Scratching My Head at Derek Webb

I love Derek Webb. I first started listening to his music in 1994 when I was in college and when he was in Caedmon’s Call. I will never forget the first time I saw Derek perform live with Caedmon’s (circa 1995). It was at Tulane University in New Orleans, and I and the other hundred or so people were mesmerized for the entire concert. When I heard Derek sing and play “Bus Driver” that night, he became my favorite of the group. It was one of the best shows I’d ever been to.

Caedmon’s Call was supposed to be playing Christian music, but it didn’t sound like any of the “almost-as-cool-as-the-real-thing” Christian music that was being produced in Nashville. The stuff Caedmon’s was playing was lyrically profound and musically brilliant. From the very beginning, it was the lyrics and the music that held me. And as the years went by, both seemed to get better and better.

For me, the high water mark of Derek’s stint with Caedmon’s was 40 Acres. Everything seemed to come together on that album. I thought he had been reading my mail when I first heard the lyrics to “Table for Two”:

I’m not gonna worry ’bout nothin’.
Cause if the birds and the flowers survive,
Then I’ll make it okay. . .

Well this day’s been crazy
But everything’s happened on schedule,
from the rain and the cold
To the drink that I spilled on my shirt.
‘Cause You knew how You’d save me
before I fell dead in the garden,
And You knew this day
long before You made me out of dirt.

And You know the plans that You have for me
And You can’t plan the end and not plan the means
And so I suppose I just need some peace,
Just to get me to sleep

At that particular time in my life, the lyrics were a Godsend. It was a confession of faith in a sovereign God who was going to take care of me no matter what. The music, the lyrics, and the ministry were resonating with me in a deep way.

That’s why I (and many others) celebrated the news in 2002-2003 that Derek would be breaking away from Caedmon’s to do a solo album. That solo album, She Must and Shall Go Free, did not disappoint. I thought Derek manifested a new apprehension of the Gospel in these songs, and I was tracking right along with him.

I am my beloved’s and my beloved’s mine
So you bring all your history and I’ll bring the bread and wine

In these lines (from the song “Lover”), I saw myself as the one with all the “history,” and I saw Jesus with the “bread and wine.” Again, the music was outstanding, and the lyrics were deepening.

I’m reviewing all this history because the rest of what I am about to say wouldn’t make sense if I didn’t. Given all that Derek has written before, I do not understand where he is going with his latest album Mockingbird. The music is still great. If you haven’t heard the album yet, you can listen to two of the songs for free at Derek’s website: http://www.derekwebb.com/.

Yet as I hear and read the lyrics, I see a new trajectory in Derek’s thought. To be sure, much of the message is good stuff. Nevertheless, a good portion of the album reads like a left-wing political tract.

In “A King & A Kingdom,” he complains against all the Christians who teach that “Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican.” He embraces pacifism and opposition to the death penalty in a song that follows a twenty-three second instrumental titled “A Consistent Ethic Of Human Life.” One even detects an oblique protest of the Iraq War in the song “My Enemies are Men Like Me,” where Derek writes: “I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well.”

I am reading all of this, and I’m asking myself, “What’s going on with Derek Webb?” I am honestly in the dark here. I can’t figure out why all of a sudden he’s engrossed with anti-conservative politics. Is it just me, or does anyone else see what I am talking about?

In any case, I still really like the music, even if I am scratching my head at the lyrics.

33 Responses to Scratching My Head at Derek Webb

  1. martyduren March 14, 2006 at 5:36 am #

    Denny-
    Think both Rich Mullins and Brennan Manning who were/are believers, anti-conservative politics and pacifists.

    If memory serves, both of these guys had an influence on Derek with Caedmon’s. Maybe it’s only as a solo artist that the emphasis comes through.

    I’m sure there are other influences besides these two…

  2. nolongerbaptist March 14, 2006 at 6:32 am #

    What happened? I think Derek realized that most of his tribe of evangelical Christianity read like a right-wing political tract. He got tired of people using Jesus as an excuse to start wars and execute people at the same time Jesus was used as the ultimate anti-abortion icon. Hence, “A Consistent Ethic of Human Life,” and “I will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well.”

