Hawk Nelson's lead vocalist Jon Steingard has declared on social media that "I no longer believe in God," explaining "it didn't happen overnight."
Steingard prefaces his Instagram post by saying that he arrived at his decision after a long time of searching. "I've been terrified to post this for a while - but it feels like it's time for me to be honest. I hope this is not the end of the conversation, but the beginning. I hope this is encouraging to people who might feel the same but are as afraid to speak as I am. I want to be open. I want to be transparent with you all - and also open to having my heart changed in the future. I am not looking for a debate at all - just a chance to share my story in the hopes some good can come from it. I love you all."
Steingard grew up in a Christian home, being a pastor's son, playing and singing in a Christian band, and having the word Christian in front of most of the things in his life. However, he started having doubts and began questioning. He writes: "I've had private conversations with trusted friends about my doubts, and discovered to my absolute shock that they are shared by nearly every close friend my age who also grew up in the church. I am stunned by the number of people in visible positions within Christian circles who feel the same way as I do. Like me, they fear losing everything if they're open about it."
He wrestled with basic but big questions that not even the best Christian apologists could answer convincingly. "If God is all loving, and all powerful, why is there evil in the world? Can he not do anything about it? Does he choose not to? Is the evil in the world a result of his desire to give us free will? OK then, what about famine and disease and floods and all the suffering that isn't caused by humans and our free will? ...Consulting and discussing the Bible didn't answer my questions, it only amplified them."
Lots of other things began bothering Steingard about the Bible. "Why does God seem so pissed off in most of the Old Testament, and then all of a sudden he's a loving father in the New Testament? Why does he say not to kill, but then instructs Israel to turn around and kill men, women, and children to take the promised land? Why does God lead Job to suffer horrible things just to win a bet with Satan?! Why does he tell Abraham to kill his son (more killing again), and then basically says, "Just kidding, that was a test"? Why does Jesus have to die for our sins? ... If God can do anything, can't he forgive without someone dying?"
Clarity arrived during a conversation with his father-in-law - a pastor, like Steingard's own dad. When the rocker brought up a particularly unpleasant sexist passage in 1 Timothy,".. My father-in-law asked me if I'd been reading the King James version, because he felt King James had put his own spin on a lot of things and that version couldn't fully be trusted."
Steingard took it from there, saying "So it sounds like you believe that modern translations can't fully be trusted, because they are human, flawed, and imperfect. I am simply taking that to the natural next conclusion - that the original Greek is also human, flawed and imperfect, and also can't fully be trusted."
He replied. "Well, if you believe that, what do you have left?"
I said, "Exactly."
And just like that, the singer realized the house of cards had come down.
Not that he's an atheist now, per se. "I'm open to the idea that God is there. I'd prefer it if he was. Stepping away from belief in God felt like a loss in some ways - but it's felt like freedom in others. ... [W]e have a tremendous sense of relief now. ..."
On Hawk Nelson's Facebook page, band member Daniel Biro responded to Steingard's post.
"Forever grateful for these brothers of mine. We've been through some highs and lows together and we share a very special bond that can't be broken," Biro wrote. "There are many seasons to a band, as Hawk Nelson has experienced. But one thing that isn't seasonal is our support for one another on or off the road touring. God has a unique path for each of us and it's important that we stay honest with one another. Looking forward to seeing how each of us continues to G R O W ."
ABOUT HAWK NELSON:
This powerhouse, pop rock band has won the hearts of thousands since its debut release in 2004. Hawk Nelson has released six studio projects (Letters to the President, Smile It's the End of the World, Hawk Nelson is My Friend, Live Life Loud, Crazy Love, and Made). Hawk Nelson has been awarded two Canadian GMA awards, multiple GMA Dove Award nominations as well as a JUNO nomination. The band's music has been featured on NBC, MTV, WB, WGN, KTLA, Nickelodeon and the NFL Network. Their music has been used with special promotions for American Idol, the NFL, Nike, JCPenny's, Olympics, NHL and Michelle Obama's "Big Day Out" 2011 campaign. Hawk Nelson is Jonathan Steingard (vocals, guitar), Daniel Biro (bass) and Micah Kuiper (guitar) and David Niacaris (drums).