Over the past couple of days, I’ve heard a new song being pushed by Air1 radio. The song melody is very different from other songs of the day. Not entirely unique, but different enough to catch my attention. However, this morning I caught the song from beginning to end, and thought I’d try to catch the meaning of the song… I was disappointed. Who is the mountain? The artist, apparently. Let’s take a look at the lyrics of the song:
I AM MOUNTAIN
(Michael Gungor / Lisa Gungor)
I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There’s glory in the dirt
A universe within the sand
Eternity within a man
We are ocean, we are mist
Brilliant fools who wound and kiss
There’s beauty in the dirt
Wandering in skin and soul
Searching, longing for a home
As the light, light
Lights up the skies, up the skies
We will fight, fight
Fight for our lives, for our lives
I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There’s mystery in the dirt
The metaphors are breaking down
We taste the wind and sight is sound
As the light, light
Lights up the skies, up the skies
We will fight, fight
Fight for our lives, for our lives
Momentary carbon stories
From the ashes
Filled with holy ghost
Life is here now
Breathe it all in
Let it all go
You are earth and wind
If there is one line that makes sense, it is “The metaphors are breaking down”, because this is song has no discernible Gospel message. None. What it does have is mysticism and pantheism in that it seems to extol the glory within us (by loosely referencing that we were made from the earth/dirt therefore glory, mystery, and beauty being in the earth and in us), and some odd reference to being filled with holy ghost and living in the moment. Just, odd. The plain reading of the lyric does not point to Jesus, the Cross, or even the Bible or God the Father in any way. It points to man, and some metaphysical philosophy that glorifies the moment by highlighting the temporary state of man. Even if you tried to put into the lyrics a Christian filter, you wouldn’t get a coherent Gospel interpretation. At best you get random allusions to comments made in the Bible, but nothing that would point to a Christian message.
So, I decided to take a look at their “BIO” to see if they are taking the approach of other Christian bands (like Skillet) who focus on sharing the Gospel message outside the songs. Now, I’m already stretching for that connection, because while Skillet doesn’t always have a clearly discernible Gospel message, they aren’t pointing to mysticism/pantheism/humanism, they just don’t always clearly define who their “hero” is in the song that they very clearly need. But I’ve heard them share the Gospel in concerts so they do a good job in that regard (personally, I’d rather they did both, but I’m happy they share the Gospel). Anyway, let’s look at the Gungor BIO taken from their website:
We don’t have to look far to find the results of what happens when filters are removed and people create what they think they want to create. Most often, it’s chaos.
It takes the truly gifted artist, at the exact moment when personal uncertainty is as its peak, to reach within and draw out music both noticeably free from constraints and laser-like in its focus.
Michael Gungor, through the musical collective known simply as Gungor, has achieved just such a work. Setting aside his reliance on what he called “metaphysical constructs I’d known all my life,” Gungor has tapped his considerable musical reserves for a song set simultaneously re- velatory in its lyrical content, ambitious in its sonic scope and compelling in its approachability.
Finally given the opportunity to self-identify, Gungor uses his skills as an accomplished multi- instrumentalist, arranger and producer on “I Am Mountain” to kick off a journey of stories told, some personal, some allegorical, but all honest and forthright.
“There’s that sense of searching, wandering and loss within all these songs,” Michael says. “On the other side of that, there’s a rebirth of hope and life within that. There’s a freedom and em- brace of mystery and the unknown, and finding a joy and childlikeness within that.”
Michael’s path of creative rediscovery allows the tracks on “I Am Mountain” to exist in their own needs, be it the dark east/west musical dichotomy of “The Beat of Her Heart” or the me- lodic hooks of “Long Way Off,” from the galloping synths of “God And Country” to the descent from beauty into deconstruction in “Upside Down.”
Michael shares vocalizations in Gungor with wife Lisa, and together they interact, counter-play and underscore each song’s arc with precision and versatility, be it the plaintive whisper of “Yesternite,” the lost-then-found effect choices made on “Wandering” and ‘70s-era evocation on the chorus of “Let It Go”.
In this age of musical homogeneity, such diversity might be a danger sign. But Gungor’s deft manipulation of such moments piques interest not only in the immediacy of an individual song, but throughout the album’s listening experience as a whole. That variety is most assuredly on purpose.
