by Chris Ramsey
Todd Rundgren got his start in music back in 1966. He was with a band called the Nazz, and then later in the '70s with Utopia. He's done several solo albums and is known throughout the rock world as somewhat of a studio wizard ... and also a spiritual wizard. Presently Rundgren has just finished the music score for the TV series, "Crime Story."
CR: A lot of your songs are filled with spiritual imagery, even guidance. What I can gather from your albums, especially on the Healing album, is an Eastern influence, the whole idea of reincarnation.
TR: These things just aren't provable. I don't have any Hindu ideas like I'm going to come back as an insect or a cow; that doesn't preoccupy my thoughts. I'm not concerned about any theoretical lives I might have lived before this one. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, it's the same as eating or breathing. It's a basic tenet of most religions that man's a superphysical being, that his existence is not fully bound by the existence of the physical body; otherwise, religions have nothing to sell.
CR: So you don't have any hard and fast beliefs, and you don't adhere to one religion over another?
TR: I think you're interpreting me correctly.
CR: Don't you think that may open people up to confusion?
TR: I think confusion, to a certain extent, is a human obligation. Now there are people trying to escape any way they can. I'm intensely aware of all the things that I don't know at all times. So it becomes impossible for me to accept wholesale any kind of set up religion. The ultimate truth only occurs inside your own head.
CR: As you know, I'm coming from a Christian viewpoint. Christ said that he was the truth. Have you ever considered the implications of that statement?
TR: What he's saying is the exact same thing I'm saying. And that is, everyone has the obligation to live up to what they deduce the truth to be. I don't affirm or deny the reality of the Christ concept. The point is that the document of Christ's life was written after Christ had concluded his physical example. So all we're looking at is like getting a Japanese instruction manual with an appliance.
CR: I would have to disagree with that. First of all, I'm talking about the real Jesus Christ. Not a Christ concept. The historical Jesus.
TR: Yeah, but you know you can't get the truth about things that happened a hundred years ago. If two people witnessed an auto accident yesterday morning, by this morning they would not give the same account of what happened. So if you're trying to say that Jesus Christ absolutely, irrefutably exists, nobody can actually pinpoint the reality. These things really have to be taken as concepts, not historical facts.
CR: I disagree. Jesus was a person in history, otherwise we have to doubt all of history. Our whole calendar is based on...
TR: What I'm saying is you do have to doubt all of history... that what we have are accounts of history. The bottom line is you have to have the guts to say what you believe, and not go around saying I believe it because he believes it or because it says here to believe it. You have to believe it because you believe it.
You have to understand this is as much a headache for me as it is for you. You go through life trying to figure out what does God have in mind for me. You know, what am I doing here? Unfortunately, I don't think that it's a headache that's gonna go away for me. For you, you made the headache go away by taking this prescription.
CR: I know you're being very candid with me, Todd, and I appreciate it. In the songs "Compassion" and others on Healing and A Capella, I can see your spiritual heart and your sensitivity to things in this world. The reason why mankind is out of tune here, is because our big questions are answered in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Obviously, we're out of kilter until we can come to peace with God. But we must find peace on God's terms, as revealed in the Bible. I believe in a historic Christ, that walked and lived here, and was who he said he was.
TR: I believed that when I was about fifteen years old. I was on the street corner handing out tracts and everything. I was spouting the line. I was doing the whole thing.
CR: But did you have a genuine relationship with Christ? Did you feel like he had touched your life?
TR: Well... you can't prove it, you know. You can tell me he did and I can sit here and say, "No, he didn't."
CR: I just hope there's still room in your heart to consider that Christ may well be the Lord of heaven and earth. And that he came to die on the cross for us. See, that's the big difference between Christianity and other religions.
TR: This to me is a completely foreign fixation. I believe this whole concept of Christ's dying on the cross is a lot of hooey. I don't really believe in the whole satan concept, but there's something satanically inspired about the glorification of Christ's death. That to me is a corruption. That is like somebody, by devious design, trying to distract us from what Christ actually had in mind.
CR: That's the crux of Christianity, really, that he died on the cross for our sins.
TR: Yeah, that's the crux of Christianity. But they were crucifying people long before they crucified Christ. They were hanging them upside down and sideways, and it's just by dumb luck that this became the symbol.
CR: The larger point here is that he gave his life. That God had to come to earth and walk among us. That he cared about us that much.
TR: That is the whole point. That's the out. So-called devoted Christians are much more into the concept of the idea that you can build your life doing whatever you please. As long as you say "I believe Christ died for my sins" on your death bed, you immediately get a ticket to heaven. If God did come to earth, he went to the trouble to take the image of a man so other human beings would live in that image, not that they would die in that image.
CR: Right. That means you have to listen to what he says. And he says, "You find your life in death." He's God, and this is his way. I didn't make this up.
TR: But you're willing to buy some of it and sell some of it. I know all your answers, because they are the standard answers. The same answers I had as if I was talking to myself. The same as when I had to hand out tracts on the corner. And you know why I did it?
I did it because I had friends. Because I was on the outside. And there were some people who really took to this Christ concept seriously and tried to live it. I was attracted to those people. The flaw to me is so few people are able to actually follow Christ's example.
CR: I'll tell you, I'm not following Christ just because some of my friends are. I'm following Christ because he has totally changed my life.
TR: But you have to give yourself some credit. There have been changes wrought in your life and you had to direct your will to do it.
CR: That's true I had to seek. But God by his mercy has reached down...
TR: You're given choices. You take the choices.
CR: Right. And I just want you to know that Jesus is still reaching out to you.
TR: You still have the idea that somehow I'm more distant from him than you are. And that's a mere presumption on your part. Just because we don't spout the same Bible.
CR: Can you say that Christ is Lord of your life?
TR: The Christ that I know hasn't asked that. My Christ is a little more Christ-like in certain ways. He doesn't place demands on me.
CR: Oh, he doesn't? You wonder why there aren't more "real" Christians? Because Christ does make them mad. He says, "Hey, man. You have to pick up your cross and follow me."
TR: You know, the difference between you and me is that my philosophy is still alive, that I am still alive. The universe I occupy is not crystallized into some long dead thing.
CR: No, no. My Christ is a living Christ. I want you to know, my Christ has risen from the dead.
TR: Well, my Christ is bigger than your Christ! (laughs)
CR: Yeah, and guess what? My Christ is coming back. Whoa.
TR: Yeah. Well, my Christ is back. He's got a head start on ya.
CR: I see, I can relate to that, too, because I believe in the Holy Spirit. Well, we've had quite a talk. I do appreciate your dialoging. I think we've taken one step. Some other time we'll have to talk again.
TR: Oh dear.
CR: I'm going to be praying for you, and when you do read the Bible, be open to the fact that this could really be the truth.
TR: I used to think that all the time.
CR: How about going back and trying it again?
TR: Well, I've got a few other books I've got to get through. But I'll get back to it eventually. It's unavoidable. Sometimes you find yourself in a hotel, and there's no other stuff to read. (laughs)