Big God — Florence and the Machine

Ghosting and God

Florence wrote Big God after she felt ghosted by a potential lover. Ghosting, for those unfamiliar with the term, is slang for when a friend or lover decisively and unilaterally cuts all forms of communication. The song, however, quickly moves from this seemingly everyday slant to a profound psychological and theological question. After Florence vexed over the sharp relational break to a friend, her friend remarked: “You need a big God to hold your love”.

 

God’s Ghost?

None other than St. Augustine asked the same question about the hope of fulfilment in human recognition. Rather than being trapped in worldly concern with people’s approval, he confessed, “my heart is restless until it rests in You [God]”. Later, in the 20th century, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, like many before, revisited St. Augustine’s works. He would suggest that at the moment when we become restless within the usual everyday chatter, when we become quiet, and as Augustine suggests, when we become a question unto ourselves, then we begin exploring authentic existence within the limits of our historical, social, and cultural resources.

Jean-Paul Sartre misunderstood and reinterpreted Heidegger’s reading of St. Augustine. The Frenchman collapsed many of Heidegger’s questions into existential and quasi-psychological ones. Sartre and his compatriot Camus, suggested modern humans who are without recourse to God, remain stuck with what in popular culture interpreted as a “God-shaped hole”. When Florence’s friend confronts her with a need for a God big enough to fill her unrequited longing, her friend channels this whole history.

 

God in the Ghost?

Often, in unexpected interruptions, shattered assumptions, or cut communication we experience an emptiness. One way our society’s weak individualism reacts to such shocks is anger. How dare you slant me? Of course, here, we do not include hate speech, oppression, and various other systemic forces which demean and hurt other beings worthy of love. Nor are we making light of any real harm toxic relationships can bring. Instead Florence’s song illuminates a particular narcissism obsessed with blaming instead of reflection, one which once again reveals humans’ “God-shaped hole”.

In this sense, Florence’s song reminds each one of us to allow the very human weaknesses we and others posses to become an opportunity for growth rather than blame. Florence invites us to acknowledge our own unquenchable longing to be complete, one which no amount of blaming or even growing can fill. It is within this search where we find ourselves, and maybe even God.

Author Details

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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