**EDITORIAL NOTE: this is the first of 15 blog posts over the next month and a half that are part of a new series called altView. for an intro to the series, you can read in detail here, but in essence, these are stories of faith from the people of our community. no filters. no agendas. no prompts. just people telling their stories. hope you enjoy!**
There are three states of love. In love, out of love, and on the precipice between the two. We all have a preference, and, surprisingly, in love is not always the hands-down winner. It is too messy, too all-consuming, too much. Then again, out of love can be a little lonely, and that teetering precipice, when you’re no longer in love, but not quite out of it, exhaustingly dramatic. Each is risky. —A Strange Nervous Laughter, Bridget McNulty
I have had tons of love/relationship drama in my life. Yes, definitely with guys, but mostly with God. I’ve always been a Christian, but mostly in the same way I’ve always been white—I was born that way.
Through most of my teen angst—while I identified myself as a Christian—I was out of love with God. I was jaded, turned-off by all the hypocrisy and wickedness of the “Christians” around me, and pissed off that, while I intellectually knew God was real and what I believed was true, I wished it wasn’t. I wanted to believe something else.
God was patient with me though, because in October of my senior year, God brought me to that precipice of love, nudging me slowly to the edge. I wish I had jumped then, but I didn’t. I camped out on the precipice for four months—the four most painful months of my life. I broke up with a guy that I didn’t love, but had dated for two and a half years. I fell in love with a guy who didn’t seem to love me back. I ran away from home, almost dropped out of school and was completely betrayed and heartbroken by two of my best friends.
By March, I finally jumped suicidally into love with God, because I had nowhere else to go. Life was too painful. I didn’t care whether I was happy or whether life was fun. I just wanted for any pain that I felt to mean something.
Being in love with God is messy. It’s all-consuming. It feels, sometimes, like too much to handle. It doesn’t fix everything in your life. In fact, March was a horrible month in a lot of ways, filled with more pain than I thought I could deal with. But I also started dating my now-husband in March and I forgave my family and those two friends that summer.
I’ve seen firsthand what a waste it is to spend resources (time, money, energy) on things that don’t honor God. I regret the years I lost, but I’m working now to create a Warm Space for homeless people in Little Rock. I’m working on staying in love with God through loving his people, his earth and those he has put in my life whether they love me or not.
If you’re jaded or angry at God, realize that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference, and get right with him.
If you’re sitting on the precipice, JUMP! LOVE GOD WITHOUT ABANDON!
several years ago, someone made a statement that i have repeated many times since and has shaped my view of god and others: isolation is the enemy of god.
there’s a lot going on in that statement and today, in a live-streamed talk by don miller, i was once again reminded of that declaration.
miller—author of the best-selling blue like jazz and the newly released a million miles in a thousand years—talked about story—in literary terms—and its connection to the biblical narrative, particularly in reference to the creation story. more to the point, he talked about the need for conflict in any good story and how conflict engages characters and creates a need/opportunity to change.
while it seems more and more clear to me that the creation account in scripture is a poem steeped in metaphor, it makes it no less significant to the trajectory of the biblical narrative—the ongoing story of god and people and all creation in relationship. one of the most beautiful aspects of creation is the relationship between human beings.
miller made the point that people generally see life prior to the fall as perfect, without conflict. in fact, though, like any good story, conflict was a quintessential element in the genesis poems that pushed change. we find in genesis 2 that the man experienced an internal conflict that enacted a plot twist.
God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion.
the man had everything—food, water and god—but in spite of these things, something was missing: other people. the man’s internal conflict was loneliness. it was the deep-seated need to engage the other. it was the inexplicably strong necessity of companionship.
his conflict created the need for change.
so god created another human. who created other humans. and other humans.
as miller made clear, people need people. we need community. we need to be in relationship with other humans.
for quite some time, christians have propagated the idea that being in relationship with jesus is the key to unlocking unlimited and unadulterated happiness. it’s the idea that jesus is the ultimate fullness. while there are certainly bits of truth to that, our experiences inform us that it’s only partially true. following jesus doesn’t eliminate conflict. we still experience sadness & loneliness & fear & uncertainty. while faith provides a “cushion”, we still process these things in tangible ways: other people.
the “other” is our way of experiencing something that doesn’t replace our relationship with christ, but makes our relationship with christ touchable.
we hope that eikon, above all things, is rooted in community. we hope it’s a place that resolves conflict by placing people in relationship with other people.
we invite you into this place of community and the other.
last week, billy corgan—of smashing pumpkins fame—launched a new website, everything from here to there. in his first post, corgan expresses the purpose of the site, stating,
The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration. If you are drawn to the Hidden Truths, drawn to God as something beyond limitation, and drawn to Love as the greatest force in the Universe, then you have come to the right place at the right time. This is a place of Love.
