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.

A Serene View of Easter

The president of the prestigious (and very liberal) Union Theological Seminary in New York, Dr. Serene Jones, was recently interviewed by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. One of her first statements, one about the resurrection, caught my attention:

When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.

Is that really true, Dr. Jones? I realize that you are probably drawing on some super-technical metric for Biblical narratives to determine when a series of stories is “all over the place.” I’m not privy to that specialized knowledge, so forgive me for not seeing what you see.

The four gospels, to any reasonable and honest reader, are clearly not “all over the place” in how they present the events of the resurrection. Yes, these four correspondents include different details and describe things in slightly different manners, but it does not take a huge leap of textual gymnastics to reconcile the accounts. Let’s just take one fact. When did the women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday?

  • Matthew 28:1: After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb.
  • Mark 16:2: Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.
  • Luke 24:1: On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared.
  • John 20:1: On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark.

Wow! Talk about “all over the place”! They all four agree that it was on the first day of the week, but what about the time of day? Was it as the day “was dawning,” or “very early in the morning,” or “while it was still dark”? Make up your mind, gospel writers! Of course, these don’t contradict at all. We’d all agree that the day is “dawning” early in the morning, and since dawn doesn’t happen all at once, it could be still dark. Even if this were a slight contradiction, which it isn’t, it hardly qualifies as “all over the place.”

But more importantly, Dr. Jones tells a patent falsehood when she says “There’s no resurrection story in Mark.” Keep in mind that she rejects everything after Mark 16:8 as a later addition, but we can play along. Her assertion is simply dishonest. Let’s read:

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they put him.–Mark 16:5-6

So what is that if not a “resurrection story”? Who does she think the guy in white was? What else would “He has risen!” mean? If Jesus only rose in spirit or the followers simply realized that “the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed,” then shouldn’t his body have still been there?

Dr. Jones is free to believe or disbelieve as she will, but it is beneath a supposedly educated person and beneath the supposed newspaper of record to present material that is just patently false.

He is risen, regardless of what these people say.