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Adz And It Shall Be Given Unto You: Sufjan Stevens Interviewed
Jeremy Allen , October 12th, 2010 08:54

Jeremy Allen pulls up a pew and listens to Sufjan Stevens talking about his new direction and the lord...

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The Age of Adz is freaky, phantasmagoric and far out (said in one's best David Bowie voice). Sufjan Stevens says it is built from experimentation and that "the pop songs themselves [are] kind of imposed over sequences of sound" but it’s so much more. While he calls it a real trial and error project that saw him "mutating sounds through effects pedals”, the result is complete, coherent and yet otherworldly. The track ‘Too Much’, for instance, is like Paul Simon in his pomp but with his acoustic guitar replaced by the soundtrack from Walt Disney’s Fantasia mixed by Aphex Twin. It’s visionary and fresh and audacious and you should listen to it.

Prior to the release of this record Sufjan brought out an hour long EP called All Delighted People which wasn’t quite as well received. The Brooklyn-based singer songwriter is certainly not afraid to try things and put them out there. His attitude to music and to life is modern and forward thinking; his take on things, idiosyncratic and truly original. Even his Christian faith, which he takes some stick for, is indicative of a rebellious soul. Even in this he is somehow out of keeping with the herd. He’s neither a step ahead or behind everyone else. He is simply operating somewhere else entirely from them. He might be making tracks that seem to last forever, but Sufjan Stevens has a punk heart.

The Quietus speaks to him 9am Brooklyn time. He’s setting off for the practice studio, where he will work for ten to twelve hours with his band in an attempt to somehow eventually bring The Age Of Adz to a venue near you.

How is the practice going?

Sufjan Stevens: It’s kind of an interpretation and right now we’re at the point where we feel like a covers band. At the moment it sounds like a parody. We’re trying to stick closely to the record but there’s a lot of improvisation and sound experimentation that happened in the process of making the record that’s really difficult to render in a live show. There are a lot of moments where we’re just going to have to make it up - there are a lot of synthesisers and samples and drum machines.

Are you going to attempt to play 'Impossible Soul', the climax of The Age of Adz, weighing in at approximately 25 minutes?

SS: Yeah, if we can. It’s been an Olympic event but we’ve been rehearsing it. I don’t know if that’s going to communicate or whether people are going to lose patience.

<a href="">Too Much by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Prog bands and Old Grey Whistle Test regulars made a virtue out of how long they could make their songs. Is everything shorter now because of how we’re fed information and how much information there is?

SS: I think to an extent people are forced to reckon with a proliferation of information because of the internet and in terms of the way the media is. It does affect the public consciousness in a way, but I don’t think we’ve lost the capacity for patience and long-term investment. I still think we have the potential for that. It’s interesting because there’s kind of a weird irony to it all. In the past we’ve been limited by media; because records were limited to 40 minutes, the CD was limited to 70 or 80 minutes... an MP3 can last as long as you want it to last. So I think it’s ironic that attention spans are lower and songs become shorter when there’s so much more potential there.

I was listening L’Histoire de Melody Nelson again yesterday, which is 28 minutes long, whereas the EP you recently put out, All Delighted People, weighs in at an hour. It’s interesting that chose to call it an EP, because it’s very long.

SS: Well for me an EP is no longer about length of time but more about the embodiment. The general consensus about what an album is more about whether it’s complete or fully realised, and I feel an EP isn’t about being comprehensive or complete, it’s more like a short story. It’s sort of like a series of musical gestures, not necessarily related but they feel good together.

In olden times there were things like chart restrictions, where if something was over a certain length it wouldn’t qualify, though I guess nobody really sits by a radio on a Sunday listening to the hit parade anymore.

SS: Categories are outdated, they’re all antiquated. They’re not relevant to the age of the download.

Didn’t you sell it for $5? That’s a very generous price. Was that because people might download it for free anyway?

SS: Yeah there’s definitely an awareness of the value of music today. There isn’t any standard by which to measure work, the work of a song or the work of an album because everything is accessible now through filesharing. I’m not really too concerned about that but I do think that it’s fine to make concessions to the consumer, you know, and I don’t think an album has to be $10 or $15, it’s sort of been devalued and there’s no way of determining its worth anymore. I’d rather sell my records for cheaper if I could get away with it.

And being so prolific it’s not a surprise that you embrace new technology.

SS: I think it’s exciting because it kind of allows us to be less anxious about the album as an event and its considerable aesthetic and economic leverage. I think the album now can be much more casual. There are a lot more opportunities now to create more, produce more and release more and not be so hung up about the event of the album. Pirating, downloading, filesharing culture has deconstructed the album as an event.

Though I spent my childhood buying LPs and invested time and money and devotion into them and it never did me any harm. Some of that has been lost.

SS: There’s an accountability to an object if there’s an investment in it. There’s a correlation between accountability and value and investment and now there’s absolutely no investment, or time or money or even attention. So the song and the album has been disarmed, it no longer has the strength and economic power as before. But I don’t think that’s true of the experience, the listening experience. I still think the music is a force and that the consumer is moved and persuaded by music. It’s just not all caught up in a fixed economic relationship anymore.

It demystifies the artist as well. The deification of the musician is becoming a relic of the past.

