Just a disclaimer: I wrote this many years ago. I don’t view my faith this way anymore as you can see in some of my newer writings. I’d like to say that people don’t need tragedies to not believe what I was trying to sell many years ago and it was arrogant and narrow-minded for me to suggest so. That being said I know many of you have found something in this post. May it be for you what it was for me then, a step for articulating my ideas and beliefs and my curiosity. But keep going. Keep growing.
I would say I have been a true Christ follower since my freshman year of High School (though Christ may say otherwise). Ironically enough I also became a huge follower of the Dave Matthews Band that same year. These two things would socially define me over the course of the next few years. As I grew closer to God I began to realize the struggles that many people have towards having faith in Christ. None have struck me more than the struggle the frontman Dave Matthews seems to have. At first it fascinated me and then more down the road it began to sadden me. Not so much because he seemed to not have faith, but because it seemed as though he did have faith but pain was getting in the way.
Now I do want to say that (though I would love to say it) I do not know Dave personally. My thoughts on the matter come straight from his lyrics and interviews he has given. Perhaps my greatest sin is how much I idolize DMB. I can probably recite to you more Dave lyrics than I can scripture. When I feel down I am much more prone to run to their music than I am to prayer. I have always tried to figure out his faith because so many of his songs voice thoughts towards God and even some songs directly about Christ. Once I looked closer at the lyrics I began to see the constant calling out of God. There were even interviews to which he was quoted by saying “If there is a God I would like to punch him in the face.” But there are also songs like Time Bomb to which he screams out “I want to believe in Jesus!”
The song The Dreaming Tree has always been one of my favorites. Lyrically and musically it is one of the prettiest songs I think ever written. When I really started listening to the words it opened up a door to one of the key struggles I think many people have in regards to faith.
Chorus to The Dreaming Tree
“Oh, have you no pity? This thing I do I do not deny it All through this smile As crooked as danger I do not deny I know in my mind I would leave you now If I had the strength to I would leave you up To your own devices Will you not talk? Can you take pity? I don’t ask much But won’t you speak, please? ”
The song is a literal calling out to God asking why do you let these bad things happen. The dreaming tree is a place where everything is right in the world and now the world is killing it and God is seemingly just letting it happen.
Back in 2002 Dave sang a version of the song Bartender that is in many ways a song to God. (The Bartender being God.) In this specific version that he performed live he improvised some lyrics that came deep from his soul. I believe Dave has put enough of himself out there to show that above all traits he is an honest person. I think he always has been honest. He backs the things he believes in and supports them with all he can give. These lyrics really moved me and they really troubled me. But he was able to voice something that so many feel but aren’t willing to talk about. It is a powerful verse that he seemingly made up on the spot.
“I want to believe you’re real, but your never there, never there.”
This is one of the roots that first came to me when trying to figure out his doubts. This past Tuesday I was able to see DMB in Atlanta and got to hear two new songs that will be on his upcoming album in the fall. The songs called Mercy and Gaucho finally clearly explained certain doubts with its simple verses. In both songs Dave sings a similar phrase.
“Don’t give up, I know you can see All the world and the mess that we’re making Can’t give up and hope God will intercede”
“Stand up for what we need to be ‘Cause crime won’t save or feed a hungry child Can’t lay down and hope a miracle will change things”
Gaucho has this line repeat multiple times through the songs ending with the line repeating over and over.
“We gotta do much more than believe if we really wanna change things.”
There is no conversation I would want to have more in my life than to be able to talk to Dave about Christ. To be able to give him the unordinary reasons for the faith that I have. And to try and explain some doubts that he may have. This is really my desire for all people. Dave is fairly openly agnostic and I think through his lyrics you could determine that his main doubt is similar to many people’s doubts. The two new songs seem to express it clearly. The doubt being “God doesn’t act on things.” There is too much wrong in the world for there to be a good God. If there is a loving God why doesn’t he intercede?
In an interview with Qtv Dave said “I can’t believe in a God who cares about me. That God is impossible.”
In the book Step Into the Light there was a statement that Dave’s unbelief began when he saw that the soldiers in South Africa were doing all these horrible things and using the Bible to justify it.
Whether that’s true or not I look at what I have read about his life and see much tragedy in his earlier years.
One of the most comforting quotes from Jesus I have ever heard was when he said “In this world you will have troubles. But do not fear, I have overcome the world.”
We often think that God is responsible for the bad things that happen in our lives. Well he COULD HAVE made that not happen to me. If he really loved me.
Last fall I was really upset with where my life was at. I was really suffering, borderline depressed and was wondering where God was in all of it. I thought God was being a bit harsh with how painful my life was at that time. One morning while I was doing a bible study I decided to pull the old open up to a random page in the Bible and see what God wants to say to me. And this verse is what I came to.
“Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” Jeremiah 4:18
Let’s just say it was the most brutally honest message I may have ever been given. Every ounce of pain I was going through I had caused myself but even worse I may have put that pain on others.
When we look at the condition of the world and how awful it is, it is so easy to point the finger at God saying “this is your fault.”
No, God created a good world. Man brought darkness into it.
The irony that I now realize is you don’t even have to be a Christian to accept this. Yet people use this fact to try and disprove God. Take God out of it. The world before man had to have good in it. Man came into the picture and began to kill, steal, lie, cheat, and cause harm. It is man’s fault.
Whatever pain I have was my own conduct and actions or somebody else’s conduct and actions. Somebody’s sin hurt me. Or my own sin hurt me. Now when talking about other types of suffering you can bring storms and sickness into this but I believe that too is a result of the fall. I don’t think Christ wanted sickness otherwise he wouldn’t have healed so many sick people. I don’t think Christ was fond of harsh storms otherwise he wouldn’t have calmed so many when people were afraid.
It is also easy to say in the midst of suffering why don’t you do something about this?
To which I ask have you read the bible?
He did everything. It’s already been done.
“I have overcome the world.”
“Oh God, under the weight of life, things seem so much better on the other side.”
This is perhaps one of the most plain statements Dave has made about his faith or lack there of:
Thank you. I will now begin the boring lull after Molly Ivins. I was trying to think of what stumbling, stuttering things I could say that might inspire you. That was sort of what we were told we had to do, to come up with something moderately inspirational. And then I will rise, hopefully, to the occasion. You be the judge. I come from a family of fairly well-educated people, and I’m proud to say that I barely squeezed out of high school. But, while I could have been in college, I spent the four years driving around in a van with ten other very smelly men, and drove around the country insisting on playing whatever gig we could get, and we got some good attitude from it, too, and maybe some tidbits of wisdom. And I was wondering what I could say today, and I hope that the question I ask doesn’t sound like too much, although it will sound like a hell of a mouthful, but then I’ll try and moderate it by explaining myself. I’ve thought quite often versions of this question, “What is our obligation to God?” Having said that, I sorta consider myself in a way a non-believer. Certainly I don’t believe that I’m quite convinced in the same God that “Shrub” does, up there in the White House. I can’t imagine a sort of Santa Claus kind of God in his long robe-y pajamas sitting there watching us, making sure everything is happy and hunky and occasionally choosing sides like he’s watching a football game, and scream “kickass.” But I do find myself praying a lot, and I don’t know what I pray to, but it seems like I pray to the undamaged things, to the natural things, to breasts before enhancement, to they way that a child runs across the lawn, to trees or to a forest. I pray to those things; to the mountain. That’s where I think God might be at least: the mountain next to Mt. Rushmore. Although Mt. Rushmore is impressive, it’s not as impressive as it was prior to the damage done to it. So, what is our obligation to this God I don’t really believe in? I was watching TV, this is where I get wisdom, sorry I’m stumbling, this always happens to me, I’m going to be quick, I’ll be fast and I’m going to start talking faster, I haven’t had enough coffee. I was watching TV, which is one of the places I get my wisdom, my vast and deep wisdom. I was watching and I was bouncing through the channels and then there was a show, I think it was on HBO or maybe Link TV or something like that, it was on some channel. It was a show about a religion, and they were interviewing different religious scholars. I think it was about Judaism. There was a guy describing what he thought God wanted from us. I think he was a rabbi, or maybe he wasn’t, but I think he had a beard. He said that God doesn’t want us to be something specific; he doesn’t want us to follow a rule book. He made us, or God made us—I’m saying he out of habit. I’m sure he doesn’t have the tackle to necessarily be a he. That would be sort of pointless. But he said that God made you what you are, so why would he want you to be something other than you are. Why would he want you to pretend you are something you are not, because your heart is what God made it. And so, our responsibility to God, however difficult it is, is to be what we are. To be present, not to put up a façade that makes us feel safer. It’s not always easy. I’m faking it a lot of times. I wish I could fake it a little better right now. Although in a way you are more vulnerable and vile things happen to you when you experience joy, you get a mouthful of it, you know when you experience goods things. Because it comes right to you, you’re right there, because you’re not busy trying to make sure no one notices that behind that perfect, or average, or fitting-in façade is really what God made you. So be yourselves I guess is what I wanted to say. Be present. I have a little poem that I was going to read because I think that this guy was much more able to say what I said in the last five minutes—or ten if it feels like that—in just a couple of lines. I went to Australia and I found this poet that I don’t think has landed on these shores, and I thought he was kind of magical. And it’s May, and this is called, “A Prayer in May.” And it says, it starts, “God relieve the dark unease. God of valves untie my throat, and God let sink the weight of mind to the belly of heart’s content.” Thank you very much to everybody for having me today. So save the world now by being yourself.
