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Apr252014

Reset. (context...tangent...apology)

Last week, Jars of Clay performed at a music festival in Australia. As part of the programming of the event, the festival offered various breakout sessions and panel discussions on a host of topics that might be interesting to the festival attendees.  I was invited to sit on a panel discussion about moral behavior and the church.  The question we were presented was, “Does the western church’s focus on moral behavior undermine the church’s ability to love?”

On one side of me sat the head of a lobbying group that fought against the legalization of gay marriage in Australia.   On the other side of me was a Christian street evangelist.   I was immediately aware that I had not given much attention to the dialogue about gay rights.  I knew it was a focal topic for many people in the church, and that it was a major issue in the growing partisanship of American politics, I just had not had the opportunity to think about it much. 

During the panel discussion, the question was asked of the lobbyist, “Why not legalize gay marriage?”   His response sparked my curiosity.  He said that gay marriage was a slippery slope into other forms of marriage ie:  polygamy, marriage to animals, etc.  He also said that it was harmful to children to be forced into a situation without a father, or without a mother.  He also spoke of the sanctity of the traditional marriage model and how it could be diminished. 

It was a lively conversation, and in the end, I don’t think we reached much of an answer to the question of moral behavior and the church.  I did walk away with quite a lot to think about.  I had so many questions about gay marriage.  With so many angles to consider and so many layers to unfold, it was overwhelming, and so I did what most people do, I got distracted and forgot about it.

Two days later, I was on an international flight traveling back to the U.S.   I should have been sleeping, but the time reversal’s effect on my body kept me awake, and so I caught up on a few movies.   The one that stirred my soul, more than Anchorman 2 or American Hustle was 12 Years a Slave. 

The film had such incredible storytelling and superb acting that gave faces and souls to the men, women and children trapped in slavery.  The thing that continued to swirl around my mind was a scene when one of the slave owners was quoting scripture to slaves.  He was using the words to drive home a point about his supremacy over the slaves, and the wrath they would face if they were disobedient.

He was mis-using scripture to back up his acts of oppression toward another human.  He was using scripture to back up his idea that slaves were less than human, and so should not be given the rights of humans. 

I would not say that the issues of slavery, which are tied to color and race, clearly mirror the issues of gay rights.  But for some reason, all the questions I had surrounding gay marriage came rushing back.

I sat on the plane and thought about the hard questions I would have to ask myself in order to find my way toward a healthy dialogue about gay rights.  If gay men and women were being oppressed, not having an opinion in the matter seemed equal to the acceptance of systemic racism by way of silence.  The common quote, “What is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” came to mind.

Having grown up in the Christian church, I have observed and perpetrated many acts that originated out of fear.  In my career as an artist, musician, and storyteller, I have attempted to illuminate fear-based behavior in the church.

I have attempted to provide questions that could lead to a more love based approach.   This has meant taking a careful and often critical view of contemporary church behavior and culture.  At times this has led me to unproductive and unfair assessments of the church culture.  Other times, it has helped me navigate around unhealthy environments and practices that could have caused me to hurt people.

I wanted to figure out if I had a blind spot.  Was I buying into a form of oppression? 

Or does the legalization of gay marriage actually undermine traditional marriage and the biblical view of how we are called to live our lives?

So… yes, the implications and applications of answers to these hard questions are staggeringly important.   And my engagement of the issue of just under 3 days left me very under equipped to answer my own questions.

 

So that was the background and motivation behind my latest Twitter conversation. 

 

(A TANGENT + EXPLANATION)

 

Why Twitter?  Like most people who use it, I have found that 140 characters is incredibly limiting.  I have to constantly re-sculpt and re-fashion my words.  I am constantly chopping and simplifying my statements… and for that very reason, it keeps me and others from just vomiting opinions into the middle of the conversation. 

I have liked the limitations because some people, me included, like to write doctoral dissertations that cannot possibly be helpful in a live and organic dialogue about an issue.  The format is quick, and it is inclusive.  It is also the only space I know with such a vast collection of different people with different perspectives. 

