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November 30th, 2007

Busted: Braddigan (of Dispatch)

Mixing song, spirituality and social action

 
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BH: There is a real social justice component to what you do and I think, unfortunately, a lot of people sometimes think of faith as being in a box that is beyond dealing with poverty, dealing with issues of social injustice. I look at all the different causes you’re associated with and there’s an interesting amalgamation of people of faith who are also interested in surfing, pop culture etc. Is there a ground swelling of people of a certain age who look upon their Christian faith in a way that’s different from their parents or the way the “Evangelical right wing” believes they should.

BC: I think for sure. I think within the Christian body that there’s a generation that was raised to believe that the church, the body of Christ was inside four walls and a ceiling and at the same time, outside the church, they were seeing that the other faith in our country is the faith in the dollar. I’ll tell you what , we’ve got another four walls with a ceiling and that will be where I work. To me that’s being a slave. I think there are a lot of individuals who are really disenchanted with what they’ve seen and know that they’ve been made for a lot more. So from a faith perspective, again, how you can say you are following Christ without following Him? You can’t. If you are a follower of Jesus, you better go where His footsteps went.

BH: What does that mean to follow His footsteps?

BC: It means literally…there are a lot of different people I can follow in my life, I’m gonna put my chain on you. I’m going to go where you go, to be like a bondservant to someone to give up this sense of entitlement. If you really realize the grace that we’ve been given by a guy who’s meant to serve us, rather than the tradition of all the thousands of years when we were trying to appease the gods, the gods were always pissed off or he needed to give a sacrifice and it was gonna rain and the crops were going to be good. You needed to give more and if it was bad, you needed to give more and you always needed to give more and more and more. It was this feeling of being a slave to a god that you’re trying to appease.

It’s completely different following Jesus. God gives Him as a sacrifice to us so that we’re free from all of that and then we have an opportunity to hopefully go with the grace that we’ve been given and go and demonstrate to people in need. The crazy thing, it might sound cliché that giving is getting but everyone that claps me on the shoulder and says “it’s so good what you do” inside, I’m like: “Do not say that.” When I go thinking that I’m going to minister to a group of people or hang with them and help them. They’re there helping me. They’re the ones investing in me, teaching me what it means to be generous, teaching me everything.

So the spiritual wealth inside the physically poor, that is where I want to be. Here in the States and in a lot of other developed countries, there’s physical wealth and spiritual poverty. I mean it is a crazy, crazy tension. I’m learning more walking with families in a trash dump about what it means to give, generously, than being, you know, in a family that used to have millions of dollars or being in a church that has a mortgage that’s greater than most. Yeah, there’s some interesting stuff going on in that.

BH: Christianity means a lot of things to a lot of people in the United States. It really becomes a bit of a political football, unfortunately. Saying I’m a Christian does not mean just one thing in this culture. Can you talk a little bit about that?

BC: I think a lot of people identify with Christianity or any faith for that matter as a kind of external clothing. Something you were born into, a tradition, something that stays on the outside and it is in this box and then your life is in this box. People tend to approach their lives like there are the three or four boxes that.

One of the most influential guys in my life, a friend of my dad’s, back in the day, just said: “Listen, your life is your ministry.” I went to him saying I don’t really understand exactly how as an athlete and as a musician and as a person who loves the Lord—how can I put all that stuff together? He said “You just live one life. You are never supposed to believe that ministry was over here and maybe church is on Sundays and your work in Monday through Friday and your vacation…it’s one life and who you carry inside you internally, Christ, the Holy Spirit, this light that the Lord talks about that can’t be hidden…that’s your greatest gift. It’s not what you say.”

I think that’s probably another thing I would answer in terms of your question that a lot of Christians are intellectual Christians as opposed to being heart transformed, I’ve-been-crucified-with-Christ, I-no-longer-live” Christians. Intellectualism can kind of dissipate the heart, grace, truth and compassion. I mean our record is called The Captive and I just look at what captivity looks like and how Christ came to set the captive free, to preach the Good News to the poor and to bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted, to set the captives free. Everyone, in every culture, if you’re a billionaire or walking in a trash dump: you’re equally wounded, equally broken and wired for the same thing: wanting to be free, wanting to be free of fear, wanting to live free. So that’s a heart posture. There’s no intellectualism that can create that. You have to allow, by God’s power, rather than your thinking it through and analyzing it.

That’s where the transformation happens, so I don’t known I guess the quote that comes to mind is: “Preach the Gospel everyday and only when necessary, use words” St. Francis of Assisi. Live your life. Let your footsteps show who you are and shut your mouth, you know?

