Joe Fleener has been saying this for as long as I’ve known him. The Family Integrated Church has a poor and dangerous ecclesiology. I have agreed with him. Perhaps this rap flap is a good opportunity to start challenging the more serious issues of their views on patriarchy, family, and church.
Christians are always looking for the devil in the details. One of our family traits is to be proud of the fact that we can discern. So in Christianity there is a huge industry of discernmentalism that Christians entrust their minds to for direction in a dangerous and devilish world.
No one really ever understood how the devil was in the backbeat of rock-n-roll, the 2 and the 4, but a few men with the powers of discernment that no one else had declared it to be so. It was an easy sell because rock-n-roll in the sixties and seventies was almost exclusively the expression of the anti-authoritarianism of the sexual revolution. So, while the lyrics were certainly bad, the culture around the lyrics was blatantly rebellious, it made sense to people to buy into the fact that there was demonism in the backbeat. And drums. And the electric guitar.
It wasn’t obvious, but once the teachers said it was so, it sure seemed obvious.
The problem is it’s still not obvious and it is even more less obvious now that the rock style is a unique musical form that is shared by many cultures, not just the hippie culture of the seventies. Some today will insist that this is proof that other cultures (i.e. CCM) are eroding and promoting the same things that rock expressed almost exclusively in the seventies, rebellion and sex. But it takes a much more sophisticated discernmentalism now. And discernmentalism is self-propagating industry: claim to have unique insight and sound the alarm, the masses respond obediently because they don’t want to be influenced by the devil, and since they cannot actually see it for themselves they begin to depend on you for insight into everything else in their lives.
Hey! I saw first-hand the evangelical/fundamentalism crowds that financed Bill Gothard. Since his discernmentalism was so valuable to people, they looked to him for insight on their bowel movements. They lost their minds to him because they believed he saw the devil in the details that wasn’t immediately obvious to them.
People who categorically say that the rap style is worldly (which is Christianese for sin) do so against the knack for the obvious that God has given to all His children. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. Give them a listen, of course. Think about it. But don’t go home and burn everything in your library that has drums. You don’t need discernmentalists finding the devil everywhere because the works of the flesh are obvious. To everyone. The Apostle said so:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
Basically, says Paul, worry about what’s obvious, what’s evident. It doesn’t take a scholar to recognize “fits of anger.” But if you’re buying into ideas that are not obvious, you’re probably selling your soul. “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them” (Galatians 4:17). The more nuanced and hardcore the “discernment” the more dependent followers are on the “teacher.” But, “you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge” (1 John 2:20). The Christian life is just obvious. This is the repeated theme of the New Testament. 1 John essentially says over and over again, “People, it’s evident. It’s clear. The one that practices righteousness is righteous and the one who doesn’t isn’t. Duh. Oh, and by sinning we mean lawlessness as in contrary to God’s law. You know: the obvious. Period.”
It’s why the same writer said that we don’t need teachers. Because if you need teachers to show you something that you and others couldn’t see otherwise, you’re on the wrong track. God’s teachers explain what’s obvious to believers over and over again so that they don’t get waylaid by what’s not obvious.
There are two monster problems with the pontifications on rap that you probably intuitively know but haven’t yet put to words. And intuitive knowledge is a grace given to average people like you and me as well as people with doctorates in culture and musicology. They are:
- People talking about things that they do not understand end up saying dumb things. We all understand that intuitively.
- People pontificating about things that are non-obvious actually concede the most damning fact: their point is, well, not obvious. And this point (that the their point is not obvious) is something relevant to matters of worship, gospel, and spiritual life.
Edited from original posting (12/2/13) to take out distracting statements that were too “personal” and unhelpful to a larger audience and to add a few sentences defending the cui bono query. 12/3/13
Robe-wearing, pasty white, academic conservative and classically trained musician Presbyterian minister Ligon Duncan, and genius never-out-of-a-suit cultural critic, Albert Mohler, have opined on the off-putting panel discussion on rap music by the NCFIC speakers and have, in various ways, said the same thing that Thabiti Anyabwile tweeted: “It’s a digital monument to the intractable idiocy and nearly invincible ignorance of folks almost entirely irrelevant.” And a guy named Mike Cosper nails down the best response of all, I think. However, a good summary of the online debate can be found here. Read more »
A leader in a small faction of fundamentalism began a meeting recently with a profound and penetrating question. The question was designed, said he, to “set the temperature” for the following Q & A in which an “erring” institution was going to be sanctioned (so we can discuss his declared motive freely in just a moment). But let’s ponder on this question from the lips of a thought-leader in that faction of fundamentalism:
Do you think that blogging has done much damage to the Body of Christ?
