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“The Skeptics Sing” is an occasional feature here at The Persistence of Song.  Posts in this category will highlight music with an explicitly unbelieving worldview.  Analyzing these songs will prove helpful in understanding unbelief.  The first installment of the series focused on a track from a new Wilco album.  Read a general description of the series, as well as the first installment, here.

This edition of “The Skeptics Sing” features one of my favorite albums of the year by one of my favorite new artists of the year.  The Head and the Heart is a Seattle-based folk-pop group.  The band has garnered some attention on public radio stations, with both “Down in the Valley” and “Lost in Mind” receiving significant radio play.

The songs from the band’s self-titled debut album are not hostilely inimical to the Christian faith.  Rather, the motif of unbelief on The Head and the Heart correlates maturation with the loss of faith.  Three tracks in particular demonstrate this theme.

“Cats And Dogs” and “Couer D’alene” are a sort of musical portmanteau.  The former is brief and segues carefully into the longer “Couer D’alene.”  Here’s a good quality live version.

“Ghosts” is the third track on the album.  It’s as catchy as the albums first two tracks, though with a bit of a sinister minor key.  Here’s a live version from the same studio session as the last clip.

The growing-up themes are readily apparent in these three songs.

–        “My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are.”

–        “Oh the songs people will sing for home / And for the ones that have been gone for too long”

–        “People say, ‘I knew you when you were six years old.’ / But I’ve changed.”

Sprinkled in these songs are two interesting remarks about faith.  In “Couer D’alene,” the speaker asks, “What will become of these gestures we’ve made?  I’ve given up my Bible; you moved out of state.”  And in “Ghosts,” we hear, “When Mary moved all of her *stuff* to Chicago, her mother made sure that she left with her Bible, but you won’t find her face on Sundays.”

In these lyrics, we hear accounts of growing out of the faith.  People grow up and grow apart from what they once confessed to believe.  A commonly referenced scenario is that of the church-going teenager, who in his college days forsakes the faith. 

Several reasons are commonly enlisted to explain this departure.  The apostates were unprepared for the philosophical and other intellectual challenges common at secular universities.  The legitimization of other worldviews causes them to question the legitimacy of their own.  The charm of debauchery leads some to disassociate themselves from the gospel.

These attempted explanations, though well-meaning, present only proximate causes of apostasy.  In reality, the true cause of young adult un-conversion is the lack of genuine conversion in the first place.  The antagonistic naturalistic professor (or party scene, or popular pluralism) gives deceived unbelievers the opportunity to realize their unbelief.       

This distinction has the appearance of triviality, but it is crucial in how we counsel the outed unbeliever.  If our recourse is to arguments for God’s existence or behavior modification, then we only deal with proximate causes and only treat symptoms. 

We need to exercise some narrative-control.  Perhaps, instead of treating them like they are growing out of or apart from the faith, we should question whether they have even been born for a second time (John 3:3).


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