Fallen Heroes

Over this past weekend accusations of sexual misconduct were made against Jesse Lacy, frontman of the band Brand New. Not long after Lacy released a statement, not addressing the specific accusations or the victim in question, but acknowledging he has a history of sexual addiction, which led him to take advantage of numerous women and to be unfaithful in most all of his relationships.

Brand New is one of my favorite bands of all time. Their album The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me is one I’ve regarded as the best album of the 2000s and possible my favorite album of all time. Subsequently Jesse Lacy is someone I considered to hero to some degree. The accusations against him were devastating to me. I didn’t need his statement to know they were true, as a vast majority of sexual abuse accusations are true statistically. The victims in these situations should always, always be given the benefit of the doubt. Lacy’s statement simply confirmed the truth and gave some clarity to it. Sadly this is all too common. Men in positions of power taking advantage of women. Lately, there seems to be a steady flow of accusations being made, particularly against men in the entertainment industry. On one hand I’m glad these women are finally feeling empowered to speak out, on the other hand it’s heartbreaking to think of how these women have been hurt, and to think of the many more out there who haven’t spoken up. So what do we do?

Coming at this from a Christian perspective I want to make a couple things clear. First, we are all sinners, we all fall short, none of us can claim to be superior to another in this regard. Secondly, no one is beyond redemption. That being said, there are certain sins that are systemic and particularly destructive and there should be an effort to put a stop to those things. One of those is the abuse of power that leads to sexual violence against others. The reason this is so sinister is that it strips the victims of their humanity, it leaves them powerless, hopeless, and physically and emotionally scared in a way that many of us can’t imagine. Also, we live in on a culture that gives the benefit of the doubt to those in power. Victims of sexual violence often aren’t believed and are placed with the burden of proof. So when we think of these abusers, usually men in positions of power; Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Jessy Lacy, to name a few, how do we respond? In the examples I gave, these men are beloved entertainers, they’ve produced art that we love, art that’s moved us, made us smile, given us fond memories. And now what?

For me, I’m not sure I can listen to Brand New’s music again… maybe someday, but I’m not sure. I just know I don’t want to to shrug my shoulders and say, oh well. I don’t want what these men did to be okay, or just written off and forgotten about. A couple nights ago I read a post by Jason Tate who runs the music site chorus.fm (formerly absolutepunk.net). He too is a huge Brand New fan and he wrote about his thoughts on the recent events and something he said really resonated with me, “…I don’t want to contribute to the normalization of acts like this. If we just go on, everything that happened fades to the back of everyone’s memory. There’s no accountability…” Like I said before, these men aren’t beyond redemption and none of us are better than them, but again, what they’ve done is incredibly destructive and it’s important we don’t normalize that kind of behavior. We need to stand up and say, this is not okay, and it needs to stop. I’m not sure what that looks like exactly, but for me right now, it means no longer supporting a band I once loved. It means not supporting systems or individuals who perpetuate sexual violence. As a father it means raising my sons to respect women, and to see all human beings as Children of God and who are all made in His image. To teach against objectification in a world where it’s rampant. And it means praying for those who’ve been hurt. That they would find healing, peace, rest, and forgiveness for those who have hurt them. And to pray for the abusers. That they would be accountable to their actions, seek forgiveness from those they’ve hurt and seek forgiveness for themselves.

One quick closing thought. This isn’t something that is exclusive to entertainers, athletes, and politicians. This is happening in our own communities, which is all the more reason there needs to be accountability.

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How I’ve Come to Love the Library

Growing up I wasn’t a fan of reading. Sometimes I would go to the local library and look at books, but I would end up checking out a few issues of Popular Mechanics magazine instead, only to look at the pictures.

Things didn’t change much as I got older. The only time I read was when it was required for school and even then I found ways to cut corners. By the time I graduated high school I’d probably only read a handful of books beginning to end.

In college I still wasn’t reading much and only went to the library for research. I didn’t mind the library at my college, but I started to rack up fines and found it difficult to find books on my own. This is when I started to hate the library. The card cataluge and dewy decimal system was a a joke and computers didn’t make it much easier. The fines were annoying, the librarians were mean and where did they get all those books anyway?

As my hatred of libraries increased, ironically my love for books did also. One of my problems was I didn’t know what I liked to read. Then I read Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz the first non-fiction book I’d ever read on my own. I loved it and realized I loved non-fiction. This was just shortly after I graduated from college and I began to start reading more and more non-fiction. I also realized I enjoyed buying books, going to book stores and starting my own book collection. A collection of books kind of tells it’s own story, people can see what you’ve read and what you’re into. Plus, it’s nice to have those books if ever you want to reread them or loan them out.

Now nearly 8 years out of college I read constantly and my tastes have expanded to include fiction as well. I still love buying books, but in the past year things have changed. We’ve been trying to save money and pay off debt, which makes it harder to justify buying new books. We buy used when we can, but that can still add up. Then I discovered something. The library.

It started a few months back when I was trying to find a book we were to read for our book club. I didn’t want to buy it since I wasn’t sure if it was a book I’d want to keep, so I broke down and went to the library. To my surprise I found the book easily and as I was browsing I noticed a graphic novel section. I started getting into graphic novels a couple years ago, but found them to be very expensive. Now here I was at the library staring at a whole shelf of them. Over the next week or so I got onto the website for our county library system and learned how easy it is to request books online. They email you when the book is in and you go pick it up and check it out in a mater of minutes.

So over the past few weeks I’ve been requesting books like crazy (mostly graphic novels) and not only that but music and movies as well. And that is how I’ve come to love the library. I still enjoy buying books and probably always will, but the library provides an easy way to get books and media that I wouldn’t necessarily want to spend money on.

