Church-nerds in America may have seen the "Take My Bishop" application on Facebook, where you can forward a photo of your own area Pastor-to-the-Pastors to anybody you want.
Apparently this same Application has been created for Bishops in Finland, and this YouTube video has been posted as well.
The background music is "No Matter" by Lost And Found from their Something Different album. I produced that recording, and that's me you hear on bass, and Pastor Lowell Michelson on drums, in addition to George Baum on piano and Michael Bridges on electric guitar. Cool connections abound!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Church-nerds in America may have seen the "Take My Bishop" application on Facebook, where you can forward a photo of your own area Pastor-to-the-Pastors to anybody you want.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Continuing the series of video posts from the orchestra show I played 10 years ago when I lived in Chicago.
Performed on March 25, 1999, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Oak Park, IL.
Jonathan Rundman: accordion, vocals;
Andy Deitrich: snare;
Benji Derrick: acoustic guitar;
Matt Marohl: mandolin;
Kym Spilker: violin;
Charity Caldwell: viola;
Jane Deitrich: upright bass;
Christopher Warmanen: oboe;
The studio version of this song appeared on the 1997 Jonathan Rundman album "Recital," and a remixed version appears on the 2007 album "The Best of Jonathan Rundman: 20 Songs From The 20th Century."
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
As if the officially published interview wasn't detailed and strange enough, I happen to have the copies of some other questions I was asked that were edited out of the final version. You can read them below. Thanks to Anthony and the KTB folks for such an interesting discussion! (By the way, this interview was conducted in August of 2008.)
So, the first question that my editor asked me to ask, he is worried that you are not nearly famous enough for a feature. How famous are you exactly?
Paul Westerberg has a great lyric that goes “they ask him ‘are you famous?’ / ‘you’ve answered that, you know’.” My answer would be, not very. However, I think that whatever fame I’ve accumulated is thanks to niche appeal. Among Gen-X Lutherans in church leadership roles, I’m pretty well known. There’s some overlap in the other mainline denominations as well. I’m also getting some wonderful support from the Finnish-American community, who are just discovering me in the past year or so. One sub-set of folks who I’m always glad to have interested in my work are those people who follow suspiciously Christian fringe-Americana bands like Vigilantes of Love, Victoria Williams, Over the Rhine, Bruce Cockburn, etc.
You are a member of ELCA, which is is considered the more liberal of the Lutheran synods. Do you notice a leveling off or a decline of membership? Do you think the mainline protestant denominations are dying? What do you make of the conservative instinct, that suggests this is because of a lack of moral rigor?
In my travels around the country, I don’t notice the decline, although all the statistics say that it’s happening. I don’t think the membership shrinkage can be blamed on “liberalism”...what I’ve seen is that the proudly liberal and the proudly conservative congregations are growing. I think that any place that clearly, publicly takes a stand in either direction will draw new people. My own congregation here in the Twin Cities is one of the most progressive in the ELCA, and our membership is booming. We’re having trouble finding places for people to sit on Sunday mornings. Seems to me that the way to drive away your members is to be passionless and boring and have nothing challenging to say in any direction.
And if that is the case, what do you make of Ratzinger circling the wagons, and the Episcopalians in the middle of schism, considering you were founded as heretical?
I don’t know much about the Catholic situation, but it’s interesting watching the Anglican community dealing with their issues. I suppose it could be a preview of what could happen to us Lutherans. One thing I like about the ELCA is that our relatively young denomination is the result of a couple hundred years of denominational mergers...different kinds of Lutherans agreeing to team up. It would be a drag to introduce a split after such a nice run of cooperation. We move really really slow when it comes to social issues, and that’s annoying for us progressives, but I do think we’re making headway. I guess we can learn from the Catholics that a couple decades of waiting and studying is nothing when you look back across 2000 years of church history.
You talk about how Christian rock is profoundly white, and that you want to work against that, but if there is anything more white then Christian rock (of the Jars of Clay school), its indie rock. Is there a lack of diversity, in both categories? Do you find that a concern, and if you do find it a concern, how do you work on it?