    When I look around the Baptist world and the SBC world and the evangelical world, I am asking myself, “What’s going on with these guys?” I am also honestly in the dark – I can’t figure out why Jesus somehow got lumped in with conservative politics. And I know it’s not just me, cause Derek Webb also sees what I’m talking about.

    Last time I checked, the Gospel wasn’t about starting wars, executing criminals, and denying justice to the poor. But in the name of Jesus and conservative politics, people have been doing just that. So Derek’s pissed off and doesn’t want to take it anymore. What’s so wrong with that?

  3. Denny Burk March 14, 2006 at 7:47 am #

    Dear NoLongerBaptist,

    Is your information sound? Derek thought “most of his tribe of evangelical Christianity read like a right-wing political tract”? Which tribe are you referring to? His SBC tribe or his reformed tribe? Both? Where did you get this information?

    Thanks.

  4. D. Taylor Benton March 14, 2006 at 8:57 am #

    I think the concern and bewonderment is deserved. Like you, Denny, I love SHE MUST AND SHALL GO FREE, but when i got MOCKINGBIRD a couple days after chistmas i was shocked. AMEN to the fact that we don’t have to be “repubican” americanized christians, but we are married to Christ as the church which is worldwide. In saying that, I think Derek’s attempt at trying to bring helpful critique of the church has turned into some religio-political soap box maybe just to sell records….

    Don’t Get me wrong, I can’t stand the republican church. In the past couple of years I can share some of Derek’s sentiment and say that in many cases the church is a PAC or Bush fundraising center. I say that as a conservative, repulican, bush-luvin guy. I have actually written on my obscure and personal blog abou this before. http://inquiryofthought.blogspot.com/2005/11/which-direction-to-cross-working_05.html . I don’t care what party is what. I care about biblical commands and values.
    I don’t know…. It still remains that whatever Derek was intending to do went haywire. This is evidenced in this very exchange of thoughts. As a faithful lover of CC and Derek Webb, I hope this wasn’t some anti-republican whine-fest. That doesn’t seem like Derek’s style. I will note that he is having a LIVE audio chat with DON MILLER tonight at 10pm EST. So i don’t know what to think.

    I hope he doesn’t bite the hand that feeds him too hard, because I don’t know about anyone else, but if his records keep on this track, i really don’t mind bringing back the glory days of 40 acres and She must and shall go free just to forget what he has currently done

  5. Brett March 14, 2006 at 9:14 am #

    “His SBC tribe or his reformed tribe?”
    Unless Derek has changed churches recently, he is not in the SBC tribe. He goes to a PCA church.

  6. Brett March 14, 2006 at 9:19 am #

    I don’t have his latest album, but thanks Denny for the review. I probably won’t be getting it because the last thing I want to hear is a left-leaning agenda. I’m disappointed to hear this. Derek was at our church a couple of years ago and we had some great conversation together. The thing I really like about Derek is that he truly is an artist. He also think he is making an honest attempt to be truthful rather than popular. Too bad more CCM “artists” (too many are performers) are not like him.

  7. Michael March 14, 2006 at 9:58 am #

    I am happy to see conservative evangelicals taking up the socail issues. Whatever “tribe” Webb is from, may it increase.

    A quick read through the gospels shows that Jesus has a profound concern for the destitute, something I don’t see mirrored in the SBC or Reformed circles (of which I am firmly a memeber of both).

    When will all the folks who champion John Piper’s Calvinsim (again, I inclde myself here) begin to champion his social ethics? I.e. his race relations, adoption, moving into the abandoned parts of the empire, etc.

    The sad fact is that as a conservative evangelical, if I want to read good stuff on social justice, I have to go to the post-liberals to find it. Where is the conservative, evangelcial, Reformed, SBC equivalent of Stanley Hauerwas, Amy Laura Hall, and Ron Sider?