SS: I think that’s a good thing. For too long the corporate structure controlled the industry and it created a weird dynamic between musicians and their audience where they were given celebrity status. I think now the focus is more on the music itself and musicians have been brought down from their idol status. It’s healthy. I’ve always invested more in the material than the musician and I believe regarding the distribution of my work that the music is no longer mine anyway, it’s an experience that I participate in. I contribute to it and obviously I’m producing it but the song itself is a third party and I believe it has greater force and power and strength and sustainability than I do. The song is going to live a lot longer than I will.

If you look at the Live Aid generation they come across as pretty pompous. Musicians seem to have been humbled.

SS: Which is true, though it’s not that true of hip hop. Ego is still the centre. Haha.

Kings of Leon seem to be losing touch a bit.

SS: Yeah. Well, it’s a religious experience and the people on stage are Gods. They can choose to act like that or they can choose not to.

You produced a great little album by Welcome Wagon, the husband and wife team of Revered Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique. Any plans to do something similar?

SS: I would love to. That was one of my proudest moments. I know it’s a funny, folksy, idiosyncratic little project but to me it was really exciting. We really hit it off together. Really fun people. You know they’re not ambitious, they’re really modest people. They’ve got a kid and he’s got a church, they have other ambitions. That was more just a little hobby project. They do some shows once in a while but it’s pretty ramshackle.

<a href="">I Walked by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Is it good to work with people who have faith? I guess it wouldn’t be as easy working with drug addled lunatics right?

SS: Hahaha. [Pause] What’s the question?

I should probably rephrase it. You’re a Christian, so it’s probably easier to work with Christians than some heathen hoovering up cocaine every day...

SS: Yeah. [Long pause] What?!

What I’m asking is, is it easier to work with somebody in the same faith instead of somebody of a secular disposition?

SS: [Pintersque pause] Ahhh no, not at all. I don’t draw lines when it comes to my work. People I work with come from all over the place. There’s heathens and potheads in my band. I love them all, so...

Being an artist of some repute do you find the calling to spread the Good News sits awkwardly with your profile? Is it difficult?

SS: Not necessarily, you know, I think the Good News is about grace and hope and love and a relinquishing of self to God. And I think the Good News of salvation is kind of relevant to everyone and everything.

I find as I get older due to a sequence of events spirituality becomes more intriguing, though having been indoctrinated with the hard line dogma that I’d go to hell if I didn’t follow certain practices and believe very specific things, I was quite angry about Christianity for a while.

SS: Oh dear.

I suppose you could call it Protestant guilt.

SS: The church is an institution and it’s incredibly corrupt obviously, but that’s because it’s full of dysfunctional people and people who are hurt and battered and abused. It’s very normal in any institution to have that kind of level of dysfunction. That’s unfortunate. I find it very difficult, I find church culture very difficult you know; I think a lot of churches now are just fundamentally flawed. But that’s true for any institution you know, that’s true for education, universities and it’s definitely true for corporations because of greed, and I think part of faith is having to be reconciled with a flawed community. But the principles, I don’t think the principles have changed. They can get skewed and they can get abused and dogma can reign supreme, but I think the fundamentals, it’s really just about love. Loving God and loving your neighbour and giving up everything for God. The principles of that, the basis of that is very pure and life changing.

Do you believe that God can be reached through other faiths? John 14:6 categorically states Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life" and nobody can get to the Father except through him. A lot of people take that very literally and don’t believe you can find spirituality through Buddhism or Islam or whatever...

SS: Yeah, I mean who can know the mind of God and who can be his counselor? It’s not man’s decision, you know. If God is infinite and he’s in all of us and he created the world then I feel there is truth in every corner. There’s a kind of imprint of his life and his breath and his word and everything. You know, I’m no religious expert, and I don’t make any claims about the faith. All I can account for is myself and my own belief and that’s a pretty tall order just to take account of myself. I can’t make any claims about other religions. There’s no condemnation in Christ, that’s one of the fundamentals of Christianity.

The Gospels are a good read, and then you get Paul ruining everything with his right wing attitudes.

SS: Well Paul is a good reference for the character of church institutions, the setting down of cultural principles. Because God is the church and the church is an institution and the institution is culture; you have to reckon with all the trappings of culture and that’s kind of what Paul designed. You know, that was his role. You can’t read it without looking at it in the cultural context of the time and place, it’s inherent you know.

Church originally was a body of people and it had nothing to do with a building.

SS: I mean it’s weird. What’s the basis of Christianity? It’s really a meal, it’s communion right? It’s the Eucharist. That’s it, it’s the sharing a meal with your neighbours and what is that meal? It’s the body and blood of Christ. Basically God offering himself up to you as nutrition. Haha, that’s pretty weird. It’s pretty weird if you think about that, that’s the basis of your faith. You know, God is supplying a kind of refreshment and food for a meal. Everything else is just accessories and it’s vital of course, baptism and marriage, and there’s always the sacraments and praying and the Holy Spirit and all this stuff but really fundamentally it’s just about a meal.

And there’s the cross of course. It’s an extremely powerful symbol and it has permeated into some of the greatest art and literature of the last couple of thousand years, but it’s peculiar that people wear an object that represents the putting to death of their Lord.

SS: It’s really morbid. It’s a really morbid symbol you know. It is very grotesque when you start thinking about it. But it’s also beautiful you know, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. And I think it relates to the meal as well because it’s Christ giving up his blood and flesh as food and that then itself is the giving up of his body for eternal life, therefore salvation. Whatever that means...”

I don’t know. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.

