Thoughts on the arrest of Tim Lambesis

As I Lay Dying

It’s been a weird day.  The front-man of my favorite band, who by all accounts has penned some of the most meaningful lyrics I’ve ever read, was arrested.  When I first saw the headline, I assumed he was taken in for protesting an unjust cause, or violating a noise ordinance at the worst.  (Such was his esteem in my eyes.)  No.  He has been charged with trying to hire someone to murder his estranged wife.  And the evidence seems quite damning.  What do we do with this?  What do I do with this?

I could have told you immediately how mainstream culture would deal with it.  They would revel in the chance to call another Christian a phony, a hypocrite.  And they have.  Main-stream outlets would go out of their way to make sure readers knew he identified himself as a follower of Jesus.  Indeed, some would take the chance to tout the message that all of that heavy metal is “scary” and evil, that it’s no surprise he would do something like this.  But how can I  react when a brother I held in such high esteem has instantly fallen so far?  How should I?

The truth is that the fall wasn’t instant.  Nothing of this magnitude is.  My initial reaction is to want details.  Maybe the police are wrong.  Maybe someone set him up.  Give me details.  But why do we ever want details when it comes to someone else’s wrongdoing?  It’s because we want to judge.  We want to assess whether we would be capable of such an act, and often the more information we have, the more we are able to convince ourselves we aren’t.  The news stories cite that his wife had filed for divorce last September.  We want more details to see who was at fault, to judge who is right and who is wrong.  Details.  They distance us from the heinous acts of others.  But we’ve all done things we didn’t think we were capable of, things we hope no one ever finds out about.  It’s just that the earthly consequences are sometimes heavier, both legally and culturally.

In this particular case, Lambesis had long been a shining light in a genre of music notorious for darkness.  While others wrote songs centered on violence and hatred, he poetically expressed of the plight of the poor, of dying to one’s self for the betterment of others, and of struggling against sin.  For years he had been meek and humble in interviews, even as the popularity of the band exploded.  How much this magnifies his downfall.  I probably have more material from Tim than any other lyricist in my music collection.  Does this negate the impact of those albums full of inspirational words?  Can I ever listen to those songs the same way again?  Some, like “Whispering Silence,” almost seem too close to home.  These words from “Upside Down Kingdom” ring with such truth and profundity, but such hollowness at the same time:

For a kingdom is offered
Beyond that of golden streets
We can represent now
What will one day be complete

More than just writing deep and thought-provoking lines, Tim also seemed to walk the walk.  He and his wife had adopted three children from Ethiopia.  He often used his platform to champion charities and humanitarian efforts.  But this…  It stands in such stark contrast to everything I thought I knew about him.

Someone in a comment thread over at Indie Vision Music put things into perspective for me, at least partially.  “The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures.  He restores my soul.”  Stop and think about who wrote that.  The man who composed those verses did have another man killed.  After he slept with his wife.  King David, the man after God’s own heart, who did things that make our skin crawl, wrote the majority of the Psalms.  We study them in quiet time.  We craft prayers and worship songs from them, the words of an adulterous murderer.  God used someone who broke the biggest commandments to create art that turns our hearts toward Him – not just before, but after his downfall and the consequences that came with it.

It will take me a while to process all of this.  But I have to believe that if God can redeem the life of David, he can redeem Tim’s too.

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