  8. Gray March 14, 2006 at 9:58 am #

    I think what nolongerbaptist and many other believers have done wrong is swing the pendulum all the way to the other side on political issues.

    Am I happy with the “Jesus is a white republican” thing that is eveident in SOME thoughts? No.

    But the answer isn’t to bash everything republican and/or conservative.

    Sadly, Dere’s CD does come off as a political tract, and that’s the irony of this whole thing. In his attempt to get people from thinking “conservative politics = Christianity” he’s tapped into this whole crowd of people who basically believe “liberal politics = christianity” (ie – Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, etc).

  9. Bruno W March 14, 2006 at 11:21 am #

    Is Jesus a white, middle-class Republican? You’re a smart guy, Denny; you know what Derek is trying to say. And is an anti-death penalty, pacifistic view contrary to the excellent way of Christ? I don’t think so.

    What you loved about Derek in college is exactly what you are protesting now. He writes about his journey, no matter where he finds himself. And sometimes on our journey, we find ourselves frustrated and using hyperbole to protest and prove a point.

    Brian

  10. Denny Burk March 14, 2006 at 12:01 pm #

    Dear Brian,

    Thanks for the feedback. I share some of Webb’s frustrations. I can’t stand it when churches have patriotic services or when people only pray for political leaders who happen to be Republican. I would say that many an evangelical are concerned about those who conflate the interests of the Kingdom with the interests of America. It just seems like Webb’s complaint is going beyond that.

    This is probably a controversial thing to say, but I don’t think that pacifism and opposition to the death penalty feature very prominently in the mainstream of the evangelical tradition throughout church history. From Augustine forward, there has been a robust theological and biblical case for the idea of a just war. Notwithstanding the Anabaptists, the evangelical mainstream has by and large affirmed that sometimes justice requires war.

    Anyway, I’m not saying that one isn’t a Christian if one is a pacifist. I’m just saying that pacifism is not THE Christian view. Yet Webb’s songs sound as if he thinks it is.

    Thanks,
    Denny Burk

  11. Bruno W March 14, 2006 at 1:29 pm #

    Pacifism isn’t an abnormal view for me, as both of my parents grew up in Mennonite homes, so I understand what you say about the larger evangelical community. I think the Biblical intuition that pacifists correctly work from is that Jesus’ way is not one of war and violence. While growing up Anabaptist, I am not a pacifist because we still live in this present age where war, sorrow, pain and grief are a reality. Its only in the age to come that we’ll experience the cessation of these things.

    So while war and violence exist and are even necessary on this earth at the present time, it’s not the way of the Kingdom. Jesus’ way is to die for his enemies; the way of war is to kill your enemies.

    Thanks for the conversation
    Brian

  12. Joshua Sowin March 14, 2006 at 1:34 pm #

    He’s been reading Wendell Berry. Seriously. I’m sure that is part of it. I have been reading Berry lately as well. Profound. Here is where I get that Webb has been reading him (quoting Webb):

    “I think another good, required reading, for believers would be just about anything by Wendel Berry. I don’t know if our readers will be familiar at all with Wendel Berry. He is a guy who lives in Kentucky and he’s a farmer. He’s an older guy, he’s a believer, and he writes the most tremendous books. He writes fiction, he writes poetry, but what I have mostly read are his collections of essays. He basically speaks to a lot of social issues but does it very subversively from a Christian worldview. He’s a great guy to recommend to folks who are not following Jesus as well because his worldview so permeates what he writes but he doesn’t write in a way that [indiscernible]. He writes about everything from war to agriculture to you name it. He’s tremendous. So just about anything by Wendell Berry. I’d probably recommend that a good starting place would be his essay collection called The Citizenship Papers. Really, really good.”

    I agree. Really, really good. I think Webb is just trying to push Christians to think and break some of the labels (like “a good portion of the album reads like a left-wing political tract”). Whether he is effective or not is another thing, of course. I agree that 40 acres seems to be his pinnacle. I haven’t enjoyed any of the solo CDs, unfortunately.

  13. Gray March 14, 2006 at 2:30 pm #

    Bruno,

    Jesus’ way isn’t a way of war?

