An open letter to The Flaming Lips

Why hate when you can love?

 An open letter to The Flaming Lips

Dear Wayne, Steven, Michael and Kliph,

Let me introduce myself: My name is Josh, and I am a follower of Jesus. Not much farther down the list of things I am you will discover that I am a Flaming Lips fan. I bought my first Flaming Lips record in 1993, when I was ten years old and The Flaming Lips have been my favorite band ever since. Like most of your admirers, I have been an enthusiastic fan. I listen to your entire discography regularly, I sing along at your concerts, I hosted Zaireeka listening parties, I wore my oversized Flaming Lips t-shirts all through junior high as often as Wayne used to wear that old Sonic Youth t-shirt. I even showed up on Wayne’s doorstep with a stack of my band’s albums.

In fact, The Flaming Lips are one of the major reasons that I myself have been a musician, touring the world and releasing rock records for more than a decade. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

As I mentioned in the first sentence of this letter, I am a follower of Jesus. I prefer this title to the term “Christian” because of the dreadful and unfortunate connotation the word Christian conjures up. Believe me, I am by no means ignorant to the horrific reputation Jesus’ followers have earned both for themselves and for Jesus himself. Christians, by and large (and especially here in America) are thought of as hateful, highly politicized, right wing, republican, flag-waving, gun-toting, war-mongering bigots. Sadly, I cannot argue that this perception of Christians is entirely misplaced.

I realize that Wayne (and perhaps the lot of you?) has been an atheist for a long while, but I suspect that the bands aggressive stance towards Christianity in particular stems from the largely accurate description of them I mentioned above. That is why I am writing this letter, to apologize on behalf of Jesus’ followers and to clarify: we—Jesus’ followers—are not all like that. And, for that reason, to petition you with this simple request: do not hate us all.

I am, of course, an intensely imperfect person. But, I am by no means a racist, hateful, highly politicized, right wing, republican, flag-waving, gun-toting, war-mongering bigot. Neither is Jesus. In fact, actually following Jesus requires unconditional love for all people (including enemies), rejection of violence, rejection of faith in politics and rejection of patriotism. In short, the exact opposite of the traits american Christians are most notorious for. I’m not suggesting that these are or should be your ideals per se, I just mean to point out that an authentic pursuit of Jesus is, sadly, quite the opposite of public perception.

Let me be clear, my letter’s intention is by no means converting any of you to my way of thinking. Nor do I plan on complaining that your anti-christian rhetoric has offended me. It hasn’t. On the other hand, I’m afraid some of your more blatant statements might be—regardless of your intentions—misconstrued as hateful toward some of your very sincere admirers.

When Kliph wears a t-shirt that says “Christianity is stupid”—as is his prerogative—I’m not sure I’m mistaken in assuming that he is making an effort to point out that he believes that I am a fool. I love Kliph. He is enormously talented and has been very kind to me in person. I wonder why he would—without knowing me at all—think me a fool simply because of what I believe? Should we all be judged in this way? Would Kliph condone a generic statement that Islam is stupid? Or that buddhism is stupid? Or that atheism is stupid? Does he mean to say he believes that a certain set of beliefs are misplaced or that all who disagree with him are, well, stupid?

When Wayne sings “burning the Bible tonight,” I would honestly not censor him or suggest that he ought to change his lyrics. My faith is not so shallow that those who disagree frighten or offend me. I even suspect that I might understand, in a way, the sentiment behind the statement. But I wonder if beneath the lyric and the frustration with religion there is a more personal vendetta against an entire group of people. Please forgive me if I’m being presumptuous here. I am asking non-rhetorical questions, not making statements.

It may come as a surprise to discover that you have a great deal of devoted fans who are also devoted followers of Jesus. In my years on the road and in the music industry as a Jesus-follower myself, I have met countless creative individuals who have been inspired and influenced by The Flaming Lips who also believe that Jesus is God. They come to your shows, they buy your records, they cover your songs. They even share the stage with you.

I sympathize with the fact that Jesus-followers believe some crazy-sounding things. Yes, I believe Jesus is God, I believe in a literal, corporeal resurrection of the dead, I believe a personal, loving God created the universe, etc. I sincerely believe in all these things, but I do not hold these beliefs over the heads of those who reject them. I do not believe that these beliefs make me, in any way, better than any other human being. I do not believe that those who reject my beliefs are idiots or that they should be treated differently. In fact, I believe that Jesus wants me to love and serve everyone, especially those who deeply disagree with me, without an agenda to make them more like me.

Do you hate me? Do you think that I’m stupid?

Don’t get me wrong, I would never suggest that you should relinquish the passion that motivates your own personal beliefs, but does that passion direct you to dislike strangers who care deeply for your band and your art and even you as individuals outside of The Flaming Lips?

