Things I Learned from the Music of David Bazan

David Bazan plays live music show
Photo Source: Anna Leary

Anna LearyI grew up in a super Christian home. My grandfather was a World War II era jack-of-all-trades and one of those trades was a lay Methodist minister (meaning he didn’t go to school to be a pastor, but was allowed to preach anyway because why not, right?).

We went to church every Sunday. I WORE DRESSES. We prayed really loud prayers while holding hands before every meal, *especially at restaurants.* We went to Wednesday night services with casseroles and everyone was a member of a Sunday school class, Vacation Bible School, all of it.

When I was a teenager, I was an active member in our youth group. We had weekly Bible studies before school. We went on mission trips (I just physically cringed typing that — to the people of the world, I’m sorry for my former colonizer ways) and held public prayers around the school flagpole because we just needed to *prove* (to whom, I don’t know) that we weren’t ashamed of our faith. We signed, “True Love Waits,” abstinence-and-purity-wait-until-marriage-between-man-and-woman-marriage pledges. IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH. More on that later. For sure.

My faith is still hugely important to me, but my adult-faith looks nothing like the very closed-minded Evangelical faith that was hammered into my brain as a kid.

It’s in this rocky, hard, uphill, often painful journey of faith reconciliation where my soul really identifies with the music of David Bazan. His music perfectly reflects a lot of my own personal faith discovery where I have to go from childish blind beliefs to those of a conscientious, passionate-for-the-plight-of-others, open-hearted queer adult, wife, and parent.

Bazan has one particular song, Hard to Be, that speaks to me on a soul level. A soul that has a hard time believing that God just wants people to suffer if they don’t believe in one particular way. That having a “strong Christian faith” and going to a “Bible believing” church is good enough for some people—that they don’t strive to have more and to be more for others in this life.

“…you expect me to believe.
that all this misbehaving.
grew from one enchanted tree.
and helpless to fight it.
we should all be satisfied.
with this magical explanation.
for why the living die.
and why it’s hard to be.
hard to be, hard to be.
a decent human being…”

I hear Bazan’s pain as it seems he grew up in a similar home—a home where you believe one way and that was the only way. That being a “decent human being” isn’t enough, you have to profess one narrow-minded viewpoint and THAT is what determines your worth as a human, your faith, not your actions or tender heart for the plight of others.

He goes on in the same song to describe how he graduates from college and knows he won’t get any congratulations from his family because he’s chosen to broaden his horizon and move instead of clinging to the very contracted views of his childhood.

Since 2016, I have truly seen the real face of my family and their “faith.” I knew some had an issue with me being queer, but after The Election, I have seen the truth in very plain terms: my family would rather uphold violent white supremacy and status quo to protect themselves and their scant bank accounts than think about what might be best for my queer family, my black son, or people who think, worship, or look different than themselves.

So yeah, David Bazan, I get it… it’s “Hard to Be a decent human being.”


Anna Leary is still listening to her 2005 Classic iPod that houses over 10,000 songs and hoping it doesn’t die because “music in the cloud” still doesn’t make sense to her.