This is a post about evolving faith and hope and the other side of hope, but mostly it’s just a post about how much I love Switchfoot.
I was a Youth Group Kid in the mid-2000s–the Golden Age of contemporary Christian music (CCM). I went to WinterJams, I used CCM lyrics for my AIM away messages, I knew all the words to the TobyMac rap parts of DC Talk songs. I first bonded with my now-husband over our mutual good taste in the rock side of CCM.
These songs were the soundtrack to which I formed my early theology. They taught me how to think about God, how to pray. How to be an emotional American teenager and engage meaningfully with an ancient faith. I prided myself on being a good student and my head learned a lot from my very smart pastor’s sermons, but my heart and soul were all tied up in CCM.
One of my best friends accused me recently of loving earnestness, ironically. We were maybe talking about my favorite 2020 presidential candidate who’s definitely not nomination-bound, but she was also speaking broadly, and she was right. I’m drawn to earnestness. I always have been; whether that was what made me fit into youth group culture or whether I learned it there, I’m not sure. Probably a little of both. For the most part, the irony, or cynicism, or whatever you want to call it, came later. I am now pretty conflicted about both youth group and CCM and what growing up entrenched in that culture has meant for me and my peers and how it has impacted my adult(ish) life, especially my faith. But at the time, it was really important to me, and really formative, and I don’t have regrets about that. I also haven’t let go of all of it by any means; there’s a lot I’ve held onto. Unironically, even. Jars of Clay and Chris Rice. The David Crowder Band, selectively, maybe.
And Switchfoot, definitely.
I got to see Switchfoot last night–they played a beautiful show in a beautiful venue and it was church by a lake on a Tuesday night. It was also Jon Foreman’s birthday, which gave the concert a kind of extra special feeling. It was probably the best concert I’ve been to in what has been an exceptionally good concert year. Toward the beginning of the show, Jon described the Switchfoot catalog as “songs of hope.” I might not have said that before I heard him say it, but he’s right. One of my favorite Switchfoot songs is “Love Is the Movement,” and it’s absolutely a song of hope:
Love is the movement
Love is a revolution
This is redemption
We don’t have to slow back down
But the thing about having a talent for hope is that you can only develop it if you understand that there’s a reason for hope. A reason we need it. My favorite Switchfoot songs pour light into my soul, but you can’t be that kind of light-bringer unless you really see the darkness. The lines right before that “Love Is the Movement” chorus:
And nobody moves
And everyone’s scared
That the motion will never come
This is an incompletion
Stuck in a line
I heard a speaker I respect say recently that if you look for beauty, you’ll see it. True, but the implication was that you could only look for beauty and save yourself the trouble of seeing pain and suffering; that you could adjust your perspective in a way that would let you live in a world essentially detached from the one I think we actually live in. I don’t think it’s helpful or healthy to narrow your worldview until you see it as simply good, disregarding that people are hurting, that people need hope. That’s not Christianity to me. That’s not WJD.
And it’s not what Jon Foreman has ever done with Switchfoot songs. Yes, these are songs of hope. Yes, there is hope. Because there has to be. Most of the CCM that’s stayed with me acknowledges that, the messiness of faith and hope, but few songwriters do so in a way that resonates with me like Jon’s songwriting does.
I think Jon Foreman is my hope hero. Like, Rachel Held Evans is one of my faith heroes, and that phrase gets tossed out a lot, but can we have hope heroes, too? I’m saying we can and that Jon Foreman is one of mine. I sang and cried and clapped last night with deeply earnest songs of hope. Some more than a decade old, that formed the foundation of my young faith, and some newer that have joined them as I work out what my faith looks like now. It looks like light and dark, like trust and doubt, like so many questions. Like hope and the despair that makes it necessary. It still matters to me, so much. I’m grateful that that’s true and I’m grateful for Switchfoot songs.
This post is long and likely not useful for anyone but me, so I made y’all a playlist. Unironic Earnestness. Enjoy. And, if you want, let me know what sings in your soul and makes you hopeful and grateful.