I hope that it will not offend you (or weird you out) to learn that I pray for your band daily. I DO NOT pray that you will become like me, or that you will “cease to be heathens” or some such nonsense. I pray that you will be safe in your travels, that you will be blessed each day with joy and laughter, that you will have life—as Jesus puts it—to the fullest! Now, I understand and that you believe those prayers disappear into thin air, perhaps you even think me a fool for praying them. But do you resent me for doing so?

It is my sincere belief that Jesus needs new PR. I find it a terribly upsetting irony that by and large the equal rights, social justice, creative and expressive community of artists here in the states are so hostile towards Jesus. In reality, the Flamings Lips sentiments of peace and love, kindness towards animals, and hope in the face of death are not at all dissimilar to the way of Jesus. The american Christian sentiments of war, anger, retribution and judgement on the other hand have more in common with Satan than they do with Jesus. Those “god hates fags” folks are NOT Jesus-followers. The people who would have you believe God hates homosexuals and disapproves of interracial relationships are DEAD WRONG.

To quote Charles Dickens via the Ghost of Christmas Present : “‘There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.'”

And hey, you love Christmas right?

I guess all this is to say, though I do not seek to correct or convict you with this letter, I do hope to convince you that many of the fans you promise are the greatest on earth, love your band with a very sincere affection and also love Jesus. We are by no means a religious lot. On the contrary, we think the myth of a Christian religion is an incredible fallacy. We are a subversive movement of rebels and lovers with an insatiable desire to see the world’s wrongs righted, the world’s hungry fed, the world’s widows and orphans cared for and most of all to see that those with no joy and no love receive both to the point that their cup runs over. We believe that this is what Jesus is after, not unquestioning minions who conform to arbitrary rules and regulations, but a group of rescued lovers who are deeply loved and who love others.

It’s true that many who claim Jesus would have you believe otherwise, but know that Jesus himself warns against them. When you rail against their type, I believe Jesus rails with you.

But do not hate us all. Why hate when you can love?

With unwavering devotion for many years and many years to come,

Josh Dies and Showbread

19 thoughts

  1. This letter brings up so many things so dear to my heart. I love your heart Josh and I love how you and Showbread have so relentlessly showed Jesus in your words and music. I pray for you guys daily and I love the message Jesus has so passionately given to you. Thanking for asserting and saying something I could have never so eloquently said. You are a delight. Hugs!

    • ha ha, touché, brother. You know, it’s funny, even the Bible talks about “the foolishness of God.” I don’t think we (Jesus-followers) were ever supposed to assume the way of Jesus wouldn’t seem ridiculous to most of the world.

      Thanks for the honesty. I’m just glad someone who isn’t a Jesus-follower ended up reading this thing. -Josh

      • Josh I love your heart rendering response. Thank God someone that doesn’t follow Jesus read this letter, that is who it is for after all. You know I came across this letter because I mentioned to a friend that Santorum is my favorite candidate so far, and his response to me was to please research Santorum further because he is a `warmongering bigot’. So I’m sitting here bored in the waiting room of my Dr.’s office and googled the phrase which I was not certain what the exact definition for either word was and here you are. I am excited to lookup your music this evening. ‘Josh Dies and Showbread’?

  2. I hope they respond to you, Josh.

    I’m kind of inspired to write a letter like this to one of my favourite “mainstream” (e.g. not-christian) bands, Fugazi.

  3. Hello, I’m a Flaming Lips fan and I came across your letter to The Flaming Lips and read it. Josh, that letter is really good. And I totally understand where you are coming from. I myself am an atheist, and my whole family is Christian… Though me and my family passionately disagree with each other on concepts like the existence of God and the afterlife, we still love each other very very much. I love them, and I love Christians, however I hate religion and Christianity for many reasons, but NOT because of Christians–in fact most of my friends are Christians and they’re awesome–I hate the BELIEF and not the BELIEVER… I think you are wrong in saying The Flaming Lips “hate” Christians… Yes, the whole band are very passionate and outspoken about politics and stuff, and the band is intentionally controversial a lot of the time. Yes, they obviously hate religion, but to claim they hate Christians or religious believers because of that is sort of silly. The Flaming Lips are very nice people!!

  4. As a fellow Flaming Lips freak and Jesus follower, I think you wrote this well. I hope the Wayne or someone else in the band sees it.

  5. Thank you Josh, it is such a pleasure to read something that so closely ties into what I think. I have been a long time Jesus-Follower myself and have recently stopped using the term Christian to define my set of religious beliefs.

  6. This letter is fantastic Josh. You couldn’t have done a better job representing Christ to those who Christ has been misrepresented. God bless ya Josh.

