Sunday, November 16, 2014

5 Things I've Learnt from Stephen Christian (Anberlin)

1. There is beauty in the small things

As kids we're encouraged to dream big. As adults, we often feel like we have failed these dreams.

When I was volunteering with World Vision Australia I was privileged to interview Stephen with a group of young activists. One things which is frozen in my mind is how Stephen seemed to come alive when surrounded by a small group of activists. I know he is charismatic, but he is also used to performing in front of large groups of people. Yet something lit up in him when he told us that we as a small group of people who cared about poverty and human trafficking will be the ones who change the world.

Life is a constant revaluation of our own path. Many who are who we want to be are not happy and want what we have. We don't have to be famous to live the good life or change the world, we have to be committed.

2. There is a time and a place

I think for the members of Anberlin, perhaps the easiest thing for them to do would have been to stay together. It was life as they knew it. I have great respect for Stephen and the other members as they are still choosing to follow their dreams when many of their fans think they are already living it.

I distinctly remember Stephen saying to me that his dreams are bigger than Anberlin. Although he plays internationally sold out shows, he will be called to do bigger smaller things. Sometimes we try to qualify what we do by the quantity of people that see it. But there are so many macro-ideological yet micro-relational things we are each called to

3. There is grace in honesty

Many Anberlin and Anchor & Braille songs deal with pain and suffering. I must admit, when I first heard them I brushed them off as an emo band. Song titles like 'There Is No Mathematics To Love And Loss' is a bit of a dead giveaway. In fact I refused to like Anberlin until a band member made us perform Unwinding Cable Car. I then realised music can be emotionally honest while still being profoundly interesting.

4. There is honesty in grace

Grace doesn't always mean being nice. In the face of violence and suffering Christian sings 'we owe this to ourselves, we can't just let this go'. 

I have also realised that Stephen believes it is important for leaders to not hide away their shadow self. In a recent interview Stephen was actually grateful to be able to reveal publicly the things he struggles with. In an age where our idolised leaders are caught up in a web of lies and scandals, taking the initiative of stepping down from the pedestal is unusual yet admirable. It means coming to terms with the gap between the 'is' and the 'ought', but it also separates us from the captivation of denial.

5. Practice, don't preach

It's often tempting to push our world view and morality on others. Rather than telling people how to act in his lyrics, Stephen considers both the suffering and hope we can bring about through our actions. I think a reflective rather than prescriptive communication of one's world view is a much more powerful yet less violent way of coming to a better conclusion.

Here is my 2009 Interview with Stephen Christian from Anberlin and Anchor & Braille.