Same Kind of Broken as Me: Derek Webb, Homosexuality & The Church

16 July 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5pBXY2AkeY&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

Warning: This post contains some language that some readers may find offensive. 

“What Matters More” by Derek Webb (video above)

You say you always treat people like you like to be / I guess you love being hated for your sexuality / You love when people put words in your mouth / ‘Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak

‘Cause if you really believe what you say you believe / You wouldn’t be so d**n reckless with the words you speak / Wouldn’t silently conceal when the liars speak / Denyin’ all the dyin’ of the remedy

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you? / Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes out of your mouth / Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it’s about / It looks like being hated for all the wrong things / Like chasin’ the wind while the pendulum swings

‘Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face / About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save / Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a s**t / About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you? / Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

Homosexuality is an electrifying, polarizing subject, and one whose complexity is not to be ignored. Derek Webb’s song highlights the intensity of this controversy, as well as what he perceives as misplaced priorities with regard to the evangelical social conscience.  In Matthew’s gospel (Mt 25:32-45), Jesus tells a parable of the sheep and goats where Christ separates people on the basis of their treatment of fellow needy Christians.  It’s hard to read this parable with homosexuality in mind:

 

Jesus: “So…you followed me all your life?”

Christian: “Sure did!”

Jesus: “Great! Great!  So…did you clothe the naked?  Feed the hungry? Take care of the sick?”

Christian: “Well…not exactly…but we kept the gays from marrying.”

Webb’s controversial song highlights the growing impression (especially among younger Christians) that the church’s priorities have been misplaced when it comes to social issues – even echoing the volatile words of Tony Campolo, known for using profanity to awaken church members to the issues of global poverty.

A “Christian” response?

When those outside the church are asked to describe Christians, the most common adjective used is “antihomosexual.”  For the overwhelming majority of born-again Christians, homosexuality is more likely to be seen as a sin than divorce.  Studies show that 40% of churchgoers believe that school boards should be able to fire homosexual staff.  (for more statistics, see David Kinnaman, unChristian, pp 91-119)

For many Christians, the default response toward homosexuality has been an adversarial, “us-versus-them” mentality that has only deepened the divide between Christianity and culture.  Some outspoken leaders have gone as far as to blame recent disasters such as 9/11 or even Hurricane Katrina on homosexuality.  Christians have earned themselves the reputation of shunning the gay community all the while trying to exert legal sanctions against them through the American legal system.  And this is to say absolutely nothing of the abhorrent “God hates fags” banners and even websites that use God’s name to legitimize intolerance and hatred.

SEXUAL BROKENNESS

To borrow a phrase from David Kinnaman, the problem is not homosexuality, but “sexual brokenness.”  Human sexuality is a beautiful thing, and one of God’s greatest gifts.  But we have perverted it (yes, “we;” let’s stop blaming “culture” and put the blame where it belongs – on ourselves).

The standard communicated by Jesus was this: “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28),” a convicting statement that reflects the inescapable depth of man’s sexually broken state.

And so there are two things that the Bible makes clear.  First, that homosexuality is a part of that sexual brokenness, but second, that homosexuality is no different than the sexual brokenness that exists within heterosexuality.  (for a fuller treatment of the Biblical issues, see the article on Darrell Bock’s blog)

We’re all broken.  All of us.  Some try and hide behind religion to make themselves look better on the outside.  But the gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about religion, but about grace.

The culture, especially the religious side of it, sees sexuality as something “dirty” (dirty movies, dirty bookstores,
even “talking dirty”).  It’s deeply ingrained.  I suspect this is why one of the first instincts of rape victims is to take a shower – to cleanse herself physically, emotionally and spiritually of such a dreadful violation.

And into this “dirty” world, the Bible breathes the word “expiation.”  What religion calls “dirty,” Christ’s blood can make clean.  Expiation is the doctrine that Christ’s death on the cross cleanses us from the accumulated rust on our souls so that we may stand clean before our Father (cf. Jer 33:8).

And so if you are reading this as a homosexual, please hear me: we’re all broken.  But where religion tries to fix the problem by telling us to “behave,” Jesus tells us to “be free.”  I believe that by placing your faith in the work of Christ you can have a new life in Him.

A PROPER RESPONSE

But this discussion also prompts reflection on just how ill-equipped the church has been in handling this delicate issue, preferring legislature over conversation, and righteous indignation over humility.  Yet both conversation and humility may be the two most important ways of responding to this issue.

Granted, the word “tolerance” has been abused by many, yet Christians are nonetheless called to show tolerate views other than their own.  To borrow a phrase from one of my professors, we are often more concerned about being “right” than being “redemptive.”

Conversation is key for no other reason than the fact that homosexuals cannot be ignored – as if anyone can or should be ignored by a follower of Christ.  Rather than attaching labels, or reacting to a perceived “agenda” (whatever that word means), it is best to look people in the eye and express your views to them.  And usually, there’s more beneath the surface of each of us than our sexual orientation.  Differences should never preclude building bridges on the common grounds we share with one another.

Humility is key because the various forms of indignation that the church has embodied over the recent years has only exacerbated an already delicate situation, and resulted in an adversarial relationship between Church and culture.  By taking on the humility of Christ, we are better equipped to reach into the lives of neighbors, friends and coworkers.

And this cuts both ways.  I suspect that many readers may disagree with me on any number of points.  But I have continually stressed the need for dialogue, rather than finger pointing, and when I sit down at the table to have a conversation, I would kindly request you show me the same respect despite our differences.

In the end, I believe that I am broken.  And you are the same kind of broken as me.  My prayer, as always, is that through our dialogue Christ would be made more vividly real to you.  God bless.

Further reading:

There are many good books available on this issue.  I will recommend two:

Stanley Grenz.  Welcoming but not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexulaity.

Chad W. Thompson.  Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would: A Fresh Christian Approach. 

(you can also check out Chad’s website at www.lovinghomosexuals.com

16 July 2009

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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