I remember when I gave that “white” quote...it was to a writer from the Illinois Entertainer who was interviewing me about my Sound Theology album. It was a phone interview, and the comment just came out of my mouth...I wish I never said it, ‘cause my problems with Christian Culture don’t really have anything to do with race. Although, I’ve been denominationally influenced (some might say brainwashed) by the values of the ELCA since I was a child, so I can’t help but try to be as inclusive as possible in my own music and presentation.
You’re right, both CCM and Pitchfork-rock are pretty white. If I had to compare, I think indie rock is the whiter of the two. I’m not sure it’s a concern that indie rock is “too white.” The bands reflect the audience, and vice versa. What I think is really strange is how white people have adopted Black Roots music, and young African Americans have not. A year ago or so I saw the Blind Boys of Alabama in concert...they were awesome. The audience was almost entirely white. I bet it would be a similar situation for other old school black artists. When I lived in Chicago my wife worked with black teenagers on the West Side, and we’d talk to them about music, and none of them had ever heard of Chuck Berry or Aretha Franklin.
What is Whiter: Minneapolis, Indie Rock, or being a Lutheran?
Indie Rock wins again. I’ve lived in Minneapolis now for six years, and anyone who thinks Minneapolis is white just needs to go shopping at Target. It’s like a small scale UN in there. I suppose if one’s idea of Lutheran was “the 80 people I see at church every Sunday” then maybe it appears to be white, but I have the privilege of seeing the Lutheran church in its wide scope. I’ve been the interim musician at an all-African American congregation on the West Side of Chicago, I’ve presented music with Lutherans from Palestine, Africa, and India, and within blocks of my house there are Lutheran churches who read the Gospel in Hmong each week. As a kid I remember being so excited to discover songs from around the globe included in our Lutheran hymnal. One of the most fun things about being Lutheran is our awareness of the Christian family on a global scale....not just the folks at our own local congregation.
Also, how different are you from the usual Christian musicians, if you preform at places like Lifest, with Rebecca St. James and Switchfoot? Do you consider yourself active in that part of the community, or as a kind of outlier?
I’m certainly an outlier in the CCM universe. I’ve had a chance to play at Lifest and Cornerstone, two of the big Midwestern Christian Rock fests, but they’re probably the two most flexible of those events. Plus, I only got booked at those events ‘cause I happened to know somebody personally who was booking a certain stage. If I wanted to play at Creation or whatever the other fests are called, I couldn’t even track down a phone number for a booker. I know, because I thought that I should try to play at SonShine, the big festival here in Minnesota, since I’m a local guy, but I couldn’t even find a name or phone number of anybody who was booking it. The CCM world is a self contained universe, and it’s very rare for some indie artist to find a way in.
You opened for Switchfoot though, what do you figure about Christian bands going back into the faith closet after they mainstream themselves?
Yes, I’ve had the chance to open for few big Christian acts, and when I was playing keyboards for Beki Hemingway (who is kind of a Christian alterna-rock legend) I got to do even more shows like that. After playing endless solo shows for 30 people in the church basement, or the grungy bar, it really is fun to have a big PA and a soundman and an audience of a few hundred. I don’t really care if Christian bands cross over to the mainstream audience or not, or go from mainstream to CCM....I say, hey, if somebody wants you to play at their venue, and you wanna do it, then do it. I know that I’m thrilled to play anywhere that somebody will have me. So if I get asked to play some big Christian festival, or go on tour opening for Aimee Mann, I’ll gladly do either one.
Do you have any salacious gossip about Ms. St. James, a peak at her diva like tendencies, an outrageous rider, or is she just that nice?
In my experience schmoozing at the Christian celebrity events, I’ve found that it’s quite difficult to actually meet and hang out with the other artists. Most bands are there together with their own crew and families, and there’s not a lot of “hey, let’s make new friends!” The one thing I will say about the Christian music stars that I’ve been with is that, in general, they’re amazingly, jarringly good looking. The men and the women. And yes, they’re naturally attractive people, but they’re workin’ it, too, you know....they’re really thin and fit, with super trendy clothing, teeth whitener, and $300 haircuts, the whole nine yards. It’s really quite incredible. They’re like a master race.