Now, the draw back to Twitter as a discussion format is that it is sometimes hard to find the nuance in a persons post.  And in my case, I think I’m communicating one thing, but what comes out is entirely different…. In my haste to get the next idea out, I wrote things that were unnecessarily combative. 

For example, In my latest conversation on Twitter, I knew that the immediate response to questions about the gay community would be about whether gay sex was wrong or right.   I do think this is a part of the issue, but I wanted to talk about other areas, and having just been on a panel discussing the ways the church’s focus on moral behavior undermines its ability to love, I didn’t want to get stuck on the “moral right or wrong” part and stall any ability to talk about other aspects of the issue.   So I wrote:

 

@Scribblepetomus:

“It is perhaps less important to know what is “right and wrong” morally speaking, than to know how to act toward those we consider “wrong.” 

 

“I don’t particularly care about Scriptures stance on what is “wrong.” I care more about how it says we should treat people.”

In the heat of discussion, I communicated poorly and thus unintentionally wrote that I did not care about what scripture said.  Thus, the tsunami hit.  It was picked up by bloggers and written into editorials before I could blink.  And rightly so, people were shocked and offended by my statement dismissing the value of scripture.  I got it. And possibly, I got what that combination of statements warranted for response. I should’ve chosen my words more wisely.

 

I care about what scripture says.   It matters.    

The second round of poorly chosen words surrounded the clarity of scripture.  I was trying to communicate that although we often say, “Scripture is clear about this or that,” the very fact that so many people disagree or have alternate perspectives or interpretations of scripture, means that we have to move beyond simply quoting a scripture to prove our point.   We have to dig into the scripture and help translate it and offer context. Simply quoting a scripture can stall out a good honest dialogue.

 

But what I wrote was:

 

“Never liked the phrase: “Scripture clearly says…(blank) about…”

Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong,  I don’t think scripture “clearly” states much of anything regarding morality.”

 

Yeah…. That was definitely not my intended point.  This was also met with a great amount of negative feedback. 

 

So, that said, Twitter is a great place to share selfies and a horrible forum for discussions and a bad place to communicate under the fog of jetleg...which leads me to this:

 

(MY APOLOGY)

In my questions and dialogue with people on Twitter, it became evident that the issue I had chosen to discuss was far too personal, nuanced, and deeply connected to faith and our human condition to honor the amount of wrestling that others have done on this topic.  And though they were my questions and it was a dialogue provoked by me, it bled into the Jars of Clay world, and my other band mates felt people’s dismay, frustration and the projection of my views and ideas back on to them. It is not theirs to shoulder. 

It was a poor choice of venue on my part.  I chose some of my words poorly.  And I was unable to moderate the conversation in such a way that it kept everyone’s views with a shared validity and civility as I had hoped.    And so, I am not going to continue the conversation on that forum.  I do apologize for causing such a negative stir. 

In the coming days, I will begin posting some questions on my blog (www.danhaseltine.com, and even doing some interviews around this topic, as I believe there can be healthy dialogue and better understanding even if there is not shared agreement.  I am dedicated to being a life long learner.  With a full heart- Dan

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    Few people know it, but the Bible actually ordains same sex marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, and warns Christians to NOT forbid it in 1 Timothy 4:1-3. Jesus taught LGBT people are naturally born in Matthew 19:12, and the "clobber passages" are ALWAYS in context of men who were married to ...
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Reader Comments (705)

If Jesus showed anything, it is that loving outside the religious sphere of acceptibility... well, it will get you crucified. :)

Have patience, the trolls will be out in force... but you guys can endure.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Hackman

Dan,

Thank you so much for this clarification. As you have always been an inspiration to me as well both in the context of Jars of Clay and outside of it, I was frankly very shocked when I read those tweets. Very glad to know that I was not interpreting your words the way that you had intended them, and am very glad to read your actual intentions in this post.

