On Metal and Mercenaries: The case of Tim Lambesis

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Tim LambesisI had the pleasure of briefly chatting with George Penk on the show “The Forum” on Life FM tonight. The topic was the recent and pubic fall from grace of Tim Lambesis, vocalist of heavy metal band “As I Lay Dying.”

As readers may know, As I Lay Dying is a band that has been around for some time, with their debut album Beneath the Encasing of Ashes coming out back in 2001. I discovered the band in roughly 2004, shortly after the release of their second album Frail Words Collapse, which came out in 2003. The band was openly Christian and was highly regarded within the “Christian Metal community.” That’s not a term I came up with, but one that is used a lot. Each new album released saw them rise higher, until they had attained dizzying heights of success. Their 2012 release “Awakened” was sublime. But things were not well for frontman Tim Lambesis. His marriage had fallen apart, he had disclosed to a number of people that he had lost his faith, and in February 2014 he pleaded guilty to attempting to hire a hit man to murder his estranged wife. He has since been sentenced and jailed.

In a couple of interviews since then it has come to light that for some time – even while performing in the band – Tim has not regarded himself as a Christian but in fact as an atheist. He didn’t make this public knowledge, however, because that would have hurt his place in the Christian metal scene. He says that this is also true of other purportedly “Christian” bands that As I Lay Dying had toured with.

Countless words have already been blogged by others about this awful downward spiral. I’m not going to add too much to it, but here are some of the things that have stood out to me throughout this whole affair.

  • Yes, it’s particularly striking that a professing Christian would do this (and this is how most of us thought of Tim when the story first broke). But I’m concerned by the apparent shift that took place as the story unfolded, from “Oh no, one of us did this. Our side looks bad” to “Phew, thank goodness! He’s not a Christian. For a moment there we looked really bad!” If you reacted that way, you might have been concerned about the wrong thing.
  • Should there even be a “Christian metal scene” – the scene that Tim felt pressure to misrepresent himself for? I guess it’s inevitable that we’re going to categorise together bands that openly identify as Christians. But I was reminded again that we should support things – including music – because it is good, and not because it has a Christian label on it. I’ve spoken at length about this in the past called “Stop being a Christian and Start Being a Person!” Some professedly “Christian” bands sing about nonsense, while some bands that make no overt profession of faith at all make music that is good and meaningful. Which should you prefer? I don’t think the choice should be hard. There shouldn’t be pressure to label your band “a Christian band.” Just be a good band. Write good music and sing songs with virtue. Sometimes you might even mention God in doing that. Sometimes you might not.
  • The person most “worthy” of our love in this situation is Tim’s former wife, his would-be murder victim, Meggan. Let’s not forget that. This episode should not become another means of attaining celebrity status. Tim doesn’t need notoriety over this. Somebody tried to have Meggan Lambesis killed, and thankfully, they failed. Meggan Lambesis is still alive.
  • Lastly, this isn’t the end for Tim. There’s a tendency to talk about him as “former….” Former Christian, former singer, former x, y, z. Obviously Tim’s life was a mess. But it’s not over, and we should not assume that there’s no hope for him. From what I’ve read he’s re-thinking the big questions about God, life and everything, a process that is involving reading Christian apologetics and some pretty heavy material in Christian philosophy. Is he genuine or is he trying to give the right impression? I don’t know. But he’s alive, he has a future, and I have no idea what might happen. Praying for Tim Lambesis will certainly do no harm.

And this is all I will say about the case of Tim Lambesis

Glenn Peoples

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Alabaster June 30, 2014, 5:11 am

    I was reading this about it, and I’m can be honest enough to admit I was in the “phew” camp. After I was reading an interview with Lambesis, I felt silly for my initial impression. I wasn’t glad he wasn’t “one of us,” but I was just sad that such a situation had come about. He and his ex-wife weren’t good about communicating and he got bogged down in things he thought were more important. His family was hurt because of his decisions and mistakes, and I pray that some of the damage can be healed. I hope he is sincere in his regret, and that his revaluation of his religious stance ends up being fruitful.

    As for the fact that he was part of the “Christian music scene,” I feel like I really must agree with you that the “scene” shouldn’t even exist. I think billing oneself as a Christian musician isn’t necessary. Events like this, where it is revealed that the band members (at least some of them) were perpetuating a fraudulent identity, end up in a situation where no one really wins. It can’t be good for the band members to participate in such a charade, and when the truth is revealed, the fans can be hurt by the betrayal.

  • Dan July 3, 2014, 6:17 pm

    When I became a Christian, one of the things I had to turn away from was the collection of truly destructive heavy metal that I used to listen to. Ronnie James Dio may be an extraordinary musician, but there is no denying that the lyrics are satanic.

    But it is impossible to deny that (a) those anti-Christian bands included intensely talented musicians, and (b) much, if not virtually all, of what is billed as Christian music is intensely banal. There are notable exceptions, but the field seems dominated by corporate artists who have identified a niche market and are exploiting it to the hilt.

    Accepting that the Christian music scene is a bounded, limited category that apparently causes large numbers of Christians to voluntarily confine or concentrate their music purchases in that category guarantees that opportunists will be attracted to this untapped market. Additionally, it breeds the potential for painful disappointment and attacks on the faith when the supposedly Christian artists adopt secular attitudes and positions. The number of supposedly Christian artists who have come out in favor of state-sponsored homosexual marriage, for instance, is disheartening. Artists are artists and should be recognized as such. They may also be Christians, apologists, theologians, evangelists, and so on, but they should not be automatically accorded respect for those activities until they have actually done them.

  • Glenn Peoples July 3, 2014, 7:54 pm

    I love Dio!

  • Dan July 4, 2014, 6:25 pm

    No kidding. ‘We rock to the witch’ and ‘rainbows in the dark’ are powerful and amazingly well done. In my old life, if I were trapped on a desert island with only one album, one of those might have made the list.

    So why can’t any modern Christian rock or metal band do what they did? I’ll admit that there are a few, but you nailed it, Glenn, with the observation that many nonChristian or even secular bands somehow manage to do powerful music with a spiritual element that is at least compatible with the Christian message.

  • Glenn July 4, 2014, 7:12 pm

    Dan, that’s a case of misheard lyrics. Dio did have a song called “We Rock.” But you’re thinking of this, from the Last in Line (from what I can gather, describing a fantasy scenario where heroes are off to confront the villain, or something equally fictional):

    “We’re off to the witch
    We may never, never, never, come home
    But the magic that we’ll feel
    Is worth the lifetime”

  • Frank July 5, 2014, 4:55 pm

    While I’m no fan of metal (‘Christian’ or otherwise), I do find it interesting that so many Christians have a hard time accepting or enjoying talent, truth and beauty wherever it comes from, particularly if it’s not packaged or presented as overtly Christian. While so much that is packaged as ‘Christian music’ is utterly unenjoyable pap. Mark Heard’s account of dealing with the Christian music industry and what he called the ‘Play Stupider’ sessions is pretty humorous: http://mhlp.rru.com/image.html#Radio

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