Jars of Clay (Dan Haseltine) and Pedro the Lion (David Bazan) leave the Evangelical Church behind…what is going on?

It has been almost a month since my friend Ryan Byrd wrote a blog post about Dan Haseltine and Jars of Clay leaving the evangelical church behind. I saw that he had posted it and I wanted to read it, but I got caught up with my own life and all that was going on there. For those of you who don’t know there were two big events that happened in the two weeks before his post. The first was that I got married on the 25th of August and the second was that 5 days before Ryan wrote his post my office burned up in a fire. Needless to say I was a bit slow in getting everything back on track.

Between his writing the post and me reading it I was able to go to the David Bazan concert at Eikon (thank you once again Ryan). If you don’t know who that is, he was known to the Christian community as Pedro the Lion until he left the evangelical church and Christianity behind. This was not a normal ‘concert’ for me. It was a small setting with less than 50 people in the room. Bazan was playing a bass guitar like it was an electric guitar, complete with capo and pick. His bass player was playing electric guitar during the show. It was just the two of them with their guitars and mics.

About every third song David Bazan would ask if anyone had any questions. There was a group of guys sitting on the floor right in front of him. One of them had several questions, but the one that caught my attention was when he asked him what was up with him? What had really happened with him leaving Christianity and had he really broken up with God like people said after his breakup album. Had ‘Curse Your Branches’ really been about him breaking up with God? Bazan responded more candidly than I ever expected someone in his position to respond with. He was honest and open about the fact that he had come to a point in his life where he had to search out some answers. He had taken things for granted that he had been told his whole life, but he fully expected to find in the end that everyone had been right and it was all true. According to him, that is not what he found. He found that he couldn’t get the answers he was looking for and had to be honest with himself and walk away from what he had been taught.

I am not quoting him word for word and if you really want to know what Bazan thinks you just need to read the lyrics to his music. He is amazingly talented and has a lot of influence on a lot of people. That same thing can be said for Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay. The journey he is on seems to be a bit different from Bazan’s, but it is headed in a similar direction. He is leaving the evangelical church behind and is making music about real life experience.

Dan Haseltine wrote a blog post called An Unfinished Record; An Uncharted Path that you can read if you want to read. From what it sounds like, he had a similar upbringing to my own. He went to youth group, wore the Jesus t-shirt, and lived all that goes along with that. Somewhere along his path things changed and he had this to say:

“God gave us a story, and a space to fill. And it isn’t really in the same neighborhood as the evangelical church. And so our music will be disappointing to many. People will inevitably engage us with the question, “Are you going secular?” or, “Why don’t you sing about Jesus?” or, “How come you don’t share the gospel?” And some of those people will be angry. Some of them won’t have the tools necessary to understand that anger, or the fear that creates it. Some people will see our form of artistic expression as a threat. Some will categorize us as “back-sliders.“ I wish I had more patience and time for those people.”

His music is taking a turn that leave the evangelical church behind. Now I don’t know about you, but Jars of Clay has been one of those bands that has always been around in ‘Christian music’. They have songs that I know and hear even if it is not something I knew was their song. People remake their songs and worship leaders sing them in youth groups across the country. Now they won’t be singing about Jesus…or at least not in the way that most people expect them to be singing about Jesus. So what does that mean? How do men like this just drift away from the church? How do they begin to see the church as something that is no longer answering the questions that they have in life?

In another part of that same blog post Dan says this:

“These songs are honest expressions of what life around us looks like. The descriptions of love and pain, loneliness and hope are real to us. It is what frustrates me about the general church audience. If artistic expressions do not have an evangelical agenda, or they don’t explicitly cheer for Jesus, they tend to fail commercially. In my experience, the music with those kinds of agendas is shallow and somehow not ultimately believable to me.”

This is one of the things that I have heard from people who are not associated with the church and even from some in the church. They don’t think that what we call ‘Christian music’ and what we now call the church are honest expressions of what life around us looks like. They say Christians are out of touch. Is that what is happening? Are we losing the pulse of people? Are we missing the mark or is this just a blip on the radar? I have been reading some books that lead me to believe that we are losing more people both in the church and outside the church than a lot of us are willing to admit.

 

To say that there is nothing good coming out of the church today would not be accurate. There are a lot of hurting people being helped in a lot of areas. There are also a lot of people doing things that ultimately hurt other people. I think one of the problems that we run into is that people try so hard to act like they are perfect so they can be in the right ‘position’ to help others that they ultimately lose sight of what is really important. People are what is important. Jesus said we were to love God and love our neighbor as ourself. He didn’t say we had to love our church and those in our church while not worrying about what is going on outside the walls of our churches.

