I had the pleasure of briefly chatting with George Penk on the show “The Forum” on Life FM tonight. The topic was the recent and pubic fall from grace of Tim Lambesis, vocalist of heavy metal band “As I Lay Dying.”
As readers may know, As I Lay Dying is a band that has been around for some time, with their debut album Beneath the Encasing of Ashes coming out back in 2001. I discovered the band in roughly 2004, shortly after the release of their second album Frail Words Collapse, which came out in 2003. The band was openly Christian and was highly regarded within the “Christian Metal community.” That’s not a term I came up with, but one that is used a lot. Each new album released saw them rise higher, until they had attained dizzying heights of success. Their 2012 release “Awakened” was sublime. But things were not well for frontman Tim Lambesis. His marriage had fallen apart, he had disclosed to a number of people that he had lost his faith, and in February 2014 he pleaded guilty to attempting to hire a hit man to murder his estranged wife. He has since been sentenced and jailed.
In a couple of interviews since then it has come to light that for some time – even while performing in the band – Tim has not regarded himself as a Christian but in fact as an atheist. He didn’t make this public knowledge, however, because that would have hurt his place in the Christian metal scene. He says that this is also true of other purportedly “Christian” bands that As I Lay Dying had toured with.
Countless words have already been blogged by others about this awful downward spiral. I’m not going to add too much to it, but here are some of the things that have stood out to me throughout this whole affair.
- Yes, it’s particularly striking that a professing Christian would do this (and this is how most of us thought of Tim when the story first broke). But I’m concerned by the apparent shift that took place as the story unfolded, from “Oh no, one of us did this. Our side looks bad” to “Phew, thank goodness! He’s not a Christian. For a moment there we looked really bad!” If you reacted that way, you might have been concerned about the wrong thing.
- Should there even be a “Christian metal scene” – the scene that Tim felt pressure to misrepresent himself for? I guess it’s inevitable that we’re going to categorise together bands that openly identify as Christians. But I was reminded again that we should support things – including music – because it is good, and not because it has a Christian label on it. I’ve spoken at length about this in the past called “Stop being a Christian and Start Being a Person!” Some professedly “Christian” bands sing about nonsense, while some bands that make no overt profession of faith at all make music that is good and meaningful. Which should you prefer? I don’t think the choice should be hard. There shouldn’t be pressure to label your band “a Christian band.” Just be a good band. Write good music and sing songs with virtue. Sometimes you might even mention God in doing that. Sometimes you might not.
- The person most “worthy” of our love in this situation is Tim’s former wife, his would-be murder victim, Meggan. Let’s not forget that. This episode should not become another means of attaining celebrity status. Tim doesn’t need notoriety over this. Somebody tried to have Meggan Lambesis killed, and thankfully, they failed. Meggan Lambesis is still alive.
- Lastly, this isn’t the end for Tim. There’s a tendency to talk about him as “former….” Former Christian, former singer, former x, y, z. Obviously Tim’s life was a mess. But it’s not over, and we should not assume that there’s no hope for him. From what I’ve read he’s re-thinking the big questions about God, life and everything, a process that is involving reading Christian apologetics and some pretty heavy material in Christian philosophy. Is he genuine or is he trying to give the right impression? I don’t know. But he’s alive, he has a future, and I have no idea what might happen. Praying for Tim Lambesis will certainly do no harm.
And this is all I will say about the case of Tim Lambesis