Archive for July 28th, 2009

Derek Webb on “What Matters More”

Well, singer song-writer Derek Webb has ruffled everyone’s feathers again with his new album Stockholm Syndrome, especially with what many have labeled as his controversial single “What Matters More.” You can check out the song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC0j6FTg1xU.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed (courtesy of Wikipedia).

As I peruse the blogosphere, I have been surprised by what several labeled as the song’s major controversy; that is, Webb curses twice in the song. He uses the word “damn” once, and he also uses the term “shit.” The former he uses to describe how reckless people, Christians in particular, can be with their words. The latter he uses to describe the community’s (including himself) sin by not caring enough about those who are weak, hurting, and dying (to quote Webb, while we argue till we’re blue in the face about things, “we don’t give a shit about 50,000 people who are dying today”). However, I don’t think that Webb’s employment of what has traditionally been known as “curse words” is the topic on which he intended us to focus our conversational energies. However, if you are “stuck” here, may I turn you toward an ongoing and fruitful dialogue over at Tolle Lege! and to a helpful article by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, “A Brief Word Study on: Skuvbalon.”

It seems that Webb would rather turn our attention to what he is saying about Christian interaction with the LGBT community. The song opens with the line,

“Say you always treat people like you like to be; I guess you love bein’ hated for your sexuality.”

Later in the second verse, he sings,

“If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes outta your mouth, then it sure looks to me like bein’ straight is all it’s about.”

Before I go any further, let me stress the importance of actually listening to the song so that you hear these lines in context. I write them here only for reference not to replace what they communicate in their original setting.

Webb is vocal about his desire to stretch Christian music so that it touches the “other 98%” of life and things to which the Bible speaks. In two interviews I watched on youtube, Webb accuses the Christian music industry of speaking only to those transcendent moments of worship and leaving out the rest of what the Bible speaks to in life.

A dear friend informed me about this song. This friend expressed such wisdom as he opened up me and some others to a dialogue about it. In short, my friend said that he wanted to thank Webb for writing it but he still wonders how to deal with it and needs to dialogue about Webb’s particular lyrics. So, let me offer some questions and comments that will hopefully give us some direction for dialoguing.

First, does Webb violate Christian orthodoxy (what has been believed by all Christians everywhere for all time) in his lyrics?

Second, let’s discuss the doctrine of total depravity. Total depravity teaches that humans have inherited a disgustingly sinful nature from our father, Adam. We are both born in sin, and as a result we do sin. Anytime a debate arises about whether a same-sex orientation is the result of a person’s choice or something with which a person is born, a discussion of total depravity rarely enters into the dialogue. So here’s the next question: If a person claims to be “born with a same-sex preference” is that a legitimate statement in light of total depravity? I admit I am asking this question with the Biblical assumption that a same-sex orientation is sinful. It is my belief that Scripture teaches that any deviation from a covenanted, heterosexual relationship is a departure from God’s original design and intention. However, this belief does not cause me to hate those who are with me in the struggle against depravity – even if they don’t recognize or acknowledge the struggle.

Third, many Christians are unaware of the responses that the LGBT community offers to Bible passages frequently brought up by Christians (e.g., Genesis 19; Romans 1; 1 Corinthians 6). Of course, this is because we avoid one another – something to which Webb is speaking. I remember a conversation with a friend who had friendships with a couple men who were not of the heterosexual orientation, but they had sought him out for counsel. My friend shared with me some of the responses these men had to Bible passages that I would have gone to directly. I was a little surprised, humbled and unsettled. For example, the Greek terms used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 are malakos and arsenokoiths. In the Study New Testament for Lesbians, Gays, Bi, and Transgender, Dr. Ann Nyland informs the reader that these terms carried several senses in Classical Greek Literature, and from this observation, she concludes that we should not be to quick to narrow down the possible senses when Paul could be referring to prostitution and rape. However, Dr. Nyland perhaps emphasizes too much the Classical senses of the terms rather than seeking after Paul’s intended sense. The NET Bible translation and study notes are helpful here. May we be humble and well-learned in our dialogue.

Lastly, let’s return to Derek Webb: “Say you always treat people like you like to be; I guess you love bein’ hated for your sexuality”; “If I can tell what’s in your heart by what comes outta your mouth, then it sure looks to me like bein’ straight is all it’s about.” Webb is calling Christians out because we confess a gospel that is honest about sin and is entirely hopeful because of the accomplishments of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, but we hate others who are in the boat of depravity with us – stranded without the gospel.

Webb is challenging the Christian community because too often we are guilty of being void of kindness, love and grace toward others because of their sexual orientation. How many times is such a person the butt of some Christian’s joke? Does a gospel-centered life permit this? However, things get sticky when we get political and favorite party starts to dictate our attitude rather than our King. Is it “hate” if I vote against same-sex marriage? Is it violating Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy if I vote in favor of it or remain neutral? I would appreciate some clarification on what Webb means by “hate.” In what arena of life is he using the term? Furthermore, while I agree that “bein’ straight” is not what it is all about, God’s glory and his gospel is what it is all about, which means that at some point, we must submit to God in repentance and deal with our stuff – all of us. Some of you may be thinking that I am missing the point, but I would add and conclude that I think Webb should be more clear about what “it” is in the second quote. Does he mean life? politics? Christianity? etc.? What do you think?

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