This week’s guest is Derek Webb, musician, song writer and public deconstructor. For 10 years, Derek was a member of the Christian rock band, Caedmon’s Call. He then went on to a solo career where he focused on self reflection in his art. During that time, Derek began to desconstruct. He did so publicly in his music and on social media.
Where I find myself, strangely, being more tolerant, or loving or accepting than god is.
Where I feel like I am making apologies for the god of the universe who is supposedly all love.
For Derek’s Fingers Crossed album, “the tale of two divorces,” Derek made himself available to his audience for criticism. He and his team turned this into the podcast, The Airing of Grief. What could have been a public expression of anger and hostility at Derek’s change of heart, wound up being people describing their own deconstruction. It was a poignant reminder that we are not alone in this process.
Wouldn’t you rather lose all of it if the it that you have currently is not a real thing?
Derek’s next album, Targets, is a joyous and rebellious rock celebration of deconstruction. Derek’s current project, The Jesus Hypothesis, takes a second look at his former theological beliefs. For this project, Derek has made himself even more available to his audience by live streaming the writing and recording process for his Patreon supporters.
Because if it is not real I want to know that,
if it is real I want to know that,
and if something else is real I want to know that
and I feel like I know a little more than I used to know
in terms of what is there and what’s not
at least what rings true to me.
Derek is the perfect guest for the podcast as his art, music and personal style exemplify both having an honesty contest and Secular Grace.
The Airing Of Grief
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Is it just that I had the wrong image of god?
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Transition music by Derek Webb from the Fingers Crossed album
“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats
NOTE: This transcript is AI produced (otter.ai) and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.
Summary 0:11 David’s goals for this year. 2:09 Introduction to Derek Webb. 5:05 Derek’s work in this deconstruction space is not a thing that you detach from. 8:47 What was your faith tradition as a child? 11:56 What was it like growing up in a church? 15:53 Young Life Camp is a fun deal. 24:56 The pressure of being a professional Christian and representing the church. 28:00 Great failure gives you the opportunity to do an audit of the presumptions that you have about invisible reality and about invisible unknowable things. 30:22 What is real and what is code language? 34:00 I wish I could tell you that your way isn’t ok, but I can not. 38:22 Making yourself vulnerable and owning the change. 46:07 Taking some responsibility for his own story. 50:08 Having your fans be a part of the process through Patreon. 54:11 What it’s like to be a fly on the wall of a record. 57:59 The job of an artist is to look at the world and describe what you see. 1:01:52 Deconstruction of the church from deconstruction of God. 1:09:56 How to break these things apart and not think you’ve done it just because you are not a part of the evangelical political party anymore. 1:13:37 Why you shouldn’t fear deconstruction, the only danger is not questioning. 1:17:21 Would you rather lose all of it if what you have currently is not a real thing? 1:20:56 Final thoughts on the episode. 1:24:53 The connection part of secular grace is the human connection. The church loves the idea of radical confession, but when you start doing it in a literal
David Ames 0:11 This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I'm trying to be the graceful atheist. Please consider rating and reviewing the podcast on the Apple podcast store. And now you can rate the podcast on Spotify. We made it to 2022. I remember the feeling of intense optimism at the beginning of 2021. And we are in the midst of the Omicron surge. So any of that enthusiasm is slightly tempered. But I do have some goals for the year for the podcast. I'm actually very interested in being on other podcasts. So if you happen to have your own podcast and like to hear me talk about secular grace or humanism, reach out to me. A second goal for the year that I've been thinking about lately is to be slightly more palatable for the Christian. My guest today is Derek Webb. And I think he does an incredibly good job of being a bridge between evangelical Christians and deconstruction. Even the title of the podcast has atheist in it is probably going to frighten away most believers. But one of the goals for this year is to at least engage a bit more, not in a debate style. But as always, in an honesty contest. If you are a believer, and you would like to be on the podcast and talk with me, I'd be very open to that prospect. Please get in touch with me at graceful firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Mike t for the first round of editing for today. I also did a bit of editing and the mix in with Derek's music. onto today's show. My guest today is Derek Webb. Virtually all of my listeners will probably already know who Derek is. But Derek was the lead singer for Caitlin's call for about 10 years, which was a very successful Christian rock band. And then he went on a solo career. And during that time, he went through his own deconstruction process. What Derek has done that is pretty amazing, is be really open, vulnerable and honest about that process with his audience, not only in his music, but also online and in various other media. Derek is the perfect guest for this show, because almost all of his work is about being brutally self honest about an honesty contest about vulnerability about transparency, showing the world where he's currently at and not hiding any of that. It was The Truman Show episode that Jimmy and Colin were on where Colin shared a story about seeing Caitlin's call when he was 18. A friend of Derek's heard that episode mentioned it Derek and Derek reached out to me, I'm very thankful that Derek reached out to me and I think this is a great conversation. In preparation for this. Both Jimmy and Collin suggested a number of things for me to listen to, obviously much of Derek's music from fingers crossed and targets and various other albums. But the one that had the most impact on me was his podcast, the airing of grief, which I highly recommend, and there will be links in the show notes. Derek's current project is called the Jesus hypothesis. And if you become one of Derek's Patreon supporters, you can actually be a part of that process. Derek will go into detail about that. You can find all of his music and all of his projects that Derek web.com will have those links in the show notes. Here is my conversation with Derek Webb. Derek Webb, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. Derek Webb 4:27 It's a pleasure. Great to be here with you. David Ames 4:29 Hey, I really appreciate you actually reached out to me after hearing an episode where a really good friend of mine Colin talked about what a moment it was for him. He was actually at a Caedmon’s Call concert. And you guys were doing a cover of a secular song and he had this context moment. Like, oh, wait, you know, music is just powerful, just by itself and, and he literally told himself now you know, Colin today, you know, said if I'd only and that the lead singer would someday be post evangelical or whatever term you want to use. Yeah. And have a huge audience for that, that what you know what that would have done for him as an 18 year old kid, so. So thank you so much, Derek, for being willing to come on the show. Derek Webb 5:16 Absolutely. Well, I appreciate you responding and being open to it. I mean, I'm, as we were talking just a few minutes ago, like I'm, I really care about the space, I really care about my friends who are still in the evangelical world, I care a lot about my friends who are kind of journeying on the outskirts and in no man's land around it. And it's, it's, as you know, what I'm sure your listeners know, it's like, it's not a thing that you detach your care, you don't you don't stop caring about it. Because it, it's still so much about where, where I've come from, and it's so much of the language that's so familiar to me and so much, and so much of our lives and families and colleagues and co workers and everybody is they're all on some they're on the spectrum somewhere, with some experience of invisible reality and some opinions about it. And so I don't see you don't stop thinking about it. And so it's funny, it's one of those things you just gets really hard to kind of get away from ultimately, you can detach your belief system from it, but you still have an awareness of it, and I still have a care for it. And so I always whenever I find people who are doing good work and holding additional space for people to think about this, I immediately, you know, want to listen, I want to contribute, I want to be part of it. You know, so I, so we when I saw what you were doing, what you're up to, and what great conversations that seemed like you were having, I just immediately reached out, and I'm so glad you responded. So thanks for having me. David Ames 6:47 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we're definitely the whole podcast, I think we're started to just say you're not alone. You're not crazy. Like there's plenty of us who have gone through this. You don't have to go through it alone. That's exactly it. Yeah. Yeah. One more piece of context that I think is important is that due to age, and when I became a Christian, when I stopped being a Christian and style, I actually have wasn't familiar with your music, yet very much prior to actually getting in contact with you. But what I am a huge fan of Derek, is your work in this space in this deconstruction space. So Colin, gave me a list and Jimmy to both both the people that were on that episode gave me a list of things to go listen to, oh, I absolutely adored, I listened to the first season of the airing of grief. Yes, man, what a powerful piece of work. That is, I really Derek Webb 7:42 appreciate it. Well, it sounds very much like what you're talking about. I mean, it was one of those ones, we want some friends and I determined that like, Oh, we're going through it. We felt like once we started to process our way through and out of a lot of kind of evangelical mindset. And just once we start, you think that what you're going through, everybody's going through and you think that when you discover something everyone just discovered it. And actually that's not true. It's most things you're coming into a moment with and you're kind of suddenly in the stream with it. And but there was just like you're saying that we were realizing how many people felt as though they were doing it by themselves and alone and isolated. And, and because the church is so good at congregating and about congregating themselves around ideas about things. And so once you're detached from that, there's just the lack of congregation. And that is that and you suddenly feel as though it's like all the files on your computer still being there. But all the directories being gone. Like you can't find your way to anybody or anything or any. And so you feel like you're all alone. And that was the main reason that we wanted to do that. Because we thought, because I had just put out this, this fingers crossed record, which was my kind of document of deconstruction that I had just gone through. And when and when people were responding to it, they seemed not to be responding to it so much as they were using it as an opportunity to do the same thing I was doing on the record, which is to tell their stories of what they had been through and where they had landed. And we thought Man, there clearly just needs to be more space for this more safe space for people to be welcomed to tell and bring their stories for the benefit of all the folks who don't feel brave enough to come or strong enough or maybe ready to come and bring and tell their stories. Just an order that everybody knows that they're not alone doing it. So I really resonate. Exactly. That was that was our exact same motivation for doing it. Yeah, I David Ames 9:37 always say that. That's the magic, right is somebody's telling their story. And the listener goes, you're telling my story. Yeah, Derek Webb 9:43 you hear your story come out of somebody else's mouth. And that's so deeply comforting. Yeah, absolutely. David Ames 9:47 I do want to come back to more of your work and we'll focus on sharing a little bit but I'd really like to hear your story. So the way that my guests often we begin with is like What was your faith tradition growing up? What was that? Yeah. Derek Webb 10:02 Yeah. So I grew up in the American South my whole life. I've always lived in the South. