Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Please Just Stop

Today was an exciting day. 

No...I'm not referring to the fact that Google + is now open to the public, no invitation required.

Neither am I referring to anything related to the PAC-10 or the official end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Although that is a related news story...

I am all a-titter with excitement because,

GUNGOR released their new album today.

Yeah. I know. Thrilling, right?

I haven't heard it yet. Part of me thinks I'm crazy. I haven't even listened to the previews on iTunes yet. I bought it a few hours ago...but I haven't listened to it yet. 

Why would I do something so ludicrous? 

Well, I'm waiting for Friday evening. You see, I'm hosting my first ever listening party.

Some friends of ours are coming over, and we are going to turn the lights down, light a few candles, brew some coffee and tea, and let the new album wash over us, like waves of grace.

Anyway, on this day, I thought it would be good to revisit one of their older songs.

And an old blog. 

I wrote this a while back, and now present it to you edited, buffed and waxed. 

I'm in love with a new band.  Well, actually, they're not a new band, but they may be my new favorite band. They're called Gungor and they're fantastic. They may be one of the most influential and creative artists of the past few years. They're music is intricate, simple, beautiful and inspiring; lofty, soaring to sonic heights, yet accessible, earthy and real. I haven't been introduced to a group of musicians like this in a long time. 

I have bought and listened to their newest release (Beautiful Things) over and over. They're older album (Ancient Skies, under the name The Michael Gungor Band), is also wonderfully written and composed. However, there is one song on this older album, which upon close listen was more than just a fun, snarky pop tune. It could actually be quite controversial. You should listen to the song before you read on. It's called White Man

Did you catch it? Did you hear the sassy little controversy in the bridge? 

Here are the lyrics, just in case: 

“Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians 
And even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President 
Everybody, everybody, love, love, love, love, love”

Now, before I go on, I need to reinforce one thing: 

I have not interviewed Michael Gungor about these things. I don't write to speak on his behalf, or to put words in his mouth, but merely to present my interpretation of the lyrics and some of the theological implications contained therein. 

Now then, back to the song. 

“Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians 
And even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President 
Everybody, everybody, love, love, love, love, love”

That’s some pretty edgy stuff.  Especially coming from the mouth of a Christian worship band.  

Now, this raises a few questions in my mind, and yours too no doubt.  I am going to pose a few of them, and perhaps even answer them (since I didn’t write the song, I’ll answer as best I can).  
1) Are they seriously comparing Lesbians to Terrorists thereby putting them on the same level?  There are two answers to this question.
             Yes and no
Michael Gungor (the frontman and namesake of the band), is not saying that he views lesbians and terrorists on the same level, or that they represent the same kind of evil.  Terrorists are murderers and fear mongers.  They kill and frighten innocent people in order to forward their political agendas or to bring societal change.  This is deplorable.  It is an atrocity and a blight on humanity as a whole.  They are not equating lesbians to this kind of thing or this type of person.  They are simply stating that God loves all of the people represented by these categories, and willingly offers His grace to them all. “God is love, and He loves everyone,” the hook cries out.  
However, God is holy.  This means he is good.  He is pure.  He is completely other.  So much so that he will not (cannot?) come in contact with sin.  He will not tolerate it.  Biblical Christianity believes homosexuality to be a sin.  This is not hate-lingo.  It’s merely a theological-philosophical belief about the creation and intention of mankind.  So, if God will not tolerate sin, not one iota of it, then telling a white lie, engaging in homosexual relations and genocide are all on the same level.  They have drastically different reprocutions and from a human perspective there are definitely degrees of evil.  However, from a divine perspective, evil is evil, rebellion is rebellion, sin is sin.  
2) Is Gungor saying that it’s ok to be a communist, a terrorist, a lesbian or a charlatan?  Or (framing the same question in a different way) is Gungor saying that since God is love, it doesn’t matter how we live?
Simply put, no.  They are not.  
This is a view called antinomianism (ἀντί, “against” + νόμος, “law”; against the law or ‘lawlessness’), in theology.  It is the belief that somehow Christ has freed believers from the obligation to follow any sort of moral or ethical law, esp. the Law of Moses.  
Gungor is not here purporting antinomian theology.  As I mentioned earlier, they are merely affirming that God loves all mankind (John 3:16), and offers this love to all people, despite who they are or what they’ve done in the past.  
3) I read one of the Youtube comments, in which the writer didn’t have a problem with what the song did say, but with what it didn’t say.  They took issue with the fact that the song doesn’t outline what happens to a person if they don’t accept this love.  
I can understand a Christian’s frustration at seeing a partial gospel presented.  We need the whole story.  However, I think that’s a little nit-picky, especially in this case.  It would be a silly requirement to have every song that mentions God, Christianity or the gospel have to communicate every tenet in the religion.  That is obvious.  It is equally silly to require a song that speaks of God’s love to necessarily speak of his judgement.  I doubt that person would rewrite “Jesus Loves The Little Children” ……except the ones that don’t believe, those he damns eternally, listen to the children scream.  Jesus loves the little children who believe!
Which brings me to my final thought.  I loved the Supertones in high school. They were the first Christian band I ever listened to.  Their second disc had a song called “Grace Flood” the chorus repeats “unconditional love, unconditional love…that’s grace flood!” I was shocked and a little offended when one of my college professors declared in class that "despite what popular Christian rock songs are currently saying, God’s love is not unconditional.  It is, in fact, very conditional."  A fact which he went on to prove to us, by showing us many of the biblical ‘if-then’ clauses used throughout both the Old and New Testaments (there are tons of them in the Gospel and Letters of John and in Revelation.  However, this is not limited to only one New Testament author.).  
Here’s the thing though.  I actually think that the Supertones were right.  In an important way, God’s love is unconditional.  He will extend it to anyone, no matter what they’ve done.  In addition, Gungor is right.  God is love and He loves everyone.  My professor is also right.  We cannot lay claim to the love of God and live however we want.  There are conditions.  In response to the love of God, certain things are required of us.  We don’t earn God’s love by doing them.  However, if we love God, we will do them.  
Please just stop the hating.  

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