Jimmy Eat World: Hells Bells and the Dangers of Rock and Roll

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Zach Lind from Jimmy Eat World offers a fascinating glimpse into some of the inspiration behind the band’s distinctive sound, as well as a personal tour through his own upbringing in a conservative Baptist household. He and Ken then discuss an Integral approach to understanding spirituality, religion, and fundamentalism, paving the way forward for Christianity in the 21st Century. Zach and Ken also talk about his experiences touring with bands like Green Day and Blink 182, expanding Jimmy Eat World’s already distinctive sound in the studio, and balancing his stardom with his life at home as a husband and a father.

In 2002, Ken Wilber wrote a novel called Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free, a light-hearted and entertaining post-postmodern romp unlike anything Ken had previously written, laden with idiosyncratic humor, offbeat perspectives, and tons of contemporary cultural references. In the book, Ken mentions the rock band Jimmy Eat World, a band Ken has expressed his fondness for many times in the past several years.

The remark was noticed by Zach Lind, drummer for Jimmy Eat World, who had this to say in his own blog:

“I am a big fan of Ken Wilber. If you don’t know who Ken Wilber is, he’s one of the more well respected American philosophers living today…. I’ve written about various books of his on my blog before. His book A Brief History of Everything totally floored me.

What’s totally bizarre is that in his novel Boomeritis he mentions the band I play in and names some of our songs. Here’s the quote:

‘Jimmy Eat World is playing ‘Caveman’ and ‘Robot Factory,’ and the thump thump thumping pounds a brain too jagged’ – Ken Wilber, Boomeritis

To give you a frame of reference for how cool this is for me, imagine if you were a Biola student and John Piper mentions in one of his books the persuasive essay you wrote in your sophomore year about how homosexuality is a sin regardless of what Brian McLaren might think. 😉 It’s THAT cool.”

Zach’s obvious enthusiasm for Ken’s work made it clear that we had to get these two on the phone together. What follows is a fascinating glimpse into some of the inspiration behind Jimmy Eat World’s distinctive sound, as well as a personal tour through some elements of Zach’s own upbringing in a conservative Baptist household. Ken mentions the symmetry he sees between some of Zach’s story and his own—Ken also grew up with a very traditional Baptist family, began to question such fundamentalist approaches to the world at roughly the same age, and even played the drums in a band for many years.

But the fact that both these men outgrew traditional religion at a relatively early age is not in any way to say that they abandoned their sense of spirituality, their connection to the world, or their intuitions of the divine. There is a widely-held misconception that once we begin to develop past the traditional or mythic stage and into the modern or rational stage of psychological development, there is suddenly no more room in the universe for God, and all notions of spirituality are seen as vestiges of an antiquated past, thoroughly dismantled by the cold gaze of scientific materialism.

It’s as if culture silently expects us to make a decision: religious fundamentalism or staunch atheism, one or the other; and anything in between amounts to either intellectual laziness or impotence of faith.

But this is a false choice—our spirituality is capable of growing and maturing right alongside every other facet of human development, including our cognition, our values, our aesthetics, etc. Individuals and cultures both grow through very real stages of development—what has been called archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral stages (and beyond), described in further detail below. It is entirely possible, therefore, to be a rational Christian, following the universal teachings of Christ but without having to insist Christianity is the only exclusive path to God, and without having to literally believe in the pre-rational myths of virgin births, parting seas, and satanic fruit.

Spirituality and concepts of God, largely distrusted by the rational stage of development, become less taboo once we evolve into the next major stage of human growth—the postmodern, pluralistic, or green stage. While there is much more freedom to contemplate spiritual questions at this stage, it can be very difficult to make sense of all the perspectives at our disposal. We find ourselves armed with the pluralistic ideals of multiculturalism, egalitarianism, and inclusiveness, but we are left with the tattered remains of yesterday’s meaning—empty surfaces, gutted interiors, and deconstructed myths—fragments of truth with which we are supposed to construct our new visions of God. It is this combination of zealous eclecticism, flattened hierarchy, and broken metaphysics that make pluralistic approaches to spirituality so often appear to be soupy, flaky, and New Agey.

It is not until we reach the Integral stage of development that we can begin to see the pieces of the puzzle as they really are, and begin to put them together into a meaningful reflection of the human spirit, which is itself the reflection of God’s own ever-growing heart. The contours of this Integral approach to spirituality are explored in this discussion, revealing glimpses of a truly unified inter-religious spirituality that can not only ease the academic culture wars that currently sweep through the world, but put an end to one of the largest sources of violence, suffering, and warfare in human history.

Written by Corey deVos

Zach Lind

About Zach Lind

Zach Lind is the drummer for the alternative rock band Jimmy Eat World, from Mesa, Arizona. Since forming in 1993, Jimmy Eat World has released nine studio albums, their latest titled Integrity Blues.

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.

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