Monday, January 27, 2014

The Grammys. . . We Are Over The Line. . .

There was something about last night's Grammy Awards show that was both quite cool and quite telling. As one who grew up on the younger side of the 60's "generation gap" and one who is now on the older side of today's "cultural-generational gap," I loved the cross-generational flavor of the show. It was a brilliant move that's reflective of where our culture is headed. . .  I hope. In fact, the church has much to learn from the inter-generational nature of The Grammy performances (several instances of old and young, yesterday and today, performing together). For too long, many in the church have succumbed to marketing's generational segmentation by keeping the generations apart, especially when it comes time for corporate worship. Big mistake. . . a mistake that tears apart rather than builds up the Body of Christ.

The phrase "come together" was on my mind as I watched last night, helped along - of course - by the appearance of the two living Beatles, a foursome who beckoned us in that direction with their song of the same title back in 1969. . . right at the height of the generation gap by the way.

The Grammys also offered compelling evidence of the continued breaking down of the walls of division between musical genres. When hip-hop shares the stage simultaneously with country, and a classical pianist performs with Metallica, well, that's evidence of something deeper happening that leads to good things. Could it be that destructive prejudices of all types that need to disappear may be disappearing? 

In addition, one could not help but notice the diminishing of some of the thoughtless, formulaic, and shallow silliness that's marked popular music in recent years. Music seems to be more thoughtful. Again, this is a good thing. . . for sure.

But as some walls crumble that need to crumble, I fear that we're breaking down some borders and boundaries that matter. . . borders and boundaries that matter because they've been set by the One who wants us to flourish as we seek out and embrace things that reflect the way life is supposed to be. And much of that plowing through walls is being done in the name of the One who erected those life-giving borders and boundaries in the first place. 

I think that the most significant moments of the evening came as Macklemore performed "Same Love," a song that I blogged about back in October of 2012. At that time, I posted a series of 3 blogs that processed the song, it's message, and the role it might play in some bigger things happening in our culture. The song and its message have far exceeded what I thought at the time. Just three months later, one of our doctoral co-horts at Gordon-Conwell spent time watching and chatting about the song, along with the role it might play as a map and mirror for our culture. And just two months after that, I was a part of a conversation among people I love dearly where the full spectrum of stances on same-sex attraction were stated and defended. I was troubled. At that point, I started to read, study, and pray my way through this complex issue, knowing that something was happening in our culture and in the church. . . and it was happening fast.

Last night, when Queen Latifah stood on stage and performed some kind of marriage ceremony for thirty-some couples - many of them same-sex - I realized that another wall has crumbled. Another border and boundary has been pushed and even crossed. Our culture is pushing and crossing in the name of tolerance and love. The pushing and crossing is happening as well among those who profess a commitment to Christ. Sadly, this is what happened with God's first children, when they decided that they knew better than God Himself.

There are many areas in my life where grace and truth are out of balance. When God does me the favor of revealing those areas to me, I need to rely on Him to change me. I pray that I would maintain that tender and tenuous balance between grace and truth on this pressing issue. Truth must precede and shape grace. Grace must temper our bent to self-righteously trumpet truth without care, concern, or sensitivity to people. In addition, truth must shape culture, rather than culture shaping truth. And when the balance is struck, it will be a beautiful thing. . . not easy. . . but beautiful, because God will be glorified.

Today I am praying for myself and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. . . . that we would find that sweet spot where we need to live on the issue of same-sex attraction. I fear, however, that we are crossing lines - all with good intentions, albeit (after all, we need to love people, don't we?) - in ways that leave us throwing out the baby Jesus (and His call to discipleship) with the bathwater of our erroneous and Pharisaical ways. 

This month, I'm reading through Paul's letter to the Romans. There's so much to apply. This morning I pondered the horrifying words of Chapter 1, where we read about those who exchange the truth of God for a lie, and the subsequent step God took to "give them up" to their passions. And then I read Paul's descriptor of Israel's unbelief: "My heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness." (Romans 10:1-3).

We are over the line. . . in good ways, and in bad.

Father, make things clear to us, we beg.

11 comments:

fishlikeJC said...

I appreciate your comments, in how to find the balance, and allowing truth shape culture and not the other way around, but i'm afraid our culture is heading to the point no matter how much love Christians show, we will be demonized in the public eye. Granted there have been many unloving Christians that have put a bad taste in the mouth of non christians, however, we are reaching a point where just disagreeing with the culture is considered intolerant, bigoted, and unloving. The persecution other christians recieve in other countries for simply loving people, seems to be headed our way, as we may lovingly disagree with people and speak truth they don't like. I'm not looking forward to the persecution coming our way, but as i read peoples reactions to truth, and sense their animosity towards uncompromising but loving christians, it seems persecution is coming sooner than later no matter how much we love others.

