"If I was still a Christian, I'd probably be dead," Spencer Chamberlain says as he looks into the camera with a straight face.
As a Christian, hearing that statement is troubling. The faith that promises eternal life through Jesus would cause Chamberlain to die? How can someone who once professed that Jesus had forgiven him of his sins and granted him eternal life leave the faith and claim the decision "saved" him? What could have possibly given him the idea that leaving the faith would be best for him?
Spencer Chamberlain and Aaron Gillespie, frontmen of the heavy metal (formerly Christian) band Underoath, released a video interview with Vevo titled, "Underoath's Three Thoughts on Christianity." In the video, the two men share their criticisms of the Christian faith and reveal why they decided to leave their Christian roots.
While pastors and preachers could write entire sermons based off of their remarks, here are three things Christians can do to address Chamberlain's and Gillespie's concerns, and three things the heavy metal frontmen need to understand about the majority of believers.
1. Christianity isn't about selling 'perfection' in this life.
After Gillespie describes Christianity as "rebellious" at the start of the video, Chamberlain launches into his thoughts on how Christians present themselves to people inside and outside of the church.
It's like they're selling a product, it's like perfection. You're looking at the really good looking pastor with his wife and his beautiful kids, and they seem so happy. It's almost like one of those movies or tv shows where behind the curtains it's really, really ugly. But they're almost selling, "If you buy into these rules and you follow this, and you do what we do, you can also be like this."
Chamberlain's comment is a faulty generalization of the entire Christian community.
The purpose of the church is not to present itself as perfect; its purpose is to show it strives to emulate Jesus, who is perfect. And Jesus loved everyone and reached out to everyone. He did not condone their sin (as He saved the adulterous woman from the Pharisees but told her to "go and sin no more") but He did not start by beating them over the head with it.
Every church needs to acknowledge that every Christian is a work in progress, and make it known that Christians must make the conscious decision to grow in their relationship with Christ every day. And that God will convict them of their sin through His word and through His spirit.
Though Christians can acknowledge Chamberlain's point, Underoath needs to understand and recognize that the majority of churches are led by pastors who do talk about their troubled pasts, before they became Christians and ultimately ministers, as well as share their daily struggles and shortcomings. Furthermore, there are church leaders who seem to have a good and happy life because, in fact, it is happy and good, and they want to share with people how Jesus has changed them.
That doesn't mean they are trouble-free. It means God gives them strength and peace and comfort in the midst of trouble. It's completely genuine.
For example, take this story recently shared by a pastor I know:
He and his wife were in Amsterdam for four or five days on a vacation. On one of the days there, they went on a bike tour. Their morning had gotten off to a bad start because they woke up late. The pastor was stressed and agitated and stated he and his wife were arguing when they arrived, noting the guide and a few other people in the group probably thought he was a jerk. But it wasn't long before his attitude changed, and he and his wife were fine the rest of the trip.
He and his wife were talking and joking with each other and everybody else, and when the group stopped for lunch, the pastor bought everyone a drink. Their guide happened to enjoy them and their group so much, she extended the tour by three hours. At one point, the tour guide pulled him aside and started saying there was something different about him and his wife, that they seemed to be truly happy in their marriage. The pastor tried to explain the difference that Jesus makes in life and in marriage. The concept was utterly foreign to the guide, as she knew no one with that same belief and had no one to look to as an example.
Christians believe a spiritual and behavioral transformation occurs because of their faith in Jesus. The apostle Paul wrote, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here" (2 Corinthians 5:17). If something seems different about Christians, perhaps it's not because of some act, but because their faith is actively changing their hearts and lives for the better.
Members of the Christian faith are imperfect people who believe in and worship a perfect Savior. They are people who have struggles, make mistakes, and need to ask and allow God to help them better themselves like everyone else. But there's an overwhelming majority of Christians who are genuinely happy because of their faith and what Jesus has done for them. Gillespie and Chamberlain should seek out these types of Christians.
2. Christianity needs to answer the tough questions.
Another critique Chamberlain and Gillespie level against Christianity is that church leaders and Christians don't like it when people ask questions.
The duo says:
I think when you begin to debunk the system, when you begin to ask questions, when you begin to pry the attic door open a little bit, everyone goes, 'Woah, Woah, Woah, Woah, Woah.' And I think the reason is, because it's man-made, and woman made, the only thing we have is the rules...
Which you're not allowed to question. Isn't that the funny part? You know, they tell you, if you question Christianity that you're lost, 'I'll pray for you.' That just sounds so crazy to me...
Similar to their first criticism, the second centers on questioning "the rules." Again, sadly, there's some truth to their thoughts, though Gillespie saying "the rules" are "man-made" is a complete misrepresentation of what Christians believe about those "rules" or commands, and Chamberlain's suggestion that Christians as a whole don't like to answer questions about the faith isn't completely accurate.
