Album Review: The Jesus Hypothesis
The latest work from Derek Webb strikes a chord
I was first introduced to Derek Webb’s music when he was originally a part of Caedmon’s Call. It was while I was in youth group. I had heard their name but had not really given them the time of day because I typically did not listen to Contemporary Christian Music. You would be more likely to catch me listening to Zao or Dead Kennedy’s.
Music was my form of rebellion as a teen.
Then we got a new youth pastor and he was a huge fan of Caedmon’s. He pointed us to the lyrics and I heard in there a form of theological rebellion that I was unfamiliar with. I was not entirely sure what I was listening to, but I was hooked.
And when Derek Webb broke off and began his solo work, I was there for it. “She Must and Shall Go Free” became a part of my permanent rotation of CDs. The subtle, and often not so subtle, Calvinism was right up my alley. Rebellious but still conforming in a way.
A safe kind of rebellion.
But rebellion is never safe, no matter how it takes form.
Again and again, Derek Webb has proven that through his music. I See Things Upside Down, Mockingbird, and The Ringing Bell, all seemed to be calling out the church for its adherence to conservative political values at the expense of the actual message of Jesus.
Then I went through a divorce and wanted nothing to do with the church. But those albums still gave me a sort of hope that there was still some truth out there beyond this life... It just affirmed for me that I was not likely to find it in the church.
His subsequent albums all struck a nerve with me. It felt like we were going through some of the same struggles at the same time. It was weird in a way but also made me feel a lot less lonely as I wrestled with Jesus and atheism and social justice.
I have recently come to a place where I’m not so desperate to push all of the church away as I was before.
Enter: The Jesus Hypothesis
I had just finished writing a series of blog posts about the things that have pushed me away from the church and what I had been discovering. As I have written, I have come to the realization that I am not able to throw the whole thing away. And, as always, Derek Webb has stepped in to say that is okay.
“Maybe the Jesus hypothesis deserves one more chance..."
Every song speaks directly to the things I am wrestling with at the time being. From acceptance of the LGBTQ community to wrestling with the idea that “Some Gods Deserve Atheists".
His ballad “Sympathy for Paul” even addresses our understanding of the authority of Scripture. And the track “God in Drag” almost feels scandalous…and yet perfectly true and heartbreaking.
It really leaves me thinking that maybe there is a place for everyone at the table.
This album is likely his most important to date. Those who are still strong adherents to the more traditional Christian scene would do well to pay attention to his lyrics and ask the probing questions he presents here that are necessary to move forward. Those outside the church or who have felt pushed away or alienated by it can benefit from knowing they are not alone in feeling that way, and that there might still be some truth there even if it is not the same truth that they had always been taught.
In typical fashion, he blends theology and social issues in a way that reveals how deeply interconnected what we believe is with how we act. And it calls the listener to task for where those ideas contradict or are putting us at odds with the Jesus of the Bible.
Maybe... Just maybe... The Jesus hypothesis is worth one more chance after all...