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. I lived in Texas for a while. And I'm now back in Tennessee in Nashville and have been for about 20 years. And so anybody who knows what that is shorthand for knows that I grew up with immersed in the language of evangelical Christianity. At least that was my expense. I actually, as I'm saying, and I realized that's obviously not everyone's experience, but that was an inevitability in everywhere I grew up was, there was the presumption of at least an understanding of evangelical Christian faith, if not a full practice. So and I grew up going to church my my mom, grew up Baptist. My dad grew up Catholic. Okay. And so they raised me and my brother Methodist, because I feel like they thought that was maybe the compromise. I got so yeah, that yeah, as they both moved to the middle, they they found the the middle points for both in United Methodism, apparently. So anyway, that's how I grew up, I was confirmed that 13 In the Methodist church, we weren't super involved. My parents were not real religious. But they did feel as though like a lot of parents, especially who were having kids in the late 60s and 70s, felt it was important to bring their kids up in church and to at least show up on a Sunday. And, and I was in the part of Memphis where we lived the the really good school, the school that I that I wound up going to was a private Christian school connected to the church where we went, so Okay, so zero to sixth grade, I was in a private school at at a United Methodist Church in Memphis, which is where we also attended. So I mean, I was there, you know, seven days a week. Right? I mean, I really was because I went to school there too. And, you know, grew up going to chapel, at least a few times a week, if, if not more, and, and also walking through the sanctuary to get around to most of the other parts of the school, you know, so really, really, really, into the end of that. And it was mostly for me, I think, well, you don't know how you're experiencing it. When you're that age, you're coming up with it that way, because it's just part of the inevitable framework, it's just part of the context you're in and you don't know your life without it. Even if it means nothing to you from a spiritual discernment standpoint, it's just it's more this is just all part of what it is and what we're doing. And it's the water use women, it is the water swimming. And that's exactly right. And until you get out of it for a second, you have no idea you even in water, you just it's like the oxygen you're in. And so I did. So that's kind of how I grew up. And as I mentioned, I got confirmed as you do when I was 13, and to the end of the church, and they give you a Bible and I don't know if I don't remember if they kind of declare you it's your kind of a full member of the congregation in church. At that point. I don't know what that got me really. I remember being baptized at that time. And then when I was in high school, wound up by that time I was in Houston, and a lot of friends, the Baptists, especially the Southern Baptists are really strategic in the way that they really what they do is they they put a lot of their money and intention into youth programs, because they know that that's how you get families. And so you know, why evangelize one at a time when you can bet evangelize a junior high kid and get six, because you're gonna want to put all their siblings and their parents. And so that's a smart strategy. And so there's just the most kick ass youth programs you can ever imagine going on in the suburb of Houston, where I was and so I was getting pulled into a lot of Baptist churches. I remember like, wow, what's going on with the but like, every other week, and my friends are dragging me into some Baptist Church for some cool and it's legitimate, pretty cool thing, I guess, you know. And anyway, so there wasn't anything that really seemed to take root for me until the middle of high school when I wound up involved with a high school parachurch organization called Young Life. Oh, yeah. Not church affiliated yet. And that was real big at my high school, their high school parachurch organization. So, or at least at that time, they were mostly just high school. And they and young life, at least in my area did a really good job. Of every one of these organizations or institutions have strategies, they have strategies. They'll have an approach and young lives, at least in my area. It was to kind of go after the cool kids because if because if you get the trendsetters and the tastemakers you're gonna get all the rest because they want to be like those kids. But my particular the particular young life leader in southwest Houston, was also this really quirky, nerdy, kind of intellectual guy and he was is nothing like the cool kids that he was recruiting so to speak. But so I really personally resonated with him and connected with him because I was kind of a quirky or I was not, I was none of those things. I mean, I was not popular or athletic or, or performed academically or anything like that. But I really resonated with his with his mind and how his mind worked. And he was really super smart and fascinating and funny. And so anyways, I got kind of pulled into that deal. And that was, that was kind of the first point where I felt like it was something I was really choosing. And that was where I think I would have said, I had an experience at a young life, summer camp, and their properties are magical, honestly, they're like, they're like the the Disney level of detailed intention. And all of their camps. They're really amazing. I mean, they do just a great job. It's there. It's so much fun. It's such a fun deal. And it's like, an every bit of it is combed over and intentional. And I love that about it actually, I'm so wound up at a between my sophomore and junior year, is that right? I wound up at a young life camp. And I had heard this pitch many times. I mean, it's like, I was so familiar with it, just the whole, like, the four spiritual laws like, Okay, here's how the world works. Here's what God broke. And here's what was done about it. And here's your choice. You know, it was like, here's the deal. And I knew it super well. And I probably felt at that time, like it was something I had already kind of taken a position on, even passively because I knew I had been baptized and gone through my little classes or whatever, in Methodist church when I was when I was younger, but they they take you through in the and they kind of set you up and it's like it. And having worked with young life in in a few for a few years after that I you definitely get a set, you get a pretty good view of how the sausage is made in terms of the intention around like, Hey, we're going to send me this message, and then this one, and then this one, and we're going to leave them with that one until the next night where we're going to offer this one. And it's like, it's, you know, it's good communication. It's well, it's well thought out, you know, and, and to be perfectly frank, I had chased a girl there. It's probably the reason that I was willing to go to that camp in the first place. And, you know, you see everybody making the decision, you see the hands going up, you see the people go into the front. And I was like, You know what, I think I'm, you know, I don't know, like, I'm going to for whatever reason, I mean, I didn't, as I really tried to think back to the experience that I had, it was one of those, okay, we're going to let them sit with. But here's what happened. And here's where you lost connection to God, and here's why it happened. And they kind of leave you with that weight and that heaviness until the whole next night. And the next night, they say but something was done about and here's what you do. And here's the opportunity to come and choose and decide whatever it is and and then they kind of send you out into the beautiful hills of Colorado to think about that and then come back and they're gonna see who made a decision. And they said whatever the one thing though is you don't go back to your cabins we don't want you going back to your cabins just go out and find a space under the stars. So of course, I was such a contrary kid, I was such a discipline case all through that all those years. That of course, I went straight back to my cabin and hid so that counts was coming to make sure there weren't kids hanging out in cabins. And I they came in didn't see me and left but But I went back and decided, you know, I think I'm gonna go ahead and own a decision about this. I think I don't know that I made this anything happened. It was just like, I think it's time I'm just gonna, I'm pretty down with this. I like these people. I like this thing. I kind of feel like I belong here a little bit it. It was giving me some things I really needed. At that time. I didn't have really in a lot of friends. I've been I've been in the music since I was single digits but and I've been in a lot of bands, a lot of bands all through high school and stuff. But I was I was in between bands right then. And that's like the story I'm kind of leaving out. It's not it's not really super relevant. But the band that I'd been in for a lot of years that was a big part of my identity had ended right before that summer. It was a big a big thing. For me personally, music is a big part of young life because they do these young life clubs every like Monday night, during the school year. And they have guys up in the front strumming acoustic guitars. And they immediately wanted me to come and do that because they you know, it's smart, it's good if they find a way to give you kind of a job to do that makes that that kind of goes to your strengths. And that certainly did for me and I it was fun. Like suddenly, I had a place to play music again. That was part of my identity. Again, I liked that friends and a whole like, it's just like, here's like, just the whole package just on a platter. You just kind of come and be part of it. And then you just get to all the benefits of it. It's amazing. And so I was like I liked it. So I was like yeah, I'm gonna I think I'm gonna hang with this. And so I think I'm gonna go ahead and, and give it's, it's funny. I felt like I was kind of giving him something I was giving them as like, I want to show up as a number for these folks. Because I like this. I like this thing and this guy has done a pretty good job and he's a good speaker and I mean, he didn't tell me anything I hadn't heard and it wasn't