I don’t have a lot of love for CCM these days. One of the reasons for my growing cynicism toward CCM is the view held by many evangelicals and CCM promoters that Christians must glorify God in all things, including the music they listen to. But apart from Christ, the human heart is thoroughly corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9 and other places in the Old Testament); ergo, it is impossible for an unbeliever to glorify God. Ergo, it is impossible for anyone outside the CCM establishment to glorify God with their music. Ergo, Christians must not listen to anything outside of CCM.
As a result of this, many CCM artists were marketed by setting them up in relation to well-known secular artists that they sound like. Focus on the Family actually went to the trouble to put out a chart listing which CCM artists sound like which secular artists (i. e. if you like Pearl Jam then you will like Third Day, if you like Sheryl Crow then you will like Susan Ashton…you get the idea). If you have shopped at a Christian bookstore you may have seen one of these somewhere along the line. I pushed back from this, saying basically: “Since when does the fact that I am a Christian mean that I am required to listen to Third Day instead of Green Day? Toby Mac instead of Toby Keith? Margaret Becker instead of Beck? Sonic Flood instead of Sonic Youth? Lincoln Brewster instead of Linkin Park? If I want to listen to Pearl Jam, then I will listen to Pearl Jam, not some CCM copycat trying to sound like Pearl Jam. If I want to listen to Sheryl Crow, then I will listen to Sheryl Crow. And if I want to listen to the Spice Girls, then I will listen to Abba, because if not for them the Spice Girls would never have been possible in a million years.”
Okay. Don’t stop me and tell me that I’m living in the wrong decade because most of the groups mentioned in the last paragraph are so 90’s. I already know. Which only serves to underscore the point of how longstanding my cynicism toward CCM has been.
Which brings us to Jennifer Knapp.
I remember seeing Jennifer Knapp on those Focus on the Family charts back when she first started out; she was billed as one that you need to listen to if you like Melissa Etheridge. Turns out, Jennifer Knapp is like Melissa Etheridge in more ways than just the sound of her music. Just this past week, she gave an interview to promote her upcoming album; during the course of this interview she admitted to being in a lesbian relationship.
Some of you may have already heard about this little news item. And some of you are, like me, no doubt anticipating the carnage that will be strewn all over evangelical Protestant-dom by the time this story plays all the way out.
You see, there is a culture of fear within evangelical Protestant-dom concerning homosexuality. To many evangelicals, homosexuality belongs in a special category of sin. The Bible is quite clear on this; there is only one way to think on this issue. The nature of this sin is such that if you are gay, you cannot be a Christian. Anyone who disagrees with this is a rank liberal who is guilty of compromising the Word of God and is probably not a believer.
Come on, people.
Homosexuality is a much more complicated issue than what you may have been led to believe if you have heard the way evangelicals talk about it. So before we go any further, let us clear a few things up:
–First, homosexual behavior is not consistent with the will of God. Scripture is remarkably clear on this point, both the Old and New Testaments. Nothing I say following this changes, invalidates, or in any way challenges this point. So let’s just start with that.
–We live in a fallen world. Research has consistently shown that anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of the population has a predisposition (genetic or otherwise) toward homosexuality. Evangelicals, who believe that homosexuality is chiefly behavior-driven (it has to be, otherwise there is no way in hell that God could hold a person accountable for the choice to go down the road to homosexuality), are very disconcerted by such research. But if we live in a fallen, broken world where things do not work the way God intended for them to work, then the findings of this research make perfect sense.
–Can a gay person be a Christian? I expect this question to get a lot of play as this Jennifer Knapp thing unfolds. And it is an excellent question. But there are a number of other equally compelling questions which I fear will not get the attention that they should. Questions like: Can an angry person be a Christian? Can a prideful person be a Christian? Can a gluttonous person be a Christian? Can a jealous person be a Christian? …you get the idea.
–Seriously though. Do we really believe that when a homosexual person comes to Christ, part of what has to happen is that they must become heterosexual? For most people, this would require LOTS of psychological hardwiring to be undone and reprogrammed. There are very few people out there who can successfully pull that off.
–The reality is that there are at least a few people running around out there who for whatever reasons are more comfortable pursuing intimacy with members of the same sex than with members of the opposite sex. Some of these people will wind up in our churches. This is not consistent with God’s design, but tragically, we live in a fallen world where things do not always work according to God’s design. In light of that, shouldn’t we rethink some things and figure out ways to accommodate such people? Wouldn’t, say, allowing such people to live in committed same-sex relationships as long as they agree to forgo the sexual component be a viable possibility? (Remember, it is homosexual behavior that the Bible condemns.)
–Okay, that last one may have been a little out there. But the reality is that we need to be talking about this. As I said just above, there are at least a few people running out there who, for whatever reasons, find it more comfortable to pursue intimate relationships with members of the same sex than with members of the opposite sex. Some of these people will wind up in our churches, whether we like it or not. Which means that somewhere along the line, this issue is going to become real, whether we want it to or not. So we really need to be talking about this.
–My fellow evangelicals, we have an opportunity here. This Jennifer Knapp thing is going to bring the issue of homosexuality close to home for many of you, if it has not already done so. This is our time to show that we can talk positively and fruitfully on this issue. This is our time to show that we are capable of loving and accepting those who come our way seeking Christ–regardless of what kind of personal (and yes, sexual) baggage they may bring.
—Matthew Lee Anderson over at Mere Orthodoxy has a post on how the person of Jennifer Knapp is likely to get lost in all of the arguing and shouting as this story gets out there, and how that will not do anyone any good.