Last week, Hawk Nelson frontman Jon Steingard appeared on two episodes of The Matthew West Podcast, where he discussed what his spiritual journey has been like during the past few months. In May of this year, Steingard published a post on Instagram announcing that he no longer believes in God and explaining why. During his conversation with Christian singer and songwriter Matthew West, the frontman shared that one of the most surprising consequences of having renounced his faith is how much he still feels compelled to live as though it were true.
“I have publicly said that I don’t believe in God,” said Steingard, “but more than ever, I find myself motivated to live in such a way that sort of indicates that I do.” For example, he said, “I still pray. When I pray now, it sounds something like, ‘God, I don’t know if you’re there. If you’re not there, then what I’m doing right now isn’t harming anything. But if you are there, then, if you can hear what I’m doing right now and talking to you, can you show up in my life?’”
Jon Steingard’s Unexpected Spiritual Journey
With his May announcement, Steingard has followed in the footsteps of other high-profile influencers, such as Josh Harris and Marty Sampson, who also recently said they no longer believe in Christianity. The lead singer shared with West that when he published that post, “I sort of expected it to be I guess maybe a minor shake-up in the Christian music world for like a day or two.” He did not expect it to “rock the boat that much.”
The post was widely reported on, however, with major outlets like Fox News and CNN picking it up. One positive outcome of that publicity, said Steingard, is “it’s enabled me to connect with so many people, mostly through Instagram, that are in the same boat as me.”
After he put the post on Instagram, Steingard thought he would be able to say, “Great, I’m done with God, and I can just live my life free of that stuff now. But what I discovered was as soon as I did that, I did have freedom…But then very quickly, I was like, ‘Okay, so what do you believe?’ And the last two months has been a crash course in trying to figure that out.” While he can no longer call himself a Christian, Steingard said he is not an atheist either because he finds Naturalism to be ultimately “dissatisfying.”
“Agnostic is probably the closest term to where I’m at,” he told West. “I even have a hard time saying I don’t believe in God because I’m sort of like, ‘Well, maybe.’” Steingard said that in many ways his pursuit of God has only increased as he has felt the freedom to express his doubts: “I’ve never had more conversations about God than I’m having right now. I’ve never read the Bible more than I am right now.”
Certain aspects of the world make it difficult for Steingard to trust in God, but other experiences and observations make him want to believe in him. For example, the lead singer finds the intelligent design argument for God’s existence to be compelling. Steingard also mentioned that when his son was born, he remembers thinking, “I don’t see how someone could have a child and not believe in God.”
“That still sort of haunts me,” he said. “I have days where I’m like, ‘Maybe I do believe in God.’ And then I have days where I’m like, ‘No, I don’t think I do.’ It’s really, really strange.”
Some have asked Steingard why he felt the need to share his doubts publicly and potentially hurt the faith of others. The frontman said he had shared publicly about his faith in God for so long that he felt it would have been hypocritical to continue letting people think that he was still a Christian. He also strongly disagrees with any mindset that says people should not share their doubts because it will hurt others’ faith.
“I actually think that’s really harmful,” he said, “and I think all the healthiest Christian communities I know are communities where questions are welcomed and where doubts can be processed openly, and there’s no shame associated with it.” Steingard said that if he had remained silent, “I would be participating in a culture of shame, and I didn’t want to do that.” And if God is really there, he is strong enough to withstand our questions.
West expressed his respect for Steingard’s courage and willingness to ask challenging questions about his deepest beliefs. “No letter that you could publish or put out could fully describe the complexity of the journey that you are walking,” he said. “My prayer is that we’ll all be challenged by this conversation…to not settle for a surface level of faith, but to dare to believe that God can take us to deeper depths.”