This morning I was visiting with my friend Luke Gray. True to form, Mr. Gray plays a plethora (defined correctly but intended facetiously) of songs by a mass of indie artists throughout our many conversation topics. Eventually he puts on the newest album by some guy named David Bazan (whose name I totally recognized . . . a little), and proceeded to talk about this guy’s collapse of faith. And by “faith” I do mean of the Christian type. Luke addressed this guy interchangeably with Pedro the Lion (who I DO know), so I was finally able to put together that Bazan is the guy who was to Pedro what Chris Carrabba is to Dashboard. More or less.
I have heard a lot of Pedro over the years, and while I honestly have never cared too much for his music (to be fair, I never sat down to give it much of a chance, either), I was always impressed with his lyrics; they’re poetry without a doubt. Another aspect I did enjoy about Pedro was the fact that he was a Christian and sang about the deeper aspects of faith, and carried an honesty with him as he pursued Jesus in his day-to-day life. But for all that I liked about his transparency in his songs, something always worried me about him. I’ve had a similar feeling of unsettled-ness with others before, and I think it comes from seeing someone who is clearly talented and intelligent and I fear that something, at some point, will convince them to try to make it on their own abilities. Well . . . that’s not exactly it. It’s kind of hard to put that “fear” into words, really, but maybe you know what I’m talking about.
It seems that whatever those fears were, they were justified, as Bazan has declared himself agnostic, and leaves little to doubt that fact in the lyrics of his latest album, Curse Your Branches. While it certainly saddens me to see a person of a once-strong faith renounce all they had held dear, it frustrates me that I so easily see the flaws in logic that Bazan is now holding as his new truth. Every issue that Bazan addresses in the lyrics (from what I heard and Luke discussed with me) are a problem of a person trying to make sense of God. That is the starting point of so many arguments against what Christianity teaches–using human logic and human values to assess the decisions that God makes. What really gets to me the most is that many people with this approach think that they’re opening new ground and asking the though questions, when in reality they’re usually just taking western, 21st century values and using that to judge what, as a Christian believes, God has said or done. I see it all the time. It’s very prevalent in the Seattle area, where I live, and it’s worth noting that this is where Bazan lives, too.
The best example of this from what I heard is the last lines from the album-ender, “In Stitches.”
When Job asked you the question/you responded, “Who are you/to challenge your creator?”/Well, if that one part is true/it makes you sound defensive/like you had not thought it through/enough to have an answer/like you might have bit off /more than you could chew
That’s fair enough, right? Job was a really good guy, from what we’re told, and he suffered immensely. When he finally got the stones to demand a reason from God, The Almighty put him in his place. By today’s standards, Job deserves an answer, but for some reason God thinks he doesn’t need to justify himself to him. What a prick.
Now, if I challenged my old boss on something seemingly unfair and he responded with, “Who are you to challenge the president of this company?,” then, yes, that would seem as if he wasn’t prepared to be questioned and played the “I’m more important than you” card to get out of it. However, this is not one human being talking to another human being. This is the being whose existence means we exist, the one to whom the question “is he real?” is laughable because he defines reality, and he is talking to something HE MADE. Furthermore, not only is this thing with which he is speaking something he made, but it is something that is evil (yes, EVIL–despite Job’s righteousness, he was not without sin, and no amount of being good justifies you before God), and the very fact that there is any conversation at all is a demonstration of love and grace. Luke’s approach was a little less heady but possibly more profound: it’s like a child speaking with its parent. The child, as long as it is a child, will never understand its parents’ decisions regarding them.
Other places in this album, Bazan demands the option to say, “I don’t know.” I find it curious that he could not do that with coming to terms with not understanding some things God does.
Many more things about Bazan came up in my conversation, many of them from the album to which we were listening, and many more from articles and the like which Luke recalled. All of them broke my heart. But I cannot walk away from a blog like this and only lament over how sad it is to see someone so talented lose their faith–that would be kind of pointless. Instead, I think it’s worth taking the time to realize how thankful I am that-
1) I’m in an environment like the one I have; one in which a structure of believers exists around me who are honest with each other about questions and doubts, but always are willing to trust God first, and are there as long as long as I’m willing to go to them and listen to them; and
2) God has given me the ability to have faith and trust him. When I see something I don’t like, or when something happens that seems unfair, I’m always able to fall back on the idea that he really does know better than I do, and I am able to let him handle it.
In conclusion, I just want to say that I hope that someday God calls him back, and gives him the faith that he seemed to try to obtain on his own for so long.