in essence, corgan has started a spiritual website that offers a safe and honest place to explore concepts of spirituality and the idea of something more. while it’s very clear that the site isn’t an overtly christian stream of thought (corgan states, “we promote no religion, and if we speak of any belief or faith system it won’t be at the expense of another”), certainly corgan is expressing themes that help to inform a broader conversation regarding religion, spirituality and ulitmately, jesus. he states,
There is God, and then there are gods, idols along the way that may convince us that the One God can be replaced by a lesser thought. To me, when I say One God, I mean One Truth, One Love, One Destination.
for billy corgan, though, these aren’t new themes. over the last 10 years or so, fans have increasingly become attune to corgan’s themes of faith and spirituality. what many are surprised by, though, is that corgan’s writing has shown his ups and downs with god ever since the beginning of the smashing pumpkins.
in 1991, the smashing pumpkins released their critically acclaimed debut album, gish. on the opening track, i am one (listen here), and in the opening line, it’s clear that corgan is someone thinking through his relationship to and with god, singing,
I am one as you are three
Trying to find a messiah in your trinity
corgan’s search for something more turned more and more into what sounded like angst and despair several years later at the release of their epic 2-disc set, mellon collie and the infinite sadness. one of the storylines that came from this album and still lingers today is that corgan’s anger and isolation was directed toward god, leading him to a place of hopelessness. while certainly there was plenty of cathartic raging aimed upward, corgan expresses that it wasn’t as dark as it might seem on the surface. in an interview with paste magazine, corgan adds some persepective to his state-of-mind during the writing of mellon collie:
It wasn’t a demonstrable need to say, ‘I’m so miserable, look at me.’ It was, ‘look at me, I’m miserable, but I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of the hole.’ That, even in and of itself, has a positivity to it because it’s hopeful, it’s not death, it isn’t nihilism. There’s actually a light at the end of the tunnel.
i don’t want to overstate corgan’s intentions, but his lyrics throughout the album sound like some of the great lamentations throughout scripture: the desperation of the songs of david or the distressed weeping of job when his world collapses or the angered cries of hosea when the bride he bought turns her back on him.
in zero, one of the breakout tracks from that album, corgan famously screams,
emptiness is loneliness
and loneliness is cleanliness
and cleanliness is godliness
and god is empty just like me
in an interview years after penning the track, corgan clarified his feelings about god as expressed in the song. he asserted that instead of the song suggesting he thinks god is not present, he means, rather, that god experiences deep loneliness much like he perceived himself to be experiencing.
continuing after mellon collie and the pumpkins’ declaration that “god is empty,” corgan only amplified his themes of faith, but making them even more overt. with the collapse of the pumpkins in the early 2000s, corgan formed the one-album wonder, zwan. on their lone 2003 album, corgan chose to include an interpretation of a gospel standard, jesus, i my cross have taken (you can hear the traditional version here and read the lyrics here). what strikes me most about this track selection is the directness of the lyrics and the fact that it takes a lot of guts to record a song like this. not only do you have to have some well of knowledge to even know this song, but you have to be willing to make an overt statement of spirituality. here’s corgan and zwan’s interpretation.
so, did billy corgan find jesus? in the aforementioned paste interview, he answers the question, saying,
No, I didn’t find Jesus. He’s been there the whole time.
no doubt, this statement is much a deeper and richer theology than a lot of christian music or christian musicians bring to the conversation.
now, to be clear, corgan has fairly definitively stated several times that he doesn’t call himself a christian, but it’s worth saying that it doesn’t diminish the truth of his words and music.
again, to be clear, it’s also worth stating that there are certainly things that corgan has presented thus far on his new website that aren’t intrinsically jesus-centered, but that’s almost the point.
one of the values that we hold very near and dear at eikon is to say that truth is everywhere. to borrow a phrase from rob bell, truth is “under every nook and cranny.” billy corgan doesn’t blatantly utter the name of jesus on his new website. he doesn’t speak in ways that evoke a strict parallel with the language of scripture. he doesn’t express a linear depiction of the arc of judeo-christian narrative.
but what he does do, though, is broaden the conversation in which all people are welcome. he helps those who follow in the way of jesus see that there’s many ways of expressing faith and truth and god. it isn’t overtly christian, but it is overtly christ-like in nature.
when corgan describes god as “One Truth, One Love, One Destination,” i think that is deeply christ-like, but is certainly spoken in a much broader set of idioms than how we may instinctively speak as people pursuing life like jesus. if there is, indeed, only one god, then corgan, in his own manner of communicating, is speaking our this god.
beginning this week, corgan plans to open the site up to others as contributors and collaborators and he says he is working on a spiritual memoir that shares the site’s name. so, we’ll be hearing more from corgan. it’s hard to say exactly where’s he headed, but it’s something worth following and engaging as he continues to smash assumptions and talk god.