Being a New Dad – Week 5

Being a new parent is difficult I must say and I feel okay saying it. Since I get asked about it almost constantly I sometimes feel like I need to put on a facade and act like everything is perfect, lest people think Rachel and I are bad parents. But the truth is, it can be incredibly frustrating at times and it feels good to be open about it.

I tend to get frustrated easily, not one of my best traits. This has be been made particularly clear to me having a newborn. When my son Archer is red faced and screaming while I’m trying to put him to sleep, while I myself am very tired, it makes me mad at him and wonder why he’s doing this to me. Sounds pretty selfish, huh? I guess that’s what makes us human. So, I often find myself praying and asking God for patience, understanding and to be reminded that Archer is just a baby and doesn’t know any better and isn’t out to get me or Rachel. Although he did projectile poop on her once, so maybe he is out the get her. Thankfully she is much more patient than I.

The praying has helped, and I know God is working in both Rachel and I, changing us in ways we’ve never imagined. However, at first I couldn’t help but think, “hey God, you really could have done a better job at this whole baby thing, maybe you could have came up with a better form of communication than crying… just saying.” Sounds silly, I know, but I was serious. Then something struck me. I’m sure I read this somewhere at some point in some form, but what I realized is, if God made babies able to clearly communicate what they want and need, it would be, well, easy. Sounds great, right. The problem is, easy doesn’t require sacrifice and every good, healthy, meaningful relationship does. The core of who God is and at the heart of His story is relationship (okay I’m sure I’m steeling this from Donald Miller). And God made babies cry so we the parents would have to sacrifice ourselves for them, creating a deep bond and relationship like no other. In fact, it’s a pretty awesome reflection of God, both in marriage and then in parenting. With that In mind, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for God teaching me how to be more like him through my son and my wife and by extension showing others what God is like. It’s a beautiful thing.

Finally, I must say, parenting is also a lot of fun and brings a lot joy into Rachel and I’s life. God didn’t make it easy, but He threw some truly joyful moments to lighten the load. Archer is sleeping across from me now in his swing and he’s just amazing to look at. My favorite times are when Rachel and I are at home together and Archer is awake, happy and alert. We’ll lay him on the floor or on the bed and talk to him and he’ll put on a little show for us. God definitely knew what he was doing. Plus, how can you not love this face?

An Update and Misc…

I haven’t had much time for blogging with being a new dad and all, but I have a few minutes here so I thought I’d give a quick update along with some miscellaneous music tidbits.

Our little boy Archer is now three weeks old! It seems like it has gone by fast, but also seems like an eternity since he was born. I have to say I love being a dad, Archer is so wonderful and I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity. It’s also been such a joy to watch my wife Rachel come into her roll as a mom, she’s doing an awesome job. It’s definitely challenging as well, but at the end of the day it’s totally worth it! I plan to write more about being a dad in the coming weeks. Until then here’s a recent picture of the little guy.

In music news I have a few items to share. The first is a video from an in store performance by Lykke Li. I haven’t gotten around to reviewing her new album Wounded Rhymes yet and just in case I don’t, I’ll just say, I highly recommend it! The video features the song “Sadness is a Blessing” from the album and the performance is just outstanding. Not to mention the video is incredibly well filmed, I suggest watching it in HD full screen.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Next up I wanted to highlight a couple of new songs I’ve been into lately. Ace Enders who currently performs under the moniker “I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business” recently self released a new alum titled Gold Rush. I haven’t pick up the album yet, but I’ve listened to some of the songs on his Band Camp site and there are two in particular I’ve been enjoying. The first is the title track and the second is called “Lame Duck.” Check them out!

Finally I just wanted mention something I’m very excited about. I had the opportunity to write a review of the new Death Cab for Cutie album, Codes and Keys for a website called Recovering Evangelical. Check out the review here: Codes and Keys Review. I hope to write more reviews for them in the future!

Well that’s about all I have for now. I’ll try to post more as I’m able.

Darren

Meet, Archer Louis

My wife gave birth to our beautiful baby boy today. Isn’t he the most precious thing you’ve ever seen!

Name: Archer Louis Johnson

Weight: 8 lbs 4 oz

Length: 21 3/4 in

Birthday: May 20th, 2011

More to come.

Music Monday – Sufjan Stevens & Osama Bin Laden

At the end of his song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. Sufjan Stevens has this to say:

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid

Stevens compares himself to Gacy, a man who raped and killed thirty-three teenage boys. He’s obviously not saying he committed similar acts, but I think he’s making a broader statement saying, we’re all human, we’re all broken and all live in a fallen world. This song came to mind in light of the recent death of Osama Bin Laden and I think Bin Laden could easily replace Gacy in this song. But despite our shared fallen nature we are so quick to condemn and rejoice at the death of someone we’ve deemed as evil. As a Christian that doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not saying I don’t believe in justice, I certainly do. However, I believe justice is in God’s hands not ours and that love and forgiveness go a lot farther than hate and revenge.

Here is the song titled “John Wayne Gacy Jr.” as mentioned earlier from Stevens’ Illinois album:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Sufjan Stevens = John Wayne Gacy Jr. = Osama Bin Laden = Me…

Another Thought on Pregnancy

As I watch Rachel growing bigger and bigger one thought I’m often struck with is, as a man I’ll never experience what she’s experiencing. I’ll never know what it’s like to have a human being growing inside me or feel a kick from within or experience the physical and emotional ups and downs of giving birth. I’m not saying I wish I could have that experience, but it’s interesting to me that it is something completely unique to women. I could never say, I know what that’s like. As I said in my previous post, pregnancy and ultimately birth is such a mysterious and miraculous thing. I think it may be God’s most beautiful of creations and I’m glad I get to experience it, even from a male perspective.