BH: How does this affect your own church practice? Do you belong to a faith community somewhere?

BC: Yeah, I’ve got a couple of churches in Denver that the leadership has been so graceful with me. And the reason I love them so much is that they’re not putting themselves above. I have a number of guys that are coming with me to New York. Like my pastor came with me to New York. They’ve come with me to Nicaragua before, you know, like we’re living life together.

BH: It seems that the posture is changing among Christians in America to a certain extent. A younger generation saying it doesn’t mean we’re just obsessed with abortion or gay marriage. Can you talk a little bit about that?

BC: Yeah. I know, I’m with you. There’s kind of the idea of essential and nonessential in theology and politics and life. I mean, the essential is that we believe. I mean there are two things: The Lord lays it out so simply, I love coming back to it. I need that kind of two by four in the head every now and then: simple. God calls us to believe in his son, Jesus, as his sacrifice for us and to love the world in the way he loved us. That’s it. Those are the only two things he asks us to do. So faith and hope and love shall remain and the greatest of these is love. Everything is about love. It you are not an expression of love, I don’t think you have any business talking about Jesus. I mean that is my rudder and it should be, I think, anyone’s rudder. It’s not our job to judge but I can tell you who is acting in love versus who is acting in selfish desire.

BH: That’s hard to and it also doesn’t fit the political climate, at least in America.

So the spiritual wealth inside the physically poor, that is where I want to be. Here in the States and in a lot of other developed countries, there’s physical wealth and spiritual poverty. I mean it is a crazy, crazy tension.

BC: We don’t arrive there, but we’re aspiring to it. If my greatest gift is to be love and I have life right now, man I better be empty and the Lord’s love pour into me and pour out into the rest of the communities where I am. And away from Republican and Democrat, away from homosexual issues and abortion, away from all those things is one core truth: That the Lord will be the one who determines what we did, the love that we brought to this life and he will be the one that sorts out the mystery.

He says: “My ways are not your ways; my thoughts are not your thoughts.” His sovereignty and his mystery are right on the nose, so any… I have my own opinions, absolutely and there are so many nonessential and essential debates about what is, but even denominationalism, drives me nuts. We were called to be one body, so, a family sitting around a dinner table probably have a lot of different opinions but they don’t always have to agree, but they don’t have to go and eat in different rooms.

BH: I love that image and have used it myself for years. What binds us together is far greater than what separates us. Is it difficult to find the time between music and social action. How do you do that?

BC: Well, thank God, right now those are coming together in my life. Holy tension, poor James [Kenly, Braddigan's manager] over here. James is trying to help me figure out a way to live that one life. It’s challenging even in terms of infrastructure, having a non-profit over here and being the spokesperson of it and being an artist over here and needing to keep these two businesses separate and being devoted. But it is one me and one message and one community that we’re trying to affect. So I’m trying to keep it as simple and as focused as possible. I’m not aspiring to solve the problem of the trash dump communities in the world. The Lord called me to one little girl and through her to one little community of people and that’s where I want to stay until the Lord releases me into another place. But getting to use music as my greatest weapon in terms of social activism, that’s the Lord’s greatest smile over my life…the day He gave my guitar back to me, I was no longer an entertainer, there was so much more.

BH: When was that?

BC: I would say it was three years ago when I went down to Nicaragua and hung out with these orphans. I went to an orphanage—I did a fundraiser here in Virginia, went down to visit the kids and the kids didn’t care [that I was a musician]. They liked that I blew bubbles off my tongue. They were not impressed that I could play chords. They were not impressed with any melodies. They wanted me to blow bubbles and it was just like ‘this is my greatest gift right now: is being with them and kicking a dirty soccer ball and blowing bubbles’ and then on that same trip I went into the trash dump and found that burden, that crazy mystery in there. And my guitar is how I processed all of the stuff. And my guitar is how I invited people to come. It was safe for people to come to me because I was going to just bring the story back.

BH: It obviously affects your writing?

BC: Oh, my goodness, yeah.

BH: How has writing songs changed for you in the last 15 years?

BC: Well I don’t think that’s changed too much.

BH: You’re not trying to write a song for God specifically, in an explicit way?

BC: This guy, Keith Green, that used to be one of the biggest Christian musicians in the late 70’s talked about how people would praise him: ‘you’re the most amazing thing!’ This is ridiculous. It’s as if you’re praising a pencil for a beautiful poem. I am here and I’ve got a guitar and I’m like, Lord, you made me, you made the guitar, you made the world, you made creativity. I bet you got some songs to flow down. It’s that feeling of trying to be a little prepared and a little bit unprepared so that the music flows with the right timing.

