Theres Something About That Name

Jesus. I know that name makes people uncomfortable. Religious and un-religious alike. I know that for some, seeing the song title “In Jesus” in the 9th spot on our new record means it’s a gospel record, songs written for Christians and about Christian things. I’ve decided the reason that name makes people uncomfortable is more complex than I have been willing to admit. I might have stood inside the church walls and declared that the name Jesus makes people uncomfortable because, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, Jesus came to “Comfort the troubled and trouble the comfortable.” People’s discomfort with Jesus, I would posit, comes from the realization that the things he said, the way he lived, his very existence are a direct challenge to a comfortable, self-centered way of living. The name Jesus makes people uncomfortable because it inspires guilt in us. Perhaps this self-righteous view is true for some.

A more troubling realization came last week. Association. The name “Jesus” has become associated with a complex list of things, people, political views, and actions that bare little resemblance to the person of Jesus or to the God He made manifest among us.

Recently I was driving through downtown in a southern college town with two friends that are not followers of Jesus. We passed a man holding up a sign on a busy street corner with John 14:6 on it; not the words, just the reference. A silent man with a Bible address that meant nothing to my friends beyond “that’s from the Bible.” It might as well have been a street address in Ohio. “I can tell it’s from Ohio but I have no interest in finding out whose house it is.” Moments later we passed another man outside of a bar with a megaphone announcing judgement to the students wandering the street in front of him. Fear and shame swept over me. I wonder if having a song on my new album entitled “In Jesus” makes people outside of the church associate me with these two men. Being a follower of Jesus means that I am painted with the same brush as the very best AND the very worst of those who claim the same followship.

Then a deeper question flooded my anxious heart. Can I speak (or sing) the name of Jesus without the humiliating associations that come with it? If I longed for my songs to ONLY BE HEARD by those with an evangelical Christian background, I could freely use whatever RELIGIOUS language I wish. But there would be other words, pains or doubts that I might freely share among friends but that must stay out of my songs. With an evangelical Christian crowd, using the name of Jesus in your songs (or casual conversations) is safe. If I long for a wider audience to hear these songs and walk with me through the narrative that unfolds in these lyrics, then I should probably choose more innocuous faith-speak. I have learned well from other writers and artists what language it is acceptable to use when singing about issues of faith, words that are free of the ASSOCIATIONS I fear.

But that would be dishonest for me. As an artist and a songwriter I need to be (LONG to be) honest. I need to be transparent with the deep pain and resentment I’ve faced. I also need to be forthright about the source of hope I’ve found along the way in my journey. I’ve found ONLY ONE consistent source of peace in the middle of life’s chaos. I found it in Jesus. Not in reading about Jesus. Not in simply trying to imitate Jesus’ way of living. Not in faith or spiritual experience. I mean that I’ve found hope in the ebb and flow of an ever-deepening love relationship with the historical and eternal person of Jesus.

Does that make “Only Love” a gospel record? I don’t know. Labels like that have never been very helpful to me. Hopefully it makes “Only Love” an HONEST record. That’s my hope. This is my journey and “In Jesus” is a chapter of the story I found myself in.

If you’re not too offended, you can buy a copy of the album from ITUNES HERE or stream it on SPOTIFY HERE.

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