Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Apologetics Instead of Apologies

I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with the musical genre that’s labeled “contemporary Christian” and so I didn't know anything about the singer Natalie Grant except that she made an early exit from the Grammy awards the other night. It seemed as if the marriage ceremonies of homosexuals and bizarre, occult-themed performances of Madonna, preacher’s daughter Katy Perry, and others were offensive to Grant — rightly so — and she took a powder.

After the event she sent out a Twitter message. It read, “We left the Grammy's early. I've many thoughts, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I'll say this: I've never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I've never been more sure of the path I've chosen.”

I’m pleased that Ms. Grant left the show. And I’m certainly glad that she desires to honor and serve God in her singing career.  Even more impressive is the work she has done in diminishing sex trafficking.

I was a bit concerned, however, over the distinction she made in that Twitter message between singing and other forms of public expression; that is, Ms. Grant's desire to sing about Jesus but otherwise leave all other thoughts “inside her head.”  After all, that’s not a very bold or forthright attitude. And it’s not in keeping with the Christian obligation to bravely speak the truth (about a whole gang of issues) to the world.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t have bothered to bring the matter up except that Ms. Grant found herself under fire from the left who assumed (naturally enough) that Ms. Grant wasn’t pleased at the blasphemy so brazenly enacted at the Grammy awards. And so the trumpets of the left blared out the usual stuff: judgment, intolerance, and those fuddy-duddy values that so meanly deny avant-garde artistic expression. You know the act. Still, Ms. Grant seemed to be truly grieved and bothered by the criticism. Indeed, after just one day, she took a few of those thoughts previously “left inside her head” and posted them on her Facebook page.

I'm not going to engage in arguments, but just have a few things I'd like to say: I NEVER said I left during any particular performance. I only said I left early. I never pointed out any one particular performance, I only said I had many thoughts about the entire show, which were best left inside my head and that is where they will stay. So those who say I condemned one performance but then condoned others clearly did not read the post.

What I DID say is this: I am honored to be a part of the Christian music community. I've had many people throughout my career ask why I never tried to go in to mainstream music and last night was a beautiful reminder that I love singing about Jesus and FOR Jesus.

I've judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won't use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. (Philippians 2:12)

I was honored to be nominated for 2 Grammy awards last night. I'm so grateful that NARAS and The Grammys continue to recognize the contribution that gospel and Christian music make to the world. And I'm so thrilled for those who won in my categories. And I can say that with all sincerity.

My last thought: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus for it is the power of God who brings salvation to ALL who believe." Romans 1:16

Now there are things in Ms. Grant’s apology/explanation that are admirable. And again, I bless her for her work against sex trafficking, and in raising her family, and her going public with her fight against bulimia, and so on. But do you see the troubling elements that surface in that Facebook post? The careful refusal to criticize anything? The attitude that seems to equate judgment (which is simply the evaluation of things from God’s perspective) with hate and pride? The post-modern idea that her “personal convictions” shouldn’t intersect anyone else’s? The belief that singing about and for Jesus is fine but speaking or doing anything that might end up being confrontational or divisive is wrong?

No, in speaking such things, Ms. Grant is presenting a sadly truncated view of Christianity that, I suspect, she knows herself is quite wrong.  Perhaps she is reeling from the sting of unexpected criticism and I've no doubt she's dealing with e-mails and tweets that are acidic and hurtful. Yet she must still be more careful to defend authentic (thus, comprehensive) Christianity and not fly instead into the trap her enemies have set for her.

She was not "the bad guy" in the Grammys drama and she shouldn't apologize as if she was. Like I said earlier, I don't believe Ms. Grant went far enough in explaining exactly why she left the event in the first place. However, her apology/explanation makes things even worse for it sumbits to the intolerance of the aggressive secularism of our day. Ms. Grants acts as if the left's intolerance of Christians living out their biblical responsibilities is okay, even correct.

But it isn't.

The people of God are responsible to speak the truth in love. And we do that as humbly, winsomely and engagingly as possible, backed up by our personal examples of holiness, compassion, and justice. However, the truth we are commanded to speak is the whole truth of God, not just the pieces we think might be prettier and easier to the culture. Think about it. God's Word’s bids God’s people to speak the truth, shine the light, encourage the fainthearted, reprove the ruthless, proclaim justice, plead for the widows and orphans, rebuke the wicked, teach righteousness, overcome the darkness... and that's just getting started.

Ms. Grant will sing for Jesus. That's great. She will go into a soundproofed studio and make records. She will get on stage before a friendly audience and belt out the songs. And she will pocket the money, sign autographs for fans, display the awards in her den, and otherwise enjoy the perks and popularity of her career. But, according to the Facebook post above, we can't expect her to join other believers in sidewalk counseling outside an abortion mill or in a March for Life — she doesn’t do street corners or signs. And, again according to her Facebook post, we can't expect her to make any statement from “her platform” that might be interpreted as political or controversial or divisive.

Ms. Grant, that's not right. And it's not fair to those dedicated Christians whose love for Christ and devotion to His Kingdom require their sacrificial service in such ministries. Your Facebook post is certainly not the kind of message they need to hear. Indeed, my dear sister, it's not even fair to you, a woman of sincere faith whose record of service has demonstrated a willingness to mix it up and to proclaim God's truths (even about uncomfortable matters) in the public square. Natalie, we need vibrant, bold, prophetic voices today more than ever -- not timid, defensive, unobtrusive ones.  We need courageous and intelligent apologists for the whole counsel of God -- not frightened apologizers. So, please; let's not allow the secularists to scare into the closet one of our most visible and influential artists. Okay?