stockholm syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.

Stockholm Syndrome is also the title of the latest Derek Webb album, and the titular analogy comes out most clearly during The State in the line ‘that was the day before / I married my conscience to / the state.’ The link is pretty clear – as opposed to being a light to the world, the Church has been taken hostage by dominant social, political and cultural powers, and Christians have, quite frankly, become quite comfortable with that. As is sung later in the album ‘I don’t want the Father / I want a vending machine.’ [This a line from The Spirit vs. the Kick Drum, inspired Rich Mullins, who used to talk about how people would come up to him after concerts and say, ‘Wow! The Holy Spirit really moved at that certain point in the song.’“ Mullins would respond by saying, ‘No actually, that’s where the kick drum and the bass came in.’ Point: It’s easy to mistake energy and emotion for worship.]

Webb has been my favorite musical voice for the past ten years or so, and I always eagerly anticipate anything new that he releases. While working on this album, Webb described it as “intentionally inorganic”, setting up a departure from the signature acoustic vibe that I love. While some artists might experiment with one or two songs and then return to their bread and butter for the rest of the album, Webb sticks with a more electronic / computer-synthesized sound from start to finish, and it sounds awesome. More importantly, Webb continues to deliver lyrically, offering some very poignant and bold words to a Church struggling to understand what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century.

A huge theme on Stockholm Syndrome is sexuality. I have already blogged about the not so controversial song What Matters More, but sexuality is also a theme in the upbeat but cautionary tale of Jena and Jimmy, in What You Give Up to Get It [Like sex when you’re too young … Oh it’s never quite worth what you give up to get it], and in the final tune American Flag Umbrella. I am a big fan of the song Freddie Please, a song directed to the figurehead of Westoboro Baptist Church, infamous for their anti-homosexuality demonstrations featuring the ‘God Hates Fags’ signs. This song seems to be sung from the perspective of Jesus, who asks this question of Phelps: ‘Freddie please / How could you do this to Me? / How could you tell me you love Me when you hate Me Freddie please?’

One of my favorite songs right now is Becoming a Slave, which addresses the reality of imbalance in the world in which we live and causes the listener to consider the price that is paid in order for us to have the ‘things’ that we value so highly – ‘There’s always a price to pay / It’s gotta hit somebody’s back / Trust me, new worlds / Don’t just build themselves.’ Slavery is alive and well in the world, and Christians must sit back and think about our implicit participation in oppressive systems. We are slaves to our ‘stuff’ whether we acknowledge it or not, and this cycle will continue until we fight for ‘justice in the system.’

Other key tracks for me are Heaven, Black Eye and The Proverbial Gun, but who I am kidding, I dig them all!

While some may argue that this album is quite critical of contemporary Christianity and perhaps might even come across as judgmental and short on grace, I would say that Webb provides an important prophetic voice that constantly points us back to the key question, ‘what matters more?’ While doctrinal debates rage on, the world around is desperately looking for a group of people to embody a different, more loving way of living. This is what the Church has to offer; that we can be a hand to hold to keep the world on its feet, a reminder that, though Chrust, the following is true: ‘And in the end it will all be OK / That’s what the wise men tell us / So if it’s not OK / Then it’s not the end, oh my friends / There’s hope for everyone’

While this album does not officially drop until September, it can be pre-ordered @ I did this a couple of weeks ago, and received an immediate digital download; two CD’s will be sent to me in September, the original version [complete with the ‘shit’ in What Matters More and a lamer, censored version].

Obviously, I would highly recommend this album; it’s all that I have been listening to for two weeks straight. You can listen to What Matters More on Webb’s myspace page, and watch the Stockholm Syndrome Trailer from Derek Webb on Vimeo.


  1. September 3rd, 2019

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