Back in October I wrote about the band Silent Planet and frontman Garrett Russell’s complex and creative lyrics. I mainly talked about their most recent album, Everything Was Sound, which deals with heavy themes of mental illness. What I didn’t mention was the Christian faith aspect of their band – and for a Christian band that fact speaks volumes to the complexity of the lyricism.
Through their last two albums, Silent Planet has explored modern Christianity, presenting a lot of the hypocrisy found in the religion aspect and the hope found in the faith aspect. This approach can be summed up in their popular (and controversial) “Heal Us” shirt and by the fact that they refer to their listeners as “Lovers”. No matter where you stand on Christianity, if you simply look at Jesus’ teachings in the Bible and search for one overarching theme it’s love. Without love for others, it’s easy to be intolerant of others based on their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion (especially when one misinterprets their religion to believe it encourages intolerance); without love for ourselves, we can fall into addiction; and without love for the world, wars are fought.
The track Dying in Circles from Everything Was Sound digs into this “Christian” hypocrisy even further.
“Beside the shadow of a frozen chapel, under the marriage of the cross and crown, outside the privilege of the ‘chosen ones’ the Image of God is sleeping on the ground.”
In the song’s footnotes, Garrett notes that the “Image of God” is a homeless mother. Christians often get too caught up in their own privilege – seeing themselves as the “chosen ones” of God – to see that God created all mankind in his image (Genesis 1:27). Even in the Bible, Jesus spent more time with the homeless and society’s disenfranchised than with the church. Garrett could have left this “Image of God” as any homeless person but I think the reason he writes this to be a mother instead of a man or father is that the church often places men above women, giving them little to no rights outside of bearing and raising children – once again forgetting that we were all created equally.
“Spires pierce the sky like steel through your hands, planks from our eyes plunged in your side. Water poured out, but we want wine. You said, ‘Take and remember’ but we always forget.”
Garrett references Luke 6:42 in this line’s footnotes: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This speaks to the hypocrisy of pointing out others’ faults while failing to see our own – to look to your own sins before singling out others’.
“When you fell to your knees to wash my feet did you see the trampled shadows stained underneath? Did you hear the acrimony, perpetuated by the puppet sewn to the pulpit?”
Before he died, Jesus washed each one of his disciples’ feet in a self-less and caring gesture. Afterwards he says, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” In the song’s notes, Garrett mentions the track Native Blood, from Silent Planet’s previous album, which deals with colonialism and persecution of Native Americans. So here he’s presenting another contradiction: reminding us of how Jesus served mankind and commanded us to serve each other and showing how we’ve destroyed cultures and committed terrible crimes. To add to this, these crimes have even been encouraged by religious leaders, those on pulpits who’ve been “coopted by cultural and political forces” as Garrett notes in the footnotes.
“We are the eulogy at the funeral of God. To the outcast sons, to the sojourners – descendants of loss: be consumed. I’ll hold my breath. To truly live we must begin anew. Trade your certainty for awe.”
Funeral of God is an album by Christian metalcore band Zao, a concept album narrating a story of God abandoning humanity. While many self-professed Christians appear to have abandoned the teachings of Jesus and his message of love, we (the band and its Lovers) are the ones speaking at the funeral, praising him and remembering his life and his teachings of love – forcing us to be outcast from the community. But there’s still hope for that community – by beginning anew and trading certainty for awe. Anyone familiar with Christianity will recognize the “born again” imagery and trading certainty for awe is similar to walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
I can’t give the band enough props for spreading these kinds of messages – and enough thanks for helping me grow in my own beliefs and worldviews.