First, let’s get this out of the way. I’m not a big fan of this band or really any other “mainstream Christian music artist”. If my only choice driving down the road is between turning the dial to Christian radio or to the local classic rock station, I will choose the latter every time. Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge fan of music in general. That said, art is a reflection of the culture and currently our culture is struggling to say the least. Any culture struggles in proportion to how much or how little it conforms to the Word of God. We should expect that this would be reflected in the area of music. It is a very real possibility that we don’t even have a grasp on what good music is except that we know that the ultimate standard is heavenly in nature. We know that musical understanding, literacy and skill have followed the decline of Western civilization in general. In the meantime, we can enjoy what we have. After all, ignorance is bliss, right?
With that out of the way, what should we make of all of the hoopla surrounding the recent tweets by Dan Haseltine, the lead singer for Jars of Clay? The band has been around since the mid 90’s and has won three Grammy Awards, five GMA Dove Awards and countless other accolades since its formation.
So why should we even pay attention? Well, first, the issue of gay marriage is a hot topic in current headlines. Second, Haseltine is a professing Christian that carries a large degree of influence in the broader evangelical world. For that reason it is worth commenting on.
Last week, Jars of Clay performed at a music festival in Australia. As part of the programming of the event, the festival offered various breakout sessions and panel discussions on a host of topics that might be interesting to the festival attendees. I [Haseltine] was invited to sit on a panel discussion about moral behavior and the church. The question we were presented was, “Does the western church’s focus on moral behavior undermine the church’s ability to love?”[i]
Does this question strike anyone else as odd? More about this question later.
I was immediately aware that I had not given much attention to the dialogue about gay rights. I knew it was a focal topic for many people in the church, and that it was a major issue in the growing partisanship of American politics, I just had not had the opportunity to think about it much.[ii]
Later Haseltine states,
I had so many questions about gay marriage. With so many angles to consider and so many layers to unfold, it was overwhelming…[iii]
This stands as a clear testament to the failure of the mainstream evangelical church. When the church’s disciples are overwhelmed by “possible angles” presented to them in the media, we can be rest assured we are standing on a foundation of sand. When we don’t have the “opportunity to think about” basic qualifications for one of the primary building blocks of a Christian society – the family – then we certainly fall into the category Paul is addressing when he talks about people of the flesh, infants in Christ, and those not yet ready for solid food (1 Cor. 3:1-2).
Following the panel discussions, Haseltine recounts the impact of the movie 12 Years a Slave on his thinking regarding the issue of gay marriage.
The thing that continued to swirl around my mind was a scene when one of the slave owners was quoting scripture to slaves. He was using the words to drive home a point about his supremacy over the slaves, and the wrath they would face if they were disobedient.
He was misusing scripture to back up his acts of oppression toward another human.[iv]
Here Haseltine compares speaking truth about the illegitimacy (and lunacy) of gay marriage with chattel slavery. Certainly the misuse of scripture for evil has been around a long time. Satan modeled this himself when he sought to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4). The Enemy will always seek to twist and pervert the Word of God to his own ends. But, I hardly see this happening when someone denounces homosexual acts or calls into question a biblical basis for same-sex marriage.
After being inspired following his viewing of the movie, he engaged the twittersphere with some of his thoughts on same-sex marriage.
Not meaning to stir things up BUT… Is there a non-speculative or non “slippery slope” reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.
12:22 PM – 21 Apr 2014
I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But It doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage.
12:41 PM – 21 Apr 2014
I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?
1:00 PM – 21 Apr 2014
Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong. I don’t think scripture “clearly” states much of anything regarding morality.
11:03 AM – 22 Apr 2014
It is perhaps less important to know what is “right and wrong” morally speaking, than to know how to act toward those we consider “wrong.”
11:23 AM – 22 Apr 2014
On his blog, Haseltine provides some context and an apology for “communicating poorly” on the issue. He assures his fans, “I care about what scripture says. It matters.” [v]
Scripture does matter. And, as Christians we should filter all of the current issues of our day through the lens of God’s Word. As Gary DeMar made very clear in a previous article, there is no Biblical basis for the support of same-sex marriage.
Yes, Scripture does matter. It provides the basis for the covenant family as a God-ordained institution, and the role it plays in society. As I discuss in the article, Is Marriage Dead?, marriage is senseless outside of a Christian worldview.
Now, back to the question during the panel discussion.
“Does the western church’s focus on moral behavior undermine the church’s ability to love?”
The spirit of this question is not uncommon and is often distracting. Apparently, it throws Haseltine off as he mimics it with a similar statement on his blog post. “I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is ‘wrong.’ I care more about how it says we should treat people.” Again, much like the question entertained by the panel, this is senseless. It is not dissimilar to the typical love versus law tension so popular among our Scripturally illiterate generation. It is a false antithesis. To love is to represent the Word of God in all of its glory. God’s Word is where love derives its definition. A perspective that pits love against God’s law does a disservice to those we are trying to influence for Christ. When we misrepresent God’s view of an issue, it skews their very picture of God. In seeking to love, we actually destroy.
Sadly, we should not be surprised by the recent stir surrounding Dan Haseltine. Whether you are a fan of Christian mainstream music or not, this sort of squeamish confusion and syncretism is characteristic of the church today. It is not enough to decry these things. We must take responsibility. The church of this generation has produced disciples who cannot comfortably defend God’s word against the surrounding culture that wars against them. For much of the previous century, the church’s role in the broader culture was deemphasized to the point of impotence. For these and other reasons, it is time for a thorough saturation in Scripture. As the saturation occurs among God’s people, we will find that it bears fruit in the culture around us.