David Bazan's Lack of Belief

David Bazan was the lead singer for Pedro the Lion, a Christian indie rock band I used to listen to many years ago. It ends up he isn’t really a Christian anymore, and Chicago Reader has an article about his experience “breaking up with God.” Some excerpts:

“People used to compare him to Jesus,” says a backstage manager as David Bazan walks offstage, guitar in hand. “But not so much anymore.” […]

As front man for Pedro the Lion, the band he led from 1995 till 2005, Bazan was Christian indie rock’s first big crossover star, predating Sufjan by nearly a decade and paving the way for the music’s success outside the praise circuit. But as he straddled the secular and spiritual worlds, Bazan began to struggle with his faith. Unable to banish from his mind the possibility that the God he’d loved and prayed to his whole life didn’t exist, he started drinking heavily. In ’05, the last time he played Cornerstone, he was booted off the grounds for being shitfaced, a milk jug full of vodka in his hand. (The festival is officially dry.) […]

He went on to explain that since 2004 he’s been flitting between atheist, skeptic, and agnostic, and that lately he’s hovering around agnostic—he can’t flat-out deny the presence of God in the world, but he doesn’t exactly believe in him either. […]

Bazan says he tried to Band-Aid his loss of faith and the painful end of Pedro the Lion with about 18 months of “intense” drinking. “If I didn’t have responsibilities, if I wasn’t watching [my daughter] Ellanor, I had a deep drive to get blacked out,” he says. But as he made peace with where he found himself, the compulsion to get obliterated began to wane. On Curse Your Branches Bazan sometimes directs the blame and indignation at himself, other times at Jesus and the faith. He’s mourning what he’s lost, and he knows there’s no going back. […]

With Curse Your Branches and in his recent shows, he’s inverting the usual call to witness: “You might be the only Christian they ever meet.” He’s the doubter’s witness, and he might be the only agnostic some of these Christian kids ever really listen to. […]

Fans rhapsodize about Bazan’s work: they love his honesty, they love how they can relate to him, how he’s not proselytizing, how he’s speaking truth—but they don’t tend to delve into what exactly that truth might be. Brice Evans, a 24-year-old from Harrisburg, Illinois, who came to Cornerstone specifically to see Bazan’s set, dances artfully around it. “He’s showing a side of Christianity that no other band shows,” Evans says. “He’s trying to get a message across that’s more than that.”

It’s hard to say if anybody is conscious of the irony: the “side of Christianity” Bazan sings about is disenfranchisement from it.

I think it’s a shame Bazan turned to drink when he was leaving Christianity, but I understand the temptation. It is a very lonely road and many Christian friends are not willing to honestly talk about it with you. It can certainly drive someone to drink. Leaving a religion can be one of the hardest things to do in life — no wonder so few are willing to do it.

Here’s a video about Bazan’s crumbling of faith:

You can buy David’s latest solo album, Curse Your Branches, on Amazon. I’ve been listening to it this morning and it’s very enjoyable.

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