especially moving you even it was just, I was like, you know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna go up there because I think that would make them feel awesome. Like, you know, like, I want them to know that what they're doing matters. And so I'm going to show you know, and so I'm going to, I'm going to, you know, say that that's where my flag goes in the ground, even though it's probably it probably been years before if that happened at all. And so, so that was my experience came back and then and I was really into that. So the rest of height, so I had two whole years, plus summers to, you know, off at camps and stuff to, to really, for that to really take root. And that was a really important thing. It was a it was a you know, a lot of friends and a lot of memories and a lot of, you know, trips out to Colorado and ski trips and all kinds of stuff after that. And even for a minute for a hot minute considered maybe even working with young life and kind of running want to being like the one of these young life leader guys. And it just looked fun. It looked like a cool thing. You had to have a college degree, any degree in anything to do it. And I knew I wouldn't ever have that because I barely got out of high school. I was not, I was just I did. I didn't have any interest in that. And because music was my life, I started playing guitar when I was like seven or eight years old. And it's the only thing I've ever really been good at. And it was, and it was my whole life. So I blew school off constantly to revert to practice and then eventually in bands and, and that was my whole life. And so I knew I wasn't going to be getting I wasn't gonna be going to college. Okay, but anyway, so I hung with you online for a while even even you know that first summer after my senior year, and I thought, but where it kind of turns is so what would have been my freshman year of college just after that is when I met and connected with the folks who who we started Caitlin's call together. So Caymans was the band that I was in for about 10 years, right out of high school, so met those people. And that's its own story, too, but met those people. And we started playing music together. And we all had a pretty quick sense that this had potential. There was really something here we were really on to something and in a very Malcolm Gladwell, Ian kind of sense, we had a lot of advantages that other other bands weren't having around that time. And the way we were able to record our music and, and sell our music, and we were able to tour a little bit. We were in Texas, there's a bajillion colleges. And that's, and so just a lot of things fell our way made it really easy. And we found a lot of success at that wound up signed to Warner Brothers. And, and suddenly, that was a 10 year career. And what was interesting, it was just, you know, two years previous, that I had had this experience, that really, as I look back I I mean, I'm also kind of a closet intellectual. So I was loving and really falling in love with the, the academic side of all of this. And I loved I realized how much my brain loved the jigsaw puzzling of systematic theology. Tell my story, Derek. Yeah, yeah, so I so I really responded to that. And I think what I really had mostly, during my more mature, I would say, you know, years of belief was kind of a love affair with the language and a love affair with the structure. And with the theology and with making it all make sense. And being able to have answers and being able to kind of figure out some of that stuff, I loved it and loved debating it and loved, you know, honestly, I'm framing it in such a positive light, what I should really say is I loved like, weaponizing it, that's, that's, you know, I really, because I probably had some kind of a chip on my shoulder coming out of an experience where I was never seen as smart at all. And I think I was I just wasn't smart in a way that was being in any way noticed, or measured by any of the schools that I was going to or anything like that, David Ames 23:37 I think we can safely say that's true. Derek Webb 23:39 Well, but you know, I mean, and so so I so I think I had this kind of insecurity, deep insecurity about my intellect and, and so I was kind of a coming out of my shell a little bit from an intellectual standpoint, and really loving how my mind really wrapped itself around all of the systematic theology side, I was really studying all that studying the history instead. And I loved the idea of knowing a little more about that than the average Christian like, and I really, and I would start to infuse that in the songs I was writing and had a vehicle to do that, because by that time, we were practically professional Christians, because we wound up on a Christian imprint label of Warner Brothers, and then wound up actually skipping to a different record label. The point being, that, you know, we were suddenly generating, you know, Christian media, we were generating the, you know, influential Christian content or something. Although we were we didn't really know what we were doing or talking about it. We were just give you know, and that's kind of what you learn is like the people who are who have those voices. They're not necessarily the people who know anything or know anything more than you do. They're just the people that for whatever reason, I've been given the opportunity to speak loudly and, and volume is not an indicator of anything. Yeah. And so anyways, wound up for 10 Good years writing songs I was half of the songwriting for Caymans. Okay. But then there's also the added weird layer and pressure of being, as I said, kind of a professional Christian at that point. And representing something about that. And, and there's some rules that wind up getting kind of applied to it in terms of what you can and can't write songs about and things like that. So I can imagine that all winds up interesting. And again, I'm wired. So contrary that I wind up really going for most of the things you're not supposed to be writing stuff about. And that's what differentiates, I think, eventually my songwriting in the band, and then around the beginning of the to around 2000 or so is when I went out on my own as a solo artist, and did see myself as something of a disrupter, I think, in the, at least in the space of what was typically being produced and covered from a subject matter standpoint of Christian art, or whatever I, it was a small, it's a small space, but I, I was willing to kind of self sabotage to take on some of the issues I thought that the church didn't want to talk about, or things that I would see is. So I mean, that's really the things that I went after, because I'm wired that way. At least my my early solo career, I made a, I made a career out of really nine on the hand that fed me during all those years and interesting. So, and I think a lot of during a lot of those years, I think folks who were paying attention and listening to the music, seemed to have some suspicion that I was against the church or that I was out to criticize the church, when really the I didn't see that at all. I, I was ultimately in my own crosshairs. And I mean, you only you write about what you know. And what I knew was my own heart and the way that I felt and looked at the world and saw that, that sort of thing. And so that's ultimately what I was writing about. But I did try to broaden it out for the benefit of folks who I thought, you know, maybe needed to be shaken up a little bit like I did, and, but I only mentioned that to say that later, when I did go through, you know, a legitimate deconstruction, deconversion, whatever you want to call it. There are people who said, You see, we always knew because way back then he was so critical of the church and this and that, that we knew that he must be on some road to ruin or something I was like, actually, like I was writing about the church because I loved it so much, because I really wanted to see it thrive and prosper and succeed or whatever, at its mission. And but then then eventually, I guess it would have been around 25th, teen ish, went through some bumps kind of in my personal life, went through a divorce. And just had a moment to kind of take inventory a little to do an audit of all of the presumptions that I had had for many years, many of which went all the way back to that those early years, you know, of being a new Christian high school, and then being in Caymans and some of that, and loving the theology and all that stuff. It gave me an opportunity Anyway, great failure will do this. And it's one of the great, it's one of the great things about failure is it gives you the opportunity to kind of do an audit of the presumptions that you have about invisible reality and about invisible, unknowable things and visible like God unknowable, like the future to really think more critically about those things. And are they providing me a particular comfort right now, as I'm not just practicing Now it's showtime, like, now I'm really needing them to show up and either be meaningful and comforting. Either the ideas, or the actual expression of the ideas, which is going to be the body, the church, the people? How is it all going to? How's it all going to shake out now that the rubber is hitting the road? And it turns out that I'm not just a hypothetical, Senator, I'm an actual one. Interesting, because the church loves when you talk about the church loves the idea of radical confession, and really confessing your sins, one to the other, and to really be open about that and get gritty. And really, they love that in the hypothetical, but when you start doing it in the literal is when they start getting panicked. And when they start backing away and eventually communicating. I mean, it's like the, the it's like they, they really want you doing it, but then they want you doing it on their terms. And they want you doing it in a way that, that no one possibly could at a moment in a moment of crisis. Because you're you're not collected and you're not. You're trying to survive. So you can't help the way it may come out of you at any given time. And that's interestingly the point where the church really leaves a lot of folks. Yeah. Which is so fascinating to me, because it's like, Well, isn't this what we've been practicing for, though? Is this what we open? We've all been rehearsing for this moment. And now that I'm going to come to you with more than just the idea that I'm a center of I'm going to come to you with like, Oh, I I actually am there's no there's no escaping it anymore. And this is the moment like you would think that this would be the thing we've all been waiting for. And this is the thing we're built for. And now we're ready to really, you know, drop me into the machine. then the machine does its thing. And that's not it's like I was a wrench in the gears and the thing and it's like it had to spit me right out and and it's like you ironically you stopped making sense to the congregation when you start doing the one thing that apparently is the thing that everyone supposedly has in common there. It's like going to an AAA meeting and getting kicked out when they find out that you're actually a drinker. Yeah, it's like it. I thought, that's why we were all here. I thought that was the only one thing we had in common. And the reason we were gathering so why are you shocked? I mean, and I was writing songs even about like, one of my best known songs during my early solo career was a song called wedding dress. And the chorus of it is I'm a whore, I do confess, and I put you on like a wedding dress and run down the aisle, it's, you know, I'm a product with no way home, and I put you on like a ring of gold and rundown the, it's