Stephen Christian of Anberlin

September 28, 2009

This is taken from an interview with Stephen Christian of Anberlin.

Is religion a big factor when writing as a band? And has it ever had a negative effect on anything you were doing as a band?

Stephen: I think the only ‘big factor’ religion could have on any aspect of any album would be on the lyrics. I don’t think Deon sat down to write a God-fearing bass line, or Nathan coming up with the perfect praise and worship beat. For me though, I have never sat down and tried to write a ‘religious’ lyric in my life. I just write. One’s faith should be like DNA. No matter what they are involved in, no matter what career choice, no matter who they encounter it simply should be ingrained and a part of them. My faith is simply a part of me. I can no easier remove my belief in Jesus than remove my cells or heart.

Sons of Promise

September 17, 2009

Mount Moriah.

Anybody heard of it?

I didn’t think so. Not many people have. It’s actually more of a mountain range than it is an actual mountain. It’s name may elude you now, but to the Hebrew culture, Mount Moriah was something you were definitely familiar with. Mount Moriah was traditionally known as the Temple Mount. Though the actual location of the Temple of Solomon has been debated for years, the name probably sounds more familiar. Among many important events that took place here, there is one that I’m emphasizing on.

The sacrifice of Isaac, the only son of Abraham and Sarai. Abraham’s wife, Sarai or Sarah, was infertile (Gen. 11:30) and behold, after an angel appears to her, she has a child. God called Abraham to take Isaac upon the mountain and make him a sacrifice. What do you think was going through Abraham’s head? Isaac was Abraham’s son of promise. What a stretch of faith that would be! Abraham loved Isaac more than anything, but he is also a faithful man, so they set out off to the Mount of the Lord to make a sacrifice.

Abraham is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, mainly because of his devotion. He’s going to sacrifice his entire world right now. He raises the knife and is commanded to stop. It was a test. God wouldn’t allow him to slaughter his own son, but He wanted to see if Abraham would listen. I see it as God asking Abraham “How far are you actually willing to take this?” and Abraham’s son was spared. To me, I see it as a thank you from God. He’s saying “Thank you for being faithful, now you are free. You’ve done what I asked. You pass.”

When I was studying this, it jumped out at me. These last few months have been incredibly difficult and at many times, in a sense, i’ve felt like Job. The things that are important to me have been taken away, but God still provides.

Many of you know that I was called to move to Huntsville, Alabama. Why God called me to Huntsville, Alabama was a mystery to me, but I believe it’s becoming clear. When God tells you to go, there’s no fighting that. When God tells you to pack up everything you have, drive across the country and call that new land “home”, you can’t fight that. So I did, and here I am. The mystery of why I’m here has only become clear in the last week or so. I’ve been praying and praying and praying asking God why I’m here and I opened up my Bible to this story of Abraham and Isaac. I learned about this story of a test and God said to me, “You pass. You’ve done what I asked you to do. Every bone in your body was fighting it, every ounce of you wanted to stay in California. Despite what you felt, you did as I commanded and you were faithful. You pass.”

What a relief that was! Here I was wondering what I’m supposed to do with my life here. When talking to my friends from back home, I’d refer to my new home as “this God forsaken place” but now I know that I was sent here as a test. God hasn’t forsaken this place, but only prepared a temporary place for me to endure this season of trial. This is my Mount Moriah, my place of sacrifice, and plenty has been sacrificed to be here.

“You pass.”

I’m not sure what the next days hold. Will I remain here? Will I return to California? Will I go some place crazy? Who knows? There is comfort knowing that I wasn’t brought out here for nothing, and there will be comfort with whatever these next few months hold, because as long as we remain faithful, we will be sons and daughters of promise. We will not be forgotten.

-Jacob Aaron Bundren
Currently Listening to Jimmy Eat World – Cautioners

Back when I was a kid, when I was like 7, my family didn’t have much money. I lived in a neighborhood where most kids came from the same situation I was in. Fathers weren’t around, mothers worked full-time, and the kids had to fend for themselves after school until mom got home. There just wasn’t enough of the American Dream to go around my poor neighborhood in Oceano, California.

Being surrounded by families with similar backgrounds to mine wasn’t the problem, I felt comfortable around them. The problem surfaced when I went to school with kids who weren’t like me. They had dads. Their moms brought them to school and went back home to do whatever it is moms that stay at home do. They cooked and cleaned and had tea parties or something. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and I respect her more than anybody in the world, but these mothers, they were different. Truth be told, I didn’t like them. Sometimes, I would convince myself that they were aliens from another planet that were controlling their families with their mind-control devices, or whatever it is that alien-moms use. In a sense, they were aliens to me.

Back to the story. When it came down to it, I felt that, despite my awkward and ignorant hatred of these mothers, the children of these families were better than me. They were better than me because they had dads. They were better than me because they had moms that stayed home to do outlandish things. They were better than me because they had cool clothes. They were better than me because their parents drove SUV’s. They were better than me for so many reasons.

Think about that. What kind of damage does that do to a kid growing up? What harm did it do convincing myself that all of these kids were superior to me? While all of these other seven year-olds were on the playground having a blast, I was afraid to walk across the blacktop because they would fun of me for having off brand Nike’s. That kind of thinking creates a pathetic lifestyle for a second grader.

That lifestyle involves one thing. One motivation. One desire. One dream. You must fit in. I’m the skinniest white kid on the face of the earth, how on earth was I supposed to fit in with the athletic kids so I could be cool? I was a nerd. I’m still a nerd! It just wasn’t possible!

Did I ever fit in? Heck no! My nerd posse and I just hid inside the classrooms at lunch. It was quiet, we could read or play our computer games, but most of all, we didn’t get beat up in there. It was much more pleasant.

Looking back on those experiences, I’m horrified. How many kids felt the way that I did? Probably a lot more than I realized at the time. There were so many kids looking to fit in and to be accepted that they’d do anything to feel like they were.

Now, I’m almost 21 years old. I’m nowhere near wise, experienced in life, or worthy of giving advice, but I know one thing.

Wealth.

Fame.

Beauty.

Social Acceptance.

Sex.

Drugs.

All of those things have nothing to do with your definition as a human being. They don’t make you who you are. Being wealthy doesn’t mean a single thing. Sure, you’re the Senior Vice President of a Fortune 500 company, you have a wife that stays home during the day to have tea parties, you drive a Mercedes to work, and your kid has really sweet Nike’s, but what does that mean for you? What kind of lasting substance do you have in your life?

What others think of you does not define you. The calling that is placed upon our life and how you act upon it defines you. The relationship you have with your maker defines you. Not the maker that you pray to when times get rough, or the maker that you visit on Christmas and Easter, but the maker that breathed life into you and created you from dust. The maker that called your name and told you that you didn’t have to have sweet Nike’s and be really good at basketball to be loved and to make a difference in the world.

That maker.

That maker that gave your life a purpose, a reason for breathing.

A definition.

Don’t get me wrong, now. I’ve got nothing against Nike (except for high prices and exploitation of the less fortunate in third-world countries, of course) but if a brand, job, or a smokin’ hot wife define you, something that has to give.