Monday, August 11, 2014

I'm With Gungor

With all the things circulating in social media lately, one of the things that caught my eye was a controversy over something Christian musician, Michael Gungor, wrote in a post on his blog.  It was a blessing, I believe, that I came across an article from Relevant Magazine addressing the "Gungor issue" before I came across an article from Answers in Genesis that addressed the same issue.

Both of the articles above led me to go read Gungor's blogs for myself.  I read three separate blogs that addressed the issue, the issue being that Gungor doesn't take a literal approach to some of the Biblical accounts in Genesis.  The first blog was entitled "What Do We Believe."  This is the blog that started all the problems, but anyone who has only read the article from Answers in Genesis might have the wrong idea of what Gungor was really saying in the blog.  Anyone who has only read the AIG article might also misunderstand the rationale behind Gungor's second blog on the aforementioned issue, "I'm With You."

Ken Ham's approach was hostile from the start, from the accusatory headline, "Award-Winning Christian Musicians Mock Biblical Creationists."  And if you merely read his article, you might think that's exactly what Gungor (and his wife) were doing.  When I read the blog entry, "I'm With You, " however, it was like I was reading something completely different than what Ken Ham had read.  I didn't see a mocker; I saw a thinker.  I saw someone who had gotten flak from a post (the original "What Do We Believe") that wasn't even about creationism, but rather about being slow to judge others when we don't understand the reasons why they believe what they believe.  Many of those who have read "I'm With You" tend to take Ham's approach, that Gungor was being rude or condescending.  Rather, I think he was defending his beliefs.

I don't want to speak for Gungor, because I don't know him and I'm only vaguely familiar with his music and writing style.  But most people realize that it's hard to say how a person sounds when they're writing--whether they're being hostile or conversational or whatever.  Personally, I don't think Gungor meant to sound like he was mocking anyone.  It seemed to me that he was stating what he believed and why, and he was just doing it in a way that naturally came to him.  He might have been trying to be funny, not because he was flippant about his ideas, but because that's the way he thinks and writes.  And I don't think it's fair that he's being called a mocker simply for defending his beliefs in a way that was natural for him to do so.

When I say "I'm With Gungor," please understand, I'm not at all saying I agree with all of his beliefs.  I think he's wrong on some things, BUT I think it's okay that we don't share all the same beliefs.  I don't think I'll ever meet another human being I agree with on every issue.  What I'm saying when I say, "I'm With Gungor" is that I think the dude has gotten a lot of backlash over something that's really not as big of a deal as many are making it out to be.  I'm not saying it's not important.  I'm saying that it's not so important that we should be giving it this much attention, especially with all the other things going on in the world that deserve our attention.

With that being said, I really wrestled with whether or not I wanted to write this blog.  I think the "Gungor Issue" is overblown, so why would I possibly want to add to the chatter?  Well, aside from the snazzy blog title, this post isn't really so much about Gungor and what he wrote as it is about how the Christian community has responded.  I don't want to talk about Gungor or what he wrote as much as I want to talk about how SCARED I am that people have taken the "Gungor Issue" to the extreme.

This is why it scares me.

1. Too many people are believing something they read ABOUT Gungor instead of actually reading what Gungor actually wrote.

I don't really follow Answers in Genesis or Ken Ham as much as a lot of my Christian friends do.  It's not that I don't agree with him or his ministry--he's just not really on my radar that much.  I don't want to make any judgments about what he writes or does, because honestly, I don't know that much about what he writes or does.  It's not because I have any disrespect for him; I just don't follow him or his teachings that closely.

However, what he has recently written about Gungor might have made me lose a little respect for him, had I had enough of an opinion of him to have respect for him (I don't have disrespect for him; I'm just neutral since I know very little about him).   To read the article from AIG, I would have thought that Gungor was on a mission to corrupt the minds of the youth who listen to his music.  And from some of the conversations I've had about the "Gungor Issue," there are a lot of people who believe just that.  This leads me to a second reason why the Christian response to the "Gungor Issue" scares me.

2. If the Christian community believes that Christian musicians are one of the main sources where young people are getting their theology, well, that's a whole other problem.

This is one of my favorite Rich Mullins quotes:

 It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to should read the Scriptures.

I think there are a lot of really amazing Christian musicians.  I have gotten so much encouragement from listening to Christian music, from an old cherished hymn to the newest jam on KLOVE.  I've written several songs myself, and I draw comfort and encouragement from writing Christian songs as well as singing and hearing them.  But Mullins understood that Christian musicians are not supposed to be great theologians.  He knew that they were not supposed to be great role models for others to follow.  That's kind of ironic, because Rich Mullins is one of my role models--mainly because he didn't think or make much of himself, but he made much of God.

But if parents are so concerned that their kids are going to start following the beliefs of the Great Gungor Cult, well, that's problematic because there is no Great Gungor Cult, at least not to my knowledge.  I don't think Gungor is trying to proclaim himself as a great theologian.  Ken Hamm (in the aforementioned AIG article) wrote that: "[Lisa and Michael Gungor] are writing as though they know more than people who have spent their lives studying the inerrancy of Scripture."

