In a recent interview with Relevant Magazine, award-winning singer-songwriter Audrey Assad shared insights about her new album, Evergreen, and the evolution of her faith.
Assad's album comes after a five-year hiatus, during which Assad said she experienced a "serious deconstruction" of her faith. "I would have called it a faith crisis many years ago, but now I realize the crisis is really only the stress from my perception of how people receive that, or my perception of how God thinks of me—that’s what creates the crisis," Assad said.
"The deconstruction itself is a healthy, normal thing to go through. [But] that’s not what we’re taught as evangelicals growing up. I wasn’t [taught that]. But it has been a very difficult and interesting experience."
At the time of her last album's release, Assad was "in a place, I would say, of almost total unbelief." However, Assad revealed that she experienced emotional healing through making the record, a collection of hymn covers: "...the songs I grew up with had sort of haunted me in some way. And so, going into them and exploring them and making kind of, soundscapes under them was a very cathartic experience."
Part of Assad's path to the renewal of her faith, she spent time "unpacking" past trauma from her church background. "I would probably be able to safely just call it a cult, [that label is] not that far off. I also had a situation in that church where I was being sexually harassed by somebody who was an elder there for several years as a teenager."
"So there was just a lot that was tied up in church for me that was really difficult," Assad explained. "And once I started going to therapists and doing all this work to undo—or at least to examine that stuff—I slowly started finding that at the end of the day I have all of these big questions, and yeah, I don’t really know how clearly I believe all the things I used to, but at the bottom of all of that, I think I’m a believer."
"I don’t think I’m someone who looks at the universe and says this is meaningless. I tried to say that, and it just doesn’t ring true to me," the singer continued. "So this record is kind of like my foray back into prayer, worship and rediscovering a God that I think I had very, very bad ideas about for a long time."
Assad's first single, "Deliverer", from the new album, takes an approach to theology of challenging her own preconceived concepts of God to reach who He really is. "So I have [this song saying], 'You are not possessive, You are not invasive, You are not controlling' All these things that I’ve kind of been taught that God was, and I no longer believe that God is, so I was trying to chip away at the block of marble and see, like, what is under here? When I chip away, what is not, what is?"
As for whether or not she has found security in her identity as a believer, Assad credits the diversity and fluidity of her Catholic faith: "Being part of a spiritual movement that’s so old [Catholicism] makes it possible for me to kind of go, 'Well, I don’t know how I fit, but I know that I do because this movement is so wide and so broad that it has housed people from all different thought traditions.'...that’s been helpful to me to feel a part of something so old and broad as the Catholic tradition is."
Assad concluded the interview with concerns about Christians in her generation who, after deconstructing and renewing their faith and their likelihood of being cast out of the evangelical community: “What is going to happen if I’m open about this? And I’ve seen people—[for example] when Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, John Piper tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell”—people are going to tell you that you don’t belong but you have to insist: “I do belong and you can’t tell me that I don’t. It’s not your place to tell me that.”