Florence and the Machine, formerly known as singer-songwriter Florence Welch, recently released a chart-topping album called Dance Fever.

The meanings of Florence’s songs on the album are hard to pin down, allowing her to explore freedom and death without being pinned down to one meaning. But there is a popular and enduring cultural idea underpinning her body of work: freedom is living your fullest life of self-expression, exuberance, and pleasure here and now – since we all have to die in the end anyway.

Free’, a new track on the album, explores Florence’s anxiety and momentary freedom in music. Her voice is incredible, but dig into the song and you’ll find something strange…

Is this how it is?
Is this how it’s always been?
To exist in the face of suffering and death
And somehow still keep singing
Oh like Christ up on a cross
Who died for us? Who died for what?
Oh, don’t you wanna call it off?
But there’s nothing else that I know how to do
But to open up my arms and give it all to you

Cause I hear music, I feel the beat
And for a moment, when I’m dancing
I am free…”

Florence sees Jesus’ death as futile (“died for what?”) and she references The Life of Brian (“keep singing”). In her performance of the song, she raises her hands, play-acting worship, then, she suddenly looks down, smiles playfully, and throws her arms out to the audience, singing she will give it all” to us. In her worldview, ecstatic moments of self-expression shared with her audience (not God) are all that she really needs to be free”.


But the Bible reminds us that true freedom is only found in Jesus: eternal life and freedom from sin and death. Florence is asking big questions: Christ… Who died for us? Who died for what?” but in a way that is rhetorical, playful and dismissive. She is rumoured to be making a surprise appearance at Glastonbury this weekend, so we might see thousands of people singing these questions too. Maybe we can playfully re-interpret her rhetorical question today as a reminder to share the answer even more with our loved ones and friends:

  • That whoever believes in Him will not die but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Just like Florence, from the outside, many of our friends might appear to be free”. Our culture is convinced that true freedom is found in moments of unbridled happiness: falling in love, creative expression, scientific discovery, enjoying nature, or helping others. Comedian Ricky Gervais once said: There’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.” Even in the face of death, our culture covers its ears and says life can be so beautiful that human beings don’t need a forever, and certainly not a God, to give meaning, hope and purpose, because we can make it ourselves.

But the whisper of the gospel replies, down the centuries, that something does not come from nothing. Every good thing” has always been a gift given from above” by a God of love (James 1:17).

A dance of death’ vs God’s gift of dance

The whole of Florence’s album is themed on a medieval phenomenon called the dancing plague, or dance fever. Whether this plague was fact or fiction, it consisted of mainly women-led crowds participating in feverish non-stop dances which often ended in mass death through sheer exhaustion. Florence passionately re-enacts this tragic and meaning-less dance of death’ with a dance troupe in two of her new music videos as she explores her idea of freedom”.

Without God, life is ultimately exhausting and pointless, like a dance of death. In Jeremiah 51:58, whole nations wear themselves out by ignoring God, whilst gaining nothing eternal (“they exhaust themselves for nothing”). In Ecclesiastes, we see that life on this earth can seem just like a puff of smoke.

Florence’s choreography is impressive, but there’s no comparison between the momentary freedom” of the dance of death’, and the eternal freedom represented in the gift of dancing throughout the pages of God’s story. The first person ever recorded as dancing in scripture was also a woman, Miriam, who led the way in a dance in awe of the God who saved her people from slavery into freedom. Later, King David passionately danced before God in celebration to the point where his wife told him off for acting up in public, not realising that he was joining in an ecstatic dance which would echo in eternity.

The rhythm of life

What rhythm do your friends follow in their life and is it one that will last? A friend has told me her sense of morality comes from her parents, but when I asked how do we know if parents are right or wrong, she didn’t really have an answer, or seem inspired to find one. Tricky though it can be(!) it’s important to keep talking about the deeper questions which people don’t want to think about and sharing the hope that we have.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)