Gospel According to Purple Rain, Pt. 2

I’m preparing to kick off the new year for the Young Adult Study of my church.  Our first session of 2012 is a continuation of a series we began toward the end of last year themed ‘The Gospel According to Purple Rain: What the Music of Prince has to do with the Prince of Peace’.

Our first session explored the lyrics and meaning(s) of Purple Rain‘s lead single, When Doves Cry.  The lyrics to the chorus are:

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that’s so cold? (A world that’s so cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding (Maybe, maybe I’m like my father)
Maybe I’m just like my father too bold (Ya know he’s too bold)
Maybe you’re just like my mother (Maybe you’re just like my mother)
She’s never satisfied (She’s never, never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other? (Why do we scream? Why?)
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

This is a song about a relationship gone awry, but why a dove?  Doves can’t cry.  What could Prince possibly mean?

From there, we did a word study on “dove” in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament.  Among other things, doves in the Bible represent peace and symbolize the Holy Spirit.  For example, in Genesis 8, it is the dove that delivers the message to Noah of the great flood’s end.  It is the dove that represents the end of God’s punishment of humankind and the beginning of a new covenant restoring God’s relationship with all of creation.  In Matthew 3, at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends “like a dove,” in effect commissioning Jesus to go forth, resist the devil’s temptations and heal the afflicted.

So, biblically, the dove could be interpreted as a “winged messenger of God” who foretells and works for peace, restoration and reconciliation of God’s creation.  With this interpretation of doves in the Bible, Prince’s song could have deeper meaning.  It’s possible that the dove is crying, because the dove represents peace and wants the fighting between this young couple to end.  It is also possible that the dove represents God in the Holy Spirit, crying because generation after generation refuses to receive and live into the healing and reconciliation she offers (Maybe I’m just like my father…too bold / Maybe you’re just like my mother…she’s never satisfied / Why do we scream at each other?).  In any event, the power of the dove as a symbol has biblical roots and the exploration of those roots can help us hear new meanings of the song.

Tomorrow, we’re building upon this lesson to explore the song that follows ‘When Doves Cry’ on the Purple Rain soundtrack, ‘I Would Die 4 U.’  Should be fun.  Stay tuned…

I’m not your lover
I’m not your friend
I am something that U’ll never comprehend
No need 2 worry
No need 2 cry
I’m your messiah and U’re the reason why


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