SS: It’s the most important thing to me really but it’s also really important I don’t get too caught up in it. There’s a necessity for casualness, you know, because I think fear and anxiety are not elements in faith. And I think doubt is important and questioning and all that. I think there’s been too much made from fear and condemnation to manipulate people. I think that’s an atrocity really.


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David M
Oct 12, 2010 3:17pm

very human interview, thankyou

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Oct 12, 2010 3:41pm

In reply to David M:

Probably because it's with a human, mate.

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Mr. Knowitall
Oct 12, 2010 4:10pm

The scripture the guy quoted is wrong. John 3:16 is: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

I think the writer meant John 14:6

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Oct 12, 2010 5:44pm

In reply to Ryan:

You don't know that. You have no empirical evidence.

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Oct 12, 2010 8:31pm

Wow... this sounds like he most Sufjan has opened up about his views on spirituality in a long, long time. I wonder what's changed?

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Oct 13, 2010 1:34am

The interviewer seems to love speaking about himself.

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Brandon Andress
Oct 13, 2010 1:50am

not too sure about the questions...but I really appreciate the humble answers. as one who also follows is good to hear someone articulate the heart and soul of the faith without all garbage that usually comes with it. thanks soof for opening up. I more than anyone appreciate it.

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Oct 13, 2010 2:41am

great answers but the interviewer is so lame.

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Oct 13, 2010 4:03am

Either the interviewer is a total idiot, or he's having a laugh at Sufjan's expense. Sufjan plays it straight. But damn, those questions are hilarious.

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Oct 13, 2010 4:50am

I'd love the chance to interview Sufjan so I could tell him how my dad's emotional distance has undermined all my attempts at closeness with others.

What's his fee, btw?

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Oct 13, 2010 5:31am

Love the interview! Not feeling the new album at all though

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Oct 13, 2010 6:06am

wow. i wish he would have come right out and said the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

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Oct 13, 2010 8:22am

Is there a recording of this?

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mike roy
Oct 13, 2010 2:54pm

Again, very interesting to hear Sufjan's responses to these questions, but it really would have been more applicable to hear him answer questions about the new album... It's such a vast and mysterious work, I would think anyone given the chance to ask questions would have plenty that actually pertain to the album mentioned in the interview's title. But I really appreciate Sufjan's candor. It will be interesting to see how these songs come across live.

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Oct 13, 2010 3:55pm

I was worried for a long time that Sufjan had gone away from the faith, but with this interview I find myself encouraged to know that he certainly has kept his faith. One of my all-time favorite tracks by him is "To Be Alone With You". It speaks of his intimacy with the Lord, and I am in a much better state of mind that Sufjan can still Stand by his Christian record, "Seven Swans".

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Oct 13, 2010 3:56pm

In reply to :

My name is Blake Stebbe, by the way.

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Jeremy Allen
Oct 13, 2010 5:38pm

There were some personal elements in the interview which I don't really need to justify, but had the quotes from Sufjan been isolated they would have come across weirdly like Christian polemic. I thought it best to represent the conversation pretty much as it happened to give a fair representation.

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Oct 13, 2010 5:47pm

In reply to landon:

Was rather disappointed about that as well. He really beat around the bush on that one.

That said, interesting interview & I'm loving the new record.

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Oct 13, 2010 5:53pm

thanks, sufjan.

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Oct 13, 2010 6:49pm

worst interview ever

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Oct 13, 2010 10:07pm

In reply to :

best interview ever

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Tony H
Oct 13, 2010 10:12pm

Yeah, effectively calling St. Paul a bigot isn't the best way to go about an interview.

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Oct 13, 2010 11:45pm

i enjoyed this interview for sufjan's answers but yes the questions were mostly terrible

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Hope This Helps
Oct 14, 2010 2:07am

In reply to Jeremy Allen:

It's fine to ask him about his beliefs, but you went beyond good taste, turning it into a dorm room theological sparring match. That's why several got the feeling there was too much of you in this piece. It felt as though you were trying vet him as a non-fundie.

No doubt you're a fascinating guy, but your take on spiritual matters is not of great general interest.

I appreciate you leaving the embarrassing segue into the subject, however. That was stand up of you.

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lewis knudsen
Oct 14, 2010 4:22am

someone has an 'adz' to grind.

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Erin English
Oct 14, 2010 4:55am

In reply to lewis knudsen:

Oh Geez.

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lewis knudsen
Oct 14, 2010 8:30am

In reply to Erin English:

oh gosh, that's embarrassing...Hi Erin, what's up

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Oct 14, 2010 5:48pm

In reply to t.:

"terrible" was pretty mean. sorry for being another jerk on the internet. but those questions were awkwardly phrased and a bit pushy and stuff! anyway, best regards

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Mikey Stearns
Oct 14, 2010 6:05pm

why does jeremy allen think sufjan cares about his opinions. stick to asking questions, not making controversial statements

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Oct 14, 2010 8:41pm

In reply to Jeremy Allen:

Jeremy, thank you for a unique interview with Sufjan. Your personal elements brought necessary context and for being vulnerable and honest in your questions, however "appropriate" they were, I think you recieved answers that, in turn, were also vulnerable.

I would prefer to read an honest conversation than a scripted, sugar coated, flaky interview anyday.

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Oct 16, 2010 6:54pm

In reply to Mr. Knowitall:

it was right when I read it.

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Oct 18, 2010 2:43am

Interesting interview. Thanks!

