“Cast Out, O Christ”
AUTHOR: Mary Louise Bringle
TUNE: HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN
COMPOSER: American Folk Melody
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3072
SCRIPTURE: Mark 5:1-20; Romans 5:1-5
TOPIC: call/calling, demons, evil, fear, grief/grieving, hate, healing, hope, joy/rejoicing, power and might, transformation, Word of God
The text begins with a plea for Jesus to cast out our destroying demons -- cast them out far away. Then it proceeds to name those destroying demons: dread, hate, rage, grief, jealousy, fear, shackled hearts, binding shame. Jesus went out of his way long ago to cast out demons, and he still does today in our own lives. Stanza four turns hopeful, with God's Word breathing life, health, and hope to free us from "evil's thrall" and "send us home in peace to live your gospel call." Stanza five ends triumphantly, inviting Christ to come and cast away our demons, transform our lives, and enable us to live lives of love and joy.
The Worship & Song editorial committee struggled with a tune for Bringle's amazing text. Since it is in Common Meter, there is no shortage of tunes that will work, but the challenge was to find a tune suitable for such a range of content and emotion: casting out demons, naming all those demons, our hope in Jesus as the one who casts out demons, and the triumph of transformed lives in Christ.
After discussion, debate, and trying out many tunes, the committee settled on HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. Its origins are lost to history, but some claim it may date from a sixteenth century English folk song. Others say it comes from the hills of eastern Kentucky, where it was recorded and collected by folklorist Alan Lomax in 1937. The tune was early linked to songs that spoke of bondage, prostitution and brothels, perhaps most famously in New Orleans.
These songs had numerous recordings and performances: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Glen Yarbrough, Frankie Lane, Roy Acuff, Woodie Guthrie, Lead Belly, and others. The most successful and best-known version was recorded in 1964 by the English rock group, The Animals.
Given the close association of the HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN tune to subjects of demons, sin, bondage, and oppression, it seemed a good choice for Bringle's text that begins with bondage and casting out demons and moves to transformed lives in Christ. The selection of the tune has not been without controversy. Some have said that they cannot separate the tune from its early associations, that they simply cannot accept it as a hymn tune. Others have celebrated its selection as inspired and transforming. The recording by The Animals is now fifty years old and many of the younger generation do not even know it. It was a bold and risky choice to include in Worship & Song. Time will tell if it was a good choice.
Mary Louise (Mel) Bringle, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and chair of the Humanities Division at Brevard College (Brevard, NC). She didn't take up writing hymns until 1999. She has since composed many new hymns, won several national and international hymn writing competitions, and served as President of The Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada. She is chair of the committee to create a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church, USA (2011).
- Mary Louise Bringle biographical statement, GIA Music
- Mary Louise Bringle YouTube interview
- "House of the Rising Sun," Wikipedia entry