You have worked, and played extensively at both Christian and secular venues, is there tension between being of the world but not in the world, what are the advantages to playing in places like the Colourbox, versus places like Lifest, or in small clubs versus church basement, and the opposite—which do you prefer?
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the years, and I’ve realized that I love both, and hope to be able to be legitimate in both (and all) situations. In the late 90s, before the release of the Sound Theology album, I spent years on the road playing mostly rock clubs and coffee houses, and it got really old. However, if I only played church gigs, that would be equally lame. Club gigs are fun ‘cause the media will actually cover you, preview the show, etc. And it’s wonderful to play a full band show with big loud guitar amps and not worry about the listeners’ ears. Church gigs are great, though, because they’re intergenerational...no club show will have senior citizens and babies in the crowd. And church audiences actually listen to every word you say and sing. I never really think about the “in but not of” issue...it’s natural for Lutherans to just exist in the world, wherever they are, as people of faith. Lutherans don’t bust things up into “sacred” and “secular.” Of course, as a performer, I always try to be aware of who my audience is, but I just do my thing...I play hymns in rock clubs, and I play love/life/politics songs at church.
One of your most memorable lyrics is "my faith is not erotic, my faith is not neurotic, my faith is not psychotic," which i found really interesting, because you have a talent for tender songs that are incredibly erotic. Do you find that there is any intermingling between the erotic feelings that you write about, and your relationship with God? It seems to be a very Lutheran ideal, one that is earthbound, not mystical at all, is that fair? Or did you just need a rhyme for narcotic, neurotic, psychotic, or robotic? And sometimes, isn't faith narcotic, when it relieves pain and gives comfort? Or do you consider that every day of survival, of experience, is a miracle, and that miracle, the miracle of existence, is considered a mystical awareness?
I have no problem with erotic feelings. I just get the heebie-jeebies when Christians totally bury their sexual selves, and so the only outlet they have for it is in “praise and worship” situations. Sometimes I’ll catch a late night TV infomercial for a Praise and Worship music CD and they’ll show a sports arena filled with thousands of middle aged women totally blissing out in orgasmic delight as they sing “Shout to the Lord” or whatever, and it gives me the creeps. Not everybody’s faith manifests itself that way, so I wrote that song “You Don’t Speak For Me” to represent another way of living out an authentic spiritual life. The same is true for the other words in the song, “narcotic,” “psychotic,” and “robotic.” I sing “my faith is not narcotic” to provide an alternative to all the Jesus-as-drug references in Christian culture...I’m always annoyed when Christians use the language of addiction to describe their faith, like the term “Jesus freak” or “high on Jesus” or that whole Pentecostal movement in where everybody starts laughing and falling over and acting drunk. My favorite fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians) is “self-control” so I wanted to be sure that self-control got some props in a culture filled with religious “freaks.”
Some questions about Sound Theology: Can you tell some anecdotes, find some context, about the song "Loneliness to Happiness," I find personally it is so far away from my personal experience, that I wanted to know why you found that?
I’ve lived a charmed life. No childhood trauma. Happy family. My dreams of being a musician are being realized. My children are healthy. I’m very thankful for how things have worked out, and I don’t take it for granted. All this, though, and I’ve found that it’s nothing I can share openly without sounding like a jerk. I remember once I was having dinner with a group of friends, and I was commenting about how excited I was to be going out on tour, and I had a chance to play some really great shows, etc. One of my friends got really mad and said “Some of us hate getting up and going to work every day, you know....I hate my job, and I hate doing it, and I don’t need to hear about how great it’s gonna be for you to go off on tour.” I was shocked and embarrassed, to say the least. Another example: my wife had healthy and easy pregnancies with our children, but I’ve discovered that I can never state that fact in public because so many couples struggle with getting pregnant, or if they are pregnant, they have lots of sickness and complications. So this moment of great joy that we’ve experienced has to be hidden. It’s the loneliness of happiness.
