Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publishing Date: October 5, 2021
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
There isn’t much to say about The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music. Either you’re a fan of Dave Grohl (acclaimed musician for bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters) or you’re not. This isn’t an academic work with arguments to critique or support; it’s an autobiography of arguably one of the most important Rock N’ Roll figures from my lifetime. I’m a late 40’s Gen X metalhead who’s Facebook profile pic for the longest time was a picture of Dave Grohl. I tell my college students I have a man crush on three people: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jürgen Moltmann, and Dave Grohl. These days, they’ve only vaguely heard of Bonhoeffer. So, when given the opportunity to write a review of Dave’s autobiography, I jumped at the chance.
The Storyteller is framed by Chicago’s Wrigley Field. It begins with the story of Dave’s first punk rock show in a bar directly across the street from Wrigley, and ends with the Foo Fighters playing at the same. In between? It is referred to as the “cross walk”—the paving for a scrawny preteen to become a rock star. In between are stories about a supportive mom who allowed him to drop out of high school and join a rock band, and a not so supportive father who was worried about gainful employment. His stories speak to the importance of putting yourself out there and taking risks, because you never know when Iggy Pop might knock on your van door looking for a drummer. It’s a story about love and friendship, which means it’s also a story about loss. As he describes his emotional response to playing Wrigley Field, Dave talks about the people who supported him, as well as those he lost along the way. Of course, Kurt Cobain looms large, but I couldn’t help adding Foo Fighter drummer and Dave’s self-described best friend, Taylor Hawkins, who recently died while on tour in South America.
The stories Dave shares are saturated with the spiritual. Not in a strictly Christian sense—though he did grow up with Christian influences—but a less structured, more open spirituality that gives him a sense of joy and wonder. Multiple times he talks about how he continues to see the world like the scrawny kid who got to tag along to a punk show, only to look in the mirror and be reminded he’s in his fifties. This may be why it was such a joy to read and listen to his autobiography. It wasn’t about theology, or the church; it was about life, what it means to be human, what it means to be alive in the world. For that, I’m grateful.
“(The Storyteller) wasn’t about theology, or the church; it was about life, what it means to be human, what it means to be alive in the world.”
I listened to this book (and I recommend listening to it—Dave reads it himself) during a time of conflict and tension within my church. On the surface the tension is over LGBTQ+ and what it means to love our neighbor. The real issue, however, has to do with the true nature of the church.
Is Christianity about doctrinal and moral purity, about making sure we have our beliefs all figured out with clarity and discipline? Or is the church the people of God, called to be signs of God’s love for this world revealed in Jesus Christ? Put more simply: Is Christianity about fear and judgement, distinguishing between insiders and outsiders? Or is it about a resurrection life filled with joy and wonder—coming to the freeing realization there are no outsiders, and nothing can separate us from the love of God? As Jesus makes his way into Jerusalem, he’s met by the Pharisees who tell him to rebuke his disciples who have been joyfully shouting and carrying on. To this Jesus says, “I tell you…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”1 If Christian individuals or institutions believe we somehow control God’s mission, or that synodical decisions and moral litmus tests make us the guardians of the gospel, then we’re no better than these misguided Pharisees.
“It’s no longer the moral gatekeepers who build their walls to create division and foster guilt and shame who speak for God; it’s the prophetic voices that enact reconciliation, restoration, and the joy of resurrection.”
If we listen closely, we just might hear the rocks crying out. This is the power and importance of popular culture. Film, music, literature—stories that speak to God’s love for this world and what it means to live as a human being. I’ve heard Christian leaders rail against such things; they complain that young people are being catechized more by culture than the church. To which I simply suggest that maybe what passes for Christian faith in some churches is more in line with the Pharisees in this story than Jesus. For many people, it’s no longer religious institutions obsessed with wielding power and influence that speak for God, rather God speaking to us through the poetic utterances that echo with divine compassion and empathy. It’s no longer the moral gatekeepers who build their walls to create division and foster guilt and shame who speak for God; it’s the prophetic voices that enact reconciliation, restoration, and the joy of resurrection. If the church doesn’t want to proclaim the good news, the rocks will cry out. In The Storyteller, we hear their voices.
Luke 19:39-40 ↩
What are your thoughts about this topic?We welcome your ideas and questions about the topics considered here. If you would like to receive others' comments and respond by email, please check the box below the comment form when you submit your own comments.
Jason, Being a lot older than you I have no feel for Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, but I truly feel for the church today who is acting like there are outsiders and insiders. We should all be insiders to Jesus’s ultimate love and sacrifice. We should stop judging. Our God is the only judge who matters, and we should accept all in the name of Jesus’s love.