like, I wasn't false advertising I wasn't making. I mean, I was trying to tell you, you know, like, you just weren't listening or didn't believe me, or what was it. And so it was around that time. And that big audit that I mentioned, is when I just didn't find any of those things, particularly comforting or even really necessary, and really needed when I was really needed to survive. And as I was going through, you know, the hardest things I've gone through in my life, and really needing some a framework to be able to look at it and have it makes sense. And I needed something beneath me to catch me and I needed something to lean my weight around on. And all the things that I had, that I had brought with me, they just turned out not to be real things, they just they I would lean my weight over and just fall right to the floor. And they just, it wasn't a real thing. It wasn't really there. And so I immediately what I'd spent 35 or 40 years constructing and tweaking and working on like a Harley, as it turns out, was not a real thing. And I needed to, you know, build a quick parachute on during the freefall. And that kind of became the lighting the fuse on kind of where I am now, you know, and trying to make my way into like, Okay, well, what is real then? Or what can I discern as? What can I find? What can I What can I test and, and find in terms of the way the world works, and, and what's really going on. And it was such a gift to be split up from this language that I was so committed to, and I've worked so hard on for so many years to, because you realize how much of it makes no sense. And how much of it is just kind of some weird code language that you're speaking with a small group of people, many of whom are not really taking it out for a spin to find out what it's really made of, it's like the same way that you can't really get a clear sense of the quality of the boat you're in while you're in it. Because you are in every way incentivized to believe that it can hold your weight, and that it is equal to the waves you're going to hit. It's not to your throne from the boat, and you can get up out of body, you know, vantage point of it, you can say oh my god, like that's what I've been in, like, that's barely a two by four, I mean, how in the world, or you come down and put your feet down and realize that you don't need a boat, because you the waters two feet deep, or whatever it is, it's like, whatever it is, those moments can be a great gift and, and then as you start to pull that thread, you just realize, oh, the whole thing just comes apart. For me, the whole thing really just came apart. And it was so good. Because there were so many things. It's so interesting, I swear to God, I'm going to stop soon. So you can talk to you but But you start to realize that there are so many things that you associate with this view of the world that you deep down you you knew didn't make sense. It's like, it's like when my friends from other religions or faiths or my friends who seemed to have lifestyles that were in contention with my view of the world, my Muslim friends, my might just my general secularist friends, my, my agnostic friends, or my my gay friends, my you know, they would come and we would talk about whatever the dilemma was. And I remember many times saying I think this is common. I wish it was like that I wish I could tell you that your way isn't okay way and that you can get to God and be saved that way. I wish I if it was up to me, I would I wish I could say that that your lifestyle and your behavior and your choices. That all that could just be okay. And that I that. I wish I could say that. Yeah, but unfortunately I can't because I don't have that luxury because here's where it says this is where I find myself strangely being more tolerant or loving or accepting or welcoming than God is right. And that's a strange like when I feel like I'm making apologies for the God of the universe who is supposedly all love. And yet I'm you know, making apologies on his behalf saying I what am I what am I supposed to do? Like? I wish he was as loving as I was but apparently he's not. Yeah, and things like that. So it's like, it gives you a chance to reframe and rethink some of those things. And let me say this, because I can already hear, although I'm suspicious that many of your listeners are, you know, will, will at least relate, I'm sure there are those who I would need to hear me say, and I want them to hear me say that I own 100%, that all those things I'm describing, all of those things could be a result of my wrong view of Evangel Christianity and my bad practice of it, or having being on the wrong side of it, or the wrong brand of it, or the or, you know, constructing a God out of all the wrong things and making it into the one that makes the most sense to me, and then saying, that's the only one I mean, and I even said, There's a song on the fingers crossed record that says, you know, either you're not real or I'm not chosen, you know, and maybe I'll never know. And either way, my hearts broken, you know, because it's like, in other words, I don't know, maybe this quasi reformed, very conservative, theologically conservative God, that it was the only one that made sense to me, is just the wrong one. And maybe I need to be an atheist of that God to find a real one, if there's one to be found. I am permanently uncertain about these things. And I'm not saying that I'm that I'm right. I'm just I just know that I was wrong before. Right. And I'm probably wrong again. But at least I'm detached from my certainty about it. If anyone's saying well, right, but you're the god you're describing. I don't believe in that God either. And I think that you're, and you know what you could be right. And I'm certainly not saying that all, this couldn't be my fault. I'm sure that it is. But for me, it was a good thing to be able to have the opportunity to go through and really pull all those things apart. And I think the only way I was able to do that was to have to land in it. And fine, and to blow right through it like to land in like a net that was supposed to catch me and find out that was air below me, I think was a great thing. Because then I was like, Oh, well, good to know. Yes. Because if it's it, because if it's not real, I want to know that. And if it Israel, I want to know that. And if something else is real, I want to know that. And I feel like I know a little more than I used to know in terms of maybe what's there or what's not, or at least what rings true to me. David Ames 37:26 I want to focus on the radical honesty that you mentioned. And specifically that you were mentioning, like isn't that what we're supposed to be doing is to reveal our humanity to one another and to experience grace? Derek Webb 37:44 truth will set you free, you know? Yeah, exactly, precisely. David Ames 37:46 On the podcast, we talk about secular grace, we talk about doing an honesty contest, rather than intellectual debate and honesty contests, and about trying to connect with each other. And I think you've just very eloquently described all of those things. I want to take that a step further. And just say, one of the things that I admire about your deconstruction work is the radical honesty. So you did the airing of grief and your original intention was to let people just bitch at you right to say, to say, Why did you do this to me directly? It didn't turn out that way. But you made yourself vulnerable, and owned the change that you made you understood the potential hurt that might have been there. And you put yourself out there and I just, I can't commend you enough for that work. Derek Webb 38:38 Oh, I really appreciate it. Well, yeah, so that so for for your listeners who don't know that area, grief was a podcast that some friends and I did in the year that that came right after the fingers crossed records. So just because I'm sure that just for people who don't know that it can get confusing. When I during my years, the last 20 something years of making solo music up until 2017 was when fingers crossed came out all of my records up till then we're dealing with not exclusively, I wouldn't have called myself a Christian artist. I don't think there's any such thing. There are Christian people who make art and their art has the fingerprints of their beliefs all over it, you can't avoid that. But I was never I never thought of myself as a vocational minister. I was not. That's not why I was doing it. I'm a professional singer and songwriter. But, but a lot of my work I was very I was always very preoccupied with spirituality and with especially looking in a critical way at the church that I did love and care about and consider myself a part of that's that's a brief, very brief description of kind of what my ethic was over many years. 2017 is where the hard pivot you know that the heart corner were that I took where the fingers crossed record was I kind of called it the the tale of two divorces. It was kind of my both horizontal and vertical divorce. I went through both In one year, and that record is kind of the the soundtrack for that. And so it was a bit of a record scratch moment for people who'd been with me for a long time. And because at that time, there would have been a good 20 years that they might have been with me. And in all likelihood, we're in some similar place to where I was maybe critical of, but ultimately loving and considering themselves part of the evangelical church. And so, and as I mentioned before, we, when I did that record, it seemed that people were using the record as a Rorschach to tell their own, ultimately, their own deconstruction stories, because when people would try to tell me what they thought of the record, they would just wind up telling me their story, right, which I really loved. And that's why my friends, I thought, okay, you know what, let's do this. Like, apparently there are not there. And again, this was back in 2015, or no, no, it was a 2017 2017. Maybe there are already plenty, but for at least these people, they seem to not have a safe place to tell these stories. So they're telling them to me, and I think there are a lot of people would be deeply comforted to hear these stories. And to hear, as you mentioned before, like their story, someone else, someone hearing their own story coming out of the mouth of another person, which means that they're not alone. And they're not crazy. And so our idea was, what if we just set up essentially, like a telephone number, and you can just call it and I'll spend 10 minutes on the phone with you, and you can just tell me your story. And just tell me, what your where you've been and what we'll we'll we'll bleep your name out. And we won't, you know, it'll, it'll be semi anonymous, and you can just kind of air your grief about your spirit, you know, your spiritual journey or whatever. And there were some people who aren't who did use it as a, as a means of evangelizing me or just telling me how generally heartbroken and angry they were at me for providing soundtrack for their lives up until that point, and then departing from that from their story, which I understand and that's fine. But ultimately, we did a handful of seasons of just collecting these deconstruction stories and kind of assembling them back by topic, and then releasing them for people as a means of comfort and feeling welcomed and included. And, and not alone, right. And I learned more than anybody did. I mean, because I was so new to it. And so to hear the stories of some people who had been going through a deconstruction or been through already a deconversion, decades before, and to hear it to hear their wisdom and what was on the other side of it, and to hear what something like reconstruction