Gungor: The Postmodern Anthem Band

It took me a long time to write this. I thought I should try to be objective since I was supposed to be reviewing Michael Gungor’s book.  And that was a book I had to think about. A lot. As it became clear that I was far from impartial, my responsibility to write about this band still loomed. Plus, along the way I decided that Gungor is the perfect anthem band for the Postmodern Church/Movement.  And yes, I confess, I also became a fan.  So here are my top ten reasons to my claim wrapped in some very nerdy bits of fan trivia:

1- Michael and Lisa Gungor were raised as conservative evangelicals and they evolved beyond it.  They call their genre of music “liturgical post rock.”

Gungor_300x217_0Song: Cannot Keep You
Lyric: they could not keep you in a tent
they could not keep you in a temple
or any of their idols, to see and understand
we cannot keep you in a church
we cannot keep you in a Bible
or it’s just another idol to box you in
they could not keep you in their box
we cannot keep you in ours either

2- Gungor are activist / prankster / misfits. The music video for “I am Mountain” illustrates it best when Michael and Lisa initiate a colorful water balloon fight with a group of church goers all clad in white in a triangle formation in a meadow. The misfits, with huge smiles on their faces, nail the pastor in the back first,  then folks in the congregation – who all bust into laughter and play, and naturally it all evolves into a dance party.

god-is-not-a-white-manSong: God is Not a Man
Lyric: God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud
God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion
but God is Love, God is Love,
and He loves everyone
God is Love, God is Love,
and He loves everyone

3- Gungor sees God as a central guiding force that frees and holds the human in spiritual integrity.  I think I feel this most in Lisa’s writing but it’s hard to tell who puts what into the Gungor soup. It for sure shows up  in her solo stuff and on the “I am Mountain” album in numerous tracks. Here’s a blog entry about “Wandering” from Lisa.

iamoitianSong: Wandering
Lyric: I’ve been wandering through this world
Looking for an anchor to hold me
I’ve been stumbling through this world
Searching for the thread that might free me
I am looking to you
I am holding on to you
I am looking to you
I’ve been holding on to you
I’ve been wandering through this world
Looking for a love that might free me

Gungor-Follow-Up4- Gungor is critical of the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) world but still exists within it. They live in the tension. Michael writes a lot of about the CCM business in his book and is quite critical of it. At the same time, they continue to play in churches and market themselves in the CCM market.  While Gungor has been forced to draw lines with the CCm world in personal terms at times, they continue to play at churches and to church crowds. Michael has an interesting blog post about this.

5- Gungor is a community, a collaboration between husband and wife and a community of friends.  Gungor used to be called “The Michael Gungor Band” but evolved away from single person celebrity to working, writing and conducting the band as a collective. They recorded the album “Ghosts Upon the Earth” in a vacation rental in the woods, living, cooking and recorded together.

gungorcoSong: People of God Rise Up
Lyric: people of God rise up
rise up and shine God’s love
we are the light of the world
of the world oh
we are the light of the world
of the world oh
love is the what holds it all together
love never fails, it never dies
there is no deeper truth
we know that God is love, our God is love
tear down the walls that divide us
let love rebuild and unite us
all we need is
all we need is love

6- Gungor sees the Earth as alive and an integral part of God and spirituality.The video recorded of this song played acoustically in the forest is the best way to engage with this song, short of playing it yourself. (Yes I bought glockenspiel and performed it a number of times.)

gungor-worshipvj1Song: The Earth is Yours
Lyric: Your voice it thunders
The oaks start twisting
The forest sounds with cedars breaking
The waters see You and start their writhing
From the depths a song is rising
Now it’s rising from the ground
Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy Lord
The earth is Yours and singing
Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy Lord
The earth is Yours
The earth is Yours

7- Gungor are creation cosmologistsWe see ourselves in God and everything, thus everything in the universe within us. It’s a psychology and a theology of wholeness.

Gungor_ACL_900x900Song: I am Mountain
Lyric:  I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There’s glory in the dirt
The universe within the sand
Eternity within a man
We are ocean, we are mist
Brilliant fools who ruled and kiss
There’s beauty in the dirt
Wandering in skin and soul
Searching, longing for a whole
I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There’s mystery in the dirt
The metaphors are breaking down
We taste the wind inside a sound

8- Gungor as mystics.  They don’t feed the ego and Lisa often talks about how her ideal scenario to play a concert is when everyone’s too busy having a mystical experience to even look at the band.

gblurrSong: Let it Go
Lyric: You’ve been waiting there
Waiting for the right time
Looking for a perfect rhyme
Never comes around
It is all here
It is all now
Open up your eyes and look around
It’ll go
It’ll go
If there’s anything that holds you down, just forget it
Keeping your feet on the ground, don’t you let it
Let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go

9- Gungor’s postmodern.

Song: A Long Way
Lyric: The smartest men, they saw a world with
Corners and endings far, far, far away
But when they drew it out and searched it
They were a long way, were a long way,
were a long way

We’re a long way, we’re a long way, we’re a long way
The erudite composed a thesis
Everything we see is all, all, all there is
But as an apophatic mystic
We’re a long way, we’re a long way, we’re a long way
We’re a long way, we’re a long way, we’re a long way off

10- Gungor has experienced the dark night of the soul and survived to write about it. Michael wrote in his book at length about the burn out that sent him running off to “the best spiritual retreat in the world.”  The song called “Beautiful Things” was written with Lisa in the wake of a  miscarriage.  In 2011, the album and its title track, “Beautiful Things”, were nominated for the Grammy categories Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song, respectively.  I gave this album to one of my more danger prone youth, and a week later I noticed she was singing this song softly to herself as a comfort. I can’t say I haven’t done the same.

BeautifulthingsSong: Beautiful Things
Lyric:  All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

In short: Gungor is the sound track for a new generation of young post moderns who love God and but don’t always see God in church. We look to them for mystical experiences akin to audio divina. We use them to narrate our church gatherings with original musical liturgy.  And luckily when we look to them we also see followers of Jesus, living into a collaborative counter culture rooted in the pursuit of beauty, community and love.

the-crowd-the-critic-the-muse-gungorI hope that you investigate these artists for yourself.  “I am Mountain” is the new album from Gungor and “The Crowd, the Critic and the Muse: A Book for Creators,” is the book by Michael Gungor, both are available on iTunes.  Or better yet order product directly from the band on their beautiful site. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the vinyl LP’s of the album are available online.  And I’d be lying if I denied that a record player is on my Christmas list for a reason!

The views expressed here are solely my own and not those of the artists collectively known as Gungor, or anyone else I write about for that matter.


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