This morning I stumbled across Billy Corgan’s “faith” blog (Twitter is a wonderful thing).
Being an artistic “child” of the 90s, I have a certain soft spot for Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins. They’re responsible for some amazing musical/emotional moments, some of which will always be hardwired into my soul.
It’s also been refreshing to watch, from a distance, Billy Corgan’s journey through faith and spirituality, which really seemed to break through with his brief project of 2002 – 2003, “Zwan“. Billy is just one of those interesting guys in rock and roll, equal parts pretense and honesty, brashness and vulnerability (not to mention he was a neighborhood “homey” from Wrigleyville). For all his faults, he wasn’t afraid to put his search out there for people to see, and that means a lot to me as a fellow “pilgrim” and musician.
So I was glad to find his blog. I make no claims to know exactly where Billy is, faith-wise. There certainly seems to be an acknowledge of the “One God” (and I assume Billy agrees his name is Yahweh), and occasionally Jesus gets thrown in for some extra good measure, but there’s also a lot of “everything else” in there as well: Native American/First People spirituality, some pan-Eastern approaches. It’s definitely a bit “Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink”.
At one point he says this: “Jesus Christ never said to build a church, so enough said about the God system. The real God machine is you. God made you to know to understand, to feel, to grow, to enjoy, to remember. He did not make you to grovel at the feet of another human… Man is lost.”
I had two immediate reactions. First, from a Christian worldview, Billy, you are so close! Yes, God made us to know and understand and feel and grow and enjoy and remember. A thousand times yes! I believe that God’s message to us (through Christ) is one of deep affirmation and love of who we are at our most basic level. It is an affirmation of our humanity (as part of redeemed creation).
But I have to push back (Billy, are you listening? Ha.) on his second point, specifically that Jesus Christ never said to build a church. Yes, in a sense Christ never said to build a church, and if you read the gospels from an ahistorical, non-contextualized point of view, you can throw all kinds of things into Jesus’ mouth (a lot Christians are experts at this, by the way). Because, even though Jesus never said to build a church, the assumption throughout the entire bible–and the context that Jesus was speaking in–was that God would always have a people for himself to help bring about the redemption of the creation. Jesus never said to build a “church” (how about the definition of church as “Called-Out-Ones”) because, um, he was speaking to the original “church” (called the nation of Israel!).
Simply put, rejecting “church” is like rejecting Jesus. You can’t divorce one from the other. Now, the expression of “church” is another topic altogether, and much more fluid and creative. But unfortunately, Christianity can never, ever be reduced to a hyper-individualized, atomized faith experience. It’s simply another consumer product of the west, masked in a bunch of new age Eastern pop mysticism. You have to have others. You have to participate in the body. You have to be part of the “Called-Out-Ones.”