Have you succeeded in your prayer not to backslide into anger and contempt, at this failing rock star attempt? Do you still want to be a rock star?
I still entertain the rock star fantasy, but now that I’m 37 with a couple of kids, it doesn’t matter to me as much. And I know that I missed my window...if it was gonna happen, it would’ve happened a decade ago. Thankfully, I haven’t slid into anger and contempt. A good reality check for me is to watch the exploits of the celebrities on the tabloid magazines in the grocery store checkout aisle...it’s proof over and over and over again that fame and money do not bring happiness. I also have enough perspective to know how good I have it...I can make my living as an independent musician, I make the albums I want to make, I have a nice base of supporters who are interested in my work, I can travel around the country playing my songs, and nobody tells me what I can or cannot do. It’s really the best situation anyone could ask for.
You have spoken against the stupidity and commodity spectacle and much current American protestant forces. You refer to it as creating monsters. Do you have any suggestions that make traditional Christian texts alive again, to young Christians?
This is so tricky. I don’t know. I was in a confirmation class of about 30 kids. We all heard the same stuff, read the same Bible verses, sang the same hymns, knew the same Pastors and leaders. I loved it. Most of the kids were bored to tears. I’m still a part of the church. I bet about two thirds of my confirmation class are gone for good. Why do some people “get it” and others don’t? I think the answer might be in education....for some reason, I understood WHY we were saying and doing and learning that stuff. Most kids, and most folks in the pew, have no clue why we recite certain things, why the Pastor wears a dress, why the altar colors are purple during Lent, why we read certain Bible verses on certain days. There are specific reasons for every little thing we do in church, and I think they’re wonderful and beautiful and deep and helpful reasons....but most people don’t know it. To them it’s empty tradition. Or worse, they don’t know why we do it, but they come to idolize the rituals themselves, and get horribly stuck in a rut of repetition, inflexibility, and intolerance. One of the reasons I’m so excited about going out to play my own songs is that by bashing my guitar and yelling about liturgy and hymns and order, I can uncover those core meanings in a fresh way for some folks in my audience. Frequently I get emails or comments from folks saying “I’ll never think of Ash Wednesday the same way again” or “I’ve sung that hymn my whole life, but I’ve never paid attention to the lyrics until tonight!”
How lonely is the Midwest, in songs like "Omaha," you make it sound like a series of absences and spaces of mourning, as do Connor Obrest and Bruce Springsteen. Is there any fun to be had in Nebraska? Can you think of any examples of a kick ass party song about kicking it there?
Rural Midwestern geography has been a recurring theme throughout all my albums, and a lot of good regional artists from Mellencamp to Uncle Tupelo to the Jayhawks have tapped into to those lonely, dreary feelings. For me, it was challenging to grow up in an isolated little Midwestern town, and even now I get a bit of the small town blues whenever I get out of the city and visit places like that. If you want fun, positive songs about rural life in the Heartland, all you need to to is watch country music videos. Sometimes when I’m in a hotel room with cable TV I’ll watch CMT, and I’m amazed at how so many songs are raucous party anthems about “getting back to the country” and “remembering the good old days” with images of dudes on flatbed trucks and combines, strumming guitars, dancing in the wheat fields, and jumping in the old swimming hole, surrounded by a bevy of babes and cases of beer. When it addresses small town USA, country music accentuates the positive, rock music accentuates the negative.
Tell me about why and how much you love Liz Phair? What are you feelings about "HWC" and how did you celebrate the 10th anniversary of Exile in Guyville?