So I would say that we have some things we need to work on, that I think we can all agree on. My question is simply what is it that is driving away so many people who are looking for answers? Now I know that a lot of you who will read this are not Christians, but you all know that I am a Christian. I want answers, but I want it to be civil. I don’t need people bashing the church or Christians specifically or in general. I want to know what you think about Bazan and Haseltine walking away from God and the evangelical church (depending on which one you are talking about.) I want to know what you think is causing the exodus.

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3 thoughts on “Jars of Clay (Dan Haseltine) and Pedro the Lion (David Bazan) leave the Evangelical Church behind…what is going on?

  1. I personally think that it’s good when a band steps out and tries to reach a broader audience with their music. I get so frustrated with the Christian music scene because they say that if you don’t mention Jesus enough in your music (or at all), you can’t possibly be a Christian, you’re clearly backsliding. Really? How many of us mention Jesus every 30 seconds in our daily lives, much less in our jobs? No matter what people think of bands, they’re up there doing a job. Just because they don’t have enough JPM’s (Jesus Per Minutes) doesn’t mean that their no longer Christians. There are a TON of bands that don’t mention Jesus, but are blatantly, unapologetically, Christians. Look at Skillet, Switchfoot, Red, The Classic Crime, Thrice, and Love and Death as just a few examples.

    Okay, now that I’ve gone off on that personal pet peeve, time to submit my answer to your actual question:

    I think that the church has become to “me” focused and fake. Especially the faith movement. As you stated, there are still millions of people that are being helped, but a lot of times church is about “put your money in and get your blessings out”. How often at Rhema did we hear about what we could demand from G-d that He HAD to provide? Seems like that was all that ever came out of anyone’s mouth from the pulpit. We would sing songs about how blessed we are, hear sermons about how it was a “bad confession” to admit you were having a crappy day, and when you asked people how they were, they would answer with “I’m blessed brother!”. Fake people living in a fake world where nothing bad ever happens. How can we preserve and light the way through a world that we can’t even admit we’re in? How can we “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” if we won’t admit that we’re struggling? How can we claim that G-d is sovereign, holy, and all-powerful, if we claim that we can tell Him what to do? How can we have a relationship with Him, when we treat Him like a vending machine? How can we say that we follow the G-d that said that love was the most important thing (he that loveth not, knoweth not G-d. 1st John 4:8), when we worship faith? The church is too busy focusing on what we can get, instead of what we can give. We’ve focused so much on rules that we forget to love (on a side note, I once heard someone say that the reason we’ve made faith into a list of rules is because it’s easier to break a rule than it is to break a lover’s heart. I found that really interesting). We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve decided what it’s “supposed” to look like when someone uses their G-d-given talent and condemn them when they don’t follow our set of rules. The church does not encourage creativity, while following a G-d who is amazingly creative. We’ve lost the plot. We judge the wounded instead of offering them hope and healing. We refuse to show sinners that G-d loves them and wants them to come to Him, because their sin is different than ours. We’ve turned churches from places where the hurt and broken become whole, to places where pastors get rich and fat while condemning the very people they were supposed to be helping (that’s not to say that it’s wrong to condemn sin, we should never encourage sinning, but we are called to love and show people the way to the Father. We love, He cleans and corrects). It sometimes seems that the only rational choice for people that want to follow G-d, is to leave the church. Maybe that’s what’s going on, those bands have left the church to find the One that the church is supposed to be following.

  2. Just to preface where I’m coming from, I’ve grown up in the church. I wasn’t the Jesus t-shirt wearing types, outside of the “modern worship” fad of the early 2000’s. After that a series of things happened, such as a (for lack of a better term) mutiny that split our church, watching my dad be ousted from our church’s eldership because of this, as well as the usual human frailties associated with churchfolk (gossip, acting holier than thou, etc.) and thus, fell away (I have since returned). I can relate to the exasperation these musicians feel with the evangelical church. From what I’ve observed, people are so caught up in their own paradigms, they don’t act as a community to build each other up and adhere to the scriptures, but they remain caught up in a worldly frame of mind and are barely staying afloat spiritually. Spiritually speaking, they’re living week to week on minimum wage. No one seems to think of themselves as an example of Christ, though they’ve identified themselves as “christian”. Compounding upon that, the evangelical church seems to be more interested in quantity rather than quality. Watered down, easy to digest, self help book style sermons that appeal to the masses rather than being concerned with the truth, are creating shallow Christians that have no idea how to defend their faith outside of “it’s what I believe” (so much for 1 Peter 3:15). This all reminds me of 2 Timothy 3 and 4. How do we change it? I think Christians need to remember their namesake, and act like Him. How can we know how to be like him? Immerse ourselves in the scriptures and prayer, and challenge ourselves and each other (sharpening each other’s swords) by asking/answering the tough questions.

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