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Oct 18, 2010 10:45am

I like The Age of Adz; I owed it to Sufjan to let it grow on me, even change the way I listen. I like him a lot. Still, perhaps I should grieve slightly to've missed him in concert before now! All is remade, we are always remade. I'm listening to Michigan, and have never liked it so well... But perhaps this is a good thing! :)

Dear Sufjan, you are a well good ring-giver. Thank you for the music! Thank you for the excellence!

So he's right that "Who can know the mind of God and who can be his counselor?" I would say that there's a difference between God's deep mercy and understanding, and any kind of permission to ignore him. One is the first reality, while the other is the first lie. Surely God knows those who see his reflection and love him, whose consciences defend them, however much we know and accept. But if Jesus be this God (involved in history to let righteousness and mercy kiss) then to ignore or reject him? "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?'" Then there is no reason to fear that he lacks any piece of real goodness. If he spoke false, then I believe with my whole life that beauty is dead.

The bread given by Creator to created, by Saviour to his friends, is hardly weird. Perhaps to a secular assumption, but not one that understands how life is breath. It's mysterious that God would die to bring us back into complete life, where goodness matters intricately and yet we can obtain it... Yet the meal itself is simply that, a friendship. There is no 'tolerance', because there is no fear that any one of us isn't good enough for God or should be judged. The reality is that we are not, but we are to be loved. A gift like so ought not be edged around in conversation.

Oh, sleeping bear.

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Oct 19, 2010 12:01am

Good to see an interview as an actual spontaneous conversation rather than a stroll through PR-friendly anecdotes about a new album, well done Jeremy on getting him to open up!

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Rachel Navarro
Oct 19, 2010 6:11am

In reply to Mr. Knowitall:

It says 14:6. Pay attention before you correct.

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shall strive within me.
Oct 20, 2010 10:26am

This album reminds me of parts of 1 John 2, so I surmise that this is the interview of the moment! There are great parts of Beautiful lurking.

I enjoyed it, thanks :)

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Oct 21, 2010 3:48am

that interviewer is a douche

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Oct 23, 2010 2:57am

In reply to Brandon Andress :


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Oct 24, 2010 3:16am

In reply to landon:

I concur about avoiding the whole John 14:6 thing. I guess this is one of those things where the majority of Americans are deeply religious Christians even though few believe in the exclusivity of salvation in Christ alone.

Also a sad reminder that most people can be dead on about some spiritual things when they totally miss the big picture.

With that said, glad the interview was posted, even though it is quite possibly the weirdest and most awkward interview I've ever read.

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Max Mullet
Oct 24, 2010 11:24am

Really enjoyed Sufjan's answers, but what kind of questions were these? The interviewer seems like an anxious, uneducated teenager. Solid responses from a solid guy.

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John Doran
Oct 24, 2010 2:24pm

In reply to Max Mullet:

Dear dim-witted Sufjan Stevens fans, the right questions are the ones that provoke the most interesting answers, therefore these are good questions. I, for one, am very pleased that we weren't subjected to yet another sickening work of hagiography and sycophancy by yet another hack who doesn't understand what the words 'objective' and 'critic' mean. For once, we get an interesting read out of the preposterously indulged babyman who believes in a ghost in the sky.

Plus, he hasn't been any good since he recorded 'Behind The Green Door'.

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Oct 24, 2010 6:55pm

We (as a culture) are very quick to take the spiritual opinions of our celebs too serious. As a Relevant magazine reader, I see misrepresented faith all of the time. Maybe Sufjan was beating around the bush, maybe he's more Unitarian in his beliefs, the point is we can't rely on him to spread the truth anymore than the rest of us.

As far as Paul being "fundamentalist right wing"...that simply shows a clear lack of understanding God's word. Yes, absolutely the Gospel is freeing, and even Paul said "everything is permissable, but for me not everything is beneficial", but Paul's letters are Spirit led truth, for now and eternity, not just in the context of a culture 2000 years ago. If you really look at history, there is "nothing new under the sun", so Paul was speaking against the same sins then that we think are new and progressive now.

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Oct 27, 2010 2:58am

In reply to landon:

he did- he said that the bible is inherent. That is straight out saying it dude.

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Oct 27, 2010 2:02pm

How the fuck did I miss this interview? Interesting read.I thought the interviewer did a pretty good job - anybody discussing religion or faith always sounds a bit mad though...Kudos to both of ya.

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Oct 27, 2010 5:32pm

When referring to Paul, I guess Sufjan is a Pragmatist.

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Oct 27, 2010 11:11pm

In reply to John Doran:

What's the 'Behind the Green Door' ref? I was under the impression it was an arty porn film.

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Oct 28, 2010 2:09am

I see that Laura has asked a question that hasn't been answered, and I'd like an answer as well... is there a recording of this interview, and if so, can we possibly hear it?


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Oct 28, 2010 10:35pm

In reply to John Doran:

Ahh, very good...It took a bit of time to hit but very good nonetheless. The Sunsets were never the same after he left.

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Oct 29, 2010 12:43pm

I find this interview to be a very interesting read, and to be incredibly on point as far as the new album goes... these questions are ones fans/listeners should want the answers to when one considers the content of the album. Also it is always good to hear something of where the artist is coming from and what else is going on with them.
I also really appreciate the references to The Welcome Wagon of whom I had not heard before, but I now think after a quick listen would be pleasing so Sufjan fans who also share his beliefs.

