Imagine Dragons and Orthodox Judaism


Dan Reynolds is the Grammy Award-winning lead singer for the rock band Imagine Dragons. Last summer, Reynolds organized LoveLoud, a controversial music festival to benefit LGBT youth. It was controversial because Reynolds is Mormon and the festival took place in Utah.  

The documentary “Believer,” which debuted on HBO in June, is about the LoveLoud festival and tracks Reynolds’ journey from artist to activist. 

In the documentary, Reynolds, who is not gay, talks about the internal struggle and cognitive dissonance of living as a Mormon and loving Mormonism while disagreeing with the Mormon church on LGBT issues. When he realized that taking a stand could save lives, Reynolds said he could no longer stay silent.

According to the documentary, teen suicide rates in Utah have risen dramatically since 2008, compared with the rest of the country. That’s the year the Mormon church invested tremendous resources and millions of dollars to try to pass Proposition 8, which eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry in California. The message closeted LGBT Mormon teens heard during that time was one of rejection, hate and disgust. Many believed they had no place in the church or in their family, and that taking their own life was the only option. Suicide rates skyrocketed.

LoveLoud was the band’s nonpolitical message of love to the Mormon church and Mormon teens. To the church, the message was a plea for compassion and hope for a different institutional direction. For the teens, it was a message of support and unconditional love. 

Imagine Dragons used to sing, “Pain. You made me a believer.” That was the old way. We cannot rely on pain to make us believers. We need to feel safe in our religious communities.

Like Mormonism, Modern Orthodox Judaism is populated with mostly middle-class, highly educated followers who are focused on family and comfortably entrenched in the conveniences and culture of the modern world. Mormons’ socio-religious concerns and issues often mirror those of Orthodox Jews. As such, we can learn a lot from each other.

The film struck a chord with me when Reynolds spoke about his faith and his struggles. I felt like I was watching someone articulating many of my core struggles. He spoke about following the Mormon path and how that makes you feel safe, but once he deviated slightly from that path, nothing felt safe.

On a communal level, Reynolds spoke of trying to change Mormonism from the inside instead of forsaking his faith and leaving the community. On a humanistic level, he was trying to save the lives of those who are being consumed by the raging war between their desire to believe and their awareness of their sexuality.

We all need to be aware of the stakes. Thankfully, our community is not experiencing a suicide epidemic, but there is a pain epidemic. Some people fit neatly into the “Orthobox,” but those who do not spend their lives choosing between painful options. Nothing is safe.

Imagine Dragons used to sing, “Pain. You made me a believer.” That was the old way. We cannot rely on pain to make us believers. We need to feel safe in our religious communities.


Eli Fink is a rabbi, writer and managing supervisor at the Jewish Journal.

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