JHart said...

I think the issue is a little more complex than you are allowing for in this article...

Is being gay a choice? If it is... why have we seen so few sexual orientation change stories? And why did Exodus International shut down this year, saying that they no longer held to their “change is possible” mantra? And if change isn’t possible... what is the most holy way for gay people to live?

Can the evangelical community support political gay marriage while opposing moral gay marriage (similarly to how most evangelicals feel about divorce)? Can the evangelical community support a gay romantic relationship that is not physical in nature?

Is the Bible “clear” about condemning gay sex? Or is it “clear” the same way the Bible was once “clear” about the Earth being flat, slavery being legal, and women being silent?

There are way more nuances to this issue than “the Bible states homosexuality is a sin.” Some homosexuality is a sin... just like some heterosexuality is a sin... but let’s be really clear what we (and the Bible) is talking about when we come to these issues. Because the Bible says nothing about same sex attraction... although it does say a little about gay sex... and it does say a lot about marriage.

I’m not saying that culture is not shaping how we view this issue... but I am saying that this is an issue that is complex... and we need to talk about it in a complex way.

Adam said...

Well done Walt! I hope no matter what times may come we can stay true to the clear Word of God (the Creator of Marriage Man+Woman).

I hope we love like Jesus, and learn about people different from us.

I hope we stay true to our conviction and the convictions of those that went before us faitfully following Jesus.

Rich: said...

Just because a truth is inconvenient doesn't mean it isn't clear... Just to be clear...

taberle said...

hmmmm, I think Walt leaves a lot of room for complexity, though I think he is not mushy on conviction and concern. He prays for direction and help from God in a place where the lines are not simple or straight --but living to honor Christ is our hope and desire. What we all need...

Anonymous said...

JHart......being gay IS a choice. Your argument is a weak one. Just because Exodus or anyone else makes a statement, that does not change the TRUTH. The Bible is clear on homosexuality. The Bible gives instruction, guidelines, and principles for living that make it clear what is sin, whether it be homosexuality or other sins. If someone clearly does not want to live this lifestyle, yes they can change.

Anonymous said...

"Complex", "complicated", "challenging", are all words that come to mind when I think about same-sex relationships and marriage! I believe our generation of Christians and non-Christians agree that thought process and belief systems from 30-40 years may have worked then, but does not now. The way I found my way is like the old adage says, to turn it over to God!!! You have a painful situation in life, turn it over to God! You need guidance on an issue you are worrying about, turn it over to God! So, in this instance, I am doing exactly that, I am giving it to God!!! He will be our final/ultimate judgement on how each of us has lived our lives, and so we really don't need to show each other the errors of our ways! God will do that! Instead, he will through prayer give each person the strength to define themselves, and not have to worry about "teaching them", or "saving others", etc! We only have to support each other in a humanitarian way, and let God give out the judgements if deemed necessary!!!

JHart said...

But my question Rich revolves around what the "clear truth" is that we've decided on. Is being gay a choice? Because I don't see anything in the Bible about that... but I see a lot of people who have tried very hard to change their attractions and can't... so what do we do with that? What do we do with people like Wesley Hill (author of Washed and Waiting)? Or Justin Lee (author or Torn)? It's much more inconvient to wrestle with those questions than to simply say "all of homosexuality is a sin and is only an issue right now because of culture."

Walt Mueller said...

