Last month I spoke with As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis for a story in Newsday. Our conversation lasted well over half an hour, and we broached many topics, including his Christian beliefs and putting words into action. For example, after helping underprivileged children in Mexico during high school, he was inspired as an adult to adopt three children from Ethiopia.
Considering it is that Yuletide time of year, it is fitting to offer his thoughts on practicing what you preach and what being a good Christian means to him. This conversational thread initially began by discussing his band’s latest release, Decas.
What is the most personal song out of the new Decas tracks and why?
That’s a tough question. If I had to choose one, I think the opening track [“Paralyzed”] is a good example of where my mind has been during the last year, just in that there are a lot of things in life that we’ll never understand, and it’s worth putting in the energy to learn more. But a lot of times, the quest for more knowledge paralyzes us in that we end up always looking for a better theory rather than taking action. Particularly with having kids, I realize how much practical living is more important than teaching my kids a bunch of theory on maybe how the universe works and things like that.
Do you mean that in an educational sense, or more in terms of life lessons?
I guess the best example would be on the spiritual side. I think a lot of supposedly religious people will sit around and talk about theology all day long, but then when it comes to helping the homeless guy sitting on the corner get his life together so he can get a job, they’ll just walk right past them. So to me, what’s the point in sitting around and talking about these lofty ideas if we can’t do simple actions?
It makes me think of the way a lot of mainstream Christians are portrayed through the people that represent them on television. You have plenty of people out there who do not practice what they preach, but they make people feel better about things just by talking about them. But not, as you say, doing anything about them.
Yeah, as an example, there are a lot of religious people that will put so much energy into defending the most minute point. Like Creationists, for instance, will spend millions of dollars trying to defend the literal six day Creation, which is a very extreme point of view, and in all reality those millions of dollars spent on orphan care would have drastically changed more lives, even if those people didn’t end ultimately up agreeing with the very boxed up theology that those people have.
What then would be your definition of a good Christian?
My definition would just be somebody who simply takes action and… that’s a tough question. It’s really hard to sum up in a quick paragraph without leaving an aspect of what’s important out, but on the most basic level, I don’t think you could really listen to the teachings of Jesus and then only deal with them in a theoretical sense. The people he encountered all wanted to get up and do something as a result of what they heard.
What inspired you to adopt three children from Ethiopia?
What inspired me to adopt in general was just visiting orphanages when I was around high school age. I lived 40 minutes from Mexico, so me, friends and church groups would go down there and either help construct buildings for the orphanages or schools down there, or in other cases, we actually ran a kids camp for a week during spring break for some of the orphaned kids in the area to have something to do. It broke my heart realizing that when we left that that was the most exciting week of those kids’ year. When I got older, I wanted to look into it. [With] all the different programs around the world, each one is unique, and in particular I felt that the Ethiopian program is one that had a very obvious sense of need. With some of the programs, you wonder if corruption is going on, especially with any money that can be made with potential child trafficking, and Ethiopia was the easiest place for us to know that we were avoiding that.