The End of Gungor

They’re gone. Gungor walks (and plays) the earth no more, and I had no idea. I didn’t even get to send flowers to the funeral.

Last night, my son informed me that one of his musical heroes, Michael Gungor (with wife Lisa), had elected to put an end to their musical project of the last several years, the cleverly named Gungor.

A couple of years ago, in 2017, Michael caused a fair stir by referring to the idea of the blood of Christ being necessary to effect atonement as “horrific.” Precisely, he tweeted this:

I simply think blood sacrifice is a very limited and less than timely metaphor for what the cross can mean in our culture.

My initial thought is that Twitter is a really poor place to lay out anything as complex and transcendent as theology, but Michael went through a series of tweets that made his non-evangelical theology pretty clear if not nuanced. The comment brought about–imagine this–a host of impassioned responses. The artist himself complained “White dudes keep retweeting this with snarky comments.” This led him to attempt to clarify:

To see it as literal and out of context- that God needed to be appeased with blood is not beautiful. It’s horrific.

According to my son, the band just couldn’t go on with all the controversy. Perhaps. Perhaps they weren’t getting some of the bookings or ticket sales in the wake of the kerfuffle. Perhaps we should take Michael Gungor at his word on the change:

Gungor feels to us like it’s done what it needed to do. Said what it needed to say.  And now it’s time for something new.

In that same blog post, Michael admits that things have changed.

For the last 4 albums, we’ve sometimes left many of our fans confused or frustrated— “What are they singing about now?” “Do they even believe in Jesus anymore?”…etc But we’ve always tried to stay true to what’s happening in our hearts at the time of recording a record.

Perhaps tellingly, he never answers that or other “belief” questions that he says were posed to him. Perhaps he noticed that nearly all the most-streamed songs on his Spotify page come from those earlier recordings when people did know what they were singing about. From what I can gather, it sounds as if his beliefs have drifted in the direction of what Serene Jones shared in that pre-Easter interview.

Back in 1832, Ralph Waldo Emerson left his pastorate at Boston’s Second Church, at least partially because he could not in good faith serve communion that symbolized something in which he no longer believed. While I disagree profoundly with Emerson, I admire his integrity. If Michael Gungor is making a similar move, as I suspect, then I admire his integrity as well. He has every right to believe, to write about, and to sing about anything he likes. He’s an imaginative and talented musician, and a person with a good heart.

When it comes to the blood of Jesus, however, I just have to say that he’s wrong.

Fair winds and following seas, Gungor.

Running Ahead–2 John 1:9

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.–2 John 1:9

I’ve been reading a biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth-century writer who found Unitarianism entirely too dogmatic for his tastes. Having read a good bit of Emerson’s work in preparation for my journey to his home town of Concord, Massachusetts, I already knew that Emerson didn’t stand as a poster child for orthodoxy, but now I see him emerging as an all-too-common pattern in mental development.

A reasonably pious fellow as a youth, Emerson went to Harvard, which was already in the throes of the doctrinal decline of Unitarianism. During these years, he found himself exposed to the German “Higher Criticism.” What makes that criticism “higher”? In the minds of those who formulated its Bible-dissecting, skeptical stuff, it was higher because they’d read everything they could get their hands on. They were smart, and they knew it. That’s the story with Emerson. A thoroughly bright fellow, he traded his own intelligence for wisdom. He ran ahead, thinking he knew where he was going. He ran ahead and found himself in a place where logic told him that whatever he decided was true. Talk about circular reasoning.

God gave us a faith, a belief system, that does not require genius. It can be apprehended by little children and the simple minded. It’s not that God has it in for any of us who have a few surplus brain cells, but we needn’t get all full of ourselves. If so, we might find ourselves running ahead of God. That’s not where I want to wind up.