When critics rave about Liz, they only talk about her dirty mouth. The media never mentions what really makes her brilliant...riffs riffs riffs! She’s one of my favorite rock guitarists and composers, and her chord changes and rhythm guitar playing is totally inspiring. I can’t help but think that she wrote that “HWC” song as a total commentary on her own infamy for using foul language...she took her claim to fame, and stretched it to ridiculous lengths, probably just to see what those cuss-loving journalists would say about it. I didn’t buy the Exile anniversary reissue...not enough bonus tracks. I think my all-time favorite Liz album is Whitechocolatespaceegg.
How has the indie scene in Chicago differ from the one in Minneapolis?
I’m not sure. When I lived in Chicago I was a pretty active participant in the scene...I was out seeing shows numerous times a week, playing tons of clubs, and I got to know a lot of people. When I moved here to Minneapolis I became a parent, so my evenings were instead spent changing diapers and trying to sleep.
Larry Norman yes or no?
I’ve never heard Larry’s music, and don’t have any of his albums, although occasionally I get compared to him. My friend Beki Hemingway was Larry’s backup singer for a few years, and this Summer I sat in with Beki’s band and we did a tribute to Larry...one of his songs called “Why Don’t You Look in to Jesus.” It was the first Larry Norman song I’d ever heard, and it was pretty rocking.
Danielson Famile, yes or no?
Never heard them either. Although people tell me I should watch that movie about them. I never listen to Christian rock, or suspiciously-Christian Indie Rock. I prefer the suspiciously-Christian rock of the ‘80s and ‘90s: Maria McKee, T Bone Burnett, Peter Case, Sam Phillips, Tonio K, Bruce Cockburn.
Just how Christian is Sufjan Stephens? Are you envious of his success in the middle west?
I’ve only heard one Sufjan song...a Christmas one. It’s on my iPod. It’s a pretty cool song. And I want to get his Michigan and Illinois albums ‘cause I’ve lived in both those states. I recorded a song back in 1997 called “Front Row at the Fashion Show” where I sang quietly over a banjo and trombone, and this year the song got licensed for airplay in all the Starbucks Coffee locations around the world. After that, a couple people said to me “Hey, you must be influenced by Sufjan Stevens.” It was kind of annoying ‘cause my song was written and recorded a decade ago, way before Sufjan was around. So that’s my only beef with him.
Do you think that being explicit about your faith makes you more money, less money? Do you play "We're Creating Monsters" at FinnFest, for example? In an incredibly practical way, how do you feed your kids doing this sort of thing? Does it become a voluntary vow of poverty?
I didn’t realize it was going to happen at the time, but my entire career changed when I made my first faith-explicit album. It was the Sound Theology project, and when that came out it really launched me to a new level of visibility, and income. Before that album I was sort of a generic pop/folk songwriter, but once I addressed faith-based issues I discovered that I could bring something unique to the table, and a really great audience of interested people popped up all over the country. So when it comes to feeding my kids, and contributing to my family, I owe it all to the church and to church people. They’re the population who makes my vocation possible. My wife Dawn has always had a normal job throughout my entire career, so thankfully I haven’t need to be the only breadwinner.
How does the making music, the touring, the recording, and the like, interfere with your having kids? Especially touring for the last few years, throughout the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden?
It totally and completely interferes. In the decade before I had kids I was on the road about 150 days per year. Then when I became a parent I became a stay-home-Dad during the midweek while my wife is at work. Now I can only tour on weekends, play locally in the evening, and a few weeks during the year I’ll go off on extended tours while my kids are with their Grandparents. But yes, taking care of babies and preschoolers makes touring, writing, and recording nearly impossible. This new album I just released is called Insomniaccomplishments because all the late night feeding and diapering totally messed up my sleep schedule, and I ended up with pretty serious insomnia. Rather than lying awake and bored alone in the dark all night I’d get up and write and record songs instead, so the bulk of this new CD was completed at 3AM while my family was sleeping. The last time I played in Finland and Sweden my wife and 2 year old son came with me. For my gigs in Finland we left our toddler with my cousins while I played, but in Sweden he had to come along to the club. I was playing a show at Club Mondo in Stockholm, which is this giant multi-roomed rock venue and disco, and we had to create a little play area behind the bar where my son could hang out with my wife during my set.
