Broken-down Poetry: Title Track: Confession


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Title Track: Confession

Over the summer, I bought Derek Webb’s new album, “Stockholm Syndrome,” with its controversial song, “What Matters More,” which gave the CD an explicit label for the use of two swear words. The song stirred and convicted me, but not because of his cusswords – I’ve heard worse – but because of Webb’s criticism of the Christian culture and our reaction to homosexuality.

I blogged about the song back in August; I had never received so much feedback on a post. Most of the responses were positive (though some were negative), but either way I was glad that a dialogue was forming.

This is an issue we Christians have a hard time discussing with grace, except in our own churches with our own doctrine-abiding, non-gay brothers and sisters. And grace is the key here: we may talk about how liberal our culture is getting or about gay marriage or Ellen DeGeneres’s sexual orientation with an attitude of disdain, but can we learn to speak the truth in love?

The first two lines of “What Matters More” read: “You say you always treat people like you’d like to be / I guess you love being hated for your sexuality.” Webb sings this to Christians, those who condemn homosexuals to hell. (Not just those who hold picket signs at a gay pride festival, but those of us who turn our noses up to our gay brothers and sisters.)

According to the Barna Institute, Christians are known for being anti-homosexual more than loving or being gracious givers. We are not known for our love, but for our lack of it. They will know we are Christians by our love?

In “What Matters More,” Webb says that if Christians speak only what’s in their hearts, then it’s clear that being straight is top priority. Who cares about the poverty pandemic or genocide, about martyrdom in China or war in the Middle East, as long as boys like girls and girls like boys?

The big question of the song (“what matters more to you?”) comes from a quote by Pastor Tony Campolo that says, “I have three things I’d like to say today: First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a sh--. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said sh-- than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Not only are we forgetting to speak to our brothers and sisters with love, we are making the LGBT community our enemy. And we are making a huge deal out of it.

I worry that some of us have the same attitude as a fictitious opinion writer from “The Onion”: “I know that if it were part of God’s plan for me to stop viciously condemning others based solely on their sexual preference, He would have seen fit … to have given me the tiniest bit of human empathy necessary to do so.”
It’s farcical, and I’m sure none of us really think that way, but it sure looks like do. And I’m included in the guilty party. I admit that I laugh at the jokes, and say something’s “gay,” or feel awkward or dirty talking about homosexuality. But this doesn’t make it okay.
God says that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors, even our neighbors who sin and have different lifestyles than us. Not begrudgingly love them, but with sincerity.

The greatest command is to love God, and I think that implies taking him seriously and taking his commands seriously too.

Globefest chapel speaker Dan Merchant, in his book “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers,” talks about the reverse confession booth he made at Pride NW, a Gay Pride festival. His goal was not to receive confessions from the men and women at the festival, but to confess his own sins and the sins of the Church toward homosexuals.

Merchant begins his confession: first for the Church’s mistreatment of homosexuals, then for ignoring the AIDS epidemic and finally for his own disrespect.

I want to end with a passage from his book, something that has challenged me, and I hope challenges you.

“I feel like we can go on all day about the whole ‘gay issue,’ but what I’m talking about is a people issue, a ‘we’re all God’s children issue,’ and since I’m a believer, a ‘what would Jesus do’ issue,” said Merchant. “This is about obedience and humility – and I’m not talking about the gay people, I’m taking about Christians.”

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

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