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Deconstructing with David Bazan on Twitter
When my friend Jeremy retweeted David Bazan this week, I had to respond. David Bazan, a favorite of mine in the disillusioned days of college, is a post-Christian singer/songwriter who has captivated many of my friends in and around Circle of Hope because he’s making his career off of deconstructing his childhood faith. He’s made the rounds on this blog more than once (here, here, and here).
I followed him down his path of broken faith and really fell in love with some of his music, but I kept my faith through it. I remember a few years ago singing along to every word of Control when he was playing through the whole thing at the First Unitarian Church. I’m glad I did, too. In fact, his politics, original views on faith, and earnestness was important in my spiritual formation.
This summer when I was repainting one of our rooms after it was reinsulated, I had his two most recent records on repeat, so I kind of fell in love with him again. I was really glad when I was listening to Bazan that I had not only a faith that endured deconstruction, but that I had also built something else in return. I’m a little late with commentary on this, but my interest is piqued, so maybe you’ll indulge me. Bazan’s lyrics are so clever and charismatic, it’s hard to look away. Curse Your Branches might be the centerpiece of his cynicism toward faith. He is not just a hater, so I appreciate his honesty, at least. “Hard To Be” is a song all about losing faith because the creation story doesn’t make sense. In fact, in “Heavy Breath” he talks about whether or not getting created really matters: “If no heavy breath blew up these lungs / While dirt and wet spit hung a ghost in the air / Well, we're still here.”
Bazan is really working with something too. In the final song on the record, he is actually trying to dialogue with God about his lack of disillusionment. The “You” in the song is God! So you could even think of it as a prayer—I stretch it that far anyway. Here’s the part that stung me:
“When Job asked you 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.”
I think God likes those kinds of questions, when they aren’t rhetorical. I hope that David hears back from God, because the story of Job is a little wild. That level of questioning and deconstruction can actually help our faith—it did mine!—but I want to note, that not everyone can keep their faith through their David Bazan fandom. Not everyone can reconstruct something else. Sometimes we’re just left in the rubble. So when David tweeted this, I was happy to dialogue with him:
The church needs to be disassembled, but I think we need to reassemble something better in return. We need to create an alternative. We can’t just pillage and destroy. David is right, it needs to be real, slow even, and gradual. But it needs to be right too. Not everything that’s institutional is wrong, and not everything that’s anti-establishment is right. We have true selves and false selves, and getting to our true self will take some deconstruction—but clearly, it takes a lot more work than that. I think the same goes for all of creation.
I was glad David and I were able to have a civil conversation and actually get to the same page. In fact, in his original tweet he writes “I have faith…” It probably does take some faith to make deconstruction work for Jesus. But we need to be conscious because if we are bulls in china shops we might be hurt by something—obviously God, truth, and reality aren’t those things—and we might hurt something that needs to be hurt (my examples were racism, militarism, and materialism). But we also might hurt a person and drag them down a path that we needed to take, but not one that they need to. When I talked about hell and my view of it last week, it took at least one person down a darker path than they started. It's important for us to be conscious about who we influence. We might "still be here" at the end of it, with God, reality, and truth—but I want to be more than just here.
I suppose that’s the biggest difference between living in community and isolation. In community, we are interdependent, responsible for each other, but also responsible for ourselves. The institution of individualism might be the first one that needs to be deconstructed. As leaders, we need to mind our influence and realize that we are influential. David Bazan’s music stimulates me and works for me, but I have a strong faith community that helps me not only contextualize it, but also helps me reconstruct something after we’ve taken it apart.