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Oct 29, 2010 3:45pm

Thanks for your questions. I'm really glad I read this.

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Oct 31, 2010 2:16pm

Jeremy Allen: Insightful interview. Don't worry about agitated posters. In the digital world, people forget there is a person on the other end of the internet receiving their sharpened, poison-tipped opinions.

Posters: Especially Christian posters, think about what you say before you say it. Don't be numbed by digital anesthetic. Let the brothers be known by their love. A haiku I wrote called "Click":

A child with a gun.
We comment and browse and post.
We have not yet learned.

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Lalee Dot
Nov 1, 2010 7:08am

I was a part of the community of people that shared the experience of hearing Age of Adz live last weekend in L.A. and I have never been part of a happier audience. I am still soaking in the memory of how much I enjoyed the show! With that in mind, it was exceptional to read this interview, and learn more about the man whose art & music I let into my ears, eyes, and life! Grace & Peace.

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Andrew Martin
Nov 3, 2010 4:44am

Wow, what a great interview. I'm not a believer myself, but i find Stevens' sober approach very humanistic and powerful. I want him to be my friend. His new music is aaaaawesome. Lovin' it.

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Nov 4, 2010 12:44pm

this is basically well good. nice one jeremy.

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Nov 11, 2010 7:36pm

Shitty interview.

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Captain Buzzcut
Nov 11, 2010 10:32pm

In reply to Brandon Andress :

More than Jesus?

For shame, Brandon.

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Nov 13, 2010 5:06am

In reply to annelise.:

That was a very intriguing and moving comment. Do you have a blog on matters Christian/spiritual? I also think that the new album is great. My wife and I just saw it performed live in Philadelphia. The album is probably twice as good now (and it was already very good).

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Nov 13, 2010 5:15am

In reply to Jake:

I agree. I guess it's sad that I only reply to people I agree with, because I don't like to fight online. But I'm backing you up on the fact that I believe "there is nothing new under the sun." Culture then and culture now both seem to reflect the tug-of-war between the flesh and the spirit. Sex has always been around; therefore, culture (or I guess the way of dealing with and compartmentalizing the life of the flesh) has always been around. That might be an extreme statement, but I believe it to be true to some extent. Sorry if this isn't hitting the mark, but it's what I thought of when I read Soofie's comment about the context of culture. It's just all the same. I can find an analogue for about almost everything I read in the New Testament, so I tend to take it very literally in my daily life. I guess I'm a real "fundie," as someone so eloquently put it above. That was a good comment too.

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Nov 13, 2010 4:48pm

In reply to Poet:

Poet, well said.

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Nov 17, 2010 11:20pm

"Is it good to work with people who have faith? I guess it wouldn’t be as easy working with drug addled lunatics right?"

What kind of question is that? Obviously it wouldn't be easy working with drug addled lunatics. I mean, seriously dude.

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Rob Wilson
Nov 18, 2010 3:23am

Your title doesn't fit. It's not Adz (adds) it's Adz (odds). The right wing attitudes comment is highly offensive. The fact that you would compare Paul to a political movement 2000 years removed is obtuse. And btw, Paul's role wasn't just to build the church, he was also a missionary. Meanwhile, I'm disappointed in Sufjan's responses. I guess it's too much to ask to have a creative musician who actually believes that God is the only true way.

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Nov 19, 2010 2:20am

the interviewer is one of those atheists that make atheists look bad. please stop.

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Nov 19, 2010 2:40am

There is a way of asking questions neutrally, and this does not fit that description. Instead of trying to trap Sufjan/lead him to say what the interviewer wants everyone to hear, try asking straight questions. Like "Do you prefer working with Christians or non-Christians?" instead of trying to make him answer a certain way.
That being said, I think Sufjan did an excellent job answering the questions. Regarding faith, I am really impressed that he was so candid, especially with some of the awkward questions he was being asked.

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Nov 21, 2010 9:25pm

In reply to Rob:

Rob, I just chanced back here and saw your question. I don't have a blog, except one with mainly poetry (of questionable quality/comprehensibility, but enjoyable to write!). :)

Interesting conversation here. Isn't the Internet an astounding spectacle? A particular Hello to all ye real people out there. Enjoy the day!

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Nov 22, 2010 1:05pm

In reply to Kelsey:

i LOVE sufjan's music...but I did find it alarming that He thought that there was more than one way to God, besides Jesus. He seems to be following this new emergent church theology that there is no absolute truth...I'm sorry to sound preachy, but I'm not sorry to say that Sufjan needs to reexamine his faith. Jesus says that He is the only way for a reason. We have got to stop making Christianity a philosophy rather than truth.

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Mike Morrell
Nov 29, 2010 3:22am

In reply to Heath:

Ahhh, not emergent!!! Anything but that. :) I liked Sufjan's answers just fine. They represent an active and considered faith in Christ rather than a rote recitation of what some fundamentalists think certain words mean.

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Dec 1, 2010 5:08pm

I feel like Sufjan is become a sellout, this sucks, fell into what the media told him to do...

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Dec 12, 2010 3:19pm

In reply to Jake:

"but Paul's letters are Spirit led truth, for now and eternity, not just in the context of a culture 2000 years ago"

does it actually say that in the bible or did christians just decide this later? Paul was still a human and is bound to have said/written some things that weren't perfect. Jesus tells us that as humans we're not perfect, so why wouldn't he use characters in the bible such as Paul to remind us of this?

i don't really think any of us can claim that we fully understand the bible. god is surrounded by beautiful mystery.