    Have you read Revelation?

    I think you may be mistaken, at least in part.

  14. Bruno W March 14, 2006 at 3:59 pm #

    Gray, whose the one fighting in Rev.? Whose the one waging war? The ONLY one who is just. This is exactly why we are commanded to love our enemies (instead of fighting, waging war against them, “avenging ourselves”) in Romans 12. God is perfect in his vengence, we are not.

    So let me qualify my statement: Jesus way for his followers is not one of violence or war, but one of dying for one’s enemies.

  15. Kris March 14, 2006 at 7:36 pm #

    Bruno said:
    “So let me qualify my statement: Jesus way for his followers is not one of violence or war, but one of dying for one’s enemies.”

    I am totally confused?
    If we have seen Jesus then we have seen the Father. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then why did the Father tell David which way to go to defeat the enemies of Israel? Was David not a follower of God when he went to war?

    I am not posting here in support or against the war in Iraq or any other war for that matter. But do we not defend the helpless, our families, our country, and our neighbors by the sword ever?

    Let me qualify what I said:
    If your enemy is your enemy simply because you follow Christ then you should die for your enemy because you are giving your life for the reason Christ gave His.
    But if your enemy is your enemy because he is trying to kill you, your family or the helpless for any other reason… then I believe a person is confused and lacks understanding if he sits idly by and does nothing to defend themselves or others.

    To the topic of Mr. Burks post:

    I don’t necessarily agree with all of Derek’s lyrics but…..
    Can the enemy of a nation break down the walls of a nation without the Lord’s hand?

    Can a nation wage & complete a war without the Lord’s hand?

    Can a nation tax its poor for the benefit of entertainment for the masses and not see the discipline of the Lord?

    Can a nation sentence its mothers and fathers to other houses during their final days of life at the expense of the state while its children spend their wages entertaining themselves traveling around the country and say we are blessed of God?

    Can a nation continue to live in careless ease and abundant food while condoning same-sex marriage and not give and defend the poor in other countries and think our Creator will call us faithful?

    This is not just the state of Americans, this is the condition of many a “Christian” in this country.

    Can a nation??????? Ezekiel 16:48-50

  16. jordan March 14, 2006 at 8:20 pm #

    This just war issue is one i’ve been mulling over recently, especially after reading Luther’s response to the Peasant Revolts. The peasants made some very reasonable demands, such as being able to choose/depose their preacher so that the pure gospel would be preached; to have less oppression from their feudal lords, be judged by law, etc. However Luther totally condemnded them because they were taking up arms to defend their rights; he declared that a Christian never resorts to violence to defend himself, but accepts suffering, turning the other cheek as Jesus commanded. He said Christians are never justified in rebelling against the government; only civil authorities are commanded by God to see justice done and punish evil and injustice.

    I think here is possibly where some Christians get confused. Individuals are commanded to accept persecution and injustice against themselves, leaving vengeance to God. Governments, however, are ordained by God to execute justice and punish wrongdoing (Rom. 13). Paul says that as God’s servant, the civil authority “bears the sword” to carry out God’s wrath on the evildoer. The more I think about this passage, the more clear I believe it is that governments have the God-ordained responsibility to execute capital punishment and conduct a just war.

    This is actually the first time i’ve posted here or even read Denny’s blog. Feel free to email me or whatever if i’m wrong.

  17. jordan March 14, 2006 at 8:23 pm #

    oops here’s my email sorry for spamming…
    jordanbuckley@charter.net

  18. Gray March 15, 2006 at 7:54 am #

    bruno, I agree that Jesus is the one waging war….that is why I asked the question.

    Your statement is much better as it is ammended to be “Jesus’ followers”, but it is clear that your idea of peaceful easy-feeling Jesus isn’t the Jesus of the Bible who comes to bring the sword.

    But, I must ask you, who is fighting along side Jesus in that battle?

    Don’t take this to mean that I am advocating all forms of violence. What I am saying is that there is ample evidence to show that those who want to say that normal Christian behavior is to be a pacifist is simply out of step with the record of Scripture.

