You may or may not have heard of the controversy that’s erupted around Michael and Lisa Gungor, the Christian musicians who’ve caused an uproar by saying that they don’t believe in a six-day creation or a literal Adam and Eve. I’m not about to wade into the creation-evolution debate, and I know Christians are increasingly on both sides of the fence on the topic, but I have a few thoughts about how I’ve seen this news about Gungor unfold and the reactions of many Christians to it. Actually, these are all things that bother me in general, and this specific episode has just been the latest example of how these play out every time this kind of thing happens.
First, it really frustrates me that a lot of people seem to be all worked up over this without even having read the original post itself, except as quoted by those criticizing it. Now, I don’t know for sure that people aren’t reading it, but from what I can tell, and from what I know of human behavior, many or most haven’t.
The original blog post, What Do We Believe?, was actually written back in February. I don’t remember hearing anything about this back then. It’s only in the last week or so, after some Christian site picked this up and wrote about it, that it’s suddenly become a huge deal. Ironically, the whole point of Gungor’s post was that we shouldn’t be so quick to pass judgment on each other for our differences in belief.
In the last couple days, Michael Gungor has written two follow up posts, I’m With You and Part 2.
I don’t think anyone should be commenting on the issue without reading all three of these in their entirety. This is really just a general principle, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a bad idea to jump to conclusions about anything, let alone voice them, based solely on second-hand information. It’s irresponsible and can really end up making you look foolish.
Today Ken Ham’s response to “I’m With You” showed up in my Facebook news feed. Until this morning, I’d heard bits and pieces of this whole controversy, but hadn’t really paid much attention or looked into it myself. But today it was all over Facebook, so I started reading up. The first link I saw happened to be Ken Ham’s, so I started there.
He takes all the quotes out of context, making them seem far more unreasonable, aggressive, or even crazy. But when I clicked through to the full post, I took those same words in a completely different light in context. People have way too much power when quoting to cast the quote in almost any light they want for readers to rely on the quotes as an accurate representation of the original.
Another thing that bothers me is how a lot of Christians react when another believer, especially a well-known one, even begins to ask questions about things we believe or consider other interpretations of Scripture than the traditionally held one. Especially about certain topics—this being one of them. People get not only defensive, but aggressive. Again, I’m addressing a number of times this has happened fairly recently. Several months back, Dan Haseltine, the frontman for Jars of Clay, started asking questions about the Bible and homosexuality on Twitter, just looking for open and honest discussion. The response was venomous. This has happened again and again. I mean, is it wrong to ask questions? Look at the Psalms. How often do David and the other psalmists question things, even God himself? But what we see is that through that, they and their faith come out the other end stronger.
Another article I read this morning was on Relevant, titled Why Are People So Upset About What Gungor Said? The whole thing is a really good read, and makes a lot of good points that I won’t repeat here. But one passage in there says:
I use this analogy often, as Christians we tend to act like we have a belief system that is like a bubble: It is fragile and easily popped if anything even touches any part of it. We think we have to protect our bubble.
But when did the Christian faith become so fragile? It is OK to ask the tough questions, to question our beliefs to find them to be true (and if not true to find the truth God is revealing to us).
I mean, really, if we believe what we believe is true, why should we be afraid to question or discuss it? Aren’t we confident that it will hold up to scrutiny? And if it doesn’t, should we be believing it at all? I know a lot of people in the church will disagree with me here, but in one point at least I agree with Gungor: our faith should be intellectual. If the Scriptures are true, the evidence will back them up. If the evidence doesn’t support our particular interpretation of Scripture, maybe we need to think about another interpretaton that makes more sense. This has happened time and time again over the centuries. And it was not popular in the church when that paradigm shift began, but over time, it became taken for granted. When was the last time you heard someone arguing for a literal intepretation of the Bible’s references to the corners of the earth or the sun going around the earth?
Now, please, before you jump on me, I am not agreeing (or disagreeing) with Gungor’s stance on creation. I am intentionally trying to steer clear of that debate, because it is beyond the scope of this blog and frankly I just don’t feel equipped to tackle that issue in such a public venue. But my point is that, in this area and others, I don’t think we should be afraid to look at the evidence and let it inform our faith, so that our faith can grow and become stronger. I know a lot of people will think that’s counterintuitive. But I know when I look at the sciences and the way the world works—from the way these mathematical equations and constants keep showing up again and again in nature, keeping the world spinning and functioning, to the miracle of our bodies, how they are constructed and how they work all the way down to the most microscopic of details, to the vast cosmos full of stars and galaxies more massive than we can possibly comprehend, and nebulae, pulsars, black holes—my mind is blown again and again, and I can’t help but stand in awe of the God who made it all, and set it up to work the way it does. (Especially in light of how hard it can be for me to make a few lines of code work the way I want them to.) And maybe I’m skating dangerously close to the edge here, but honestly, if it turned out that he chose to use the mechanics of evolution to create it all, that wouldn’t hurt my faith a bit.
Now, all that said, the Gungors aren’t just asking questions, but openly already believe something other than the traditional six-day, young earth creationism of orthodox Christianity. But that brings me to my next, and most important, point: How much does that matter, really, to the rest of us? More importantly, does this trump the unity we should have with them as the body of Christ? They still believe and follow Jesus, and all the essentials held up for two thousand years as the core beliefs of Christianity. I would hope everyone reading this would agree that there’s no reason this disqualifies them from being followers of Jesus. Because it doesn’t. And if they’re followers of Jesus, and we’re followers of Jesus, we are one. Whether we like it or not. Jesus said we would be known as his disciples by our love for each other (John 13:35). When I look at the perception of the church—especially in the West—by most of the outside world, that doesn’t make the top of the list. I don’t think that even makes the cut. Not only that, he prayed that we would live in such unity that the world would know he was sent by God (John 17:21). All of our disputes and venomous attacks and hatred for each other over these issues fly in the face of these verses.
If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: we are following Jesus. Jesus, who came to earth and turned the world on its head. He turned the Pharisees’ worldview on its head by challenging the centuries of pointless moral code they had built up that was only making themselves feel good and oppressing everyone around them; by telling them that more important than any of that, we are to love God and love those around us. And then he lived that out by hanging out with everyone from the Pharisees to the most despised people in society. He turned the world’s social order on its head by choosing fishermen, tax collectors, and revolutionaries as his disciples, and teaching them to love each other and to live by serving others. And then he sent them out to change the world. He turned justice on its head by suffering and dying with our sin on his shoulders, and then conquering death, so that we could join him in this new way of living. We need to live by keeping our eyes on him, and by helping the guy next to us who’s also trying to follow him, regardless of our differences. We’re in this together, and Jesus is our guide, leading by example.