Music

Tim Lambesis and the limits of labels

John J. Thompson

A tragedy has occurred and people are reeling. Others are basking – even gloating – about another public Christian who has seemingly fallen from grace. Tim Lambesis, the affable, charismatic and thoughtful front-man for the metal band As I Lay Dying, has been arrested for allegedly attempting to pay a hit-man to assassinate his estranged wife. Fans are shocked and confused while detractors - and in the metal world there are many - are loving every minute.

The media’s insistence on identifying Lambesis as a “Christian lead singer” or labeling As I Lay Dying as a Christian metal band may reveal the glee so many in that world have when any opportunity to discredit Christianity presents itself. Yet it is true that Lambesis and his mates have openly shared their Christian faith and have been an inspiration and source of hope to countless young people. Accurately labeled or not, this is a punch in the gut for fans. Many are left wondering what to think, how to respond. No, As I Lay Dying were not usually swimming in the deep end of the theological pool, but Lambesis’ lyrics, stage banter and online commentary were encouraging, humorous and bold. He wasn’t a preacher, but neither was he shy about sharing his faith.

The early online aftermath of this news seems to fall along a few fairly predictable lines. Some non-believers use this as a case-in-point to call into question the entire concept of the Bible, the relevance of faith or even the goodness of God (if He exists). Fans and other Christians seem to be assuming that Lambesis has either fallen from his faith or was never really a believer in the first place. But what if this is much more complicated than that? How might mental illness, loneliness, a lack of accountability or other underlying issues have played into this mess?

Fans and other Christians seem to be assuming that Lambesis has either fallen from his faith or was never really a believer in the first place. But what if this is much more complicated than that?

I’ve met Lambesis several times. He was always a generous, gentle and very funny guy to be around. He struck me as someone who was genuinely concerned about his fans and was eager to be someone they could look up to. He never took himself too seriously. While he never attempted to market As I Lay Dying as a Christian band, he was also never ashamed to confess that he was a believer. It seemed that his and his wife’s faith were a large part of their motivation to adopt three children from Ethiopia over the last couple of years. Thus this news comes as an incredible shock. How could this happen? What has to happen in a person’s mind to take them to this place?

Nothing else is known - and Lambesis certainly has not yet been convicted of a crime - but something has definitely gone wrong. How are fans and other people of faith to respond to something like this?

  • Pray. Pray for Lambesis, his family and for all of the law-enforcement and court personnel involved. Pray for truth to be known, for healing to take place and for mercy and grace. Thank God for the sharp detectives who may have saved lives in this situation.
  • Resist the temptation to defend sin or to play the judge.
  • Reflect. According to Jesus even the thought of murder is as sinful as the act. Where is there murder in your heart?
  • Make sure that you are surrounded by truth-telling people who know you well enough to speak into your life long before you would do anything hurtful to yourself or others. This life is all about community. We need each other.

 

Other than that I’m open to suggestions. I’m heartbroken for Lambesis and his family, as well as the other members of As I Lay Dying who are no doubt experiencing intense pain and confusion. There are no easy answers here. It’s an insult to suggest that there are.

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