Hate the Sinner, Love the Sin

A while ago I came across this video of Tim Keller answering a question about homosexuality to a non-Christian audience. I thought it was disappointingly weak and shallow, and I came up with lots of things to criticize about it. However, there was one thing that stood out to me as particularly bothersome. So I thought that instead of taking the time to polish and publish a full critique of the video, I would just offer a response to this one statement.

It’s the part where Keller is talking about the so-called “golden mean” that Christians should be striving for with regard to how they treat their “gay neighbor.” He says that some churches have taken seriously what the Bible says about homosexuality while failing to love their gay neighbor (whatever that exactly means in Tim Keller’s mind), but other churches have ignored what the Bible says about the sin “in order to love their gay neighbor.”

Immediately, I wanted to say, “Um… no?” Because here’s the thing: If you are ignoring what the Bible says about sin, you are not showing love to the sinner. You are showing love for the sin. But not the sinner. The Jen Hatmakers and Rachel Held Evanses of the world who talk about an “underground” of peace, luv and fluffy bunnies where gay people are “accepted and loved” are simply accepting and loving the sin. And that is death to the sinner, not life.

Every time I read a story about somebody who grew up believing their same-sex attraction was broken and sinful but changed their minds later in life, it reminds me of the power of the flesh. It’s the same story every time: “I used to think the Bible said this and this, but then I started to re-evaluate and re-examine these passages, and I eventually decided my sin was okay.” These people are so desperate to find some excuse for continuing to hold on to their sin that they will jump at the chance to twist Scripture, or accept someone else’s twisting of Scripture. Those who aid and abet them are encouraging them in that act of self-love, that act of holding on to a part of themselves that they are unwilling to crucify and bury. And the Bible tells us that he who saves his own life shall lose it.

So no, Tim Keller, I don’t think you can say with accuracy that the churches who are ignoring the biblical definitions of marriage and sexuality are doing so “in order to love their gay neighbors.” Quite the opposite, in fact.

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Monday Morning Humor: Chick-Fil-A

I thought this would be a timely kick-off to the new series. Tim Hawkins has actually written two parody tunes about Chick-Fil-A, one of them a take-off on the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and one of them a take-off on “God Bless the U.S.A.” We present them both for your enjoyment:

Cameras, Concerts, and Missing the Moment

When I went to the Signature Sound/Collingsworth family concert in Shipshewana this summer (for which a review IS forthcoming, I promise), I brought a camera, as I do for every concert. Unfortunately, the Blue Gate Theater doesn’t have the greatest lighting conditions for hopeful photographers, and my view of the stage for the entire first half of the concert was dodgy and intermittent. So while I did manage against all odds to capture a few middling decent shots, I didn’t bring home a particularly spectacular crop (pun not intended).

There was one moment in particular where I really wished in hindsight I had put the camera down. On “Glory to God In the Highest,” Signature Sound had Phil Collingsworth Sr. join them for the “moves.” I thought, “Now that would be a great moment to catch on camera!” So I raised the camera in anticipation of the moment… and I couldn’t focus properly. It looked like a blur. And by the time I lowered it, the moment was gone. I had missed it. I never actually saw Phil Collingsworth dancing with Signature Sound, because I was so busy trying to pin it down and CATCH it that I lost my opportunity to simply ENJOY it.

I read a good article by Tim Challies recently that explores this very phenomenon. We live in a world of “capturing” gizmos. Everyone is always trying to record the moments around them. But really, a recorded moment isn’t going to be the same as a moment enjoyed in full when it’s actually happening. Your iphone will jiggle. Your camera will suffer from bad lighting. Color and detail will be fuzzed out. Audio will be sub-par. Yes, you’ll be able to go back and relive a recorded moment, but which is better? Having a cruddy recording of a moment you never got to enjoy properly, or having a great memory of a moment you did stop to enjoy properly?

Now of course, if nobody brought cameras to their concerts, there’d be no pictures or videos for the rest of us to enjoy (we’re thinking of you, Diana!) But I for one am thinking that I may start leaving mine home a little more often. What about you? Do you always carry a camera to every concert you attend?

What Can Christian Conservatives Learn From Westboro Baptist?

I don’t know if any of you follow the Stuff Christians Like blog, but it’s a site I can sometimes get into for light reading and some genuinely funny Christian satire. The proprietor, Jon Acuff, is sort of like a Mark Lowry for young evangelicals. One thing I like about Jon’s style is that he more or less avoids writing on politics and sticks with non-controversial topics everyone can laugh about. However, judging by who he hangs out with and counts among his friends (Rachel Held Evans, Jesus Needs New PR and co.), I’ve suspected that he’s a useful idiot for the left.

My suspicion was confirmed recently when Jon made a few posts about the fact that the Westboro Baptist crowd decided to picket his church, Crosspoint, this week. Although I can’t find a page for the church that states clearly what their policies are with regard to homosexuality, I gather they’re “seeker-friendly,” and according to a statement from the pastor, Westboro “disagrees with their approach to handling sin.” We can fill in the rest. Jon’s own thoughts were fairly mild-mannered (he’s a mild-mannered guy), but the comments threads were revealing. Some of his readers were saying outright that they didn’t even think homosexuality was sinful.

One reader provided a link to the WBC website, so I amusedly decided to take a glance at it.

What I found was bizarre. Sometimes it was unintentionally funny. More than anything, it gave me acute political and religious whiplash. Continue reading “What Can Christian Conservatives Learn From Westboro Baptist?”

A Standing-O for Artistry

In gospel music, the surest way to get a standing-O is to make it big, make it long, and make it loud. Here I must hastily interject that this is not a knock on big endings and the standing-Os they generate (I’ve cheerfully joined in many a one myself), merely an observation of a fact.