I look forward to seeing your continued discussion about this topic, as it is something I wrestle with as well. (If you would like to read my own blog posts about some of the questions I raise and some of the things I struggle with, they can be found at http://placed.blog.com/2013/06/26/equal/ and at http://placed.blog.com/2013/10/16/you-are-important-you-are-loved-you-matter/ )

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Howard

Dan,

Thanks for clarifying, no need to apologize. I followed the whole thread and enjoy the conversation. The real shame is that this conversation can't be had because the church folk are too morally upright and backstabbing to take a second to consider others. I'm sure you would have chosen a few words differently but we all encounter situations where we should have responded better. I get that no one is going to not hire me based on my opinion and that is the boat you are in. It's exactly why I agree that the moral response is a slap in the face of Jesus who commands and calls us to love, not just be right.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Neyland

Thank you for this, I was not one who responded on twitter but was silently watching this all unfold and reading this helped me understand more clearly where you were coming from. I shed some tears reading this and am so thankful you have responded with so much humble grace. God bless you and your ministry!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Mr. Haseltine, thanks for your clarification and thoughtful response on this issue. It is indeed a difficult topic, and I always feel inadequately prepared to address it. In any case, whatever your beliefs on this particular issue, I believe you are a decent, caring, humble man who does much to serve others. I hope others see this in you as well. I don't know about anyone else, but I will be listening to Jars of Clay (next week's Stage-It concert as a matter of fact!), and I will continue to support the worthy efforts of Blood:Water. Sorry you have had to struggle so much with this. Praying for you!

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermrvh0530

You had legitimate questions, don't feel like you can't explore these because others think no one can ever question scripture. I understand you're apologizing for getting Jar of Clay involved when it's really just about you, but don't apologize for asking those questions. Ignore those who would attack you.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDesert Wolf

No one had perfect words but Jesus. No one had/has a perfect ministry but Jesus. You are not perfect any more than I, but you are trying in the midst of all the chaos of this sin filled world in which we live.

Others should not think that you need to be perfect just because you are a Christian as we all make mistakes. The fact that you are willing to admit your mistake and to rectify it speaks volumes about you and your intent to minister, both within the band and without.

God bless you.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

You still haven't told us if you are for gay marriage or against this sin!...where do you stand, I have always been a huge fan....but since Ray Boltz turned his back on God I only support Christians that serve God....and loving the gay person is ordered of God...but the sin is despised of God...where do you stand?

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPastor Ken Wilson

Dan, while I do believe Twitter wasn't the best place to discuss such a divisive issue, your questions were valid. The negativity from people wasn't. Your apology proves your sincerity in wanting to love people well.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

I admire your courage. You are brave and shouldn't be ashamed of questions or beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their own, as long as it is in the realm of love and acceptance. It's hard to know what to say or not say on social media, especially as a public figure. People's reactions can be unpredictable - but still, you need a voice. You are human. Thanks for opening a conversation topic that most avoid.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen West

Dan,
I completely understand the confusing world of the issue at hand in regards to how people should be treated and what scripture says. In recent months I've been pretty much consumed with the Word of God and the issue of homosexuality and same gender marriage has been something I have been looking into.

I have noticed that in reference to homosexuality that scripture speaks about the sexual act being a sin. I simplify it even more than that. God designated that marriage was between one man and one woman, so any sexual act outside of that marriage union is a sin regardless of those participating.

Paul mentions at various times that we should control our lusts and our thoughts and if we can do so then things are fine. I get that. If a person loves another person of the same gender but refrains from sexual activity then what sin have they committed? Marriage itself is a religious and Biblical union, but governments have turned it into a legal issue. Businesses then used the legal stance of the government to discriminate in their treatment of gay people just as they did people based on race in the past.

Civil unions, or whatever they want to call it, that should be equal to marriage in regards to legal rights should be something that each state should vote on. But each person should vote as their beliefs guide them.

I agree that twitter may have been the wrong place to create a dialogue due to the limited space to adequately put out detailed questions and thoughts, but it happens.

I know you won't remember a post I made years ago on your facebook page but I compated Jars of Clay to being the REM of Christian Music. In a way you are proving that in how you are thinking more along the lines of people and what scripture really says as opposed to what human fallacy can think scripture must mean.

