SCOT BELLAVIA: Apostasy & Singing

A band I quit listening to years ago just released a worship EP that has made me a renewed fan. Gungor is a husband-wife duo who toured the Christian music scene until 2014 when the husband apostatized. That’s the technical term for rejecting one’s faith; he forsook the Bible and the God it reveals. I assume his wife followed his lead or has been on her own spiritual journey. However, I can speak more about the man’s changing beliefs because he’s done more talking on the podcast he began hence.

After leaving Christianity, he didn’t just denounce it, he full-on morphed for himself a new faith system that was all things opposite of what he had been claiming to believe. Through the podcast, he developed a virtual community of apostates who had in common, even more so than faith denunciation, various harms inflicted on them by exploitative church leaders and members.

Last year, in the podcast’s seventh season, some of this community, the man as their Luther, tried to enact a contemporary reformation of Christianity; that’s how much they hated the church body they left. I wasn’t worried about them succeeding in their attempt, but do care for those who were on board with it and so wrote an in-depth blog post about that season.

By this point, I had long quit listening to Gungor. Since I assent to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (that a Christian can’t lose their promised salvation), I don’t believe Gungor was ever Christian, which includes when they performed for Christian audiences. So their songs had always been disingenuous. I didn’t feel I could sing empty words, even if I meant them.

But the man and wife may be coming around, and perhaps so am I.

Gungor is soon releasing a “zen gospel record,” whatever that means. To anticipate that, they posted a three-song EP covering songs by artists they grew up listening to who influenced their style as Christian music artists. This has me hopeful for their souls. As far as I know, these influences have not apostatized, so the covers are likely songs originally written to the God of the Bible. By choice, I’ve not listened to any Gungor song since 2014, including and especially the ones released prior to that year. Yet, I’ve found myself able to worship using these covers. No small part of that is recognizing the beauty (or is it irony?) of these apostates praising my God, though they present the EP simply as an “homage to our roots.”

There’s my dilemma, though. Can I use these songs for my purposes, which align with their initial purpose, while the singer covering it sings it for a variant purpose? It’s an ancient puzzle: is it the artist or the patron who gives meaning to the piece? Can I use the songs they sing to the essence of life so I can sing to its Author?

There’s an element of general revelation as I consider this, that just because someone is not a child of God doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate an aspect of him, like a sunset. The difference between their music I used for worship before 2014 and the current EP is that I now know they aren’t Christians.

For now, I’ll keep bobbing my head to the music unless I find I must shake my head against it.

– Scot Bellavia

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