I’ve written on the statement of “just be yourself” before
To sum that up there’s a quote I once read that stated “somewhere in you is the you you were created to be.” A more elaborate look on it is listed above.
I do believe God made us all unique and in his image. But I also think we enjoy using that as an excuse to sin and behave in wrong ways. “Well God just made me this way.” While I believe the statement Dave made more falls in line with the true form of yourself most of the time when we say “Dude, just be yourself.” We mean “do whatever you want. Or whatever makes you happy.” God did not create us to be sinners. Otherwise Christ wouldn’t have had any reason to die.
God has done something about the wrong in this world. He came and He died as a sacrifice for all, especially those who believe. It is a shame that when we look at the Earth in its current form more people haven’t acted on that fact. And responded to that fact. The best and maybe the most overlooked line in the one prayer Christ gave us is “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” Bono is quoted as saying that he finds that to be the most troubling line of Christianity. Because we do not live that out.
Most people don’t want anything to do with God because of Christians. Christ said if you love me keep my commands. There are plenty of professing Christians who by that standard don’t love Christ and they confuse the world about Christianity.
To which I beg any non-believer. Do not let people ruin how great God is. Especially Christians.
Two quotes then a wrap up.
“Let’s be honest. A lot of people confuse religion with God and walk away from them both.
The point isn’t Christianity. The point is being a Christian. It means being a follower of Jesus.
It’s being connected with everything that is true and good and right. Everything that goes on around us,
that reminds us that there is so much more going on around us than we realize.
Could anything be more beautiful?”
“Jesus is bigger than any one religion. He didn’t come to start a new religion, and he continually disrupted whatever conventions or systems or establishments that existed in his day. He will always transcend whatever cages and labels are created to contain and name him, especially the one called “Christianity.”
There is a problem with Christianity; it’s the way that non-believers see Christianity.
The problem is that it isn’t (in most cases) Christianity. That is nobody’s fault but Christians.
There is a reason Christ will say to many people “I never knew you, away from me you evil doer.”
That statement is the scariest statement in the entire Bible. Matthew 7:22-23 says pretty plainly just because you say you are a Christian, doesn’t mean you are one. Even more terrifying is that it is seems to say, Just because you think you are saved, doesn’t mean you are.
The message has always been about your heart. About love. If people look at Christians and see anything but deep devotion to love then we are failing miserably and causing so many people to doubt in the authenticity of our faith.
Dave preaches “We have to do much more than believe if we really want to change things.”
While it seems like Dave is saying stop depending on your faith to change things. That statement itself is pretty dead on. As Christ said it “So you belive in God? Good! Even the demons believe and shudder.” While faith is the essential matter in salvation we tend to think works don’t matter. But I challenge you to remember true faith has deed.
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
If we are saved we are referred to as the new creation. God prepared your good works in advance for you to do. In other words, you were saved to do good works. It says in James “Faith without deed is dead.” In other words, if you have faith, if you are saved, you will have good works.
If every Christian truly loved Christ in the way that he asked us to, The world would change. It would be like heaven. We would tap into that statement “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” and people wouldn’t be afraid to be a Christian because of how negatively Christians are viewed.
“Christians” need to stop getting in the way of Christ.
As lame and fanboy as it is for me to say; I care about this band. As a Christian I deeply care about their salvation. Few people are willing to so openly express their doubts towards God in such a huge way. I thank Dave and others for their honesty towards expressing the reasons for their doubts. I believe it is important for Christians to know the things that hold others back. Too many Christians aren’t concerned with the person as much as they are the conversion. To which I say where is the love in that? To rephrase Christians need to listen more. Stop talking at them and start talking to them. There are real questions and real doubts that won’t be answered by saying just repent. Though the Bible tells us not to just beat the message down their throats. Some people won’t accept it and we have to move on. I cannot save anybody. You cannot save anybody. Christ saves. We are the carriers of his message and we should share it with every person we come in contact with.
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.” -2 Corinthians 2:15-17
Some will be saved by God’s word through us and some will perish by God’s word through us. We simply give off the aroma that that person will either accept or deny. We do not do it for profit or selfish gain. We do it because we care for that person and we want them to live for truth, to be tapped in to the beautiful life that Christ freely offers.
My prayer is that perhaps you could connect to some of the struggles that are expressed through the words of Dave Matthews Band but more so that you can connect to the answers found in the words of Christ.
For my testimony and the strange reasons of my own faith you can listen here:
Some songs that directly deal with Christ and a struggle of faith:
”Lift up your eyes. Lift up your heart.”
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. Isaiah 51:6