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Lalee Dot
Dec 19, 2010 2:26am

In reply to ComposerForever:

Well said, indeed!

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Dec 20, 2010 8:06pm

In reply to Heath:

I totally agree with you. I'm quite shocked myself that he didn't want to be direct. A true Christian believes there is one way. You can't be a real Christian and believe all roads lead to God. That is missing the whole point. Jesus dying on the cross was something God only could do for mankind. Only someone sinless and perfect, God, can atone for sins. Buddha didn't do that, neither did the other false gods.

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Dec 30, 2010 4:59am

In reply to Monica:

I loved this interview, and I loved what mr stevens had to say about God...Christians like to say "Jesus is the only way to God" but that has become a battle line phrase which has lost it's meaning since so many people see Jesus as a get-out-of-hell free card or component in a cosmic math equation for getting them into heaven... I'm not saying this to be argumentative, just I very much liked Sufjan's responses and the interviewers questions... and I think people who get angry because the interviewer isn't a Christian must not have much confidence in their faith, his views don't bother me at all
Great interview! I did come to this hoping to find out more about the album than was on here, but I think I liked this interview even more than what I was looking for, mainly because I liked the articulation and beauty of God that was expressed

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Dec 30, 2010 5:00am

In reply to kjherr:

And I think he's about the furthest thing from a sellout, have you heard the album?

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Jan 5, 2011 5:20pm

brlliant interview!!!! thank you very much! interviewer and sufjan, both of them!

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Brittany M
Jan 20, 2011 3:22pm

In reply to landon:

Totally agree!!!!!!

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Jan 28, 2011 2:55pm

I just saw this show tonight... Astounding. No words for how incredibly this piece is crafted, and how meaningfully it incorporates material from our relevant life, the place we are at now, to the place where reality stands among that. In all its crazy wonder :)

(But why does it have to be so hard?)
(The flashing at night, the sirens grow and grow.)

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Jan 30, 2011 5:11am

In reply to landon:

I'll second that. Either the Bible is true or false. If it is God's word, then there is no mistake about God's exclusive way to him. Still, Sufjan is not a preacher, so I can understand his not wanting to come right out. God alone will judge.

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Jan 31, 2011 3:43am

In reply to :

You're right, it is either true or false... But in all this we're dealing heavily with the question of perception, as much as we are with the question of truth. Does that make sense? There are many people with a large amount of integrity (none of us are faultless here) yet with really different experiences, who think and feel in a way we can't imagine and certainly can't discount, or speak to with our own foreign semantics. I feel that rather than using his music, words and art to declare the end-point of his faith, Sufjan is drawing an incredibly relevant picture of the road to that faith... The link between what we are perceiving and what is true. It's a brave, braced and abandoned engagement with the Vesuvius chasms that areother people's souls, the voice of reality calling him and us among cloudness, and the impossible (or awesome) device that is language.

In close history, our culture/literature/society has in turns feared, lamented, celebrated and ignored the clouded connection between perception and reality, desire and goodness, freedom and conscience. After the 'growing up' crisis of Modernism and relativism, we too often find our conversation to be a split camp of faith and doubt, as if there were two different kinds of eyes or two different realities. A common language that can contain or address all the perceptions within good relationship and with integrity is elusive. Culture, perspectives and short-sightedness are real in a way that we can too easily ignore. So when Sufjan says doubt and questioning are important, I assume he might not be talking about the freedom to indulge in selfishness. Rather, he's using the heart-material of our culture to illustrate the struggle at the core of this engagement of truth, which stands like a beacon (to our sometimes-delirious vision; "I want to be well...").

I so look forward to where this artistic adventure might lead next, conversing without compromise with the depth behind popular culture and being immersed in real experiences and reasons for beliefs, while holding onto the very person who is Truth as his first love and real hope. Without knowing him, I think that Sufjan is not one to use this tension simply because it fuels his artistic style, but will continue to tease it out into something true- and larger than our language has held well for a long time. Hopefully :)

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Feb 6, 2011 3:37pm

Love it!

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Feb 6, 2011 6:33pm

In reply to :

I think there may be some mistaking Sufjan's saying that there is something "inherent" to the Bible and the Bible being inerrant. Two different things.

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Feb 6, 2011 6:45pm

Please don't misuse the statement "There is nothing new under the sun" from Ecclesiastes as an excuse or in the wrong way. I truly think that people misread Ecclesiastes as a book of pure wisdom when, in fact, it is a book about folly. Solomon had all of the wisdom in the world, but apart from God he had nothing. His folly led to our being wiser by not following that example.

Apart from God, everything is meaningless. Apart from God, there is nothing new under the sun. The phrase "under the sun" quite literally means "without God." But with God, there is new. Jesus "makes all things new." Virgin birth was kind of new. The New covenant was pretty new. People use it as an excuse to not live to their full potential, and that is wrong. Live in Christ. Make new things. Create. Love.

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Diana McLemore
Feb 6, 2011 10:54pm

The font makes it too hard too read....

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Feb 9, 2011 2:31am

In reply to kjherr:

Then go listen to something else, and stop polluting the thread. Sufjan is a true creator, always stretching his wings, unaffected by what peoples' opinions on his music are.