"We all need love, the serious kind"—do you think that occasionally we need love the comic kind?
Maybe in our personal lives, but I think the love we need in society and around the globe is pretty serious business.
What is it like to be a youth worker? Did it emerge organically from the youth group being one of the few things to do in the Upper Peninsula? Was it evangelical work? Or was it a way to keep teenage kids as Christians? When they are in the middle of trying to figure out what it means to be Christian, or if they want to be Christians at all, what are the implications of organizing around them? Is it a way to keep them safe, from stopping thinking outside the margins, to be good Christians, or to challenge them into otherness? What happens when the difficult questions start? What do you do, as a youth worker, if one of your 15 year olds wants an abortion, comes out of the closet, or tells you he is no longer Christian?
I did get interested in working in youth ministry because of my own positive experience as a teenager in a church youth group, and at church camp in the Summers. When I was kid at camp and at youth gatherings I was encouraged to play guitar, get up on stage, be a leader, and develop my gifts...I was given a lot of encouragement back then, and it was the beginning of what would become my life’s work as a musician and songwriter.
I had a very part time job as a youth director in a congregation back when I was 21, right at the beginning of my solo music career. I was never much of an evangelist....my strengths have always been in preaching to the choir. Some people are really good at reaching out to people who aren’t in the church at all, but I’m best at encouraging the people who are already there. I had a squeaky clean career as a youth director...no trips to get kids out of jail, no pregnancies, no abuse, no serious drama. The bulk of my work was just being present...talking, going out for pizza, taking kids to movies and concerts, helping kids plan songs and skits for worship services, planning service projects, taking kids hiking, and just celebrating those small joyful moments of life with them.
The All Music Guide quotes this about you: "Rundman formed a musical vocabulary grounded in the budding strains of Americana/roots rock, Lutheran hymns, traditional American folk music, and '70s rock to present a uniquely eclectic variant of Midwestern roots? I grew up in Alberta, so this part of your All Music Guide, fascinated me. I have a few questions about it. Did you listen to chart country, which was the only station that was available to me sometimes, on trips into the city? Which Lutheran hymns did you sing? Do you still remember them? How did they differ from Episcopalian or Methodist or Catholic, or were there just Lutherans up there? My mother and father only let me listen to folk music until I went away to school when I was 14, was this a similar condition, and if so, do you find Pete Seeger as sanctimonious as I do? Could you find enough weed to make Foghat or Frampton palatable? Is there a rock scene there, like the straight edge scene in Provo, filled with kids who had nothing else to do?
I never listened to country music on the radio as a kid. My parents mostly had Top 40 on the radio, and in the car we listened to 8-track tapes of Simon & Garfunkel and Kenny Rogers. I got my own radio in my bedroom when I was 5 years old, and because of that I know every pop single from 1975 until 1988. Lutheran hymns were a big deal to me as a kid. Our denomination got a new hymnal in 1978, and I grew to love all those songs. Lutherans around the USA still sing from that repertoire. Our town had Methodists and Catholics and everyone else, but I don’t know what they were singing. It was before the “praise band” trend, so I think everybody had an organist or pianist back then. When I first started playing guitar in church in the late 80s, it was still a pretty novel idea. I have an uncle who collects 78 RPM records from the Depression, so as a young teenager I got really into listening to old country songs by The Carter Family, and my cousin and I learned all those songs on guitar. I never heard Pete Seeger back then, but the local radio was filled with Rust Belt arena rock: Foghat, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, etc., plus the hair metal of the day. There was no rock scene at all. This was pre-Nirvana, so kids in my town weren’t learning to play guitar. I was one of the only kids in the whole school who played a rock-band instrument, and the only boy who dared to sing in public. I got teased and called “fag” because I played the piano and was a serious band geek. In the mid-80s I discovered the developing scene of “neo-traditionalist” rock bands, and got really into groups like The Silos, The Rainmakers, The BoDeans, Fire Town, Violent Femmes, and others who were playing proto-Americana. I was literally the only kid in town who liked this music...I would save up my money, and when my church youth group would attend big youth events in Chicago I’d rush off to the record store and buy all the albums that were unavailable in the Upper Peninsula.
