When Belief Has Begun to Slip

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“There’s a symptom apparent in America right now. It’s evident in political talk shows, in entertainment coverage, in artistic criticism of every kind, in religious discussion…

We are living in a culture of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment and of verdict. Discussion has given way to debate. Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? Maybe it’s because, deep down under the chatter, we have come to a place where we know that we don’t know … anything. But nobody’s willing to say that…

What is Doubt? Each of us is like a planet. There’s the crust, which seems eternal. We are confident about who we are. If you ask, we can readily describe our current state. I know my answers to so many questions, as do you. What was your father like? Do you believe in God? Who’s your best friend? What do you want? Your answers are your current topography, seemingly permanent, but deceptively so. Because under that face of easy response, there is another You. And this wordless Being moves just as the instant moves; it presses upward without explanation, fluid and wordless, until the resisting consciousness has no choice but to give way.

It is Doubt, so often experienced initially as weakness, that changes things. When a man feels unsteady, when he falters, when hard-won knowledge evaporates before his eyes, he’s on the verge of growth. The subtle or violent reconciliation of the outer person and the inner core often seems at first like a mistake. Like you’ve gone the wrong way and you’re lost. But this is just emotion longing for the familiar. Life happens when the tectonic power of your speechless soul breaks through the dead habits of the mind. Doubt is nothing less than an opportunity to reenter the Present…

There is an uneasy time when belief has begun to slip, but hypocrisy has yet to take hold, when the consciousness is disturbed but not yet altered. It is the most dangerous, important and ongoing experience of life. The beginning of change is the moment of Doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a lie.

Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite; it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time.”

— John Patrick Shanley in an introduction to his play, Doubt.

(HT: Experimental Theology)

“I am but one small intstrument.”

We’re sitting at the gate getting ready to board a plane for NYC. We’re on our way to begin a 10 show celebration of a record we released 10 years ago. We’ve been rehearsing quite a bit, soaking these songs in and it’s been hitting me how utterly unlikely all of this is. When we made this album we had just come off a very disappointing experience of releasing our first major label album. When we were signed, it was just assumed we were headed for massive album sales and radio play galore. Instead we were humbled into what felt like obscurity, having to explain who we were to over and over when hanging out at our record label building after being on the label for years. Imagine David Spade saying, “And you are…..?”

While making Clarity, we were completely below anyone’s radar. It was a feeling of both utter freedom and depressing insignificance. These songs were formed from posture of deep humility, doubt, and isolation. I also believe it was a time of true honesty. When no one is looking, you are most free to be who you really are. So this really is an unlikely time for us. If someone were to tell us that in ten years we’d be embarking on a sold-out tour that celebrates these songs, we would have told that person to take it easy on the crack.

So this a perfect example of how both you and I really have no idea what kind of impact we can have in the world. At the time, forming this collection of songs was a small thing and somehow they’ve had an impact we could have never imagined. It’s a reminder to never assume what you do is insignificant. The conventional wisdom of measuring success does not always yield the true weight of who we are and how we touch the world around us. It’s funny, this album is to this day one of our worst selling releases, so the numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

It’s gonna be an amazing few weeks. I can’t help but think of some words my friend wrote:

“Is tomorrow just a day like all the rest.”
How could you know just what you did?
So full of faith yet so full of doubt I ask.
Time and time again you said don’t be afraid.
“If you believe you can do it.”
The only voice I want to hear is yours.
Again.
I shall ask you this once again.
And again.
He said:
” I am but one small instrument.”
Do you remember that?
So here I am above palm trees so straight and tall.
You are smaller, getting smaller.
But I still see you.

Pause to Wonder

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

— Albert Einstein

If only……

……there was one single award so big that we could give it to the best song, band, website, and movie of each year. It would be like a grammy and an oscar all rolled into one and then some. We could only award it to one person or group per year. I’ve never really felt this was a necessity until I experienced the genius of Evening Service. Evening Service has it all; the great song, movie, website, and life-changing message. Once you’ve received the gift of Evening Service, it pretty much eliminates your need for any other kind of art experience for the rest of the year. It is THAT good!

First we have to start with their song and video for their song “The Bible Says”. The look, the powerful vocals, the costume design, the lighting, the mustache, the real-life “in the studio” vibe….it has it all. I think the Academy Awards might want to reconsider their most recent nominations because if this isn’t powerful cinema, then I don’t know what is.

Then we have to consider their incredible website where we learn not only about Evening Service’s much needed message about how God hates homosexuals, but we also come to know about lots of other bands and whether or not they are a “safe” band or a “gay” band. For instance, Cindi Lauper’s “Time After Time” isn’t gay but somehow Nickleback and Motorhead are both “gay” (you have to read these lists). All I can say is that I’m so grateful for this information because how else would we be able to distinguish between safe and gay music without the expertise of someone who used to be gay! I’ll have to wait to see where Mr. Davies lands on whether Morissey is REALLY gay or not. Right now he has him on the “gay” list, but is “questionable”. But at least I can have some clarity on Elton John because on this gay list he’s considered “really gay”. I guess no more “Rocket Man” or “Your Song”.

Anyway, please do yourself the favor and take a moment to just soak in the genius of Evening Service. You’ll be so glad you did.