looked like for them, right, was really helpful. And it was I feel like I got the best end of the deal, hearing getting to hear all those stories, but it was a pretty overwhelming response. And I'm definitely proud of that work. I'm glad it's I'm glad it's there. We don't we're not doing it anymore. But I'm glad it's there for people to find if they find it, especially comforting. Yeah. David Ames 43:03 Yeah, and I don't mean to be stuck on the past here. Derek Webb 43:06 No, not at all. David Ames 43:08 If I were to grossly oversimplify. Fingers crossed, reads to me as I wish I could stay in. I can't. And I'm sorry about that. Targets feels a bit more of I'm out. What now how do I how do I reconstruct what what is life look like now. But that leads us to your current project, which is called the Jesus hypothesis. And I want you to talk about it, but it sounds like you're just revisiting some of the questions with a different perspective. So you want to tell us Derek Webb 43:39 about Yes. Yeah. So that's very well said I appreciate it. I appreciate you checking those things out. And yeah, so fingers crossed I mentioned and that's kind of the tail to divorces targets was directed came after and that was kind of like Okay, I think we've I think I've paid my my dues here now. I think I'm done grieving. I don't want that to be the hallmark of I don't want that to be the to be the grid through which I'm having to look at this forever. It's just I'm always pulling that thing apart. I'm always leaving a thing I want to go towards a thing now like I want to, I want to be not just repulsed, but compelled like I don't want to just be repelled I want to be you know, and so targets was more of a kind of defiantly joyous, yes, you know, record about unbelief, and also finding love again, it's about falling in love. And I'm remarried now for several years. And, you know, so it was it was it was I needed some joy and some the sound of joys to finances, rock and roll. So it's a very rock and roll record. Yeah. So Jesus hypothesis is the new project and I and the reason that I came around to, to doing this and what it's kind of about or what I'm trying to accomplish, was realizing that while I did go through a pretty intense kind of audit deconstruction, whatever process and I like the language of audit better because it's like that feels like a thing that's meant to be done. On regularly Yeah, rather than there's this exhausting, reconstruct it now deconstruct again and build it back up and tear back down. It's like my solution or whatever to that potential exhaustion was to just stop constructing why are we constructing like, the term belief is so problematic to me because of all the connotation around it like, I don't have anything anything in my life, I would put the weight of the term belief on anymore, I don't believe anything. Instead, rather than constructing and deconstructing, I'm going to my, the idea that was in the language I like is I'd rather hypothesize in real time, and whatever continues to ring true and work, I will continue to bring with me, but I want to be in a position to come in to new information and abandon it in a second if it stops making any sense that I think is a pretty decent failsafe from what had happened before happening again, like I don't want to become a fundamentalist about agnosticism, right? Or atheism, I don't, I want to remain open, and I want to hear everything, and I want to weigh everything out. And, and so that was part of it. The other big part of it was, as I mentioned, before, trying to take some responsibility, and own some of my own story. And maybe that being the biggest part of why I've gone through what I've gone through, and not even really at being the fault of a particular brand of evangelicalism, or God, or Jesus or the church or whatever, but I want to own it. My initial trip through the china shop, as the deconstructing it was I you know, I went in there with an axe and I chopped some some stuff down and I, it's what I needed to do. I think that's the way a lot of people feel initially about it. But I was taking some pretty broad strokes. And what I realized is that as I would have conversations with my wife, with my friends, inevitably, about invisible reality, about religion, about spirituality, about all of it, when I would shift into that gear, and start to talk about Jesus, God, the Bible, church, whatever, fascinatingly, I would go right back to where I was, in terms of how I thought, what all my opinions about all that stuff, I would fall right back into it and start defending the castle again. And so my friends would joke with me and say, you say you don't have a dog in the fight. But we're in this really, we're in this long conversation about talking about all this stuff. And you're come off like a reformed, agnostic, like, what's your deal? Like? It's like us, you say, you're not part of it. But it's almost like you're still defending this particular view of all this interesting. And I was like, oh, that's awful. Like, that means every time I go back to think about it, I'm revert I'm reverting, I'm going back into previous opinions that are just don't have any up to date thinking around them. And it's like, so maybe the thing that I previously took a, you know, an axe to, I need to go back and take a scalpel to, and I need to get specific and I need to get focused and I what I need to do is put, not just Okay, great theism. Okay, I've put that on trial, I've already come out of that a little bit from from a broad standpoint, now I need to go in and go after Reformed theology. And I need to go after my particular things, and I need to I need to surgically remove all that stuff and get it detached from it, so that I can just go back and even have thoughts about God, Jesus, the Bible, the church, and have them be in any way objective in 2021 2022, without having to only see them through my the narrow view of the way I've always seen them. Yeah, I need to go to look at them fresh, so that I can at least have better thoughts about them, and have some objectivity about them and put them in some kind of context. So that's really what this new record is, it's me going back and revisiting all of those specific presumptions, and putting all that stuff up on trial, working my way through my particular view of all of it, and just hypothesizing about it and saying, Okay, what if I was to allow myself because these are not things that I allowed myself previously. What if I was to and this will sound rude, very rudimentary to many of your listeners, but just just to say it, what if I allowed myself that inerrancy does not have to be part of the fixed system? What does that now allow to happen? What if I go in with a fundamental distrust of the apostle Paul, that's the majority of the New Testament what is that allowed to be possible now? What if I go through and in other words, what if I changed some of my rules and slowly go through and untangle all those things and then just look at all of it shit, there might be a lot of really interesting insightful things to learn and there might be some things I want to bring with me and there might not I don't want to give daddy all the control by being angry at daddy for the rest of my life. It's like so I want to go in and own it and I want to go in and and and look more critically at it. So that's kind of what this new record has is, is me going through and really pulling that stuff apart. David Ames 50:07 Yeah, that sounds awesome. And then you're doing one other really interesting thing. And that is that you are having your fans be a part of the process. So you'll actually do a session with your Patreon viewers, and they're able to interact with you on some level and then basically get inside your head as your as your yes. Derek Webb 50:27 Because, yes, because I thought that the people who had been with me this long and I do I have the way I kind of manage my relationship to the people who most deeply resonate with the songs and the questions and they've been with me the longest where who who care that much, or we apparently have that much in common where we really deeply resonate, you know, we're connected, is through this community platform called Patreon. And it's just a way for people to support to regularly micro support me, and then just have total access to everything all the time, you know, just and, and so everybody kind of gets what they need out of the deal. And it's a really beautiful thing. And so anyways, and that's been my thing for a handful of years now. And so my patrons, you to me feel like a safe group, because they really know me, I've spent a lot of time with most of them. It's, it's a manageable group, it's like four or 500 people. It's not, it's not 1000s of people, it's and so these are people who many of whom I really legitimately know, some of whom I talk to once a month on Zoom for about 20 minutes. So it's like, and I have for years and like we really know each other. And I do like private online shows for them all the time that we have q&a, and we talk and we have discord discussion groups. And so I feel I felt safer offering this to them. And I've always been a very private processor creatively. And I like nobody, my wife, my best friends don't hear the songs until I have obsessed over every conjunction. But with this, I thought you know what this would be, especially if I'm calling it a hypothesis if I'm experimenting, I think it might be interesting for folks who care and who want to see that, to really go with me through the whole process and really understand literally everything about this record and the songs and the decision making and the content and the themes. And so I started with no songs and I said, Okay, I'm going to live stream the entire process, and archive it to so you can go back and you can catch up. And then you can come with me and you can be live with me and and I've done maybe 18 or 20 songwriting live streams. I started with no songs I've got about 10 songs now that I'm not done writing. And I literally you can go back and you can literally watch me out of out of thin air. Like come up with and commentate my way through every melodic choice, every chord choice, every lyric choice, and just commentate my way through everything. I'm thinking, I've got multiple stereo cameras in my studio. And I just sit here and I just talk my way through it. Yeah, and I'm doing and now that we're in the recording phase, I'm doing that with the recording as well. We got cameras running, I'm actually doing the vocal takes and performing and we're doing it. So when the record is done, it'll come out sometime next year, I don't know exactly what the schedule is coming up, we're done with it yet. But this you'll be able to hear the song finished and then go back and start and watch the whole song appear out of thin air over time. And it just felt like this was a good record to, to offer that if to pull the curtain back for people who cared. And especially for people who might benefit to hear the literal thought progression all the way through. So they could really understand every one of those lines, every one of those lyrics. And so it would just enhance potentially their experience with the songs to wear when they're listening to it. I've been the only person who when I'm performing songs or talking about songs or hearing some of the songs, I have the memories of Oh, I remember where I was I remember that moment. I remember what I was thinking about the book I was writing when I wrote that I remember what like right when that appeared It was now there will be four or 500 other people who will have those memories with me of having been there when that happened. And they'll know exactly