BH: What’s your favorite song you’ve written?

BC: Right now, I would say it’s “Daggers,” the second or third song off of Watchfires (2005) . That was the first time where I went into my rehearsal space with a totally different posture and just went, “I can’t believe that I never looked up and saw that you were sitting right there every time I play my guitar. Did you have something to say? Do you have a song?” And in three hours, the entire song from the music and all the lyrics…I’m trying to keep up with my hand writing this stuff down and I’m starting to cry cause I’m like that is not how I speak. That is not how I say that. Oh my gosh, just getting the chills and going back and listening to the song, it is still like the instruction manual from my life.

Won’t you see with my eyes,
Won’t you speak with my voice.

Won’t you lead them,
Won’t you remind them of their youth.
Won’t you bring your scars, rather than your successes. Just allow God to give you a heart change and eye change and a voice change and to just change it all.

BH: It’s great to be on top of the mountain top in a spiritual sense but most of us experience the depths of the spiritual valleys as well. And what advice do you have for young people in their 20’s and 30’s who are struggling with their faith?

BC: If you’re not struggling, you’re not alive. Your heart’s not beating. I spend more time in the valley than I spend on the peak, absolutely. The top is like there for an instant. You’re either in the valley or you’re climbing. I mean, God’s greatest work in us is in the dark stuff where there’s nothing left but Him. So, while I would never have written my story or my family’s story in the way that the Lord has like now, I’m like, Oh my gosh, Father, I would have never have thought of being an author. You are so good at perfecting us through our brokenness, through all the challenges that we have and then literally the strength that comes afterwards and knowing how faithful it is… the God of the 11th inning. It’s after the game is over sometimes that you give up and then haaaaaaaa you’re out of His way and then He’ll deliver something in the midst of the craziest…the “yuck” moments. The stuff where there’s nothing left and there’s nothing left but me.

BH: What are your plans going forward?

BC: I want to surf. I really need to learn how to surf. I am 33 and I’m still awful at it. So…(laugh)…that is one of my dreams. My dream is also to be able to play music and to be able to travel with my family in the way that James and Ray and Tiago and my friend, Paul and our friend, Armstead, and my parents. So many people come with us wherever we go. We’re playing in Brazil and Japan and the Bahamas and we’re hoping to go to China this summer and we’ve got opportunities to play festivals in the U.K. and in Germany and I’ve been to Cuba and I’ve been to Peru and I’ve been to Uganda and Rawanda. This is God’s greatest gift: that He’s been walking me, He’s been showing me the most beautiful places that He made and you know it’s like that feeling when you’re with someone who is really excited about a new house or a new painting?like “I’ve gotta show you this!” I really have this sense that He keeps grabbing my hand and wants to show me because I am really saying “thank you” a lot. Wow, thanks. Well, let me show you more; I’m gonna show you some more. Do you not think I have the best for you? I want to sing that for a lifetime and I hope that’s on tour. So, funny tension there. I wanna have a wife and a community somewhere as well, so.

BH: You’re not married?

BC: No, but that will change, RIGHT, Lord?!? He says, in parentheses! (laughs)

BH: Spirituality speaking, are the rest of the guys in Braddigan all on the same page? Is that important to you?

BC: Yes. Man, the music is the last thing…there is no way that I would ever had played again without meeting people like Tiago and Rey. Are you serious, Rey has the heart and is so humble and is the freaking best percussionist I’ve ever seen in the same package? And then Tiago plays everything in strings and is the mellowest, sweetest half angel, half person, person. Like I’d thought I’d have to give it up. Get a great Christian who sucked at playing bass or a great bass player who wasn’t that much fun to hang with.

BH: That’s a tough set of qualities to audition for…

BC: (laughs) Yeah, our auditions, they happen in the strangest places.

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The Author : Bill McGarvey
Bill McGarvey is co-author of Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide. Bill was editor-in-chief of Busted Halo for six year. In addition to having written extensively on the topics of culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (in London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine, McGarvey is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter. You can follow him at his website billmcgarvey.com or on Facebook.com/billmcgarvey
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  • Chrisopher

    Maybe the blood God meant was when David sent Uriah to the front lines to be kliled so he could have his wife Bathsheba whom he had seen bathing. Not quite for for God

  • Kurt

    this is awesome. braddigan is the best.

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