“It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.” —Fyodor Dostoyevski
Music has always played a huge part in expressing my faith and even questioning it. From my late teens where I discovered the underground Christian music culture to a song I just discovered recently. Here are a few songs that have meant something on my faith journey.
Breath Deep by Lost Dogs on Grooveshark
I didn’t fully understand what a supergroup these guys were when I bought “Scenic Routes,” the debut cassette (yes, cassette) from members of The 77s, Adam Again, The Choir and Daniel Amos. I bought it along with Adam Again’s “Dig” (which deserves its own post) on a Friday night in 1992 at Zondervan (before it became Lifeway). The album ended with this anthemic call to all mankind to connect with The Creator. I remember my Southern Baptist brain trying to process how “gays and lesbians” could be included in this list or people who could “breathe deep the breath of God.” Amazing how it’s universal message means so much more to me today.
Beautiful Scandalous Night
At the Foot of the Cross (Bob Bennet, Derry Daugherty, and Julie Miller)
Beautiful Scandalous Night by At the Foot of the Cross on Grooveshark
If youth pastors in the 90s were really cool, you might have heard this. But probably not. This gorgeous view of the crucifixion (yeah…weird…I know) and its penal substitutionary atonement theory drew many tears. While I may not agree with all of the theology, I am still drawn in by the mystery of the crucifixion and what the death of Christ meant then and what it means now.
The Violent Burning
Low by The Violet Burning on Grooveshark
I’ve always been a sucker for nonconventional worship songs and this one fits the bill to a T (at least the way I’ve always experienced it). I even got to hear it a few years ago live at Wild Goose Festival. Michael Pritzl wrote this love song that embraces the mystery and tenderness and tension and fear of relationship with The Divine.
I Know It’s True But I’m Sorry to Say
I Know It's True But I'm Sorry To Say by Violent Femmes on Grooveshark
I was working for a major Christian radio network. Barely an adult. Navigating faith and the weight of “ministry” and feeling the great distance from God we all experience at some point. I remember sitting in my car weeping to this song, hoping that God would meet me there. I’d clean my face up, go upstairs and play some happy Jesus music for the good Christian people of Nashville…and wake up the next morning vacillating between “Leave me alone, God!” and “Where are you, God?” In hindsight, that was much easier to handle than the challenges of the past few years.
Secret of the Easy Yoke
Pedro the Lion
Secret Of The Easy Yoke by Pedro the Lion on Grooveshark
I’m sure you’ve been waiting for David Bazan to show up in this list somewhere. His faith journey follows the same path many have taken. Now a self-proclaimed agnostic, so many of his songs echo my sentiments about the church, God, America. I love the longing to recapture something simple in faith…anything. Also, worth hearing are his treatments of classic hymns like “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”
Soul Meets Body
Death Cab for Cutie
Soul Meets Body (Album Version) by Death Cab for Cutie on Grooveshark
I discovered this song well after it was released, but it was just the right time. Finding myself at a vulnerable and frighteningly honest place with a deep desire to connect all my pieces into one authentic expression, this song was perfect. The first verse alone is a baptism joining my deeper self and my present reality. I came out of that water still fumbling, but feeling more alive than ever.
Dear God by XTC on Grooveshark
Some of you may have been introduced to this song by Eric Holmberg’s “Hells Bells” video. When I was moving towards the priesthood, I spoke a message about doubt at my church. I toyed with using this song as the intro. I always felt it fit somewhere in the Old Testament around the minor prophets. The proclamation of all the things he can’t/won’t believe in and the pounding of the tree in the video felt so honest and raw. I was finally able to fully validate and even participate in some of this litany against what God looks like to many of us. Still makes me ask, “Who is he talking to?” And I think God may be thinking, “Yeah, I know. What you’re describing isn’t me…and I get it.”
Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear
Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear by Underoath on Grooveshark
Another one that I was late getting into. When losing the faith I once knew, this song rang so true in my heart.
“Good God, if your song leaves our lips
If your work leaves our hands
Then we will be wonders and vagabonds
They will stare and say how empty we are
How the freedom we had turned us up as dead men”
And the chant of “Good God, can you still get us home…” is so haunting and beautiful.
Jesus, Jesus by Noah Gundersen on Grooveshark
I credit my lovely, brilliant wife Micky with introducing this song to me. Noah’s questions demand answers that the church has done a shitty job of answering. I guess that’s why he’s asking Jesus directly.
Holy Now by Peter Mayer on Grooveshark
The amazingly talented David Wilcox sang this one a few weeks ago in a former Jesuit retreat center in the backwoods of North Carolina…and it wrecked me. I’ve listened to the original almost every day since (though David and his wife do a much better version). It’s become a ritual for me. Moving from a place full of broken people wearing their Christian uniforms to a world filled with people made in the image of God interacting with her beautiful creation, experiencing the Holy Spirit in the common things around us…what a wonderful shift.
Follow Your Arrow
I’m not sure about much these days, but I choose to believe that God is more interested in the subtle than the overt since the overt is so easily faked and the subtle so clever and quiet. I think that life is made to be lived and I’ve got a lot of living to do and a lot of life left to share with those around me. My path is taking me in a different direction than others, but somehow I trust God to get us all back home.
I hope you enjoy listening, and I would love to hear your comments about the songs that have shaped your faith journey.