where I wasn't what I was thinking about what I was reading and, and it'll, if that helps them going through what they're going through. I thought that would be such a fascinating thing to try. Yeah. And so far, it's been amazing. It's been really fun. It would be very overwhelming for anybody who is not a big fan. But if it is the kind of thing that you're into, I'm just happy to have the document of it. And so that's kind of the way we've been doing it. And it's been pretty interesting. So Well, I David Ames 54:26 think you're on the cutting edge. I think that you're blazing a trail here that probably people will follow you. Derek Webb 54:33 Oh, well I appreciate it. It feel it makes it makes the creative process, the real time creative process of making the thing, the art just as much as the product of the result of that process, which most of the time, a record by the time somebody hears it. They've really missed all the magic, I mean of the thing appearing and the thing happening and the inspiration and everything that goes into it in the blood, sweat and tears. You get to hear the product of a process, but you don't Get to actually observe the process. And I just think, you know, records that have been important to me over the years, what I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall. And I've gotten to been with the artists when they were when it was happening. And to see the moment when they sang that vocal that I have now obsessed and listened to 1000 times and know every nuance of, and I just thought, I don't presume to be one of those types of artists. But for the handful of folks who connect with what I make, in that way, I would love for them to have that. And and and I'm always just trying to find, especially in the the world of digital art, and where there's no scarcity left in the world of digital music, it's like to create something that you had to kind of be there for and to and ultimate to enhance your experience of something that is that has no scarcity anymore, you can at least have a different experience of it and a heightened experience and enhanced experience of it. Yeah, you know, if you wish to, I liked that idea. And it is it feels like me making it is kind of so for these handful of people, the experience of going through this with me, is going to kind of be the art, it's that the album, so to speak for them is going to be this whole real time experience that we're having together. Right. And them honestly seeing where it's going before I do and knowing what it's about before I will, because they have the objectivity. I'm like right here, I'm like, right against, I don't know, I don't see it, I'll be the last one to see it. They don't take me months, it's always happens once the record comes out months later, when I've detached from the experience of having made it and I can just kind of forget a lot of that process and just listen to it more objectively, is when I get a sense of Oh, shit, like that's really revealing in a way I didn't realize deep, you know, but I don't usually get that till later. But these folks are going to know it long before me. And I also just love I love when art takes risks. I think that art is one of the few places left in culture where you can take real risks, and you can be really, and that can make something really beautiful. And I love artists to take risks. And I'm always looking for ways to take creative risks, I think great things happen. Because it keeps you as a creator on the edge of your seat it keeps it keeps you as a as a viewer listener, supporter at the edge of your seat. So I love the idea of it being something that for me, after 25 years of doing this as my job felt like risk taking and that that I immediately responded to I had the idea of doing it this way and immediately thought this could be awful. Like I could try it and I could literally not be able to do it right? Because I've been so private, what if I'm sitting in front of a camera, and I'm seeing how many people are watching and I'm like, just can't do it. What if I just can't do it. Because you do depend on something external to kind of happen, you know, you, you stand there with the key on the kite, but the lighting doesn't strike. There's nothing, nothing, nothing worth watching. And so luckily, it has worked, which I think is more a testament to the support that I received from these people and my trust in them. Yeah, you know, so anyway, but it has been fascinating. So it's been really fun, David Ames 58:00 very, very, very cool. On the topic of art, or something that Colin was getting at and that an obvious observation as the bleeding of love song in the human secular sense and a worship song to God. In some ways, you're also doing with fingers crossed the divorce and deconversion at the same time, the flip side of that coin that's really interesting to me. Yeah. Is that something intentional? Derek Webb 58:42 That's a great question. The only way I know that the only way I know to answer it is to say that like I have always considered it my job and the job of an artist. And this is just a definition I like and you can people can use it if they if they like and they don't have to, is to look at the world and describe it. Look at the world tell us what you see. That's that's the job of an artist, it's really that simple. That is always that's always been the ethic of the mind, that's always been my creative ethic always. And it's interesting to me that sometimes when I have looked at the world to describe it, it has come out like something that would sound like a worship song. Sometimes it will come out as something that sounds critical of a worship song, sometimes it will come out as it comes out so many different ways. And yet it's the same process is producing all of it and, and, and the reason is because everything in that the reason I like that that as a job description is it's all variables. The world is constantly changing, that I am observing, I am constantly changing as I observe it. So I could even stand in the same exact spot look at the same exact thing and describe it a completely different way or not describe it at all not find any particular meaning in it. And I and that so something about really adhering closely to that ethic has kept me Be really honest, and it's kept me or it's proven, it's presented me with the opportunity for honesty, right. And so that has been fascinating to me to to note for me to know that I'm always going at it the same way, I'm always this is the same approach I always take. And yet look at what radically different things are happening over time. And I think I am really committed to that I'm really committed to really boxing out around the creative moments. And I hope this is what my patrons are observing in these sessions or whatever is like, I'm very committed to putting whatever perceived complication or trouble arises from something I may be writing at any given time, what may be coming out of me, vulnerably, I didn't even time putting those, you know, in the mail for the future for me to have to deal with, and really boxing out around the actual creative moment to make sure that at least it comes out vulnerably, honestly, so that by the time it's captured, I just don't want to have projected any kind of insecurity onto it. In the moment of inception, I really work hard to make sure even if if it presents tremendous trouble for me later, I'd rather say You know what, it's not my problem right now, to worry about what the consequence of me saying this is going to be right for my friends, for my family, for my fans, for anybody, I just need to say if this is what's coming out of me, I need to I need to be both bodyguard and midwife to it and really make sure it gets out and it gets out completely and the most the most concentrated pure version of it that I can as quickly as I can, and then just have to deal with that later. And so I just kind of always push consequences create the consequences of creative decisions, just pushing those into the future. Until they're just, there's nothing I can do about it. And it's like, oh, well, here's, here's this song. And I don't know, I don't know how I let myself get away with writing. Now having my marketing business hat on, like, Yeah, this is super problematic. But, you know, I, I can just all I can do is go back and get mad at the artists who wrote it. But I think that's a good tension, especially as a solo artist to create for yourself. Because yeah, there's a point at which I'm gonna have to be concerned about, okay, who is this for? And how do I market it to those people? How do I try to set it up to find the people who I think it's for and who do I, and you know, it's what I do for a living, it's how I make money. So I'm going to have to, I'm going to have to use whatever I've made back here, I've got to use that to separate people from their money, because that's how I eat Yeah. So if I over alienate everybody, I'm just going to work myself right out of the job. And maybe that's, you know, that and I've gotten very comfortable with a cycle of self sabotage where it's like, I feel very comfortable shedding a third of my audience annually, I think that's a pretty healthy thing. And and gaining a new third of people who are more immediately resonant with what I'm making. Now. I think that's a just a probably a very natural, healthy consequence of honesty. In the arts, you know, it's like it you have to, you can't be mad at people who don't like what you're doing now, you have to be grateful they were ever there. And then have them clear those seats. So somebody else can come sit in those seats. But I'm happy having no more fans, just having the number generally that I have had for the handle painful years that I've had them, and some of them clearing out to make room for new folks. And that's kind of the way I rationalize it and do it. David Ames 1:03:30 And you're growing as a human being and changing not just from a faith position, but just as you grow as an adult in general. Absolutely. To be able to express those experiences. Yeah. I have absolutely stolen one of your guests on the airing of grief. It said something that just bowled me over. And if you know who it is, you can tell her thank you for me. Okay. But she disambiguated deconstruction of the church, from deconstruction of God. Yes. And if I were to take it just one step further, I'd say. There's just multiple layers of deconstruction, deconstruction in the Bible, inerrancy, deconstruction, theology, deconstructing the church, and then maybe the last thing to go is deconstructing God. And I'm just curious for you personally. Yeah. Did those happen in any particular order for you? Derek Webb 1:04:28 Yeah, I really appreciate you asking. Because I do think that's insanely important. And I feel like what you're describing that more granular deconstruction is essentially what I'm doing now. Like, I thought I was done, you did it, and it happened, and it's done. So now I am deconstructed. But as it turns out, you know, everything must always get more complex there. There you must apply more complexity to everything all the time, and break it down into further smaller pieces and smaller pieces and smaller pieces. And I think that's kind of what I'm allowing myself to do now. It was big picture now it's small picture and you Yeah, that was a great feature of those conversations, especially in that first season. It's something I picked up on and probably learned from the same person that you heard it from. And then it wound up being. For me language, I brought with me in the most conversations with folks who were part of our podcasts. And that was, like, it was interesting, how many times somebody would tell me their