fears, like the wind they pass over
Loved, forgiven, washed, saved

Sure enough, I looked them up online and, while the wikipedia page makes no mention of it, other articles confirm that the brothers who are the lead songwriters are devout Christians and that this at times comes through in their lyrics.

Occasionally, it’s more obvious. The CD case cover of their album Proterra confirms that Empty Glens is about the loss of religious faith in the highlands. Some of the lyrics in question definitely speak to this:

Science breaking down the door
And all the hordes go rushing through for more
All the thrills of the world, and all her idols

In particular the chorus:

Now we walk in empty glens
Rushes blowing in the wind
A voice that’s calling you again
To come back home
Where have they gone, where have they gone
Gone to illusion everyone
In the darkest heart, the pride of man
Will walk alone

In others, it is only once you’re aware that it becomes obvious. Admittedly, the title is a bit of a giveaway, but like a number of the songs, it’s only when you already know that News From Heaven is unambiguously in that vein:

But now you’re here
I feel no fear
I can’t believe
The news from heaven
You close your eyes
On a world inside
A spark of life
On a wire from heaven

I’d emphasise that – just like U2 – the vast majority of their songs are not about their religious faith. And in most cases, religious imagery is just that: imagery. “To face Goliath and the might of Rome” in Wall of China is a metaphor for overwhelming odds, not anything more subtle. Though there are also a few which I’m not sure about, such as Protect and Survive.

P.S. If you’ve never heard of them before and are interested in trying them, I would recommend The Cutter and the Clan or Thirty Year Journey (the latter being a ‘greatest hits’ compilation) as a good place to start.