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Friday, August 11, 2006

David Bazan on being a fraud and clinging to Jesus.

While reading Body Piercing Saved My Life, I've been reminded of a seminar that David Bazan (formerly of Pedro The Lion) gave at Calvin College in 2003. I don't agree with Bazan about everything (do I agree with anyone about everything?), but his comments at this seminar had a profound effect on me when I read them about a year ago. It's the most clear description of the emotional life of a Christian that I've ever read, and how being honest with yourself about what a fraud you are enables you to see, and ultimately worship, Jesus for who He is. Here are his words, from the seminar transcript (fair warning, he uses some appropriately strong language):

I used to think when I was a little kid, I remember reading about Enoch—it was just a lineage, in the midst of the lineage it broke in and told the story of one of the generations of dudes—[who] walked with God so closely that he went to heaven without dying. I was like five or six, and I remember reading that story and thinking to myself—even at five or six years old—that, “Man, that would be so great.” I realized a longing for it to be that way and then, in the same instance, I knew—it’s so weird—but I knew . . . I just kind of gave up and I thought, “Though that would be really cool, I already know that that’s not really possible for me.” At five, I already knew what a fuckup I was. It was already so clear to me.

(then, a bit later)

There’s this thing that happens where we’re approached by God and we’re drawn to respond. Traditionally, I would be drawn to respond and I would realize what an utter fraud I was, and I’d run the other way because I would realize, not only am I totally unworthy, but I would start out by saying, “I love you, God.” And I would realize what a total lie that was; I didn’t love God. If I did, why had it been three weeks since I had last prayed, or why had I masturbated that day when I really didn’t want to do that, or why couldn’t I stop swearing, or whatever it was that was my particular thing.

Now, because I believe what the gospel says is true, I can accept intellectually, on faith, that whenever I approach God, if I do so by faith, that there’s no issue. I know for a fact that I’m a fraud, I know for a fact that my going to him is self-serving in and of itself. And yet, I believe that because I do so in faith, clinging to Jesus’ righteousness, that he sees me as Christ and he welcomes me with open arms. And so that elicits an emotional response that is extremely satisfying. It satisfies my most basic need as a human being and that is to be loved by the Being that I was imprinted upon from the beginning. So there’s very little conflict in the basis of my understanding of faith, and yet in the outworking of it there’s a lot of conflict because I feel a lot of anger and even--ironically enough--self-righteousness about the way that Christianity goes and has gone. In that case there is some conflict, but in those particular cases there’s nothing that I can really settle on intellectually that is conflicting with it. It’s just a lot of ambiguities both emotionally and intellectually. I’d like to find some things out, but ultimately, if I didn’t know another thing for the rest of my life I think it would be kind of all right because that one thing does work and it is true and I can’t escape it. I don’t even know if I would want to, but I can’t and that’s the thing that’s so beautiful about it.

Here are a few questions I'd like to ask you blog readers. You don't have to answer all of them, but maybe pick out one or two and post a comment. If it's too personal, that's ok, but please do take a minute to at least ask these questions of yourself.

1. Have you ever come to God and felt he'd accept you, forgive you, or at least listen to you because of your sincerity, good motives, or a pure heart? If so, why?

2. Have you ever decided to not approach God, because you knew you were inherently insincere and self-serving? What was the result?

3a. If you are a Christian and go to church, and have had emotional experiences in worship services, what has prompted them?

3b. If you feel yourself to be insincere in telling God you love him, how has that played out emotionally when you sing songs in church where the point of the song seems to be to tell God of your love for him?

4. What other thoughts or longings did Bazan's words prompt within you?


Blogger mike gorski said...

I often avoid approaching God because I feel insincere or self-serving. So much so, in fact, that I almost never feel sincere and tend to experience guilt when I pray for myself. Whether it is about a spiritual need, material need, or a specific sin, I am reluctant to go before God on my own behalf. The result has always been despair.

This is the delicate outworking of the doctrine of justification. I know that I am declared righteous by God, but it is all too clear that I'm still a sinner. I'm a fraud, plain and simple. A fraud that Christ not only died for, but lived for, imputing His good works to my account. But I'm still a fraud. My hope is that I will increasingly respond to this fact by throwing myself before God in prayer and thanksgiving, not by falling into hopeless despair.

My approach to singing songs that declare love for God is similar to my battling feelings of insincerity in prayer. I continue to sing and pray, knowing that I sing and pray to the One who can change my attitudes.

9:55 PM


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