Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman talks to Jonathan Langley about reconciling worship and performance
Q: Does the fact that you’re a big star create conflict with your spiritual life?
A: Well, I don’t think I’m so much of a big star. I mean, we’ve sold a few records and I have the honour of having a job that I believe in and being able to sing songs every night that I’m passionate about, but, I think that everyone has a job description that isn’t necessarily attached to something we get paid to do – myself included. And with that vocation, we all have various things we have to battle. Our demons, our temptations or whatever they are. Mine are no different than the guy down the street’s. We just have to be honest with them.
Q: ‘Instead of a show’, which you included on Limbs and branches, (and which contains lines like ‘I hate all your show and pretence, the hypocrisy of your praise’) is quite harsh. Is that intentional?
A: Yeah. I figured out that most of my favourite Bob Dylan lines were stolen from the Old Testament or scripture somewhere, so I started stealing from scripture and putting it in songs. And that’s where that song comes from. It’s stolen. The tone in those scriptures is fairly harsh as well. Many times we check off the box that has “church” next to it and then we move on to the other boxes that we have in our lives and our religion becomes much more of a show than it is caring for the homeless and the needy and the weak – what in both the Old and New Testaments is described as true religion, true worship. And so we raise our arms and make a big show of it when that’s really not what God wants.
Q: Do you think the worship ‘scene’ needs more honesty about our sin and failure and weakness?
A: The song is not really a cultural statement, more like: this is where I’m at. ‘Instead of a show’ is indicting towards myself as much as it is towards anyone. None of this is meant to be evaluating any culture that I’m not a part of. If anything I’m the chief of the problem.
Q: Do you think you have something to say to fellow followers of Jesus?
A: I think, ultimately, that the mandate is really straightforward about loving each other and loving the Lord with all your heart and it can be troubling to see so much hatred and so many lines drawn. I think that that comes from fear and not from love. And love casts out all fear. I’m always inspired when I see people stepping across lines, whether that be denomination, race or nationality, to come together and find that common thread. Christ was very accepting of people. When the disciples came to him and said: “Lord we found this guy doing all these things in your name. Do we tell him to stop?” He said: “No – if he’s not against us then he’s for us.” I think the Church could learn a lot from that. Instead of finding the way in which we’re different and drawing the we/they boundary, we could be including people in what we’re doing and being included in what they’re doing. The kingdom of heaven is much broader than all the narrow-minded sects that we have turned it into.
Jon Foreman is the lead vocalist for Grammy-nominated band, Switchfoot, one of the biggest Christian rock acts of the last decade and the band behind the big songs from movies like Spiderman 2 and Prince Caspian. They have won eight Gospel Music Association Dove awards (including Artist of the year and Best Rock/Contemporary album of the year) and three ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) awards (including Best New Artist). Their 2004 album, The beautiful letdown sold in excess of two million copies.