On January 21st, former Newsboys guitarist and co-founder George Perdikis wrote an article titled, “I Co-Founded One of the Most Popular Christian Rock Bands Ever… and I’m Now An Atheist” which gained quite a bit of buzz. I saw it popping up over and over again on social media and finally decided to read it; after reading my heart broke. I didn’t feel like this article was an attack on Christianity (as so many of the comments had suggested) but rather the confession of a man who is a whole lot like me. In the article, Perdikis describes his experience of Christianity and how it contributed to his decision to become an atheist. He writes:
I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion. I wanted my life to be measured by my music, not by my ability to resist temptation… The Christian music scene is populated by many people who act as though they have a direct hotline to a God who supplies them with the answers to the Universe. There seems to be more ego and narcissism amongst Christian musicians than their secular counterparts… They demonized everyone while giving a pass to their own particular brand of Christianity, making themselves look like fluffy white angels with perfect, synchronized lives… Instead of wearing a mask of “righteousness,” they should acknowledge that they are struggling as much as everyone else.
These statements compelled me to write the following letter, because I mostly agree with them… and I’m a still a Christian.
Dear Mr. Perdikis,
My name is Daniel Emery Price. I am a Christian. A Christian who grew up listening to the band you co-founded. A Christian who saw you in concert more than once; a Christian who almost wasn’t one for the same reasons you say you aren’t.
I’ve played guitar in bands since my early teens and although I never experienced the level of success you did, as the son of a Pastor I too struggled with band identity and by proxy, my own. We were a Christian band. Played at churches, youth groups, lock-ins and every other Christian function. I remember saying a lot of spiritual things from the stage but the reality was, one band member was on drugs, another was drinking a lot, and I was terrified that my girlfriend was pregnant. We were miserable at all the things “Christians” were supposed to be good at. Praying, reading the Bible, hearing from God, the list goes on and on. We were a sham and I knew it. Eventually we dropped the “Christian” label and just played music. However, this didn’t solve the personal internal wrestling I had going on, “Was I a Christian or wasn’t I?” Like you I was no good at maintaining the impossible rules of Christianity. In fact I was horrible at it. The worst person I knew at it. I looked at all the “fluffy white angels” around me that seemed to be far better at this whole thing and thought, “I’m just not cut out for this.”
I’m not writing this to tell you that you were wrong about that. In fact, you’re right. The rules are impossible. If that’s what God required I didn’t need to apply. And the truth is—it is what He requires—not just that you try you’re best. As I dug in deeper, I found that God requires these impossible things to be done perfectly, all the time, without exception. It turns out it was far worse than I had ever imagined, and for guys like you and me it was over before it started.
I think a normal reaction to this discovery is to walk away. I know I did. I’ll admit that there is a sense of freedom in that. It’s liberating to stop all the games, take off the mask, and accept that you’re not pulling this whole “Christianity thing” off. But it’s only a sense of freedom and not the real thing. There is always a feeling of freedom that comes with acceptance of the truth. You and I may not have accepted the Christian faith as the truth, but we did accept a very important and fundamental aspect of it as true: We can’t do it. And as we looked around we realized neither could anyone else.
Contrary to what you might think and certainly contrary to what I thought, accepting this fact isn’t opposed to the Christian faith. In fact, it’s right there in the heart of it. Christianity affirms what you and I know to be true from experience. We’re not that good at good things. Or what Christianity calls “Holiness.” Regardless of what we’ve been told, or how we see Christians act, or what they say about the faith—Christianity without a doubt tells us that we’re not as good or strong as we think we are. Christians may not agree with what you wrote, but Christianity does. I’ve found that it offers more than just a sense of freedom that comes from accepting who we are, but an actual freedom that comes from God—because of what Christ has done on our behalf, we’re fully accepted by Him. This is good news for guys like us, and at the same time it’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever heard. I remember when, what the Bible had been saying the whole time finally hit home. Do you know what the verse John 3:16 says?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
We’ve seen it on billboards, car bumpers, and signs at football games. But what it’s saying is the beating heart of Christianity. The driving motivation behind everything God does is love. People talk about the love of God all the time, but in Christ we see what love really looks like. He loves guys like us who are constantly getting it wrong, who have nothing but death coming to us; to the point where Jesus was willing to do it right for us, and then take the death we have so diligently earned, so that we could go free. He wants to give us true freedom with no strings attached or threat of punishment. Regardless of what we’ve been told, God isn’t looking for someone to condemn. That’s already been done. God literally loved us to death—His only Son’s death.
Whatever condemnation we’ve earned has been absorbed in the death of Jesus, and all good rule keeping that God requires from us is found in Him. I can’t pull this off but God sent Jesus Christ to pull it off for me. Everything I struggled and still struggle to do has already been done for me. I could never make up for all the failures and sin that are in my past, present, and future—and God isn’t asking me to. Christ takes those on himself and they are gone forever. This is what the church is (or it’s supposed to be): it’s a coalition of sinners being forgiven, a federation of failures coming together to hear again and again of the love of a God who takes all that away and declares us good.
So I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian not because I’m good at keeping the rules, but because I’m not. Christianity isn’t about us doing things for God. It’s about God doing the unthinkable for us through Christ. He’s paid our debts, taken our condemnation, taken our bad record and given us His perfect record. Not just once, but forever.
Some people talk in ways that imply this good news is just here to get us started, but finishing is all on us. What we both experienced is a result of that disconnect. People putting on a mask unwilling to admit they struggle, they’re messed up, and they’re broken. But the truth is, Jesus didn’t die so we could fix ourselves. He died because we can’t.
I’m writing to tell you that I am all of those things and that’s honestly who Christianity is for. You may not be a Christian, but you’re a perfect candidate—a guy just like me.
Struggling as much as anyone else… but forgiven by Jesus,
Daniel Emery Price
Daniel is the Director of Christ Hold Fast, an author, church and conference speaker and co-host of the podcasts 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament. He has served as a church planter, pastor and worship leader and currently lives in Bentonville Arkansas with his wife Jessica and daughter Anna.