But how many times have you seen a standing-O that had no root in emotion or message—the kind that’s offered purely for the skill and technique of the artists? Continue reading “A Standing-O for Artistry”

Glenn Dustin Leaves Legacy Five

The changes just keep coming! Glenn Dustin has just announced his resignation from Legacy Five, and Scott Fowler says they have already begun the search process for a new bass singer. Those interested should e-mail an mp3 to Scott. Here are a few words from Glenn:

Dear Legacy Five Family,
If you know me at all, you know I am a man of few words, so I’ll be brief.
It is with much regret that I am announcing my resignation.  Effective immediately, I will no longer be traveling and singing with Legacy Five.  I have had the time of my life, traveling the highways with L5, getting to meet so many wonderful people.  However, nothing lasts forever.  I have been honored to see so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to, apart from L5.  I have so many wonderful memories, and I will miss so many people.
Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers, and continue to pray for and encourage L5.  I will miss those men, and I doubt there will be a day that passes where I don’t think of them.  I have so many wonderful memories.
In His Grip,
Glenn “Cuz” Dustin

Major Changes For the Browns, Mark Trammell Quartet

The Browns family announced on Facebook today that Jessica and her husband Nick will be leaving the group. The couple has a new baby, Tessa, and Jessica is coming off the road to be at home with her. At the same time, Nick Trammell is replacing Dustin Sweatman as lead singer in the Mark Trammell Quartet. Dustin will be accepting a position as Renaissance Program Director of Choirs at Bethel University. It sounds like an offer he couldn’t turn down, and we wish both him and Nick all the best! This is very exciting news for fans of the Mark Trammell Quartet. Sweatman is an excellent singer, but the new father/son dynamic created by Mark and Nick in the same group can only improve the group’s blend and chemistry. Furthermore, the official announcement reveals that the group will be adding a full-time traveling pianist after NQC (where they will debut their new recording).

Some might argue that with Nick coming on board, and with Eric Phillips having returned to take up the tenor position, the lineup of this group as it now stands could not possibly be improved. Would you agree? Oh yes, and any thoughts as to who the new pianist might be?

Ear Monitors: Getting the Right Fit

Have you ever what it’s like for your favorite gospel singers to make sure their ear monitors fit perfectly? Wonder no more. Bryce Free, Bill Shivers and Derrick Selph show us how it’s done (and prove that they’re capable of making even something this mundane a laugh-fest). No gospel singers’ ear canals were harmed in the making of this video:

Questions and Answers #2: Looking For America (featuring Simon & Garfunkel and Rich Mullins)

Today I’m going to depart a bit from the standard patriotic fare you might be reading around the blogosphere and instead offer a special entry in our ongoing “Questions and Answers” series (which I kicked off last month here). The two tunes we’ll be looking at may not be in the same vein as “God Bless the U. S. A.,” but in their own way, they are quintessentially American. I encourage you to think about the lyrics with me today, and I think by the end you may find that they are actually quite appropriate. Continue reading “Questions and Answers #2: Looking For America (featuring Simon & Garfunkel and Rich Mullins)”

What Does Quality Southern Gospel Entertainment Look Like?

Well, it turns out that Absolutely Gospel didn’t really mean anything that specific by “addressing rumors” in Part 2 of their Ernie Haase interview. Part of it was just his sharing the backstory behind “Any Other Man,” which came out of some righteous anger towards people spreading gossip about the group on forums and such. No specifics were given, and I actually don’t feel like specifics are needed. Some of us have seen such gossip ourselves, and it doesn’t deserve the oxygen of publicity.

But part of it was also a discussion of the group’s entertainment philosophy, and I wanted to spark a discussion based on that. Ernie re-hashed some of his usual talking-points on the topic, but I don’t think I’ve seen him do it quite this candidly before. As he’s done before, he addressed the danger of spiritual manipulation in a concert setting, and this time he specifically connected it with his philosophy of entertainment. He said that he’d rather be “blatant” about “just” entertaining someone than entertain someone under the guise of having a fake “spiritual moment” on the stage. This is something I’ve always respected him for.

He also revisited something he’s been saying for years in response to the accusation that Signature Sound is nothing but empty flash, which is that it’s never been his intention to give that impression, and it comes from a very sincere desire to simply bring one’s top game to the table when presenting this music. When he looks at the production quality of secular music, he wants to aim for that bar because he believes Southern Gospel deserves the best in production and presentation.

But it got me to thinking—they didn’t really get into a lot of specifics in the interview on exactly what that “top shelf” production looks like when you break it down into its component parts. Obviously one huge component is the live band. That’s something that definitely sets Signature Sound apart from the pack. They also have a light show and the occasional fog/dry ice/whatever you call it.

The thing is though, I’m not sure how much the quality of entertainment really rests on those things, with the possible exception of a live band. It seems like if you’re bringing quality singing and quality songs, with quality emceeing, you’re already presenting southern gospel well. I think the Booth Brothers are a great example of a group who consistently delivers top-notch entertainment with pretty much no “extra” stuff—they even get away without having a live band. Lights and fog are nice, but I wouldn’t say they always add something.

So I would say that Signature Sound are definitely great entertainers, but at the same time I think there’s more than one way to skin that cat. And since Southern Gospel IS different from pop or rock, one can only “borrow” so much. And frankly from a purely musical perspective, there’s a lot of poor quality junk out there in the secular arena too. It’s not like it’s automatically good just because it’s on American Idol (and I’m not even getting into issues like lyrical content).

What do you think?