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Feb 10, 2011 9:35pm

In reply to Monica:

Im pretty sure he didn't say there was more than one way....He said what he knows for sure is there is no condemnation in Jesus...You make christians look like idiots and you should stop talking.

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Feb 10, 2011 9:38pm

In reply to Heath:

" I’m no religious expert, and I don’t make any claims about the faith. All I can account for is myself and my own belief and that’s a pretty tall order just to take account of myself. I can’t make any claims about other religions. There’s no condemnation in Christ, that’s one of the fundamentals of Christianity."

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Feb 12, 2011 9:45am

In reply to Mike Morrell:

This album reminds me a lot of Psalm 131:

'Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me.

'Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

'Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.'

I feel like in parts, Sufjan is wandering around what this actually means within the full experience of being real.

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Feb 23, 2011 8:47pm

I had no idea there were so many horrible religious people who had the cultural awareness to even know who someone like Sufjan is. For even a couple people to post that Sufjan should have said being a Christian is the only way to God is disturbing and repulsive. I guess if you're born starving, with AIDS, and poor, and you die without anyone teaching you Christianity, you'll never see God, huh?

I agree with the people who said this is a useful interview because the interviewer spoke with a teenage innocence about his religious issues and got Sufjan in turn to open up somewhat.

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Mar 3, 2011 11:52pm

In reply to landon:


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Jul 4, 2011 7:31am

In reply to Ari:

I believe in the Christian God and the Bible’s teachings and I’m not going to lie – I was really offended and upset by your comment at first. Now, though, I think it just bothered me because that question about dying without having been taught Christianity has been secretly nagging me in the back of my brain for a while, and I’ve ignored it (which is disturbing and repulsive), because I’ve never been able to find anything to suggest that, if the Bible really is completely true, that statement from John 14:6 about Jesus being the only way to God shouldn’t be taken literally.
This is going to feel really uncomfortable to write even though very few people will read this and I doubt I’ll ever meet any of those in person. Please correct me somehow if you feel you want to because I honestly don’t want to believe what I’m about to suggest, but I need to at least put the idea out there before it starts eating at me.
So, I’ve been reading the comments, and one theme that’s popped up is perception or understanding, and the effect that has on your spirituality, so I think that’s a good start for what I’m sort of getting at here. The thing is that modern Christians have kind of this cushy image of God and they (or I) really want to believe that He’s just all about saving and loving and being with all of His creation, but if you look at the Old Testament, God was always really about His creation honoring and glorifying Him. That sounds really self-centered, but what I think is that in the midst of all of our skewed perceptions (because that have to skewed, at least most of them, or they wouldn’t contradict each other so often, right?), there has to be something that’s true and real and pure and that just is, even if no person acknowledges it or even has the capacity to. And what if this God is that thing? One story that really hits me is when Moses goes to speak with God alone and he says he doesn’t even know God’s name and God just tells him “I am what I am,” like He’s saying He just is. He doesn’t need a name. He doesn’t need us to understand Him because He transcends our understanding. He’s like the standard for comparison. And He is pure and perfect and good, even if we can’t see it, so He ought to be honored and glorified by us if we’re to really be with Him, because if we’re not honoring Him, then we’re not honoring what’s good, so then we can't be good, and if He is good and we aren’t, then why should He want to be with us? And increasingly I’m starting believe that predestination is a possibility, which scares me on a deep level because I’m really not sure if I’ll be saved, but one thing Paul said that I think applies for us today is not to concern ourselves with who will be saved and who won’t, but I think if we just to do our best to honor Him and to chase after that one good, true thing then we’re where we’re supposed to be under whatever circumstances we’re under.
And, by the way, I definitely agree that the interviewer was really sincere and open and that was admirable of him. I think we’re all confused teenagers in some respect or many, but some of us have just learned to take on the burden of masking it, and want to put that burden on others. I’ve done it, too. The interview was definitely refreshing, though, and so was your comment. I think I’ve been needing someone to challenge me, but just haven’t known where to look. The Internet – who knew? :)

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Titus Josephus Vespasion Augustus
Jul 8, 2011 6:31am

I agree with the aforementioned, the interviewer was crass and belligerent. He simply goaded our boy Suf' for spiritually-tinged Christian fanatasalmon. For one, the interviewer was totesmagoatse up on himself like a gypsy prince wandering the hillside of Turkmenistan and it's quite apparent that he became disengendered with the topics our boy Suf' was leading the interview into. With a heaping pile of thankfulness, our boy Suf' responded with humility, open mindedness to clear the air of all that bad juju, and enough ingenuity to rival the great work of our brother Albert Einstein, whose studies of ancient linguistics proved invaluable to the recreation of the ultimate symbol of peace and prosperity--splitting atoms.

If the right honorable gentleman wishes an inquiry into the trappings of Christendom, might I suggest that he take his pointed questions TO OUR CATHEDRAL WALLS, instead of our HUMBLE WATCHMEN! There he will behold with what majesty our CROSSES descend upon his MINISCULE intelligence!

With burning love in the Year of Our Lord Christ the savior of mankind,
Titus Josephus Vespasion Augustus,
Ex Romanorum Imperator Augustus,
In nomine patris et phelio in spiritu sancte, requieste de pache,

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Jul 23, 2011 5:58am

I am really encouraged to know that Sufjan is real and has his facts regarding his faith right. Honestly though, I was a little more curious about the production and inspiration of Age of Adz…which this interview didn't really cover at all…

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Aug 3, 2011 9:48pm

The interviewer is a moron.

