we couldn’t be any more excited to announce that we’ll be hosting david bazan, as a part of his “living room tour”, at eikon (518 w. 9th st.) on saturday, september 8 (8 p.m.). tickets ($20) go on sale on friday, june 15 at 3 p.m. (central time). click here to purchase tickets. (the only way to purchase tickets is through bazan’s website. there will be no ticket sales at/through eikon.)
since the inception of eikon, we’ve desired to play host to events like these that combine great art and compelling faith perspectives. bazan offers exactly that. once the lead singer and creative force behind the band pedro the lion, bazan began his solo career in the late 2000s. his first full length solo project, curse your branches was dubbed as the album in which bazan “broke up with god”, coming out of the closet of the faith he’d left behind. since that time, bazan has released the follow-up, strange negotiations, and continues to tour.
we’re looking forward to a great night of music on september 8. make sure to get your tickets this friday!
if you’ve never heard bazan’s music, here’s a video of him performing hard to be from a past house show.
avoiding all cliché, 2009 was a great year for eikon and we’ve got a decent feeling that 2010 is going to be even better. over the last several months of the past year, we connected several times for worship gatherings, concluding the year with a shared time of advent. as we forge ahead in the new year, we have a whole new slate of gatherings to help foster our ever-growing community.
we’re excited to announce CONNECT: an eikon worship gathering. on sunday, january 17 at 6:00 pm, we’ll be gathering, once again, at sticky fingerz (see map here).
for those who have joined us at our past worship gatherings, you’ll notice we’ve expressed ourselves in a number of ways including the following: engaging in conversation, singing, listening, sharing stories, praying, eating, drinking, watching, hearing, thinking and, ultimately, connecting with god and each other. one of our values in regards to our gatherings is that we want to create a sense of familiarity, but not predictability. so, for this gathering, while you’ll notice many of the same elements as those in the past, we will certainly be employing some new modes of expression and connection. namely, this gathering will be much more conversational and talkback-driven.
along with the commitment of avoiding the creation of a rut, another value is that our times of worship don’t center around a single person or a single way of engaging in worship. often, the church has rallied around a singular “climax” to the service: the sermon. whereas we absolutely believe that the sermon can be transformative and deeply engaging, we want to also let the voices of our community be heard and shared on a regular basis. so, we’re excited to offer a time of voluntary feedback and idea-sharing. through a guided conversation, we’ll connect in a shared time of insight and reflection on god and what it means to engage in this thing called community.
as with our other gatherings, we’re excited to once again offer free, quality childcare. we’ll have some more info very soon here on the blog about childcare and how you can RSVP your children for those services.
so, mark your calendars, invite some friends, retweet this, put it on facebook. this should be an incredible night to CONNECT with both god and each other.
You’ve heard the story
You know how it goes
Once upon a garden
We were lovers with no clothes
Fresh from the soil
We were beautiful and true
In control of our emotions
‘Til we ate the poison fruit
so opens david bazan’s—formerly of pedro the lion fame—debut lp, curse your branches. bazan sets the stage with the opening lines from the opening track, hard to be—a song about original sin and the supposed spiraling implications. ultimately, bazan reveals that he’s someone who is walking away from faith, disbelievingly singing,
Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Grew from one enchanted tree?
And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die
throughout the entirety of curse your branches, bazan lays forth his dissertation of what led him—as a recent chicago reader headline proclaimed—to break up with god. in when we fell, bazan’s argument is most clear, asking a number of questions:
What am I afraid of?
Who did I betray?
In what medieval kingdom does justice work that way?
If you knew what would happen
And you made us just the same
Then you my Lord can take the blame
When you set the table
When you chose the scale
Did you write a riddle that you knew they would fail
Did you make them tremble
So they would tell the tale
Did you push us when we fell?
certainly, bazan asks some pointed questions that are, no doubt, shared by an ever-growing number of people.
we at eikon are asking the same questions.
undoubtedly, our questions may be framed in a very different way, but we’re certainly asking the questions, not in fear of destroying faith, but in hopes of making it more fully realized. often the pain of struggling with the difficult questions is the thing that refines and shapes our sense of connection to christ. bazan’s long-time friend, cultural critic and progressive christian author (of the highly recommended the sacredness of questioning everything) david dark sees the need for expanding the christian conversation. of bazan’s latest effort, dark states, “i think with curse your branches david expands the space of the talk-about-able.” we hope eikon—in an attempt to expand the space of the talk-about-able—offers an ongoing opportunity to critique the church and the story of god in a way that builds both the collective community of faith and individuals’ faith itself.
i believe bazan would agree. although, certainly, he isn’t out evangelizing about the positive aspects of the church, he isn’t necessarily on a mission to tear down the church or to ask people to blindly walk away from their faith. he asserts, like in when we fell, that, much like his parents taught him, they should follow their hearts. he sings,
If my mother cries when I tell her what I discovered
Then I hope she remembers she taught me to follow my heart
And if you bully her like you done me with fear of damnation
Then I hope she can see you
for what you are
bazan—after much thought and personal soul-searching—has come to the conclusion that the “million small holes”—as he sings in harmless sparks—in his faith have given way to almost-full disconnect. it isn’t a spontaneous divorce. while listening to curse your branches, it’s helpful and important to remember that bazan isn’t some church newbie who’s spewing venom towards a system he barely understands. bazan grew up in an assembly of god church where his father was the music minister. in fact, in a recent interview at emusic, bazan affirms his very positive experiences in the church, stating,
You know, I really liked it. That’s one of the things about it — people often think, “Oh, you just had a bad experience with church.” But that’s not really the case — my experience with church was pretty positive. I was very serious about my faith. And for me, that meant a lot of thinking outside of the box. Because I knew other people who were “serious about their faith,” and they were total dickheads. People who were really zealous just seemed to get it way wrong. They were really keen on, like, everybody going to Promise Keepers. And that seemed to me to not be what the deal was. So I led songs in Youth Group, I did that in college as well. Church was such a social thing, and I loved that. I read the Bible a lot, and took it at face value and tried to see what it could mean.
