I recently ran across this photo, taken just before the turn of the century (around 1999) of me and my band, The Evinrudes. This photo was taken by a photographer named Yoshi whose rate was about $10,000 a day, no kidding, in front of a fake tree at an entrance to the Central Park Zoo.
At the time, I was more than pleased to wear a snake-skin vest, biker boots and other accoutrement to look the part, I do enjoy a good costume now and then. These days, I wear an embroidered robe and a stole, usually the ones of the Guatemalan variety, but only on Sundays and for weddings. Some would say it places me in a different category, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with the ease of identity shift.
Last night, I was at a birthday party at a very trendy local bar/eatery and I was introduced to someone as the “former lead singer for the Evinrudes now turned pastor but still doing her music.” She turned to me and said, “I’ll let you explain what it is.” I stumbled for words, I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said, “it’s just the same music I’ve always made, this time I just wrote about women from ancient biblical texts” The man said, “So, you once did rock and roll and now you do religion?” To which I replied, “I never left either one.”
I thought that was a truthful answer. I had also read a comment on a youtube video someone had posted of my band, something indicated that I used to be a rock star and then I found Jesus and now I’m a Methodist minister. I’m not sure you have to leave one to find the other and that’s part of the problem. Sure, I found plenty of things to run from in the rock star life. Drugs, alcohol, manipulation and greed rank among the top issues that I encountered. I also found human frailty, vulnerability, love and compassion. I soon learned in the pastorate that one does not escape these issues in the church, these are just human issues and human struggles. We cannot escape any world inside of any church no more than we can hermetically seal ourselves off from relationships with one another. One does not become a part of a church to escape, one comes to be a part of a faith community to truly live.
The title of my latest album “Sunland,” is from a poem by Jewish poet and writer, Edmond Jabes, It begins, “A country where the billboards have claws, not just anyone can enter.” The women of the biblical text, the Old Testament as it were, whose stories I poeticized about in song, are all outsiders in this sort of religious country where the dominant religious culture sharpens its claws on those who dare to challenge it. In the album, “Sunland,” it’s generally females who become challenging due to the roles they must play in a male-dominant religion. The key element in their stories that they all share is that their actions or words or presence moved beyond the official space sanctioned by religious culture. They broke away from the predatorial space of religious culture and even through the divide of the secular/religious to a whole other plane, the spiritual, where they ranged with the wild God and gained a voice, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. In our present day religious culture, we’ve often overlooked their voices or somehow sanitized them, as we have done with much of our biblical text, so that they don’t threaten the status quo as they did so long ago. The point is, the narrators of the text let them speak and so should we if we hope to have an authentic understanding of our roots and the whole entire framework of faith we call the Bible.
I am probably going to re-name the album along the lines of “Strange, Exotic and Un-tamed Women of the Bible,” just so everyone will get the point. Or maybe I’ll just preach in my snake-skin vest, some would argue this is what I was doing all along.