rampant religion roundup: lifeway christian stores, jennifer knapp and johnny piper

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Friday, April 23rd, 2010

rampant religion roundup: lifeway christian stores, jennifer knapp and johnny piper

last month, the calvinist legions of bloggers hit the interwebs to lambast their chosen messiah, john piper, for what they viewed as a theological slap in the face. piper did the (apparently) unthinkable and invited rick warren to be one of the featured speakers at his desiring god 2010 national conference (in addition to speakers such as the SBC godfather al mohler and the treading-on-thin-ice-because-now-you’re-making-films-with-that-rob-bell-company francis chan).

their issue is that, apparently, warren is a false teacher of some kind of crazy anti-jesus purpose-driven movement that is leading people straight to hell or purgatory or some place that calvinist will never go. my feelings regarding rick warren aside, their ultimate issue is what is called “secondary separation”. this premise states that, 1.) christians should, of course, separate themselves from the wicked, evil, depraved world full of sinners and, 2.) they should also, naturally, secondarily separate themselves from “false teachers” claiming to follow jesus. so, for most calvinists, this includes anyone who has ever been mentioned in a sentence with the word emergent such as brian mclaren, rob bell, tony jones, doug pagitt or frank stallone (ok, i just threw in that last one to see if you were actually reading…). ultimately, it can be summarized by the need for christians to actually inhabit the throne of god, hurling judgment toward others—both in the “pagan” category and the christian category. (as a sidenote, piper had to issue a sensationally ridiculous video, listing all the questions he asked rick warren to make sure he was fit to speak at his conference. seriously, you need to watch this.)

the point i’m getting at is that this concept of secondary separation is alive and well within the calvinist ranks. which leads to my next point…

fast forward to today’s discovery (of something that i assume officially happened last week?) that lifeway christian stores—a large christian retail chain owned and operated by the southern baptist convention—has removed any music and/or reference to the chief-of-sinner, lesbian-destroyer-of-straight-marriages jennifer knapp. as i noted last week (as did hordes of others), jennifer knapp has revealed that she is, in fact, a lesbian and in a long-term committed relationship to another woman. ———–i’m building in time for you to gasp loudly and/or recover before reading more———– ok, ready to move on?

(editorial note: in all fairness, other christian retailers and christian radio stations have made a similar decision.)

this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has occurred. when scandals broke about christian artists michael english, sandi patty, raze (how’s that for a serious 90s christian music obscure reference…) and amy grant in the 90s, a handful of retailers also briefly (briefly being a key word) removed their products from their shelves. certainly, there’s a bit of a precedence, but the fact is, you can walk into any christian music store today and purchase the aforementioned artists’ albums. why? because, 1.) these artists bring in a lot of revenue for christian retailers and, 2.) the christian community is quick to forgive and move on regarding infidelity/divorce/etc. (you know, the *actual* marriage destroyers…). but homosexuality? nope. that’s the worst sin.

ultimately, this issue of secondary separation comes into play again. whereas the aspect of homosexuality being the worst sin (for all practical purposes), the key here is people being so afraid of their reputation and image that they can’t even go near someone who they perceive to be in sin. of course, the sin of gossip’s ok. the sin of gluttony’s ok. the sin of withholding your wealth from those who are needy’s ok. many, many sins are ok. just not being gay.

the question i proposed in last week’s blog post is one that i will offer again. what has changed about jennifer knapp’s music from 2 weeks ago now that she’s officially come out? what do you assume is any different now due to the fact that she loves a person of the same gender? what truths are undone? what scriptures are cheapened by her melodies? how is what moved you prior to this knowledge any less compelling now that you know this information?

lifeway christian stores has decided something has fundamentally changed. i’d like to propose that nothing is different. if anything, the impact of her music is only heightened to me because it came from a person who wrote it in the context of doubt and struggle and uncertainty, rather than a place of rampant faith arrogance.

so, i leave you with my favorite song of hers. listen and see if this sounds like something from the heart of a deceiver or someone who speaks words of truth.

martyrs & thieves (from 1998’s kansas):