Actually, Michael Gungor was simply stating his beliefs in his personal blog.  I find Ham's above statement to be a little outrageous, and more than a little unfair.  Apparently, it's not okay to say what you believe if you're a fairly well-known Christian who has opinions that are different from the accepted norm.  That's all he was doing.  He was writing his thoughts in his personal blog, not publishing a manifest he expected everyone to agree with.  Does that mean he shouldn't have people disagree with him and offer rebuttal?  No, of course there's going to be disagreements and rude internet comments from strangers.  That's what happens when anyone has an opinion on anything these days.  I just think the extreme to which Ham took his response was unfair, especially since HE is in a position of influence.

And parents, if you think your kids are going to start believing or mimicking any old wackadoo thing a Christian musician says or does, then that's saying something about your parenting.  That's saying something about how you've taught or not taught them in the Scripture.  Theology begins at home.  Not in the Church.  AT HOME.  And then Church.  If you don't trust your children enough to make informed decisions about what they're going to believe, then that isn't Michael Gungor's fault.  If anything, he was saying (especially in "I'm With You--Part 2") that we need to actively think about what we believe.  We need to question our faith.  Otherwise, how will we ever know what we believe?  He wasn't trying to lead anyone astray.

Yet, it seems that everyone is going crazy, afraid that Gungor is going to play his guitar and lead all the children away like some modern day Pied Piper.

We. are. going. too. far.

Teach your children to study the Bible.  Teach your children to be discerning.  Pray for your children. Chances are that when they're older, they aren't going to be led astray by something as simple as a blog post by a Christian musician.

And don't get carried away every time a well-known Christian says something controversial.

3. People are getting carried away every time a well-known Christian says something controversial.  AND THE WORLD IS WATCHING.

This is what scares me the most.  Some of my non-Christian friends have been watching this "Gungor Issue" unfold.  And I'm embarrassed.  I'm so, so embarrassed.

Why?  Because I've been trying to communicate to them and show them for years that Christians aren't the intolerant people they want to assume we are.  Because I've been trying to break down the walls between us, the walls built because they've seen too many Christians act without love, without consideration of another person's ideas.  Because I've been trying to show them that Christians can use their brains and form their own opinions and not just blindly follow what someone else says about another person or an issue.  And the Christian response to this issue has shown them exactly the opposite.

I'm not saying we have to agree with Gungor.  We don't.  We absolutely don't.  But in the past three days, I've seen people say the most ridiculous things about a man they don't know.

"I've never heard of Gungor before, but I'm boycotting him from now on."

And my non-Christian friends are seeing yet another example of how Christians shut out anything that makes them uncomfortable.  And, side note, it's not really boycotting if you weren't actively supporting something before.  Nothing changes if you're "boycotting" something you'd never heard of before.

"Gungor isn't a real Christian."

And my non-Christian friends are seeing yet another example of how Christians judge without taking the time to understand.  And, another side note, it's not our place to say that someone is a Christian or not.  That's between him and God.  I could say more on my thoughts on his apparent Christianity, but in the end, it doesn't matter.  It's between him and God.

"Gungor doesn't believe in the Bible."
"Gungor thinks he's better than everyone else."
"Gungor is leading people astray."
"Gungor is undermining the authority of God."
"Gungor steps on kittens."

Okay, I might have made that last one up, but the thing is, the overall response to the "Gungor Issue" is too much.  It's just too much.

I am not saying we shouldn't speak up when we disagree with someone, especially over a matter that we deem important.  I think it's important, but I do recognize that there are a lot of people who find this issue a lot more important than I do.  If that's you, I don't want to disregard you.  I don't want to disregard your feelings.

But here's the thing.  When we are fighting to show the world that we're not intolerant, as so many in the world truly believe us to be, then how does it look when we flat out attack someone for saying something we disagree with?  Or do we only have to be tolerant to non-Christians because we want to show Jesus' love to them?  Should we not also show love and grace and understanding to fellow Christians (even if some don't believe he really is a Christian--especially for those some who don't believe he really is a Christian)?

Tolerance isn't what the world thinks it is, okay?  The world says tolerance means we have to agree with everyone about everything, or otherwise, we're intolerant.  But here's what I've seen in this "Gungor Issue" that scares me, that makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.  I'm seeing Christians act with TRUE intolerance.  We've become like the rest of the world, the ones who say, "You disagree with me, so I must disassociate with you."

When we take our ideas to the extreme and start treating a (supposed) fellow Christian like an outcast because he said something we don't like, what does that look like to the world?  Can we not disagree with someone without going crazy?  Can we not say, "Your understanding of Scripture is wrong, and here's why" without attacking a person instead of just addressing his ideas?

This is a quote from the aforementioned article from Relevant Magazine: 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'm embarrassed and I'm scared because I'm afraid this "Gungor Issue" has revealed just how fragile the Christian faith might have become--at least to the eyes of those in the world who are watching.  And the world is watching.  
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm hoping next time something like this happens (because it's going to happen), the Christian community will respond with a little less crazy and a lot more love.  We need to still be WITH the ones we disagree with.  

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