Most of us grew up or grew into Dave Bazan at some point in our life. The former frontman for Pedro the Lion has written some of the most devastating and terrifying looks into our own hearts and our own struggles with faith and trust.
Bazan's own journey from the realm of believer to agnostic has been well documented in article after article and song after song, and if you somehow missed the struggle in print, crawl out to see him live and you'd have to be blind to ignore the pain stretching out in his voice and lines. There's a wrestling that takes place every single time that Bazan starts whispering into the microphone and while I'd disagree with the resting place that he's currently at, I've always respected and hurt with this quiet bearded man.
The cover story on the Chicago Reader provides an incredibly well-written dive into Bazan's struggle and upcoming album, Curse Your Branches, weaving narrative with lyrics and painting a vivid picture of a man who just isn't sure about Him, and isn't always happy with that.
Earlier this week we debunked the notion that the United States is post-racial, a sad truth indeed. But at least we can still say we're post-rock. Need proof? Head on over to gimmesound.com to get your free, pre-release download of "Tertia," the lastest offering from acclaimed post-rockers Caspian.
If you're unfamiliar with Caspian, here's the scoop. The five band members met at Gordon College, a small Christian liberal-arts school north of Boston, started playing together in the winter months between 2003 and 2004, call Beverly, Massachusetts their home, and the songs they craft are at once sonically powerful, breathtakingly beautiful, musically masterful and, to evoke that favorite post-rock adjective, epic.
The thing I've always loved about Caspian's music is that no matter how hard or loud they play, and "Tertia" is certainly the hardest and loudest release to date, their songs always prominently feature a melody. This may seem obvious, but melody is too often overlooked by many other post-rock bands. That being said, reviewers and bloggers seem obsessed with the question of which post-rock band is the greatest. As a completely biased, and yet outside observer let me clear this up. It's Caspian.
The actual release date for Tertia isn't until mid-August and we plan to run a full album / concert review (they're in NYC on August 28) as the date approaches. In the meantime, go download the album, give it a listen and let us know what you think.
Last Tuesday, while I was on vacation in New Hampshire, sitting on the front porch of my wife's family's lakehouse contemplating the stillness of the water, warm coffee in hand, my peace was disturbed by the front page of the Boston Globe arriving like a dive-bombing pigeon, low over my shoulder and into my lap, dropped there by my father-in-law. He didn't say anything, he just pointed and with that gesture a new character in the public drama that is our national life was introduced. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Something to add to the discussion of whether the church tries to "out-obsess" the culture when it comes to sex. Let's talk about the preoccupation with celebrity virginity, most recently getting attention with quarterback Tim Tebow's admission that he's a virgin.
Tebow's news came a little differently than most. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and (infamously) Britney Spears have made much of their virginity. (In fact, the iPhone purity ring app uses "Jonas Brothers" and "Miley Cyrus" – along with, oddly, "Billy Graham" and "Barack Obama" – as its keywords.) In this case, a reporter flatly asked Tebow a personal question about a subject he hasn't yet talked about. The reporter, Clay Travis, said he asked because he expected Tebow would say that he was a virgin. It also seems Travis wanted to make a point:
I guarantee you come Sunday across the South ministers will approach their pulpits and use Tebow's virginity as an example to the flock. After all, if Tebow can resist countless girls throwing themselves at him on a regular basis, is it really valid for you or I or countless others to argue that preserving our virginity was just too difficult? Maybe. But I think it's much tougher. Like many things in life, it all comes down to a choice. And Tebow controls his own choices better than most.
But the problem with this is that if Tebow does slip up and doesn't resist, is it then "valid for you or I or countless others to argue that preserving our virginity was just too difficult" as well?
I love stories about faith breakdowns. Not because I have anything against faith (quite the contrary), but it's always invigorating to see where each individual's existential coming apart—the moment they discover they're in The Matrix, as one friend cleverly puts it—leads them. It's sometimes a miserable experience, but it's important and necessary. Often, we emerge from such a meltdown at a new stage of personal or intellectual strength, and sometimes even to a stage of stronger, fire-tested faith.
Oddly, though, you don't read many such stories in major Christian magazines, despite the explosion of articles on "dealing with doubt" or "wrestling with God." Strange, because I presume there are scores of people—especially people who grew up steeped in evangelicalism—who would be greatly enriched and encouraged by them.
This week, I found another good one in the New York Times. Dustin Junkert was a Baptist kid who grew up "quietly and without thought." Until he went to college that is, and a philosophical roommate probed him into doubt, and he ran away to Russia to study. Here's a bit of his story:
The first person I talked to there was Dan, a student at Grace College in Michigan. He immediately asked the last question I wanted to hear: “So what’s your faith look like?” I went cold. I wanted to bleat my usual Jesus-story and be done with it, but the ice on my ribs wouldn’t let me lie. I reluctantly collapsed and told him that honestly, I didn’t know anything anymore and nothing was real. Turns out, Dan was in the same place I was.
Together we raved and doubted and yelled and trembled all semester long. We felt the black blood of Dostoevsky and descended the dark stairs of Derrida and Sartre. Some nights, we would just sit across from each other and stare, estranged by the cold of a new, uncertain world. After one of these nights of existential fog, as I got up to go, I turned to Dan and said, “The only meaningful thing left to do in this world, it seems, is to sit quietly with a friend until dark and then say goodnight.”
It doesn't end there, but I'll let you read the rest for yourself.
A mid-summer intellectual recommendation: Terry Eagleton's Yale lecture series from last year. In four 45-minute talks, Eagleton critiques "Ditchkins" (his fusion of Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens), explaining why Christianity doesn't claim to be a rival of science, but is a way of living in the world. In the especially fantastic second part, "The Limits of Liberalism," he critiques the liberal rationalist belief that the world is getting better, and examines the inherently atheistic nature of Western capitalism.
Eagleton is quickly becoming one of my favorite academics, and this series, in particular, is phenomenal (not to mention helpful to anyone stuggling to hold onto belief in the midst of a materialist society).
The rest of the series after the jump.
A bit from my first little piece for New York magazine:
"Alan and Angela Seales don't seem like rabid anti-Obama profiteers. They seem like ordinary New Yorkers: They moved here to be actors, married, and now live in Washington Heights, where he heads the IT department at a midtown film company, and she studies sociology full-time at Columbia. You know, part of the demographic that helped the president win almost every single vote in the city.
And yet, together with Alan's college friend Matt Senter, they've become part of the vast right-wing tchotchke conspiracy. Log on to their website or their Facebook page and you come across the sort of incoherent ravings about Nazis, liberal fascism, and the children of Israel that could, in a weak moment, make Glenn Beck blush. But it's also a marketing tool for their Obamunism branded merchandise, all featuring the glowing, sky-blue "O" of President Obama's campaign melded with the hammer and sickle of the former Soviet Union."
Read the rest of it here.
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