Exchanging Rest for Restlessness

Recently, I was saddened to hear of yet another professing Christian artist, Audrey Assad, renouncing the faith she formerly professed. It seems that the past year has been something a winnowing fork, by which the winds of culture have threshed the proverbial chaff from the wheat (Matthew 3:12). Indeed, rather than settling into the solidity of orthodoxy, our culture seems to increasingly celebrate the seeming freedom of chaff in changing winds (Ephesians 4:14).

Upon a cursory reading, Assad’s Twitter thread suggests that she has been liberated, that she has come to a greater sense of freedom and opportunity since shedding the constraints of Christian doctrine and practice. Upon a more critical (and, I believe, more intellectually honest) reading, though, it becomes clear that Assad is not leaving the creeds of Christianity for a beautiful freedom but trading them for the unsubstantial and unstable creed of contemporary culture.

If my words sound harsh, dear Reader, please know that I am merely concerned, for Assad’s deconstruction represents only one of a number of valuable, gifted, and much-loved individuals who are trading the nourishing and rooted life of the wheat for the parched and chaotic existence of the chaff. I am examining Assad’s statement below not to target her in particular but, I hope, to help us better discern what is actually being said in such increasingly-common and, sadder still, increasingly-celebrated statements:

Many of you have asked over the past few years what I believe now. I have been quiet mostly because A, I have never known how to give an easy or concise answer to that question; and B, because frankly, none of us owes that information to others…especially before we are ready to share it. I’m aware of the complexities that exist inside my career and my fan base and my music simply because it was all built on me believing and staking my life upon the same Christian story my listeners did.

Audrey Assad (Twitter thread)

Our first clue that Assad has been undergoing significant deconstruction is when she writes that “none of us owes that information to others.” I’ve heard it said before that if we genuinely believe and have good reason to think something is true, it is irresponsible not to share this conviction with others. Granted, there are right and wrong ways to go about such evangelism, but that does not excuse people of conviction from it. Biblically, Christians are commanded to profess and proclaim their faith. Separating one’s spiritual life from one’s social persona is a dangerous division that indicates one or both as inauthentic.

Assad rightly recognizes that she has built her artistic career on the foundation of Christianity; however, she immediatel negates the authority Christianity by the single word: “story.” By ascribing the creeds of Christianity to her listeners and minimizing them as merely “story,” Assad presents the former foundation of her life and career as something subjective which has no concrete bearing on her life.

So when I (as I have publicly shared here before) lost complete touch with that belief, it uprooted my entire life, my sense of identity, and certainly my relationship to my work.

Here’s the thing: “lost complete touch” is a passive phrase. However, keeping faith is an active, ceaseless endeavor. Granted, it is an endeavor which is impossible without the sustaining power of the Spirit, so rather than look down on this presumed passiveness, we ought to persist all the more fervently in prayer and devotion, knowing how easily our passivity can become our demise.

Well, as I announced my facilitation of a new round of Soul Games for womxn this week, naturally some of you have begun to raise questions again. I felt in my spirit today it was time to tell you that I am not a practicing Christian anymore. I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for about 3 years, which I have only held back from saying because I wasn’t really sure it was ‘over’ .. and to be honest, I can’t predict the future and don’t know where life will lead me, and I consider no doors to be closed ones.

Here, we begin to see the creed of Assad’s new life and identity. Using “womxn” is a subtle yet unmistakable first confession of the secular creed. At once renouncing her Christian practice, Assad adopts the terminology of secularism; although trying on the surface to appear inclusive and open, this is yet at the exclusion of Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and she is thus exchanging one creed for another.

There are only curiosities…there is only presence…there is only gratitude. And those are the things I practice. Curiosity and presence and gratitude are my prayer life. In pain and bliss and everything in between. Whatever or whoever God is, I am still in love. More now than ever, the less I have clung to ideas. I am simply trying to be here, now. And that is where I found God again after a couple of years of nihilism. (But that is a story for another post, one which I shall write soon)

This tweet is the most troubling to me. In it, Assad speaks in the tongues of contemporary culture; lovely phrases, general observations, and, ultimately, unsatisfying vagaries. I believe that both sides of the political and moral spectrum can agree that, whatever love is, it cannot be objectless; indeed, curiosity, presence, gratitude, and love demand an object or, at least, some objective end. To conclude with a flourish of “whatever and whoever God is, I am still in love,” is to vocalize a vain love for a potential nonbeing; it is sad and lonely and, likely, unsatisfying even to the secular mind.

Those of you who are disappointed by this news, or heartbroken or grieved, I’m truly sorry. It brings me absolutely no pleasure to pain you. Reading your notes and messages and comments about how my music has accompanied you has brought me no end of joy and blessing. If you still want to find that companionship in my old songs, I would love that. I don’t disown the person I was or the things I said. She was telling the truth as she understood it, and she is still a part of me. If you need to leave behind this space, my music, or my work, I understand and I wish you peace and joy and every good thing. And thank you for being here.

This is where Assad makes a dangerous statement: “I don’t disown the person I was or the things I said.” While she continues to present truth as subjective, she is making what I fear to be a secularly-fatal error by not totally renouncing her life as a professing Christian. To acknowledge her previous convictions and truth claims as potentially valid may prove to be her Achilles heel, for while it may allow for Christians to continue to enjoy her music in good conscious, I predict that others will be offended that Assad did not wholly cancel her past.

Those of you who are still interested in sticking around for my newer music and my conversation with God and myself and the world, I appreciate you too. Reading your notes and messages and comments about how my music has continued to accompany you through your shifting…and evolving and breaking and rebuilding has brought me no end of joy and blessing. Thank you for being here. I can’t answer all your questions right now. But I’ll be more open and share more as time moves on. I just felt like now was the moment to let you know that things have changed as deeply as they have. Thank you for being here.

Xo Audrey

After sharing that she is not sure who or what God is, now Assad says that her new music is a conversation with Him. This seems illogical from any perspective, though it may sound appealingly open-minded on the surface.

Rather than end this post in sorrow, I will leave you with these words of hope, sung by Assad before her emptier words were typed and tweeted. Although their dear singer appears to have forsaken blessed rest for restlessness, these lyrics remain true. The goodness, truth, and beauty proclaimed in this song do not depend upon the state of the singer:

Oh, speak now for my soul is listening
Say that You have saved me, whisper in the dark, the dark
‘Cause I know You’re more than my salvation
Without You I am hopeless, tell me who You areYou are the keeper of my heart
You are the keeper of my heart

And I am restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You
I am restless, I’m restless
‘Til I rest in You, ’til I rest in You

Audrey Assad, “Restless”

As St. Augustine said, our hearts truly are restless until they rest in the Lord. I mourn, though, to think that our culture has so glorified restlessness that we no longer desire true rest.

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