Be Still and Let God be God. He'll carry you through this.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRonovan

I think the notions you are questionig desperately need to be questioned. One thing Jesus was very clear on os that we must love each other. He also warned against going along with the religious establishment... Especially when that establishment has a plank filled eye. Bless you and carry on with your questions.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristy

Dan-

I have been a fan for a long time, and this too, is an issue that I have struggled with at times. Two of my best friends are gay and want to be married, but our state does not allow such. Yet I can think of no reason to oppose their wanting to legally be entwined- they have been together for 13 years, other than "I don't think it is morally right".

I too question at times "What is morally right"? Yes, scriptures guide our morals, but Jesus taught love above all other things. The modern church would not accept Jesus, for he associated with prostitutes and others that were considered immoral. Yet above all, he preached loved.

IMHO, this is where the modern church (taken as a whole) often fails. "Morals" become more important than love. Don't mistake me- we must have moral standards. We are losing our mission to reach the lost, however, because love is not the most important of all things we do.

Continue to fight the good fight.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDH

Apology accepted forgiveness yours. I did not find your statements wrong. I understood what you were trying to get out. Our views are much the same and I get flack for mine also.
We as Christians have to remember to Love the sinner hate only the sin. Who among us have not sinned today. Let them cast the first stone! I have many friends who are blatant sinners but we are here to shine a light into thtier dark world and show them to Jesus. We cannot do that if we condemn the person before revelation of the Truth. There are many who are blind , hardened ,
or otherwise hurt. Who are we to hurt them more? Why want to. Jesus had dinner with sinners. Take a cue from Him. Love Love Love yalls music and will listen til our dinner with our Savior.
See ya there.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Your explanation and apology are very well said, but I salute you for questioning the standard evangelical opinion. I'm pro-life and probably more politically conservative than most people who might respond, but on the issue of how the Church treats the LGBT community, I am very frustrated by the status quo. I have gay friends, and they're nothing like the caricature evangelicals have of them. They are humble, friendly, loving, vulnerable, and all too often scared and depressed. The fact that the Church marginalizes them is so at odds with my faith and the way I was taught to treat people by my family and my church. I don't think people understand the hurt it causes to real people. Just for an idea of where I think the church should go, please read Justin Lee's book Torn.

Fwiw, I've been a fan ever since you opened for PFR in St Cloud MN back in 1995.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChad

Very eloquent. I appreciate you taking the time to explain the back story of where you're coming from. I'm not going to get into it, but you brought up a lot of great thoughts for me. Thank you for this.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda H

I'm behind you, Dan! Questioning is a vital part of growth especially in relationship to Christ. Each person must answer for themselves why they believe what they believe. To love Christ just because it is what we have always been taught is ignorant and not truly love.
When it comes to hard issues such as morality, Christians need to have an answer. What is right, what is wrong, and what does the Bible say. Gay marriage and the LGBT (and whatever other letters can be included there) lifestyle is a sticky subject, because of the world in which we live. So much of what is seen on television and in music is promoting this lifestyle, and often in church the only words that are spoken about it are that it is wrong.
Our response, should never be hate. Knowing God is not knowing what He wants us to do, doing just that, and patronizing everyone who steps out of line; knowing God is learning who He is and through that knowledge of His character desiring to please Him. Knowing God is not a list of rules, for this is what Jesus himself discouraged- which we can see in His words to the Pharisees in the New Testament. We are called to be a part of the world in which we live. That means building relationships with those that we see everyday, no matter their lifestyle choices, loving them ourselves, and showing them the love of Christ.
I'd love to hear what you have to say after you've had time to think it through.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterYvette V

i wouldn't apologize for anything...nor would i revise anything you said. i would say it stronger: "if scripture turns out to be anti-gay, then it ought to be subject to critique: the critique of the gospel, the critique of love".