the root of what i see in bazan’s music isn’t that he rejects the concept of god, but it’s that he rejects a specific notion of god. quite frankly, it’s this pervasive notion of god in that we hope to be an alternative. bazan clarifies the acknowledgement of that notion in the aforementioned emusic interview, stating,
When I wrote “When We Fell” and when I wrote “In Stitches,” I’m singing to the Christian character of “God,” which was my only view of God for a long time. And then there came a certain point where I started to realize, “Oh, wait, I’m just dethroning a notion of God — it’s not necessarily the same thing.” And so maybe there’s this other God, a real God, that doesn’t have those characteristics. And I do make an attempt to cultivate a relationship with that being on the days I’m comfortable thinking that he might exist.
it seems to me that bazan hasn’t engaged in full disconnect from living in the way of jesus. it’s just that he’s much more interested in asking questions that uncover truth rather than uncritically believing what has been presented in conjunction with our american church culture sensibilities.
david bazan is a brother and a friend and he represents the community of people for which this thing called eikon exists. much like many others asking questions, it seems that bazan hasn’t given up and he hasn’t broken up with god, but that he’s searching for some semblance of a god who seems true and real. in his final closing statement, in stitches bazan sings,
I might as well admit it
Like I even have a choice
The crew have killed the captain
But they still can hear his voice
A shadow on the water
A whisper in the wind
On long walks with my daughter
Who is lately full of questions about you
one of the values we feel most strongly about at eikon is the intersection of faith and culture. more to the point, we don’t view this intersection with an “us vs. them” mentality or as some unfortunate circumstance which we avoid, but rather, as an opportunity to engage culture in a way that sees god at work in the world. we believe that because every person is created in the image of god—the creator—then, ultimately, our creativity flows from god. that doesn’t mean that all aspects of culture—art, music, film, literature, etc—are specifically “christian”, but that, ultimately, it points back to something bigger than or something beyond us (whether it be about love or pain or a journey or whatever).
with that said, there are musicians and artists and other cultural contributors that seem to create art that is particularly descriptive of this faith/culture intersection. one of these musicians is chris thile.
in my (ryan’s) top five favorite bands of all time is nickel creek, of which chris thile is the most recognizable and arguably the driving musical force. flowing from nickel creek has been several other successful offshoots including solo albums from all three members (sara’s album drops in a couple weeks), mutual admiration society, fiction family and punch brothers. along with nickel creek and these various offshoots, both thile’s solo work and, now, work with punch brothers has been very spiritually charged.
beginning with 2004′s believer and continuing with 2006′s follow-up how to grow a woman from the ground, thile has played out his real life struggles with god and faith and life in musical public space. 2008′s punch, by his latest incarnation punch brothers, is the most lyrically focused work to date for thile in which he sheds the mystery of his feelings toward christianity. when the veil is lifted, we find that thile—in the aftermath of a painful divorce—has all but walked away from the faith of his family and youth.
speaking about his upbringing, thile says, “I grew up in a very Christian household and was not a rebellious child…The religion of my youth was fear-based, and I think a lot of religion is. It’s left me with an overall fear of death, which I kind of resent. I feel that’s no way to really live.” The unraveling of this childhood faith is captured in the sprawling 40-minute composition, the blind leaving the blind, which is the centerpiece of punch.
by the fourth and final movement, thile confronts his soured feelings toward religion, singing,
Where I was so concerned
We would be the ones who burned
The more scared the safer
The more grateful for the grapejuice
And the wafer
further, thile reveals the kind of god he has never known:
And I need to hear Him say
“You and your friends can come in
Your thoughts and that girl can come in
Your parents and brothers are here
I let them In
Who told you I wouldn’t let you all in?
You are my children.”
his lyrics clearly speak to the exclusive, single-sided legalistic faith that was offered during his childhood. thile, of course, isn’t alone. here in the very early phases of the development of eikon, i’ve had the opportunity to share the vision for the church with many people and, likewise, enter into dialogue with people about their views of god and christianity, specifically. for many people, their journey from belief as a child to eventual disbelief after negative experiences or a personal crisis, has led them to see god as some cast-aside remnant of their former self. religion, at best—for many people—is a crutch rather than a vibrant part of their life.
for many of these people, though, the conversations we’ve had have turned much like the final stanza of thile’s the blind leaving the blind. the epic track closes with,
And I sound done
And I feel done
But I’m not done
Unless you’d give up on a lost son
thile hasn’t given up if god hasn’t. it’s a chapter that isn’t closed. despite personal crisis, pain and near-complete disbelief, he’s willing to continue a dialogical journey in which god is still a possibility. it certainly may not be the god of his childhood, but it is a god he’s willing to re-engage.
i recently heard someone say that “doubt is the new faith” and certainly i think that may be true. in many ways, in fact, that may be a welcome reality that seems a bit more reflective not only of our current culture but also, in many ways, the great people of “faith” as presented in scripture. thile is a doubter, but his music speaks to a great hope and journey of discovery and possibility that we most certainly embrace at eikon.
as our faith community continues to unfold and grow, i invite you to engage in this intersection of culture and faith and life and doubt. just like thile, we’re a long way from having it figured out, but “unless [he'd] give up on a lost son,” we’re not done in that process of growing and uncovering and seeking god.