I believe firmly that God's order and design for marriage is between one man and one woman. Not one man and four women (sorry Mr. Sister Wives!), not two men, not two women, etc. Marriage is exclusive, covenantal, difficult, etc. I also believe that God gave us the good gift of our sexuality as something for the exclusivity of marriage. I believe the Scriptures are clear about premarital sex, lust, pornography, etc. I believe that cohabitation is a horrible distortion of God's good gift of marriage. Yet, our culture is shifting in other directions, contrary to what the Scriptures clearly teach. And, I believe that we live in a time where to buck cultural shifts is increasingly seen as hopelessly outdated and old-fashioned, horribly mis-informed, and something worth battling. Yes, we need to change with our times in our understanding and approaches, but to alter the timeless truths, will, and way of our Creator is not an option. In addition, I don't believe that same-sex attraction is always "a choice." Yes, many times it is. But many times it is not. To make that blanket statement is horribly mis-informed and arrogant. It does not at all help those who personally know otherwise. But I also believe that the same-sex attracted need to wrestle with that inclination and wind-up, with God's help, at a place that brings honor and glory to God. I am horribly opposite-sex attracted. . . and I wrestle with it all the time. I must discipline myself with God's help to the glory of God. And remember, temptation is not at all the same as acting on temptation and falling into sin. I draw great comfort from the fact that Jesus knows my temptation. . . personally. . . and yet was without sin. . . and will provide a way out for me. . . in my heterosexual struggles. Does Jesus personally know the struggle of the same-sex attracted? If I am to believe the Scriptures, then yes. One of the books that I have found most helpful in all of this is Rosaria Butterfield's "The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert." Worth reading. My struggle is the battle to maintain undivided passion for every nook and cranny of God's word on this and all other matters. . . and to have compassion for those who may battle with all types of things that I don't. . . or from time to time do. Like I said, life is messy and complex. But I must yield to the wisdom of God's revealed will and way rather than to my own emotions, thoughts, hopes, and feelings.

Rich: said...

We can be pre-disposed towards being a particular thing, but that is not the same as inexoriably being damned to be a thing itself. The difference is how we choose to act upon it... Genetically and environmentally I am predisposed to being overweight, and an alcoholic... My father was an alcholic and my brother was a crack-cocaine addict. Knowing these things about myself necessarily means that I must make the kinds of choices that keep me from engaging in the kind of lifestyle that would allow them to pathologically metastasize themseleves within me. Would I like to eat and drink more, or in the same manner that others can, with no ill effects? Sure! But I can't because the Fall has damaged me in that particular and unique manner...

Do I think that some people are born "predisposed" to being gay? Yes... The choice is whether than act upon it... Is that predisposition sinful in and of itself? No... Because our predispostions are often like latent temptation... Without the decision to act, there is no sin. However, what makes the condition and temptation for those who struggle with homosexually particularly challenging is it's deep connection to intimacy in relationships as well as the expression of one's sexually having a kind of sacredness to it... Our sexually is both inextricably relational as well as divine - it resides within the very core of the individual. This is why, when Paul said that when we sin sexually, we sin against ourselves (1 Cor 6:18) In essence out sexuality can be corrupted, not just in homosexual relationships, but heterosexual one's as well... They posssess the same dynamics... I think one of my literary heroes Henri Nouwen would have agreed with me on this... Nouwen, as many know, was celebate in his "homosexuality." He chose not to act...

Should we be authentically gracious loving and kind to those who struggle with ABSOLUTELY! Exactly as we should with anyone else who struggles with any other (life-style) sin. But it does not follow that to be loving, gracious and Christ-like, that Christians must abandon the Biblical teaching towards homosexuality (the lifesylte) - that it has to be surrendered in order for us to not be considered unloving bigots... but that is exactly where this is going in our culture. And that is precisely what is behind so much of the pushback that from people like myself. Following the culture wars of the 1980's, instigated by the Fundamentalist movement, which they summarily lost, we entered into over two decades of a kind of dentente' But now, the cultural elites within the media and higher education are no longer satisified...

The culture wars have begun again, only this time they started it... because they want us to value the same things and to think exactly like them... Study the media, visit the nations universities and this cannot be disputed... The Post-modern matrix is outdated and the coercive pan unipolarism age as come. Suffice to say that any Christian who still holds to traditional orthodoxy, are firmly in their crosshairs... This is no longer a world where the diversity of worldviews can be tolerated... we are all gradually being herded into the arena to make the point that there can be only one...

In essence, the debates about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality is merely symptomatic... we are hacking at the leaves when instead we should be chopping at the roots...

So again, to be really, really clear... :-) The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin (Nor is it a sin that should be privileged as being better or worse than any other)... Whether people are born that way or not is irrelevant in a sense, because we are all born into sin (See "Original Sin" and "Total Depravity")... What we do through Christ, with that sinful nature, and the inner desire to act upon it, is what ultimately matter. The argument of being born homosexual is superfilous to the depravity and brokeness that is systemic to all of our lives.

Oneighty Youth said...

This is a complex issue that I have been working through this year. How will the church deal with this topic with grace and truth? Three books have been the most valuable for me:

1. Rosaria Butterfield's "Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert."
2. "Is God anti-gay?" by Sam Allberry
3. "Love into Light" by Peter Hubbard

Butterfield is a married woman who lived a homosexual lifestyle, Sam Allberry is single and still struggles with SSA, and Hubbard is a pastor who has been counseling homosexuals for years.