Grammy Award-winning rock band Switchfoot will be releasing their new album Native Tongue on Jan. 16 and in an interview with The Christian Post frontman Jon Foreman details how the band has managed to keep their music Christ-centered without conforming to cultural Christianity.
During times of social unrest in the world it’s music that can truly unite people, and for Foreman and his band that has always been the heart behind their songs over the last 20-years. Native Tongue promises to do just that by promoting love as a dialogue in times of division.
Switchfoot’s 11th studio album features 14 songs recorded primarily at Melody League Studios in the band’s hometown of San Diego, California. The diverse collection features the band’s anthemic title-track and a few of their staple reflective songs, among others.
Below is an edited transcript of CP‘s interview with Foreman in which the lead singer unpacks the profound meanings behind the songs on the album and shares the theology they follow which has kept them from conforming to cultural Christianity.
CP: What’s the message you want to get across in Native Tongue?
Foreman: Being in a band with my brother, I know a thing or two about fighting. I’m continually reminded that the reason why we fight is because we care, because we are passionate. I feel like a parallel could be made with the political scene that we have in our nation. I’m reminded that when someone has a distinctly different view than I do of politics, that heartbeat of what we’re hoping to accomplish is hopefully a nation where we can see the Constitution lived out.
We have a common drive for goodness, for greatness, and to see the ideals in which our country was founded lived out. I’m reminded that underneath all of that, even as a believer, I see the idea that there’s something inherently beautiful about this person that I vehemently disagree with. There’s a compassion and grace that starts the conversation.
I’m reminded that no matter what our family story is, there’s someone who changed our diapers in the middle of the night, or someone who gave us a bottle in the middle of the night — that these are acts of love, acts of service are why we’re here. Someone cared in the middle of the night when they didn’t want to, they loved us into being.
So let’s start there, let’s start with this commonality, this identity, and let’s move from there. Instead of starting with anger, starting with fear, which I think is a common vernacular on Twitter, on Facebook, on the local news programs. I feel like let’s rewind the clock a little bit and let’s start back before that, before we learned how to hate, we were brought into this world with love.
CP: Was there a theme behind this album?
Foreman: The backbone of this record would be, I think maybe the same of almost any record we’ve ever made, which is attempting to come to terms with reality, wrestling with the current state of the world, within and without. I think there’s a lot of unrest, there’s a lot of reasons for fear, frustration, anger, pain, beauty, joy, it’s all mixed in together. I think Native Tongue is born from that and wanting to speak into that. We wanted to make this album as diverse as possible with every song feeling like it had its own DNA.
The subtext is, love is our native tongue but there’s a lot of different ways to say it and we’re all coming from a different place. Hoping to find unity among diversity, everyone saying and believing and thinking the same thing — that’s not unity, that’s just one color. You actually have to have different opinions and different beliefs and different understandings of the world for there to be unity, and that’s what I hope for within my country, within my church, within my family. All you can hope for is people loving each other through their differences.
CP: You guys are very clever with using Christian themes or language in your music, and because of it your work appeals to all people. How do you avoid getting caught up in cultural Christianity?
Foreman: I found it really helpful, early on, the distinction that Soren Kierkegaard makes between the church and what he calls Christendom. He’s the father of existential philosophy, a really hard to read Danish writer, who had some incredible things to say. He distinguishes between Christendom and the church, saying a church is the bride of Christ, the body of Christ; it’s imperfect, but living, breathing, acting out the love of who God is here on the planet.
Then Christendom is all the trappings that go with it. The things that often are confused for Christianity. The things that sometimes are bought and sold in the name of Christ but don’t have anything to do with Christ.
I really found that distinction really helpful. Maybe because I’m a pastor’s kid and I really appreciate authenticity and I love it when I see any form of authenticity. So for me, when I hear a song, the question that I’m asking at the end of it is: Do I believe it? I feel like there are a million different songs that need to be sung and it’s not my job to judge whose is better or worse. I just know what my role is and what I’m supposed to do.
I had one of my heroes tell me early on, my job is to be honest, that God doesn’t need a lawyer. That’s a pretty high calling, to be honest. I feel like I see that in the Psalms and I see that all throughout the Scriptures. It’s the same thing you hear in the blues, it’s the same thing I grew up listening to with the local punk bands, it’s that honesty. That’s the way I want to sing, the way I want to play, and I feel like that’s my role. It’s not my job to decide what the rest of the church is doing, it’s just my job to be a specific part of the body that I’ve been called to be.
I want to just keep that conversation going. I want everyone to be invited to the table. If you don’t look like me, you don’t smell like me, if you don’t believe like me, I want you at the party. Let’s keep the dialogue going, let’s talk. And I think music is the best way to communicate these things.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jeannie Law