  7. Honestly Josh this Is just mind blowing haha. Your knowledge and just how you explain in full details about anything is beyond powerful.
    I’ve always felt the same with non Christian music in the sense that I can learn from the music they put out. I can learn different point of views of others and understand more about life. Not to judge but simply to grow.

    Amazing stuff, I love receiving emails like this.

  8. I love Ernest Hemingway.

    Probably in the same way you love the Flaming Lips.

    I love the man for all of his shortcomings and faults and I think they made him the great man of words he was. If he were still around and if I had the opportunity to tell him what I thought about his works in letters, I would not waste that chance proselytizing and bemoaning the fact that he didn’t believe the things I believed. I would let him know that his words moved me and let it go at that.

    • Thanks for the critical jab JS. I honestly need the humbling counter-point on a regular basis. I think there’s some wisdom in there.

      Though it obviously came across as such, proselytizing and bemoaning were honestly not my intentions. More of an attempt to clear the air in a way.

      That said, each of our world views obviously color our words in a very palpable way.

      Your thought, for example—You think your own communicative methodology better than the one I’ve employed in my open letter (and you’re probably right). So how do you voice it? By letting me know you disapprove of my thoughts and actions and that you believe you have a better way. Isn’t this a kind of proselytizing itself? Maybe I’m off my rocker. I don’t know.

      But, in this sense, we’re all “religious” aren’t we? Even though, presumable neither of us feel comfortable with the term.

      Anyway, just a thought that occurred to me while reading your thought. Which was well put… your thought that is, not mine.

      p.s. I like Hemingway as well.

  9. As an aspiring writer, a follower of Jesus, and a man who seeks to bridge the gap between all people I want to thank you for writing this.

    It has its faults, as all things do, but you did it from a place of honesty and genuine affection and that is commendable.

    I hope we get to meet in person someday.

  10. Hi, Josh.

    I love you and Showbread. I have disagreements with some of your beliefs (thought the fact that Jesus is God and came to die for us all is not one of those disagreements). But I love where your hearts are all the same. One thing I wonder about you and a lot of other Jesus-followers is why you don’t want to be called a Christian? Men are most often seen as lazy, piggish, perverted, and so many other negative things. Do you stop calling yourself a man? No. I think instead of not calling ourselves Christians (or men) we should try to change the way people have perceived Christians by the way we live. I honestly don’t think your letter would have any more or less impact if you had called yourself a Christian. I think disassociating yourself with the more religious Christians is only making them look worse, and I don’t think we should make others look worse. Obviously we shouldn’t hide others’ faults either. Christians are all one community. Each has a separate set of faults. So to continuously divide Christianity into separate tribes of belief is to divide the body of Christ.

    Love, Josh

  11. You should write an album and call it “Jesus PR” or just make it into a song. That line that says “Jesus needs new PR” really stuck out to me, especially since you seem to give him new PR in all of your work.

    And as a side note, I’ve found a lot of my faith through showbread. In a way you’ve helped me turn my faith into something a lot more solid than what it was. Some of your songs are like stories that should be in a modern day bible. When I feel depressed or my faith is being tested, there are always lyrics that play on repeat in my head like “you place your hands around my heart and quite the emptiness in me” and several others. You help me realize the forgiveness of Jesus for my modern day sins. You have replenished my faith in a way that a church never has for me. For a while I went church hopping and never found one for me. Some of them seemed so closed minded and judgmental like “The Jesus that we’re shouting in our neighbors’ face Looks nothing like the Jesus that you are” and others just didn’t reach me in a way that your songs have. I think church is great for some people but I’ve never been one of them. Music makes me feel whole. From rocking out to some Disturbed, finding great beauty in the band Nightwish or just listing to the stories of one of my personal favorite bands The Cruxshadows, I can also find my faith in bands like Showbread, Blindside, Spoken, and Lifehouse. I found out about showbread when you opened up for Blindside and so I bought “No sir, Nihilism is not practical” long before the show, little did I know how much I would take away from that album. As a singer/song writer myself, you have been a big influence on how I would like people to feel when they listen to my songs, not that I’ll ever be famous but hey, it’s a hobby. I can’t believe how much I have just written. I swear I was only going to write that first sentence and hit send. I guess this is something I’ve always wanted to thank you and the rest of Showbread for.

    Sincerely

    Keith

  12. Thank you Josh for writing this letter and making it public. I fully read it and the comments and enjoyed it, but….no but, just a deep gratitude.
    Reading this put clearer words in my skull to express my thoughts on how I have allowed myself to change in my own walk with Jesus and to better express them to others.

    For the politics part an excellent book is Andy Andrews “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” http://www.andyandrews.com/
    From cover to cover it is a thirty minute read and it is written to not mention Republicans/Democrats, but honesty.

    Thank you again Josh for sharing your passion.

    K, bye

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