David Bazan: Curse Your Branches and the Loss of Faith

1 September 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

There’s an old story of a young seminary student who loses his faith.  He rushes to his advisor to announce that he no longer believes in God.  The advisor patiently nods, then invites the young man to take a seat.  “Tell me about this God you don’t believe in,” the advisor says.  “because maybe I don’t believe in Him either.”

David Bazan, the singer/songwriter formally associated with the band Pedro the Lion has frequently aroused controversy due to his uneasy, often openly hostile relationship with Christianity.  But with his latest (and highly autobiographical) album, Curse Your Branches, he openly admits to having lost his faith in “that particular narrarative,” that is, in the God embraces by Christianity.  In an interview with Relevant Magazine, he states:

“There are moments where I am challenging the person of God. I suppose I grew up thinking of Him as Jehovah, the biblical God. [The songs] “When We Fell” and “In Stitches” challenge the notion of that person, of the narrative of who Jehovah is, who the one true God is—the characteristics held by the one true God. I perceive that God exists. For whatever reason, that’s a part of my wiring. What I was trying to figure out was Who or What that could be—given the data that is available. This record is an expression of trying to complete that process. …When I wrote “When We Fell,” I was saying all those things to God, all of those assumptions about God that make up the narrative. That song is me refuting the idea that God is exactly that. A couple of months later, it dawned on me that I was really speaking to the popular version of what God is—the God of my upbringing and the most popular characterizations of Him. I realized I was literally challenging the person at the center of that characterization, challenging that characterization. At the end of it all, I still believe, but I don’t believe that particular narrative.”

In the song, “When We Fell,” Bazan writes: “With the threat of hell hanging over my head like a halo / I was made to believe in a couple of beautiful truths / That eventually had thee effect of completely unraveling / The powerful curse put on me by you.”

I have always appreciated Bazan’s honest, exhaustively confessional lyrics.  Even the vitriol of albums such as Achilles Heel has resonated with me and the occasional claustrophobia of the Christian subculture.

But I am saddened, as I’m sure are many, by Bazan’s departure from the faith.  And yet, given the body of Bazan’s work, I can’t help but want to say to him, “Tell me about this faith you lost, because maybe I don’t have it either.”

Bazan’s music has been – at least in the past – heavily shaped by a reaction against the Christian subculture.  I can’t help but wonder if this loss of faith is not in some way related, and that the faith he lost was never the faith that God desires to begin with.  I certainly cannot say for sure, for only God can truly know the heart.  Nor can I say whether this loss of faith is permanent or not, though I trust in a God who continually welcomes His prodigal home.

The album is currently available for streaming at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/media/the-drop

1 September 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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