I was born in the 90s and grew up listening to mostly contemporary Christian music. To say DC Talk was a big deal is an understatement. They set a bar for Christian music that I’m not convinced anyone has reached since. The trio of Jesus Freaks, TobyMac, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max, went their separate ways in 2001. Now, 20 years later, Kevin Max posted on Twitter that he is an “exvangelical.” Along with some other tweets he’s made about deconstruction, many people assumed Max is yet another Christian celebrity abandoning the faith. I think they may be jumping the gun a little bit. What’s happening with Kevin Max? Instead, he has been something of a Christian misfit for decades, constantly searching for where he fits in this strange world we live in, and people are now waking up to his struggle.
Where Has Kevin Max Been?
To give a brief history, when DC Talk split up, all three of the singers continued making music. TobyMac had the most commercial success in his solo career, consistently charting and winning awards. Michael Tait had a less successful solo career but became the new lead singer of the Newsboys in 2009, which met with great success. Look at it this way; there’s probably no God’s Not Dead movie without Michael Tait singing the song.
Kevin Max stands as a bit of an outlier. He has been consistently pumping out music for 20 years, and barely anyone knows about it. For many Christians, he’s the guy who disappeared, came back to make an album with Audio Adrenaline in 2012, and then disappeared again. That may be due to him distancing himself from the Christian music genre and very much doing his own thing. Look through his discography, and you see everything from gospel, to synth-wave, to spoken word poetry.
When did his Deconstruction Start?
Many other Christian celebrities have described their deconstruction process. Joshua Harris, Jon Steingard, Rhett and Link, and many others have publicly announced their lack of belief. The thing is, for many of these scenarios, everything is fine until it isn’t. They keep their doubts hidden, their questions unsaid, and their frustrations quiet. Max never hid any of this, at least since leaving DC Talk. From the early days of his solo career, he didn’t quite fit in with the modern Christian evangelical image. Look up his social media, and you will see years of material indicating his frustrations with the church, evangelicalism, Republicans, etc. He has openly become more progressive in his politics and theology.
The ability to voice your doubts is extremely important. Often, when we spotlight a Christian, they feel that showing their doubts will hurt their career or ministry, so they hide them. Whether a pastor or musician, we all need people we can go to with our questions and doubts. Airing it all out on social media may not be ideal. Still, I prefer that to someone pretending to have solid faith while bottling up the problems, only to have an explosive deconversion later.
What is an “Exvangelical?”
I’m going to do a more detailed piece on the “exvangelical” topic later. For now, it seems to be a growing movement of people fed up with the evangelical church enough to leave. Some go as far as abandoning Christianity entirely, while others find a home elsewhere. For many, the concerns are not about religion at all but instead wanting to distance themselves from the politics associated with evangelicals. Concerns over the label have grown particularly since the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Max seems to be a bit of both. He definitely wants nothing to do with conservative and Pro-Trump politics. The bigger issues seems to be Christians, than Christianity, as evidenced by his song, “Jesus, I Love You, But Your Followers Freak Me Out.” He describes himself as a “gothic-hippie-socialist-jesus-freak.” But his concerns do lie with Christian theology as well.
Still a Jesus Freak?
When people saw his “exvangelical” tweet, a number of articles and posts popped up. Eventually, Max decided to clarify his position.
“I’d just like to say, I’m still a bespoke Jesus Freak deconstructing in harmony with you. ☮️”
Max made it clear that his deconstruction is not a deconversion. He still believes in God and Jesus. One might rightly be concerned for his spiritual health, seemingly isolating from the larger Christian church, but it would also be wrong to say that evangelicalism is synonymous with Christianity.
Some of the other specific comments he made come from lyrics he posted to an upcoming song. Max’s next project is creating the band “Sad Astronauts.” In a song from the upcoming album, he mentions believing in the “Universal Christ,” which led some to conclude that he became a universalist like Richard Rohr. That’s possible, but coming from a man who often talks in abstract poetry and struggles with labels, I’m going to wait before assuming that.
The other major issue he has raised concerns about is the inerrancy of scripture. While I do believe in inerrancy and that it is important, I would not list it as an essential requirement to be a Christian. Much like his distancing from the church, I think the direction he is heading is dangerous, but clearly, his journey is far from over. I pray God gives him the answers he needs.
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