    Be a pacifist if you want. But don’t try and make Scripture endorse that view, and definitely don’t make Jesus out to be anti-war…because he is the victorious warrior. I am not saying he endorses all sorts of violence and every war, but he is not AGAINST all war.

  19. Anonymous March 15, 2006 at 8:40 am #

    His major influence is Wendell Berry.

  20. Michael March 15, 2006 at 9:05 am #

    gray,

    I the Jesus of Revelation is much more of a non-violent resistor than you suggest. The sword is coming out of the mouth of Jesus. Like most of Revelation, this imagery should cause us to offer our interpretations with extra humility. Is it not possible that the battle is figurative, with Jesus “waging war” with a word? (“Christus Victor”?)

    Also, we have to deal with the fact that John presents Jesus to the reader as the crucified God, even in the last days. That is, the way Jesus wins victory over sin is through his death.

    I agree with Dr. Burk that the majority position throughout the Church has been just war. But in a day in which “just war” has been streched beyond reasonable limits (much further than Augustine allowed) perhaps a young crop of Christians holding to non-violent resistance will cause the Church to be faithful to the just war theory they say they confess, a just war theory that maintains the beliefs of this historic position and not just its name.

  21. Bruno W March 15, 2006 at 9:32 am #

    Gray,

    Jesus “meek and mild” is the Jesus who brings about victory and overcomes his enemies. But his primary weapon in the battle was his own death and sacrifice for enemies.

    Think about the Roman occupation of Judea in the 1st century. The Roman gov’t and rule was quite unjust. Using our just war theories (derived from the Holy Scriptures, I might add) one could easily make the case for war and violence against he Roman gov’t. Maybe the Zealots had it right, opposing such an oppressive rule.

    But where’s Jesus? He’s talking straight to his people to resist such approaches. “Love your Roman soldier; do good to them” is what came out of Jesus’ mouth. Why? Because his way is different, even in the face of unjust gov’ts.

    Like I said above, war is necessary in this present age, but Christ is looking to bring about a new order; the establishment of the Kingdom of God. And the call for believers is to live according to the Kingdom. Taking that charge seriously requires me to think long and hard about what it means for me, a Jesus-follower, to be apart of the destruction of another person/nation. If you’ve got that figured out, I’m happy for you; but I haven’t. It’s not hard for me at all to see some siding with pacifism considering the teachings of the NT, nor is it hard for me to see why Jesus-followers would want to serve their country in service. This is precisely why it’s a difficult topic.

  22. Nicole March 15, 2006 at 10:07 am #

    Hey Dr. Burk,
    My pastor did a review on this CD. I thought you might be interested… http://www.colossiansthreesixteen.com/archives/152#more-152

    Nicole

  23. Luke Britt March 15, 2006 at 1:45 pm #

    I have seen alot of opinions on these comments, but not alot of Scripture to back them up.

    War is seen as a sign of a worse tribulation coming (Mt. 24). War is something that God used in the OT to give his people victory over their enemies. Sadly, many of us think this is justification for war, but we forget that just war is not American; it is Israeli, God’s chosen people. America is not God’s people, but rather a rebellious nation who will perish at the sword of the almighty Christ.

    War is not a good thing. War is not ‘just’ because a plane was sent into one of our buildings. That is retaliation, not humility. Turn the other cheek. Give them your cloak. Walk another mile. Do this instead of punching back, refusing to give, or refusing to walk.

    We are to love our enemies, individually and nationally. We are to love Sadaam and Osama and pray for their salvation and for God to use those who persecuted us. We sound alot like Ananias sometimes. “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.” But the difference is that some of us are not saints and America is not the Church.

    Give up our wars to God. Give it up to God, for vengeance is his, not our ak47’s.

    hope this made sense

  24. D.J. Cimino March 15, 2006 at 3:45 pm #

    Interesting thoughts. I bought the album the day it came out, and I think musically it is a great effort. The lyrical content is questionable to many, but can anyone deny that Derek has already seemed to be a little cynical prior to this album? Ever read any interviews/articles on Derek?