“I recently had the best meal of my life, an eight-course Japanese/sushi thing,” Michael says, “and just the balance of the plates they’d bring and how they handled each of the flavors after the next to build to something, it was amazing. “That’s how I wanted to approach this record,” he continues. “To have a palate cleanser when its needed, something easy to go down, a breath for a second when things get too dark or heavy. “Any good film, meal, symphony, album, whatever, has those kinds of moments that allow you to breathe.”
To be fair, this doesn’t seem like they wrote their own BIO. However, notice the big thing that is missing here? The Gospel. So let’s look at their Blog. They actually have a post entitled “What Do We Believe?” It is incredibly long, so I will not be sharing all of it. Here are some key points I find most telling:
What Do We Believe? Let’s do a little experiment together. Pick up some droppable object near you. Keys, a pillow, a small child, whatever. (For the literalists, I should add that I am just kidding about the child, and that you really shouldn’t ever drop children.) Ok, now look at it and really try to believe that when you drop it, that it is going to float into the sky. I am going to do this with you. I just picked up a stuffed rabbit that happened to be on the couch. Now using your free will, REALLY try to BELIEVE that when you drop your object, gravity is not going to exist anymore. If you are anything like me, you will find that this is not possible. While I was staring at the rabbit, I actually was able to create this superficial feeling of suspense and tried to really expect it to not drop. But if you stopped me and asked me in the middle of that if I would bet my life on the results, I am going to go ahead and admit that I would have bet on gravity. I dropped it. And guess what?! It didn’t drop! It floated in mid-air! Isn’t that amazing? Do you believe me? No? Why not? Because by the time you can use your conscious mind to “believe” something, your unconscious mind has already sorted through the data and there is no way you can force yourself to un-know what you know. You might be able to convince yourself that it is possible for gravity to stop for a moment. It’s like when I was in junior high and I kept almost breaking my glasses to prove that I really believed God would heal my eyes. But when the rubber meets the road, you really can’t choose to believe or not believe in something like gravity. Every moment of your existence has been influenced and limited by it. You’ve never escaped it, and unless you leave this planet on some space adventure some day, you never will. I grew up in an environment that placed a high priority on belief. Belief was everything. Belief was made you “us” rather than “them”. Belief was what determined not just your life, but your afterlife. But what is belief really? Do I believe in gravity or do I know that it exists? After all, isn’t it theoretically possible that gravity as we currently understand it doesn’t exist? I mean, our views of what holds us to the ground has changed pretty radically through history. Who is to know that we won’t discover that our current understanding of gravity is wrong? Even the most straight forward assumptions are still assumptions. There’s always another possibility. For example, isn’t it theoretically possible (even if unlikely) that we are part of a computer simulation that holds us to the ground simply because that’s what the programmer wanted the program to do? So on that level, pretty much EVERYTHING is a belief because EVERYTHING we know is built on assumptions. We “know” that gravity is real, but that assumes that your perception of existence is real and not a dream or some sort of momentary simulation in the mind of God. Everything you believe or know is built on a lot of assumptions that have already been processed by your unconscious mind and that is the foundation upon which we can start forming words and ideas about what we “believe.” So what happens when your unconscious mind removes some of the assumptions? What happens when some of what you built the words and concepts on does not exist anymore? For instance, let’s talk about God. When I was a kid, I would pray up to the sky all the time. During worship services, I would look up because I was somehow taught that God was this Supreme Being “up” in Heaven, and someday he would come “down” here to rescue us. But then in school, of course, we learned about space and the earth and how it rotates and how there is really no such thing as “up” or “down.” These are ideas relative to earth and our position within its gravitational pull. And in fact, what is up to me right now is down for a lot of other people on earth, and in a few hours, up has drastically changed for all of us. So if up and down aren’t real, then what do we mean by God being “up” in Heaven? And why do so many worship leaders stare at the lights of the sanctuary and reach their hands into the sky as though trying to reach somebody “up” there? Up where? Towards which planet? Which galaxy? Because if it’s in some direction that we are supposed to think about God, that direction would be constantly changing. Sometimes the congregation should be gazing down and to the right or reaching their hands straight out behind them… So what do you do when you lose the up and down assumption in your unconscious? Well, you either stop looking up, or you look up in a more metaphorical way. But once you lose that assumption, it’s impossible to once again BELIEVE that God is UP there. You can’t do it. You