story. And then as we start to have a conversation about it, when they were kind of ready to talk about it, rather than ready to tell me, once they were done kind of telling me we were, we would just be discussing it. It's, it's, it was so interesting and ironic to me how many people, I was kind of talking back into faith, because I was like, okay, that's fascinating. I hear all those parts of your story. But for me at the time, I remember quick on my feet at that time, I'm breaking it into kind of three categories. You're not ever deconstructing even broad deconstruction, you're not you're not, there's not one thing you're deconstructing, there's the the idea of the church like the the institution, and the cultural voice of the church that exists kind of in the world, there's that. And your relation to that there is the literal expression of the Church, which is like Christian people, proud of fellow practitioners of Christianity, there's that. And then there's capital god, there's like, the idea of the all good, all powerful Maker of all things to whom you must be reconciled by way of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So there's like, there's these three things, and a lot of people would really have a lot of issues with the first two. But I wouldn't hear a lot about the last one. In their story. I was like, what sounds like, you have basically figured out that you don't belong, you don't resonate with or identify, either socially or politically, with the institution of the church anymore, that's a great thing, it's a great thing to be free of, because that just oversimplifies and reduces everything. And that's no good. And so I even if you were part of it, I would say to not be part of it anymore, because you just you're letting categories, do all your thinking for you. And that's and have all your conversations for you. And that's not healthy, it's not good. And then beyond that, it sounds like maybe you don't particularly identify or have been failed by, or particularly hurt by the individuals, the expression the actual community, the the congregants, that's totally fair, that's just your experience. But I don't know that that necessarily has a lot to do maybe with it, maybe maybe this is where you now get to start, as you said, thinking about how does all that bear or does it at all, on the way you feel about God as an idea, and maybe even your understanding of God, as an idea being uniquely informed by the Bible, maybe that's the thing you need to go pull apart so that you can have a better, bigger, broader, more abstract idea of God in order to determine if that's even a thing that you agree with, or resonate with. Because like, there's a song on the new record on G's hypothesis, that's called some Gods deserve atheists. And that's a, that's a phrase I've had for a super long time way, before I D converted, I had that phrase, because it was like, right, if I'm, the likelihood that the God that any individual is believing in is mostly a construction of their own ideas, is very high. Because Because like we are most likely the majority of God, as we see, it has got to be mostly a construction of it's, it's, it's, it's our own, it's our own ransom letter that we've kind of compiled of a lot of crap that we've cut out of a lot of magazines, it's like, a lot of Bibles, and a lot of experiences and a lot of relationships, like we've kind of pasted this thing together. And if you're rejecting that, and saying, I'm an atheist or an agnostic to that, well, that's fine. And that doesn't really have anything to do with anything other than you learning how you are distinct from everything that's behind you. But it's like, that kind of maybe has nothing to do with whether or not there's some benevolent, creative energy in the universe, and whether or not you can fit it into the skin of the God of the New and Old Testament. I mean, that's an important thing to think about. But that's not the whole conversation. And so that's the beginning of the thing, not the end of the thing, in my opinion, you know, because you immediately call something by a different name and loose it from all of the constraints that you've put on it. And now you're dealing with a whole other thing that needs a whole fresh, you know, exercise of thought around it like oh, well, because, you know, like, for me, the one thing that's come back around as maybe something I think I believe in or something I think is a feature of reality that I can discern that I think I can observe and test and does is cause and effect. Cause and effect I think is an actual thing. I actually do think and you can call that, you know Kismet? You can call that luck. You can even frame that into the law of attraction that what you put out comes back energy that you invest returns manifestation. I all that could be boiled down to cause and effect. And I do think that's a feature of reality. I do beyond that. I don't know. So the point being, I think it's extremely helped Want to break these things apart and not think you've done it? Just because you've decided you're not a part of the American Evangelical Church, political party anymore? Yeah, it's like, that's a great thing to do. It's a great start. But just because I want you to be thorough, and I want you to be healthy, and I ultimately want you to believe whatever rings true to you. And I don't have any problem with that. Maybe don't assume that baby Jesus went out with that particular bathwater, like, maybe you need to now start thinking about those things separate from you feeling like you're beholden to this particular political language, or rigid theological worldview, or whatever it is, it's like, it's important to break those things apart, and to make sure that you thought about them separately, right. And that was a lot of the encouragement we tried to bring to the airing of grief conversations was, like, I hear you really thoroughly doing it with this, but not with these two, right, or maybe with these two, but not with that one, you know, so don't move faster than you're ready to move, like you've really thought a lot about and really have a clear, you've settled with this. But like, maybe that just frees you up to really think more critically about this other one, and don't run so fast. And so far, like, be where you are, and move at your own pace. And, and I think that was, at least for me helpful to say, Oh, I don't have to, because some people won't go all the way there because they're like, oh, but if I do this, I mean, all of it's gotta be it's all or nothing at all has to go or I can't keep any of it's like, no, no, no, God doesn't get everything in the divorce. Like, there's a lot of things you could bring with you that those could be your things, you don't lose all of that stuff. You can bring love of enemy, love of neighbor, you can bring love of creation in the world. And I mean, you can bring all kinds of things with you that you thought belonged or whatever to your previously held worldview. Those can be your things that cannot be part of your own reconstructions scenario, you know, but so I so that's a great point. And I think I learned that from the folks who we were talking to in the podcast and hearing, it was just an observation, hearing them do it. And they realize you know what, that's not all of it, though, right? You're talking about this facet and that facet, but there's at least three if not a dozen, but there are the big three, you know, there's the group of people, the institution, and then like the dude, those all those all deserve their own David Ames 1:12:16 deconstruction. Yes. And for sure, you know, I'm doing just that right, this idea of secular grace, bring that with you. Of course, I'm absolutely stealing the intuitive obviousness that former evangelicals will recognize what we're talking about. Derek Webb 1:12:31 Yep. And if there's language that's helpful, and that is particularly beautiful, that you that we do find in the pages of the Bible. Well, then let's see if that some of that poetry is helpful. And then let's bring that with us. Absolutely. Let's do that. Yeah. Like, we're not going to allow some particular view of it, deprive us from benefiting from it if there's benefit to be had. And so I don't want to be afraid, I want to fear no information, right? I want to fear no language, there's no such thing as like, we tell our kids all the time, there's no such thing as bad words. They're not good words and bad words, there are only words and the meaning that we assign to them, and the ways that we use them. And so if I need to, if I if I particularly love certain poetic language, or philosophical language in the Bible, I don't want to feel like I don't I no longer suddenly have rights to that or something doesn't belong to somebody else. If I want to bring that with me and make that part of the language that I'm, again, kind of putting together to bring with me that that helps me then then I have every right to do that. And so do you. Yeah, I'm glad. I'm glad to hear that. And I'm glad to hear that that's part of the work that you know, that the community is doing. David Ames 1:13:49 As we wrap up here, Derek, one of my observations is that you provide a bridge for the Christian who is in the early part of deconstruction. I've always wanted to be that, but I think my audience has turned out to be the D converted. Yeah, primarily, it's people on the other side, and how do we live and thrive now? Yes, but I really appreciate the voice that you have and how necessary it is, man. And I want you to expand on one quote of yours you have shared in the past that you shouldn't fear deconstruction, The only danger is in not questioning at all. That's exactly right. And I'd like you to expand on that and like and let's assume for a moment that maybe I have a handful of listeners who are still believers who are just beginning those questions. Derek Webb 1:14:36 Yeah, that is the quote like that. Because if it turns out to not be true, wouldn't you want to know? And because if it turns out to be true, don't you want to know like, and so rather than to make some big decisions about languages and concepts when you're young, and then just never think about it again, just go on second. Well, you know, that's it, I've done my thinking about that stuff. And so here's my, these are my talking points. And here's the scripture verses that back it up, and I'm kind of done thinking about that, like, that's not a great healthy way to, to go forward and to be, you know, to be a person, here's my, my sweet dog contributing is very strong, very strong feelings about this. But yeah, so the point being that the only real danger is in not pulling the thread, because and I've even heard, you know, like, what's the language like God God is, is bigger than your doubts, or you got it, you know, God, God can handle your questions and your doubts and, and is, you know, arguably arguably bigger than whatever your doubts and questions are. But so either we believe that, so what what I would say is like, don't delay, don't if the stakes are high. And so there's an urgency, I think, that I would like to leave people with, to really fully engaging with yourself and these in these conversations, to really get to the bottom of it. In other words, pull the thread and pull it and one of things I love about John Shelby Spong, who is one of my favorite theologians, he's a, an Episcopal, I think he's a bishop. And he's, I've just gotten into his books in the last few years, and he's really tremendous. I've really loved his writing Jesus for non religious is a fantastic book for the believer or non believer, in my opinion, because he has such tremendous historical treatment of so much of the Bible, and