    For some it may be a big jump from some of his lyrics in ISTUD to Mockingbird, but for some reason it really doesn’t surprise me. Not saying I am in agreement with some of his thoughts, just saying I’m not too surprised.

  25. jordan March 15, 2006 at 11:25 pm #

    Romans 13:1-4
    Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

    It’s interesting that, while just having affirmed that vengeance is the Lord’s in Rom. 12:19, Paul says that a governing authority (government) is “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” This seems to be referring to governments punishing injustice under their own rule, but it’s striking how government is given a responsibility to carry out God’s wrath of vengeance in a way that individuals are not.

  26. Luke Britt March 16, 2006 at 8:45 am #

    Yeah, I’m sure Paul has bombs and stuff in mind too.

  27. Bruno W March 16, 2006 at 1:28 pm #

    It seems to me that Paul’s argument in Romans 13 can’t be universally applied. Notice the rationale Paul gives to following rulers in vs. 3, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Is that always the case? Most certainly not. It’s not difficult at all to find examples who are a terror to good conduct. Paul even expands on this by saying in vs. 3, “Then do what is good, and you will receive his [the rulers] approval.” Will doing good in the eyes of God produce approval from hateful rulers of our day? No.

    Not one leader is outside of God’s sovereign rule, but in Romans 13, there seems to be several implicit qualifiers to Paul’s charge.

  28. jordan March 16, 2006 at 5:58 pm #

    Good point, but Paul certainly knew of bad rulers at that time (Pilate had Jesus executed!). In fact, some of the Roman Christians he was writing to had recently been forced out of their homes into temporary exile by Nero (who hadn’t started his real persecution of Christians yet). Since he knows rulers aren’t universally just, it seems he’s describing how they should act. Still, Christians who have been unjustly evicted out of their homes are still to submit to government authority and continue to pay taxes, as he goes on to say.

    The Bible clearly calls for civil disobedience in some cases when the government is doing or commanding evil (Acts 5:29, Daniel, Esther). The point I was making is just that governments have a God-given charge to use “the sword” to carry out justice and some of God’s vengeance on evil, while individuals should accept injustice and not avenge themselves. As for at what point a government is misusing that sword, I don’t know.

    I don’t really see where there’s a huge difference between swords and bombs; both are weapons whose only purpose is to hurt someone. Obviously Paul didn’t talk about bombs because there were none at that time. In my view there’s no question that governments can and should use force; it’s just a question of when they should and when they shouldn’t.

  29. Bruno W March 16, 2006 at 8:48 pm #

    Jordan,

    I understand what you’re saying and don’t necessarily disagree with it. I think what some evangelicals are struggling with and also are trying to communicate is this: what part should followers of Jesus play in a government’s execution of war? It bothers me a tad when a follower of Christ uncritically and unlovingly criticizes his pacifistic brother or sister. Assuming good motivations, I’m guessing that my pacifist brother or sister was led to that conclusion as they are trying to follow the excellent way of Jesus; trusting the promises and guidance of God.

    As I think I mentioned before, I can see why one Christ-follower would be led to disagree with all war (or disagree with the death penalty) and why another would feel called to serve in the military or serve in a legal system that executed murderers. These are difficult issues. Hopefully, loving respect and dialogue can take place concerning these issues (which has happened here, I believe.)

  30. blake w March 20, 2006 at 11:27 pm #

    I am scratching my head too, but still liking his music. I will never get tired of playing his album ‘She must and shall go free.’ It doesnt get much better than that.

  31. Myles March 21, 2006 at 9:58 pm #

    is it a fair distinction to make: religion and politics? why can the religious right and conservatives wed the culture war and faith together, and the same not be said for those not suportive of the death penalty or war? i’d argue that if anything, Webb’s new album is the development of his faith, not a tag on the end of it or a dressing up of it.