To Chamberlain and Gillespie's point, there are Christians who refuse to answer the questions of skeptics or people who find it hard to understand why Christians believe what God's Word says.
Rather than take the time to answer those questions and tackle those challenging subjects, some Christians will refuse to defend their faith or make an effort to alleviate a person's concerns. They may even give the inadequate, unsatisfactory answers Chamberlain has heard in the past: "I'll pray for you" or "You're just lost." Or maybe they just don't know but, because they aren't perfect, they can't admit it.
But asking questions is an inherent part of Christianity.
How many times did people ask Jesus how they could have eternal life? How many times did the disciples have to ask questions when they didn't understand Jesus' teachings and parables? How many times did the Pharisees try to trick Jesus with a question only for Him to give an answer that made them walk away with their heads down in shame?
Furthermore, considering Christians live in an increasingly secular world, Christians need to be able to explain why Christianity professes what it does. Christians need to be able to explain why Christianity can claim one thing is right while another is wrong or why faith in Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
Christians are called to look different from the rest of the world, and this will inevitably lead people to ask questions about why they are so different.
Whether questions that arise are ones of curiosity or ones that are direct challenges to the faith, Christians need to be willing to attempt to answer them because Christianity claims to be the Truth, the one and only.
Thankfully, churches and Christians across the country take the time to engage in Christian Apologetics. Biblical scholars, pastors, and even ordinary Christians take the time to study God's Word and historical sources to answer some of the toughest questions leveled against Christianity. Though Gillespie and Chamberlain may have been told not to ask questions, there are many churches and Christians who would gladly talk to them about what they want to know.
It's important to note, however, that Christians don't have all the answers, and that's okay. In fact, Christians don't claim to have them all. Some questions in life may have rational explanations that are supported by Scripture, but others may not be able to be explained at that moment, let alone in this life.
Christians need to show they care about their faith by listening to the concerns and questions of others and by doing their best to provide Christ-like answers supported by Scripture. Those who already do are having a profound impact on all those who are willing to listen.
Let people walk away from Christianity because they don't like the Truth, not because no one bothered to present it.
3. Christianity must continue to show its love for people.
Christianity is known for and continues to be known for its love for others. That's why when Chamberlain says that "the Christian community is what ruins Christianity for me," it's hard not to get depressed and even angry with those who did not reach out to him in his times of trouble.
Cause when you need help, if you're someone, of some sort of, supposed to be a role model or some sort of thing, you know, it's very alienating. They were putting out magazines about me being a drug addict and stuff, and the whole Christian world was just like 'that's the reason why Underoath's breaking up' or 'it's that guy.' There was no help. No one's like, 'Hey man, what's up?' in the Christian world.
As someone who's not a heavy metal fan, or someone who subscribed to Christian magazines in the early 2000s, it's impossible to relay exactly what was said about Chamberlain, though talking about anyone is a form of gossip. And based on Chamberlain's statement, such treatment is unacceptable, especially when the Christian world knew there was a problem. Rather than offer him help or offer to listen to what he was struggling with, people talked about him.
Jesus went out of His way to help those who were in need, and Christians believe He continues to do so today. In the same way, Christians need to make sure all churches do the same. After all, aren't Christians Jesus' hands and feet? The same hands that healed the sick and broken and the same feet that sought out those people?
As stated in the previous sections, a majority of Christians, including this author, take issue with the notion that Christians don't care about another person's well-being. While some Christian publishers may have treated Chamberlain poorly, there are more Christian artists, heavy metal or not, that would have been, and still are, willing to help him.
Chamberlain goes on to say where he found people who cared for him:
The places that I was the most accepted and people would listen to me and talk to me, and share their stories about how they're f***** up, were the people that weren't Christians. And those were the other bands that we'd be on tour with that weren't that way. You know, and I'm telling these people, and relating to these people, that are just normal human beings. You know, 'Let's talk about it.' But, in a Christian band, let's not. Doesn't that seem opposite? Doesn't that seem like, very unloving and very unaccepting?
Yes, it is the opposite of how Christians should behave, and yes, it is unloving. Christians should be able and willing to talk to people about these things.
Thankfully, a majority are. There are pastors who have battled addictions. There are musicians who have overcome drug addiction and given their lives to Jesus. The testimony of Brian Welch, a guitarist for the band Korn, comes to mind.
While some Christians may have turned their backs on Underoath, there are many that would be there to listen.
Someone who's struggling with an addiction or sin doesn't need to be encouraged to continue their lifestyle, they need help and need to be loved; and Christianity, Christians, and the church must continue to love others and open their arms to those who are broken or weighed down by the weight of the world.
It's what Jesus did and continues to do for us.
As Underoath members are from Tampa, Florida, I know a great church and a genuine, down-to-earth pastor they can talk to, if they're willing to give Christianity another chance. It's an open invitation.
Watch Underoath's interview below.
Warning: Strong Language