As front man for Pedro the Lion, the band he led from 1995 till 2005, Bazan was Christian indie rock’s first big crossover star, predating Sufjan by nearly a decade and paving the way for the music’s success outside the praise circuit. But as he straddled the secular and spiritual worlds, Bazan began to struggle with his faith. Unable to banish from his mind the possibility that the God he’d loved and prayed to his whole life didn’t exist, he started drinking heavily. In ’05, the last time he played Cornerstone, he was booted off the grounds for being shitfaced, a milk jug full of vodka in his hand. (The festival is officially dry.)
I worked as Bazan’s publicist from 2000 till 2004. When I ran into him in April — we were on a panel together at the Calvin College Festival of Faith & Music in Grand Rapids — I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in five and a half years. The first thing he said to me was “I’m not sure if you know this, but my relationship with Christ has changed pretty dramatically in the last few years.”
He went on to explain that since 2004 he’s been flitting between atheist, skeptic, and agnostic, and that lately he’s hovering around agnostic — he can’t flat-out deny the presence of God in the world, but he doesn’t exactly believe in him either.
I can’t say I’m not saddened by Hopper’s article, even though I think the article itself is wonderful and fascinating. Past Pedro the Lion Cornerstone sets were some of the most spiritual and worshipful concerts I’ve ever been to, and songs like “Secret of the Easy Yoke” can still tear me up. I’ve always appreciated Bazan’s honesty and thoughtfulness, and I still do, even now in his denials of Christianity. Doesn’t mean I’m not praying for him, though.
Also, I’m also glad that Cornerstone asked him back; I love the comments from the festival’s director, John Herrin.
FWIW, here’s an interview that some friends did with Bazan at the 2000 Cornerstone festival.