  32. KC November 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm #

    Ok- So I know I am two years too late, and who knows if you will even get this email, but this is something God has been teaching me over the last few months (I had no idea Derek Webb was into this stuff too). Here is something I wrote about it this morning. I have been studying non-stop for days on end, consumed with this, because I grew up believing war was ok. The more I read Jesus words and other scripture, the more my views have changed. Sorry the post is so long.

    In Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus is talking to the Jews. He has not yet given the go-ahead to go share with the Gentiles. The Jews knew their laws and their violent history of God leading them into war after war. When Jesus said, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” in Luke, that was completely foreign for them. They thought He was crazy.

    In Luke, Jesus says it this way, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

    When He says ‘the law’ here, it is talking about the law of Moses that was given so many years before…what all Jews based their lives on. That is why Jesus had to clarify, “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose,” because to the Jews (and to us) it sounded like a contradiction of the way they lived all of their past history. I don’t know what that means (although I could speculate several different ideas based on other Biblical principles), but it is clear that He was telling them to behave in a different way then they were used to being told. In some way, obeying exactly what He said here, without trying to rationalize it or fit into our American mindset, fulfills the law of Moses rather than changes it. It doesn’t really make much sense to us, but neither does baptism, communion, the trinity, eternity, or the way salvation through the cross actually worked. I believe part of our call to faith is to believe even when we don’t understand why or how it works.

    This passage seems to be talking to individual people, but I wonder how we as Christians, who are supposedly followers of Jesus, could look at this and begin to make excuses for ourselves and our personal situations. By voting to support war, or a candidate who supports war, I too am engaging in war (or as Jesus so plainly put it, “Resisting an evil person”), even with out picking up a weapon. By owning a gun with the intention of using it for self defense, I am premeditating to go completely against how Jesus said to behave. “Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you.”

    As far as what do we do, Jesus does not present a passive, “door mat” approach. He says, if they ask you to go one mile, don’t smile and go one, tell them “Yah! I will carry your stuff for two miles!” When someone sues you, don’t willingly give them what they ask for, offer to give them even more. It is not passive- it is aggressive- retaliating with love.

    I don’t know how this applies to voting in this election. In light of these verses and what God has taught me over the last several months, I feel it is just as much of a sin to support abortion as it is to support war. All those lives are souls that Jesus told us to love and “do good” to. I personally will not be voting in this election because I don’t feel choosing one evil over the other is the way to go either.

    As far as how we change our country, I don’t think that is our job. We are to go out and change individuals, one life at a time. I think through Christians simply following Jesus’ words and examples, (not that it is a simple task), our country would begin to see a change. When we as Christians stop rationalizing the words of the Bible and begin to take them at face value, we will begin to see real change in our lives and the world. When other people see Christians as Jesus told us to be- people who love everyone, despite their sin, people who despise war and work for peace (just like He told us to do in the Beatitudes), people who want to ease the suffering of the starving just like Jesus did and told us to do, people who are just as passionate about saving the life of another human (wether they want to harm us or not) just as much as we want to save the life of a baby, then they will see a group of people who are different and are a “light on a hill that can not be hidden”. Until then, we are seen by the world as a gay- hating, war supporting, conditional love giving, material things hoarding, group of people who act not much different than the rest of the world. In fact, most of Hollywood behaves, in some ways, more as Jesus would have Christians to act- clothing and feeding the poor, taking care of the world He has given us to rule over, preaching love and no war. We will see a change in this country and the rest of the world when we began to be more Christian than we are American!

  33. sendme hatemail April 14, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Part of what defines the Christian church is it’s historic stand against homosexuality. People may be uncomfortable with it now, but it defines us. Read about the Roman empire and you will find that it was Christians who stood up and said no to what everyone else celebrated as normal (homosexuality.) Live and let live but don’t mix Christian music with a lifestyle that Christian scriptures condemn. There is room for openly gay artists in secular music. Derek and others feel a need to promote a contradiction that will never be reconciled. What good he thinks will be gained is lost in lifting up as a role model someone who will do more damage than he can possibly imagine. Did he even begin to think through all of the consequences?

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