The ideas behind The Altar and the Door were inspired about 18 months ago when Hall and his co-youth pastor were encouraged by one of their students to check out MySpace. “It wasn’t any major surprise, but we did see a lot of kids who had two worlds going on. MySpace can be Spring Break for the brain, this place you can go and not think anyone’s ever going to find out. Kids would be listed as Christians and then show their porn star name or what kind of kisser they are. They were just presenting so many contradictions on one page. The temptation was to just get upset and think that’s terrible. But MySpace isn’t really a big problem—it’s just revealing what the problem is.”

Hall is quick to assert it’s not a problem unique to teenagers.

“I could talk down to the students and tell them they’re terrible for doing these things, or I can realize that this is in all of us. We don’t want to be bad. We want to love God. We come to church—we’re believers—and we want to serve, but we get out there in the world, and it’s just different. We want to be accepted; we want friends. The compromises start coming in small little increments until you’re just kind of out there. Church becomes more of a guilt activator than a place to go to be with the Lord. It’s a nasty place to live, and we all live there.

“When we’re at the altar, everything’s clear, and it all makes perfect sense, and we know how to live.

We know what’s right and what’s wrong. The struggle is getting this life at the altar out the door. … That’s the problem; we’re finding ourselves somewhere in the middle.”

It’s a concept delivered time and again through the band’s new songs and even in the graphics gracing the album cover for The Altar and the Door. The view from a church pulpit, down that imposing center aisle, past the wooden pews, through the open double doors, into a brightly lit world … as Castings’ Juan DeVevo notes, “It’s a short walk to the front door, but it can be the longest walk of your life.”

Walking in Wisdom

The compromises that take place after walking out the church door Sunday mornings are often triggered by misunderstanding—or taking for granted—the basics of faith, according to Hall. In fact, he asserts that knowing God personally is at the center of many faith crises because believers have a tendency to attempt to use human reason to comprehend the supernatural.

“We’ve all got our own picture of the little red phone in the back of the house where we can call God up,” says Hall. “Some of us see him as Santa Claus or that doting grandfather that you can’t ever quite please or as the big, bad wolf who’s going to zap us any time we do something wrong. Some of us see him as a loan shark—he’ll bless you, but he’s going to call on you later. We all insert our personalities on God, but us trying to figure God out is crazy.”

Hall then relates a story he often shares with his students. Imagine, he says, you bring a new goldfish home to join the one already in the bowl. The older pet does his best to tell the new arrival about their owner. The veteran fish explains how the owner comes in and out of the room through the swinging rectangle, how he watches the box with flashing lights for hours on end and talks on the ringing machine.

“The fish says, ‘And that’s all you need to know about this guy.’ That’s us trying to talk about God. So many times we attach our logic to theology. We create it around how we live or how we want to live. We make God more relevant to our lifestyle than to his Word.”

Garrett agrees, noting that God is God and we are not. “Our culture has a way of saying, ‘Well, God wouldn’t do that.’ I’m not saying that God is some entity in the sky pointing His finger and cursing people, but God never promised us life was going to be easy, all rainbows and puppies. The hard realization is that God is God, and God doesn’t have to answer for anything.”