Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't call me a Christian says Mumford

I have become a big Mumford and Sons fan.  Before you cast me into some "band-wagon" "fair-weather" pop culture music participant, I must say I first listened to Mumford about two and half years ago and wore out their first album "Sigh No More" long before they were ever on American radio.  Their lyrics are powerful, their music is catchy, and their live performances are some of the best around.  I actually first saw them on a  live TV performance before I ever knew much about them.  I was inspired by the passion of performance and the fact the lead singer Marcus played a kick drum, while playing guitar, and singing at the same time.

Anyway, their lyrics are full of religious overtones.  Here is a quote from Huff Religion of a quote in Rolling Stone Magazine.  I actually encourage you to read both articles they are very cool.
During an interview last month, the Rolling Stone reporter, Brian Hiatt, asked Mumford whether he "still consider(s) himself a Christian."
Mumford gave the following answer:
"I don't really like that word. It comes with so much baggage. So, no, I wouldn't call myself a Christian. I think the word just conjures up all these religious images that I don't really like. I have my personal views about the person of Jesus and who he was. ... I've kind of separated myself from the culture of Christianity."
His spiritual journey is a "work in progress," Mumford said, adding that he's never doubted the existence of God and that his parents are unbothered by his ambivalence toward the Christian label.

According to the Huff Religion article others have gone on to cast Marcus and the band in general in either a wishy washy denier of a strong religious faith or a "spiritual but not religious" crowd.   But I don't get that vibe.

I nearly always prefer people to say they are Christian.  I am a Christian and clergy to boot.  But that puts a lot of people off.  For me it has strained relationships with family members, friends, and strangers I meet.  It is always a little awkward at first when I am sitting on an airplane or getting a hair cut and having someone ask, "So what do you do?"  Because "what I do" is in fact "who I am." So when I say, I'm a minister, or I work with all the denominational churches in a region, I mostly just get blank stares.  They don't know what to say or do to that response.  And as much as I sometimes want to shy away from the conversation I usually cannot because Christ won't let me back out.  I am initially shy not because I am ashamed of my faith or the gospel but because I don't want to have a weird conversation and be silently judged by the person I am speaking with.  The other reason is because much like Marcus my spiritual journey is a "work in progress."  And I don't want to state a belief or explain a behavior only to be led another direction later in my faith walk or perhaps share something unorthodox by mistake.

In the last year alone I have had dozens small chats with strangers in airports, trains, and even a few restaurants.  Once they learn I am a Christian and clergy they respond in two ways. First if they are Christian they want to tell me all the things we have in common and assume we interpret the faith in identical ways.  This is often true but sometimes it is not.  It makes me grateful the Christian tent is a large one that can hold all sorts of people and perspectives.  Or people respond a second way, they want to tell me all the things wrong with the church, why they have never been or won't go back, that we need to stop trying to be involved in politics, and how judgmental Christians are.  And usually they are right.  They accurately point out the worst parts of us.  Many of these anti-church people, I have discovered  really just need someone to listen to them rant for a while.   They need for someone from "inside" the circle hear them out.  Once you do that they are willing to listen you explain there is no circle, no insider-outsider division, and that Christ is willing to welcome all to his banquet table, even them just as they are.

Mumfords lyrics clearly demonstrate someone who wrestles with his faith more than most self identified Christians.  He uses biblical imagery that rivals that of Johns Gospel. He might not self identify as a Christian but he certainly believes in resurrection (see Roll Away Your Stone), redemption (see Lover of the Light), forgiveness (see Awake my Soul, Broken Crown, I Will Wait),  a new heaven and new earth (see After the Storm), and genuine love (see Blank White Page, Lion Man, Lovers Eyes).  Sure he uses the F word sometimes but I think it speaks to his honest passion and frustration with his humanity and need of healing.

Perhaps he is more Christian than he gives himself credit for.  Perhaps he just doesn't want to have awkward conversations with reporters.  Perhaps like the Huff Religion article states, he "falls between Dorothy Day's famous "Don't call me a saint -- I don't want to be dismissed so easily," and Soren Kierkegaard's, "Once you label me you negate me."

So take them or leave them for their music.  But don't deny their journey or yours.  We are all works in progress.  My prayer is that you are willing to simply get on the path.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...this kind of makes me want to listen to some Mumford Band songs. "You don't need a drummer in a Mumford Band, you just stomp your feet, and clap your hands!" hehe