Last September, David Bazan released an album of ten songs equal parts resolute and rollicking. His was an achievement, a truly great rock record in every sense of the word. The buzz surrounding Curse Your Branches was that as the title suggests, Mr. Bazan, a longtime outlaw of the CCM scene, had cursed his branches. I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Bazan last week about that album, his “breakup” with God, and his thought and faith at present.
Christ and Pop Culture: You made public last year that you no longer believed in God. Where are you at now in relation to that?
David Bazan: That process had been 5 or 6 years in the making, the last 2 of which were writing and recording the album.
CaPC: Are you further from belief in God than you were last year?
DB: It’s similar. The more I study the Bible and the character of God in the Bible, the less likely it becomes that I believe that.
CaPC: You mentioned recently that the culture wars are mainly about Darwin. There is a movement of Christians who see their faith as incongruous with science. Many of them have embraced theistic evolution to reconcile the two. Would this approach have worked for you?
DB: I’m familiar with that. I know Francis Collins (geneticist, director NIH) takes that view. The creation account was not a deal breaker for me. I’m a line item guy.
CaPC: Were there any particular deal breakers for you?
DB: In Genesis 1, God’s reaction to the sin of the garden.
CaPC: Were you ever angry at God, as C.S. Lewis puts it, for not existing?
DB: Not really, no. Just disappointed in how it turned out to be. I still pray, but not to a personal God. I say prayers of gratitude. I believe in a cosmic consciousness or whatever. I would like to believe. I just can’t. I have to be truthful about how I understand things.
CaPC: Did Calvinism have any role in your loss of faith?
DB:I don’t think so. I never bought into that entirely. Of course, they have Romans 9 which is difficult to argue against.
See, it’s kind of funny to use the word faith. I have faith. I have faith that there’s no heaven, faith that there’s no hell but I don’t have any interest in being a spokesperson for atheism or agnosticism.
CaPC: Are you working on new material?
DB: Well, I’m in the studio, but not recording. Right now, we’re just working on some new songs.
CaPC: How soon can we expect a new album?
DB: I can’t really say. We’re just getting started. It’ll be awhile.
Bazan said that there had not been any particular books to encourage his disbelief. He emphasized the importance of study in his life. He expressed disinterest in Dawkins and Hitchens and conversely, distaste for Lee Strobel preferring more academic, less bias and less rehashing of old arguments. “I still read Christian books. But I’m not going to read Lee Strobel.” He stated “Tim Keller’s The Reason for God had some good points but was otherwise a flaccid entry.”
He gushed about Peter Enns Inspiration and Incarnation describing it as helpful to Christians trying to make sense of contemporary biblical criticism in light of their faith. He added, “I would like to see a growing movement among evangelicals to confront textual inconsistencies.”
CaPC: Having been on the inside, when do you think Christian culture is at its best?
DB: Anytime something is given a label like Christian the quality suffers. I like when anyone tells their story honestly. That’s always good.
After establishing “Christians in a band” as the preferred qualifier of good Christian music Bazan asked, “Do you want to know Christian bands I like? I dig Starflyer 59. They’re on Tooth & Nail. I guess that makes them a Christian band. And the Innocence Mission are rad.”
CaPC: Has this shift freed you up artistically?
DB: I don’t think so. I made a point before to not be restricted in my writing but it has freed me up personally. I feel a lot better about everything.