During my college days and ever after, three bands have had a tremendous impact on my theology: Showbread, Thrice, and mewithoutYou. Thrice bowed out for a while, but came back with another album recently. mewithoutYou shows no signs of slowing down. But Showbread has bid us all a radically fond farewell, killing us one last time with raw rock (amen).
This post is coming six months after the album’s release, largely because I stopped paying attention to or looking for updates. These guys had a phenomenal run and their later work became ever more explicit about their Christian anarchy. This final album makes these views as plain as can be in some respects, particularly in the track “Raw Rock Theology.”
burn down their gods
defy their king
no flag, no idols
one king of kings
In their vision of anarchy, the kingdom (or kin-dom) of God replaces the hierarchies and powers of nations and “kings” of all types who currently run the world. Jesus reigns above all of these and his ways, when truly followed, provide a glimpse into an eschatological future where oppression, despair, and suffering are no more.
Showbread’s final album tears down everything and ends, as expected, with a soft song that calls us to “follow Jesus with your heart and love Him every way.” Most of their albums since No, Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical have done this. Showbread dares to say that the only just system is God’s love. All other structures are born of sin, corruption, and idolatry.
Showbread is also critical of Christianity’s coziness with American patriotism. “I’m Afraid That I’m Me” from Cancer has some of the most powerful imagery in their discography regarding this issue.
lately i have found frustration among the incongruence
a movement of peasants and pacifists drowning in patriotic affluence
i feel as though i should do something but i’m staggered by the ramifications
they’ve baptized the empire into the church and heralded its sanctification
And a bit later in the song.
“blessed are the meek” succumbs to “might makes right”
“turn the other cheek” succumbs to pre-emptive strike
“love your enemies” is fossilized beneath the frozen tundra
and “blessed are the poor in spirit” is devoured by “God bless America”
you file the children into the classrooms, make them stand and say an oath
and when we ask “should i love God or my country?”
you smile and tell us “both.”
we’ve hidden the God we claim we serve and driven him beneath the floorboards
but i can still hear this still, small voice
and i can’t take it anymore
Showbread’s music is unapologetically critical and disturbing. It challenges listeners, especially those of Christian faith, to truly examine what it is we believe about God, country, following Jesus, and navigating through a chaotic world. Some could very well come to different conclusions, but these songs at the very least awaken people from complacency and prompt debate, discussion, and reflection–active faith, rather than passive faith.
Each album since The Fear of God has personally challenged me, especially since my introduction to Showbread was their poignant concept album Anorexia/Nervosa. The lyrics are uncomfortable and depressing. It often takes me several plays to unpack and understand what, exactly, they’re saying and how I answer their challenges.
Rather than explain my beliefs in light of what they raise (I don’t think I could fully do so anyway), I’ll just share my favorite songs from each album.
No, Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical (2004)
Age of Reptiles (2006)
These albums will always be my favorite of Showbread’s work and simply sharing the songs here doesn’t do them justice because there’s a story that you must read along with them. You’ll need to purchase physical copies to do that because I don’t think they come with lyric booklets on iTunes.
Anorexia was the first album I had ever listened to that made me cry.
The Fear of God (2009)
Who Can Know It? (2010)
Showbread is Showdead (2016)
Never break. Never die.