Also, speaking of Provo, growing up LDS, i came to believe that my peoples casseroles and jell-o salads were superior, my Lutheran friends tell me that they have better ones. Any opinions? Any exciting recipes for either?
Culturally speaking, I’m a bad Lutheran. Lutherans are supposed to love coffee, casserole, jello, beer, and sitting in the back row....but I don’t like any of those things.
How is a protestant rock ethic the same and how is it different from a protestant work ethic?
One of my proudest moments is coming up with that album title Protestant Rock Ethic but I think the joke is lost to almost everyone. The “protestant work ethic” that we have here in America has been taken to such an extreme that many American Christians can’t grasp the idea that God’s love for us is a free gift, regardless of our good work. So I thought I’d diffuse the idea, by replacing the word “work” with the word “rock,” which I think is a really funny joke.
Your "Texas Kyrie" has an energy, and an almost desperation, that other Kyries lack. Did you think about Texas when making it? Are you doing any other state Kyries? What would a North Dakota Kyrie sound like, a California one?
Actually, that song was not one of my commissioned works. I wrote it as a songwriting challenge, to see if I could create liturgical music that could be played by full band without rehearsal, and that could be sung by a congregation without sheet music or any printed text. That’s why the chord progression is a loop, and why the response is an echo. It’s called “Texas Kyrie” because I had a gig at Concordia University in Austin, TX, and after my show I was staying in the campus’ guest apartment. That night I stayed up late writing the song, and I didn’t want to title it just “Kyrie,” so I named the piece after the state I was in at the time. The song appeared soon after on my Sound Theology album, and I discovered that there was a huge interest out in the church for rock-band based liturgical music, so eventually I composed the rest of what would become my Heartland Liturgy.
How exciting is the American Swedish Institute?
Every year that I get older, the more excited I get about my ethnic heritage. My wife is Swedish and I’m Finnish, and we’re both learning more and more about our family backgrounds. My relatives came to America in 1903, and they brought their faith with them. I’ve been able to go back to Finland, to those little towns where they came from, and I’ve stood in their old church buildings and seen my family names on the gravestones over there. It’s pretty powerful.
In your song, "Meeting Nixon", you write "Somehow, somewhere, something/down the line/we will be meeting Nixon, Meeting Nixon/When we go to the White House in the sky": Do you really think that Nixon went to heaven? I always thought that he was one of the minor princes in hell, brought to earth in a Faustian bargain, engineered by Kissinger. Was this an oblique reference to Luther's "by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone"? Do you really want to meet him? What would you say to him?
Yes, I think the song is trying to remind people that we get to heaven because of God’s love for us, not because of how wonderfully we’ve behaved. It’s fun to sing about Richard Nixon, but the I don’t think of the song being about him specifically....it’s really about all presidents and politicians, and how God’s love transcends all the political divisions that we spend so much time and money and energy worrying about. It’s a good reality check in an election year, especially.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The May 5th issue of Christian Century magazine features a review of my Insomniaccomplishments CD, along with reviews of the new U2 and Billy Bragg projects. Click to read the whole thing.
The text for the review is below. A shout-out for Beki Hemingway, and a mention of Matt Patrick's delicious production work on "I thought you were mine!"
Jaunty Minneapolis Lutheran-rocker Jonathan Rundman returns with an album spurred by bouts of insomnia. The sleepless nights were worth it, as Rundman demonstrates on a delicious minor-key rock hymn "If You Have a Question": "When you lie awake at 3 a.m., trouble running through your mind / You don't need to be afraid to ask, you can leave your fear behind." The prolific Rundman delivers 18 solid songs. He's joined by Denver singer-songwriter Beki Hemingway on the tender ballad "I Thought You Were Mine"; listen for the instrumental break teaming toy piano with mellotron.