so much I've really enjoyed his work. But in the beginning of that book of JSON religions in the introduction, he says, and I believe it when he does this, that his goal is to pull the thread and follow it and follow it wherever it goes, no matter where it goes. Even if it leads him completely out of all belief and faith and all, then you have to be committed to going all the way there. Yeah. And so I would just Yeah, so pull the thread continue pulling it up, because the only danger is not pulling it in order to somehow keep yourself in a state of Arrested Development to where you don't go on to realize, because maybe there is a better, more beautiful, more believable, more intensely fulfilling version of God or whatever it is, on the other side of pulling that thread just a little, maybe you're underselling, maybe your maybe your view of inversion of God, for those who are believers and fearful of losing all of it? Wouldn't you rather lose all of it? If the issue that you have currently is not a real thing, a thing that you have constructed? That cannot save you that cannot bring a fruitful, abundant life? For you? Wouldn't you rather get past that? Wouldn't? Wouldn't you rather be an atheist to a false god to find a real one? Is it Don't you think that risk is worth taking you, we have to be an atheist to every god that we find until we come up against a real one. Yeah, and and so you have to continue to do that you have to throw every false god under the bus, every false Savior onto the cross until we find ourselves to one that we have to reckon with. And that is the pursuit, that is the pursuit of all theology, that is the pursuit of all zealous believers. And so in my opinion, yeah, that the danger is in not doing it, the danger is in putting your head in the sands of certainty and saying, I will not think about it, because I'm so afraid of losing it. If your mere thought of it, could lose it for you, my invitation to you is that you've already lost it. If your god cannot, can't bear even the weight of the simplest tug at the thread, then it's not a real God who can save you. And so you need to be free of it. And you need to get on the pursuit towards a real God if there's one to be found, and to know God, if there's none to be found. But I would rather see you pursue your way all the way into truth, or, you know, at least feeling intellectually satisfied, then again, to just bury your head in the sand of certainty, and to be free of the preoccupation with certainty, ultimately, because when it comes as again, to invisible things like God, or unknowable things like the future certainty, we're just not going to be trading uncertainty, unfortunately, it's just it's not a thing, we're going to be able to be certain amount there is, no one can claim certainty on any side of this argument. Nobody can. We're finite human beings. That's right. So be free of that. And then pull as hard as you can for as long as you can on that thread. And just see where it takes you. Yeah, that's always been my encouragement in my in my invitation, because I see again, the only real danger is not pulling it. Because then you're just never going to know what can be known. And I don't I personally can't live that way. I need to know what can be known. Yeah. And there's more to know every day. And the further you pull, the more the light shines upon an even greater new questions. Yeah, there's even more thread to pull and so I'll run behind that to the day I'm dead, you know. David Ames 1:19:54 Wow, that is so incredible, and a great place for us to wrap up. Derek, how can we People find your music. How can they become a patreon? Let us know how they Derek Webb 1:20:03 Yeah, Derek web.com is just the probably the easiest, d e r e k w e BB Derek webb.com. And I'm just at Derek Webb everywhere you know on social media and wherever you go look. And that's, that's where you'll find me. I would love for people to come and hang with our little motley crew of folks. And you know, we've got 30 year faithful believers, we've got people who never believe in the first place, we've got people who have come in or out of it in the last six months, we've got everything in between. And me never knowing where I'm at, and doing it live in front of everybody. So it's like it's a, it's a pretty warm welcome place. I would love for folks to, if any of the music can provide any soundtrack to any part of your life, I would be honored to be found. So I think that's probably your best bet. David Ames 1:20:46 Yeah. And we'll definitely have links in the show notes. So Derek Webb 1:20:48 great. Great. Great. David Ames 1:20:50 Derek, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Derek Webb 1:20:52 Yeah, it's a pleasure is great. Thank you again, for answering my email. Already, I really appreciate getting to do this, I hope we can talk get some time Absolutely. David Ames 1:21:18 Final thoughts on the episode, I did this interview and the turnaround very quickly within one week, and I feel like I'm still processing this conversation, there was so much to it, it is so dense, I think you can hear that I am holding back a lot as because in my mind, Derek's time was very valuable. And I wanted to get him on mic recorded as much as possible. I have a lot of thoughts, I don't think I will be able to capture them all here. I think Derek is a quote machine. And you should go back and listen to this two or three times to try to capture all of the things that he says, I appreciated the analogy of not being able to discern the quality of the boat while you're in it. This is a lot of what I talked about when I talked about being in the bubble, that you cannot gain perspective on the ideology you are within, until you take at least a half step back. And that is sometimes the biggest challenge. But I also really appreciated him talking about the new project that Jesus hypothesis. In that context, he says I would rather hypothesize in real time, and whatever continues to bring true and work I will continue to bring with me. But I want to be in a position to come into new information and abandon it in a second. If it stops making any sense. That I think is a pretty decent failsafe from what had happened before happening again. Ultimately, holding what we believe to be true lightly as being willing to incorporate new information is the new epistemology the new way of thinking the new way of discovering what is true, that will lead us to closer and closer approximations of the truth. The last quote of darex is definitely my favorite talking about what do you have to lose by asking the questions of deconstruction that you either find out that is true, which would be great. Or you find out it's not true. And then you have learned something? Hate says Wouldn't you rather lose all of it, if the it that you have currently is not a real thing? And I think that really summarizes the question at hand for all of us who have gone through some doubt, who might be in the middle of doubt. For me, this was the question, did I care about truth? Or did I care about defending my faith, and I fell on the side of caring about truth. And being willing, as Derek says, to pull on that thread for as long as it takes as far as it goes. And in my case, it came to the end of theism. It came to the end of my Christianity, it became for me to atheism and humanism. If there was any daylight between Derek and I, it would be that I think he gives too much credit to the concept of the versions of Christianity. So he said an early on in the conversation, it could be a result of him having the wrong view or the wrong practice. This reminds me though, of how many times we as D converts have been told, Well, I wouldn't believe in that God, either. You're believing in the wrong way. If you believe like I did, or the God that I believe in, you would have real faith and it would all be different. And so there really is no winning that battle. I think at some point, it is okay to say I'm open to new proof to new information. But I have closed the book on the versions of Christianity are the versions of theism, and I can move on. So I think Derek gives almost too much credit to them here. I'm thinking of the Christian leaders more than the average A person in the pew because that's just in my mind a manipulation tactic. And I think Derek can be more assertive about where he's actually at on that particular topic. I want to thank Derek for being on the show, he absolutely lived up to the honesty contest. That seems to be the hallmark of all of his work. And I highly suggest that you check out his music, check out the airing of grief, become his Patreon and discover the Jesus hypothesis and participate in that process as well. Derek web.com is his website. And I will have links to all of these things in the show notes. The secular Grace Thought of the Week is about the sea of ABCs of secular spirituality, the connection part, the human connection, a quote from this episode from Derek, he says, it turns out that I am not just a hypothetical sinner, I'm an actual one. The church loves the idea of radical confession. They love that in the hypothetical, but when you start doing it in a literal is when they start getting panicked. Now, of course, I don't believe in sin, I think you're not broken, you're human. But what I do believe in is that human connection, and you could potentially use the term confession of connecting and being vulnerable with another human being and in a trusting, loving relationship, sharing those deepest secrets that you have as a cathartic process. I wanted to talk about secular grace so much during this conversation, but again, I didn't want to interrupt Derek much, but to just to say that, as Derek mentioned, we can take what we like from Christianity, and in his words, God doesn't get everything in the divorce. We can take this concept of loving one another agape love, of sacrificial, proactive love for one another, and try to live that out in our lives, without the need for a supernatural belief system. This is the bit that I am trying to bring with me and to share with you. I honestly believe this is what transforms people. Love motivates us on a level that is very, very deep. Our need for being known, being accepted being loved is very, very deep. So if we can be that for one another, we can have a radical impact on the people around us and ultimately, the community and our society. As I mentioned at the top 2022 got a lot of goals, including being on other podcasts, I want to reach out to more Christian believers. We will have people like Matt Oxley who I also think is doing a good job of being that bridge in between. We have Carlene coming up who was on the holiday episode and Judah coming up who I mentioned in the Ask me anything, that I'm reaching out to various other slightly more well known secular humanist thinkers, and hopefully we'll have more of those on the show as well. If you happen to know anyone you'd like to hear on the show, either believer or or humanists, please refer me to them them to me and try to get us in contact. I'd really appreciate that. Until then, my name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful. Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod chaser.com. You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol atheists.com. If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and you'd like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful email@example.com or you can check out the website graceful atheist.com My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human beings This has been the graceful atheist podcast Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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