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternick

This is a very thoughtful and well formed explanation. I hope those who responded harshly because they feel their right to their beliefs are under attack from so many sources will read it and realize your intent and real message is not what they thought. These issues are often very muddy to work through in our current climate and draw equal passion or lack of virtue from both sides. I appreciate your concern and sensitivity to other's feelings, this, you've shown to be a class act.The public eye is a harsh place because you have no idea who will or how they will interpret your words. A humble and open discussion is always the best course. Thanks for the work you do and I pray the peace of God on you and those you interact with.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersburkhart

I agree we must love others & not judge them. Christ loved everyone while the religious leaders of the times condemned the sinners. Love is why Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us not just the saints but for the sinners as well.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Dan, you don't owe any apologies. I understood your meaning the first time, and your words were fine. They reflected the spirit of Christ. Folks who pounced on a couple of your tweets were looking to hang you with something, and they were going to do so no matter how carefully you chose your words.

The slightest suggestion that gay persons MAYBE should be allowed to have same-sex life-partners is enough to inspire vicious attacks from the self-righteous. There is nothing new under the sun: throughout the Old and New Testament, self-proclaimed worshipers of God have repeatedly looked down on some group in order to feel superior.

If you get a chance, read Ezekiel16:49 . God's smoldering frustration with His People is palpable as He declares the REAL reasons He destroyed Sodom. (Hint: it wasn't because of gays.)

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff S.

Dan what a great response! This coming from a "southern moderate conservative", I'll say the twitter conversation was great. I must admit that I was taken aback at start. But what prayer and pause for reflection can do for a person is incredible. I participated in the tweets but never did I consider you were out of line or the topic. At 48 years old, its amazing how this has made me think and possibly change just over the last few days. God is great and never ceases to amaze!! It was a privilege to team with Jars of Clay on the Save a Drink, Save a Life campaign, and to continue to support Jars of Clay, and to lift you up in prayer going forward. The spirit has been strong here.

Stay Faithful

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill Igou

Thank you Dan for you courage to ask tough questions. I am now a new fan of Jars of Clay! Don't let the haters get to you. You are still loved by many new followers.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDayve

I thought it really bold to take this on through twitter, and despite the noise and opinion vomiting, there were some really heartfelt responses within. Sadly, I don't think changing the media to the blogosphere is going to solve this, short of heavy moderation on your part to keep the noise levels in check. I do hope you can pull it off... and great apology / explanation btw.

You asked some deep and challenging questions. I spent 6 years studying similar ones in the original languages, and even guided a ministry through a tremendous amount of tumult around them... Despite such, I'm still as uncertain as to the exact truth of the matter as I was when I started.

I honestly think we see too dimly to really know, short of coloring our interpretations with tradition or experience. Language translations that were anything but exacting don't help matters much either. In the overall scheme of things, I believe such questions falls more into Titus 3:9 territory as a dispute over the law, than mission critical things like loving God and loving ones neighbor... but struggle with them we must, as if shove such questioning underground in the pursuit of certainty, it is all too easy to condemn our neighbor rather than to love them.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRon Amundson

Dan, I appreciate you writing this blog to help bewildered followers of Christ better understand what compelled you to tweet your struggle in such a public way. I respect and appreciate your apology as you recognized how this was not your best move. I do not condemn your questioning and pursuit of clearer understanding in regard to the implications of gay marriage, but I do implore you to remember how dangerous and destructive it is to disregard the power you hold (for both good and bad) as a public figure to influence people eternally. As I am sure you have been advised, discernment about public opinion regarding social issues is critical if you truly love people (which I believe you do!) and want them to understand who Jesus is through the love we first have for each other. I do not envy your privilege of being in the spotlight as we can sometimes forget how we are called to speak far less than the time we are to listen...and you should have brought your questioning privately before God, your pastor and/or mentors who could have wrestled safely with you through this rather than stirring up trouble. I am sorry people have been unkind, but please be gracious the same way you need grace right now and recognize how terrified people are with all of the chaos going on around us. Encourage others, be pure and blameless, and soberly remember what is at stake as you consider your words and motives. Praying for you and all of us to not allow the evil one to tear us apart over this matter.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJS

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