have seen that up is not real, and you will never be able to un-see that. So here’s my point in all of this: we should be very slow to judge people for their beliefs. I’m talking to myself as well here. There are some beliefs that drive me crazy. I find them backwards and limiting and destructive. But while I think it’s okay to make value judgments on beliefs, I think so many of us are so quick to label, categorize and dismiss human beings because of their beliefs. But here’s the reality. We don’t really get to chose our beliefs. They are handed to us from our environment. Who of us came up with any our beliefs on our own? You can’t even have concepts or beliefs in your head without words. And where did you get those words? Did you make them up? Did you invent the word ‘God? Did you invent the words ‘science’, ‘humanism’, ‘good’, ‘evil’, ‘love’…? No, these words do not exist as something separate from your experience and environment. These words come to you with concepts and experiences that have been handed to you from your particular environment. And you either accept them, change them, or deny them, but even those decisions are largely out of your control. You will see what you will see, and those things cannot be un-seen. You will think with words that your environment hands you and you have no ability to unlearn those words or concepts. They are burned into your brain, and they always will be. This sounds awfully fatalistic, but I don’t think it has to be. Because I believe that you can choose with your conscious mind what you want to do with the (un)beliefs that you have. Back to the “up” thing. Even if you know God isn’t up there somewhere, perhaps you are a person that finds great solace in looking up while you pray or lifting your hands when you sing. Perhaps it makes you feel like a child looking up to a parent. Or perhaps it makes you feel lighter and more human, more connected and a part of everything. So maybe you decide to keep looking up sometimes. Maybe lifting your hands makes you feel like you are surrendering something of yourself to something or someone “higher” than yourself. Even though you realize the absurdity of thinking of God as some being that lives somewhere in the direction of Galaxy 54-tx42… You have a choice on what to do with that belief (or lack thereof) now. You can stop looking up. Or you can look up. That’s your decision. Unlike believing that the rabbit is not going to hit the floor when you drop it, that’s something you can actually choose. Over the last year, I have had so many questions asked of me about what I believe. Just tonight I had a conversation with someone extremely close to me that said that he wouldn’t consider me a Christian anymore. Why? Not because of my life.. Not because my life looks like Jesus or doesn’t look like Jesus. But because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE. Because I’ve lost so many of the unconscious assumptions that I used to have and have no ability to un-see what I have seen. I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…
If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter. To some people, you denying the “truth” of a 6,000 year old earth with naked people in a garden eating an apple being responsible for the death of dinosaurs is the same thing as you nailing Jesus to the cross. You become part of ‘them’. The deniers of God’s Word.
So, the Bible is open to interpretation and meaning must be given to its “stories”. That doesn’t bode well at all. It is okay to struggle with the timeline of Genesis, but not okay to dismiss it. One more bit from the blog:
I’m not saying that language is unimportant. It is important. Just not important enough to divide over. People are more important than ideas. Love is more important than the concept of love. We should never hurt or lessen the humanity of actual human beings because of the language, beliefs, and concepts that their environment and experiences have given them.
The language of the Gospel is critical. They go on to quote James 2 in order to prove their rejection of statements of faith in favor of deeds. However, in getting there, they have already rejected the notion of defining Love according to scripture in their statement “love is more important than the concept of love”.
This is not sound doctrine, and it is not Gospel. This is dangerous theology. Air1 doesn’t claim to be a Christian radio station (in fact, they argue against the notion often employing a poor argument that since songs can’t be saved they can’t be labeled “Christian”), they just play “positive” music. Apparently mysticism and pantheism are welcome on their airwaves. Pity. Another of Gungor’s blogs echos this attitude of rejecting the “Christian Music” label, and it is hardly “positive” and demonstrates how failure to confess the Word of God is in itself divisive. The sinful comments they cite are in-fact sinful, and were clearly not made in love. However, that does little to exonerate Gungor from the original blog post, nor from this current blog about that blog.
An artist who questions the Authority of the Bible, refuses to confess the Gospel of Salvation and rejects the sinful state of man is not one I’m willing to embrace as a brother in Christ. How you describe Jesus, how you describe God, means all the difference in creation. I pray these two find the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and repent of this false doctrine. In the meantime, I do not want others to be unaware of the false doctrine behind their music.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.