"Harmless Sparks" as written by and David Shannon Bazan....
They might have burned
But the priests were out taking turns
Showing nuns what they had discerned about their bodies,
In the dark
They carried on,
from the evening until the dawn
Like they should have been all along
Making harmless sparks
Instead of breaking little boys hearts

God knows, if you noticed the millions of small holes
And ponder the weight of an apple
Compared to the trouble we're in
Then some grown men might,
be tempted to question their birthright
In front of their kids and devout wives
Causing the doubt to begin, to
Spread like original sin

Lyrics submitted by scissorhandes

Harmless Sparks song meanings
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  • 0
    General Commenthe played this song in its entirety in cambridge saturday night. thanks for the rest of the lyrics.
    GhostofDavidon October 30, 2007   Link
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    General CommentMy take: the song is critical of catholic standards of a chaste priesthood and nun(hood?). He points out how natural sex is, millions of small holes, and compares the weight (an apple--forbidden fruit) of the "sin" of natural sex ("harmless sparks") in the priesthood to the travesty of molesting alter boys. He also examines the impact of the Catholic policies: if sex is taboo then men will doubt their God given nature to have sex, doubting God's own creation--breaking down the family function that the Church was originally trying to protect. This is another attack from Bazan on the religious establishment.
    johnbon November 13, 2007   Link
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    General CommentTo me this song is critiquing patriarchy
    First he critiques the suppression of women's sexuality, as he says that men (priests in particular) are defining the women's body without any real knowledge about it (showing nuns what they had discerned about their bodies in the dark)
    while the priests are supposed to be pure beings who are able to define what's right and wrong for women, David Bazan points out that they are really having sex with little boys themselves, thus making priests not pure, and in fact hypocrites.
    Eve taking the apple is often thought of as being the justification for male supremacy and the patriarchal under christianity. Bazan is saying if men really questioned this justification of power over women because of eve taking the apple compared to all the other troubles that men have done, they would be forced to question their patriarchal birthright of ownership over their wives, children, wealth and power.

    This song is genius, simple but actually really complex
    mrsxbartzon January 15, 2009   Link
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    General Commentmrsxbartz... very interesting interpretation. I am not sure I agree with you on everything, but it certainly makes sense in regards to some lines. For example, I didn't find anything particularly oppressive or degrading about the priests and nuns having sex... I thought Bazan was simply implying that it was natural and consensual... I could certainly be wrong, though.

    Up until reading the comments here, the first and second verses always seemed somewhat unrelated to me. The first verse, I think undoubtedly, is about priests' vows of chastity, as johnb pointed out. I always figured he was just pointing out that if priests weren't made to refrain from having sex, something very natural and human, ("making harmless sparks") there wouldn't be so many cases of child sexual abuse in the church. I agree with Bazan to an extent, but I also understand the custom of priests' chastity to an extent as well... some people are 'called' to be chaste, and it is an act of discipline and obedience to God. I can respect that: putting aside "earthly pleasures" in order to concentrate on God. And obviously not every priest is a child-molester, although there have certainly been a lot of cases of such a thing in the past.

    The second verse I am not so sure about. I always thought it was pretty much about what Hard to Be is about... the idea that if a Christian took a step back ("pondered the weight of an apple / compared to the trouble we're in"), they would realize all of the problems and contradictions ("the millions of small holes") that Bazan believes to be inherent in Christianity. Then, Bazan says, the doubt would begin, and spread throughout their families and into the church. It's very much a similar argument to what the so-called "New Atheists" have been using: that a logical examination of one's faith would make it invalid. (I have some problems with a lot of their writings, but I'm not going to get into them now.)

    Now that some posters here have pointed out the bit about the birthright, and the wives and children, I am starting to see some similarities between the two verses, but I have still yet to work it out completely...
    KennyBon October 07, 2009   Link
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    General CommentThis is a stunningly beautiful song. I've had the album for a long time, but I never really listened to it carefully until I read a Bazan interview where he admitted that he now considers himself agnostic, which is a major change for a once faithful christian, and that the songs on the album are about his questioning of faith.

    In that light, I think the meaning of the song is rather obvious. The first verse is about what the other posters have said, that Catholic priests' vows of chastity are so unnatural that it led to the rampant child molestation inside the church, where they should have just been having "harmless sparks" (consensual sex with adults).

    The second verse seems to be about Bazan's personal questioning of faith, presumably in light of the child molestation scandals (since that's the first verse). In the song on the album, he actually sings in singular:

    Then a grown man might,
    be tempted to question his birthright
    In front of his kids and devout wife

    I interpret the song to be about Bazan questioning his faith because of the scandals, and the other "millions of small holes" in the logic of religion. His "birthright," also used in "Curse Your Branches," is about the religion he was born into, which he is now questioning, even in front of his kids and wife (who remains devout, in Bazan's real life). And he says once he started questioning, the doubt began, and spread through him like original sin. Just a beautiful song.
    bill1410on November 25, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"They might have burned"
    ...Anyone have any ideas what that line is referring to?

    nathanstaphon January 25, 2014   Link

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