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geezeronthequad: Hangin’ With the Yalees – Slava Vakarchuk

April 29, 2015

Okay. A lot of us have guitars; some of us play them. Some of us used to play them. Some of us want to play them but either don’t or piddle at it. Some of us either play in bands or used to play in one. Everybody does this. Most of our grandmas played in bands but never told us. We thought they did grandma stuff when they weren’t around us. But they piled into broken down vans with other three-chord guitar bangers and criss-crossed the country playing for road money in places like the Maid Rite Restaurant in Greenville, Ohio, where they serve loose meat sandwiches from a building covered with chewing gum. But, in addition to that, some of us jump into revolutionary movements in former Soviet Union countries. And some of us serve in the Ukrainian parliament. And some of us serve as a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s Development Programme. Some of us went on the Ukrainian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, won, and gave all the winnings to charity. Some of us earn a PhD in theoretical physics and give lectures at Yale entitled “Physics, Revolution and Rock and Roll: Reflections on Today’s Ukraine.” Only one of us is Slava Vakarchuk.

First, give the guy some props for not coasting on the success of his band, Okean Elzy, and rocking out of his navel for fame and fortune. He’s not your celebrity spouting off with an occasional, and often embarrassing, shout out to some cause. He puts it on the line regardless of consequences instead of the trendy tweets and superficial name dropping and virtue by casual connection emanating from American celebrity culture. However, when asked about how his music reflects his politics, he said, “You know, I don’t try to spin out political messages with my music. Some of our fans have extremely different views on politics than I do, and they still like listening to our music…when I make good music, I’m making myself happy.” Should his politics show up in his music? Or can Slava keep his focus on his music for the music’s sake to make the best music he can, to be true to his art and creativity?

The answer could be both. This thing of following Christ and HIs Kingdom means Jesus rules over every area of life (unless we’re head of a Brooklyn Mafia family or head of a Colombian drug cartel). But that doesn’t mean these areas of life have to slosh into each other all the time. A Christian’s life should not only exhibit the heart of Jesus but should show excellence in whatever He has called us to be in every arena of our lives. Would Jesus make a wobbly table or Paul a tent that couldn’t keep the wind out? Good work, good art and good living can, and should, stand on its own as Christian signposts in our culture. It is indeed our daily faithfulness with the stuff where God plants us that brings the force and depth of soul we step into a public arena for justice in some way. Picasso’s hard-earned craft (not popular even today) produced both the painting and the platform to protest the massacre at Guernica. Sometimes they do overlap powerfully with issues of the day. But sometimes our living must stand on its own before it grows the depth and force that makes impact in the public square. You can find a good handle on this here.

Unlike grandma, slave Vakarchuk isn’t just a guitar banger. This guy brings a PhD in theoretical physics to Yale in a lecture. Keith Richards of the Stones isn’t lecturing at Yale (yet). A lot of musicians sport serious intellectual chops –  Greg Graffin, Mira Aroyo and Brian Eno to name a few. Created in the Image of God, they bristle with uniqueness. I wish I could say the same for the Christian masses who often look like they’ve been churned out of a Xerox machine. We often see more variety, intense focus and unfetteredness of soul outside the church than in it. Jesus in us should produce all kinds of unique stuff. God loves “out-of-the-boxness”. Moses was a murderer in hiding. Elisha left the plow and the backsides of eight or so oxen behind. John ate bugs in the wilderness for years (I thought seminary a better option. Most of the time, it was.) The Lord hand-picked the guy who would be the numero uno church planter opening whole continents to the Gospel, the leading Christian intellectual and the writer of a large chunk of the New Testament. His choice? Saul of Tarsus – the hottest persecutor of the church (And Saul/Paul wasn’t the last one.). When God became flesh and invaded our world, His earthly parents were nobodies and outcasts. The grown Jesus lived as a carpenter, builder, tradesman, blue-collar guy hidden in plain sight under everyone’s nose. God loves “out-of-the-boxness”. And the more we allow Him to make us over to be like Him, the fewer boxes there will be that can either describe or hold us.

In case we didn’t open the link above for Byron Borger’s new book, it’s right here. There are a number of good books on getting both started and through college. But how do we take what Jesus Christ has done in us out there? This series of commencement addresses (Don’t shut down on me. Unlike many commencement addresses, these are really good.) not only nails it but will leave many marks worth revisiting in rereads.

Whenever I speak to students, I always open the door for them to email me with questions pertaining to all things Jesus. As of this post, I open the door to blog readers. The rule is any question, any topic, anytime. It does have to be a real concern of yours. No gags, gross outs or posing. The only bozos allowed will be me. No names required. I reserve the right to ask clarifying questions so I can dignify your concern with a better response. My email is

If we think that anything here might encourage a student or someone who loves college students then share, subscribe, twitter and all those social media things. If we already subscribe to, then we might want to be part of Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for all things pertaining to We’re a mix of students, students ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, booksellers, broadcasters, theologians, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs, pastors, campus rats, rag pickers and a goth who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. It’s a sharp group; you will only make us better. Check it out and hit the join button if we’re interested.

Please return your seat to the upright position and hand your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as we exit to the rear. See you next post at

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