Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
Few bands that started in the financially successful thrust of the 90s Christian rock movement have come out the other side both financially stable and musically inventive. Interestingly enough, oftentimes what’s created on the other side has been some of the most engaging Christian music in the industry, in that it doesn’t necessarily fit into our tidy genres and labels (thinking of Derek Webb, Switchfoot’s and Jars of Clay’s later albums, John Mark McMillan, and Brooke Fraser).
As one of the few to survive and thrive, Switchfoot has been independent for over four years now. The band’s recently released album, Vice Verses, still tackles many of the same themes of materialism and inner turmoil that they have always sought to address. What’s amazing, though, is Switchfoot’s frontman still has the same driving passion and creative songwriting that would make you think Vice Verses was a debut album. Vice Verses in particular, however, seems fixated on the idea that this life should count. Rather than using Christian rhetoric as a conversion mechanic or a theology lesson, Jon Foreman’s introspective lyricism seeks to be life-affirming and universally relatable.
Opening the album with the aggressive rocker, “The Afterlife,” Foreman makes the surprisingly simple, but theologically dense statement, “And I wonder why would I wait till I die to come alive/I’m ready now, I’m not waiting for the afterlife.” The idea is that life is too good of a gift to waste waiting around for death. This sets the stage for the rest of the album as Foreman shows that living life “worthy of the calling” isn’t without its fears, doubts, and ups and downs. Developing this theme even further, in the final track of the album Foreman is perhaps more forward than he’s ever been, saying “I still believe we can live forever/You and I we begin forever now.”
This kind of “eternity begins now” thematic material is not just a fluffy theological verdict; Foreman is aching and urgently yearning for living out the kingdom of God in the here and now, and it’s great to hear an artist express such an idea in such sincere terms. To me, Vice Verses exists in the tension of Bible verses like, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” and “I came that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.” Switchfoot has once again proven that we, as Christians, can be true to who we are while also being both relevant and challenging in our art.