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Sep 17, 2011 4:24am

In reply to Rebekah:


I so agree with you that imaging God as we want Him to be, unwilling to accept any ideas that challenge us on a deep level, is basically an empty double standard. To consider His love as real because in a 'cushy' way we want it to be is not really thinking or responding so much as simply wishing. It does no justice to who He is or what He deserves, if in fact He has created and sustained everything and is who the Bible says He is.

This is why at certain points in the Bible the idea of God's strength is conveyed: that humans are not righteous or selfless enough, strong enough or inherently worthy enough to question it. It's a very hard point to swallow, but like Job we need to learn that we are not in a position to accuse God of anything. (Asking the hard questions humbly and with deep emotion attached is a different thing, something that is totally biblical; see Lamentations.)

This authority is only half the picture though. God is not merely an archetype of power. When you see the pieces all in place, this idea of God's sovereignty and worth that have seemed so repulsive actually shows God's goodness (desirable, compassionate, selfless) far more deeply.

It is simply true, as you say, that God is strong and that no one _deserves_ His friendship or unthinkable sacrifice and love. Yet His strength is seen most deeply in mercy. In the ability to create humans with free will and dignity, under His authority but not bound to external causation, is the greatest expression of His own free will and incredible capacity as a creator. His holiness is seen in the way we must accept Him, but also in the essential goodness of His compassion. Romans 1 makes it seem clear that even people who haven't truly heard about Jesus can respond to God with what they've been given, also made whole because of what Jesus has done. Otherwise there is actually no justice in punishment, unless we've been given a real choice about something important; there's no point in Jesus saying to repent if people are designed not to. Of course God is allowed to do whatever He wants, but predestination imagines simple 'creation for torment' rather than punishment: something that is totally against God's nature.

His strength and His love are made most glorious in the way He has given dignity to each individual human, although we're not eternal and He is. Sin has to be condemned because it is so twisted, seems so close to what is good but is corroding inside because of selfishness, constantly yearning for greater intensity of something that doesn't properly answer the desire; still, it is wrong to imagine the character of God as being only just and not also compassionate. The reason rebelling against Him is so painful is because He's actually our only source of life, of what is inherently desirable. To say otherwise you'd be painting a different God to the one who has revealed Himself, even while using the same name.

According to the disciples' accounts Jesus spoke a lot about repentance; He also spoke a lot about God as a Father. Compassionate, waiting for people to respond, generously giving what is not deserved, meeting people where they're at, understanding and calling anyone who is looking for Him, seeing suffering and meeting it with Himself. This is an accurate portrayal of the Bible's idea of God, far stronger than any concept of disinterested or brutal power.

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:13-15)

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Sep 17, 2011 4:24am

In reply to Annelise:

(Oh wow, that was longer than I thought!)

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Me Mine
Nov 22, 2011 9:58pm

In reply to Annelise:

that's what she said.

ps - no one has proof enough to call buddha or any other prophet a 'false god'. typical christian arrogance assuming without a shred of proof that THEY'RE the right ones. yawn, yawn, yawn.

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Doc Pee
Apr 7, 2012 8:03am

Did Jeremy Allen get confused and think he was in his therapy session? He's got some issues man.

I was expecting an interesting interview about a new album but instead all I got was a real insight into some of the messed up stuff Jeremy Allen has been through.

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Mishayyyy_thA Princess is here
Apr 7, 2012 8:04am

I think Sufjan was interviewing Jeremy Allen at the end

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Apr 23, 2012 1:26pm

In reply to landon:

How dare the interviewer dismiss non-religious people as drug abusers and potheads. What an extremely narrow-minded way of thinking. Shame on you, Jeremy.

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Oct 15, 2012 9:06am

"There’s heathens and potheads in my band. I love them all, so..."

"There’s no condemnation in Christ, that’s one of the fundamentals of Christianity."'==

And yet Sufjan allows the interviewer ("and then you get Paul ruining everything with his right wing attitudes") to march right on ahead with a condemnation of Right-Wing views. No justification to be had. Druggies? Sure. Other religions? Ok. But, not them there Right-Wingers.

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Oct 15, 2012 9:12am

Ari Feb 23, 2011 8:47pm I had no idea there were so many horrible religious people who had the cultural awareness to even know who someone like Sufjan is. --- But of course, it is the religious ones whom are horrible and close-minded (rolling of the eyes), give it a rest.

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Dec 17, 2012 5:20am

In reply to Heath:

I think he just didn't want to alienate nonbelievers because he is in such a public forum. If he just blatantly says if you don't believe in Jesus you are going to hell, many people are automatically turned off and will never consider Jesus and His overwhelming love.

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Sep 10, 2013 6:05am

Look, I know I'm three years late to this comment party, but just in case someone else stumbles on here I just wanted to say this: as someone who believes firmly that Christ is the only way to salvation, I am not sure that I, within the context of this wildly awkward (although seemingly genuine) conversation. Even reading this thing I was a bit confused and foggy by that point of the interview. So let's not all rush to judgement on Sufjan here. And while I think the interviewers question (not really a question, but more of a statement) concerning Paul stoops to a Rolling Stone terrible level of journalism, I can appreciate that he is being honest and that this is less of an interview and more of a conversation, including all the pitfalls that come with two imperfect humans discussing the mysteries of the Creator.

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