My answer: Um, yes.
I am not in a position to hold public Q & A sessions in which only one side of an issue is stated, but I do have the ability to come up with questions that are almost as philosophically wowing.
- Do you think that printing has done much damage to the Body of Christ?
- Do you think that telephones have done much damage to the Body of Christ?
- Do you think that the internet has done much damage to the Body of Christ?
- Do you think that conferences have done much damage to the Body of Christ? Or, let’s get bolder:
- Do you think that local churches have done much damage to the body of Christ?
- Do you think that pastors have done much damage to the Body of Christ?
I’ll stop before I get on a roll because I think it’ll blow your mind. I realize now that if I had stayed in that faction of fundamentalism I’d have a mega-church. My philosophical acumen would have stunned people. But there are other questions to ask, particularly about the Q & A that the pastor was hosting?
- Is it ethically right?
- Is it wise to have only one side of an issue brought out?
- Is it possible that there are complicating factors that would be very convenient for one party to “forget”?
- Is it quality leadership to let innuendo and insinuations go unchecked? Or — hold your wigs because this is profound –
- Do you think that publicized Q & As that promote one side of the issue while attempting to discredit the most viable and realistic means of accountability (i.e. blogging) have done much damage to the Body of Christ?
The “setting of the temperature” was — one might be forgiven for guessing — to give bloggers pause before calling anyone into accountability for the errors that were perpetuated from that session. It was a strategy that works well in those circles: use guilt and fear to control the critics. It was kind of like saying to the cameraman right before committing a crime, “Dear brother in the Lord, do you think that photography has done much damage to the Body of Christ? I think a Christian should feel a little ashamed to even be holding a camera and certainly Christians who love the Body of Christ would not even consider your photographic evidence because — insert pious sigh here — photography has been used for very bad things.”
I think bloggers have done much damage to the Body of Christ. I think pastors have too. I’m a blogger and a pastor. So I should know.
I want to apologize to the Northland public that listened to my message on May 3, 2013 preached in the NIU chapel service for unwittingly perpetuating a falsity when I referenced the Big Daddy Weave Concert.
In my message I alluded to the concert and satirically rebuked those who were outraged that Northland would recruit at such a place by saying that disciple-makers could and should recruit disciples at any venue, including (I suggested) the Winnebago County Jail in Rockford, Illinois. My point was simple: stop making such a big deal about where NIU sets up recruitment booths. Disciples can be gathered from anywhere.
I stand by my point, but my point was based upon a false premise.
The premise of my point (a belief I am persuaded I was led to believe) was that Northland’s involvement in the Big Daddy Weave Concert was minimal at most. Instead, I have since found out that the concert from start to finish was the brain-child of NIU for the direct purpose of recruiting students and that it was disguised on purpose so as not to be a “distraction” from the over-arching mission of the University by inciting a flurry of criticism from conservative constituents, board-members, and faculty. It was also done in direct opposition to the wishes of the board. For those who knew the full story I came off as a willfully blind lackey that brazenly perpetuated the narrative spoon-fed to me while using the sacred responsibility God entrusted to me to preach the Gospel.
I loudly apologize for that.
I acted in ignorance, but I was wrong. I should have investigated thoroughly before I referenced that particularly controversial event but I was too much influenced by sympathy for the administration and the direction they had set for Northland that it clouded my judgment and normal cynicism. I would like to be trusted that when I speak I am speaking with the total conviction of the accuracy of my statements, independent of men-pleasing, but in this particular case I got caught up in perpetuating a narrative that, had I been more careful to investigate, I would not only have left it out of my message, but I would have repudiated it.
Please forgive me.
*I am now on the Board of Directors at Northland International University. We are not ashamed of the music (though many of us may not personally like it). We don’t even have a problem with the concept of the school sponsoring such a concert. What I am concerned about is the lack of clarity and the deliberate obfuscation of details. This is not an official news bulletin from the institution but it fairly represents the persuasion of every one that is currently on the NIU board. They have long-known about my desire (and have sympathized with me) to publicly distance myself from the ethos that drove the confusing narrative that surrounded the concert because I had hastily regurgitated the narrative in a public sermon. I prefer to tell the bald truth to the best of my understanding; and I prefer speak in plain English. I speak for myself here, but I am glad about the cultivation of a different ethos in communication that will become more and more apparent at NIU.
The following is an open letter from John Janke. In it he shares an important insight that many Northland alumni tend to forget. I encourage you to read this unique perspective and I post it here without comment.
Almost 11 years ago I went into “hiding.” Moving to the cornfields of Iowa, I stepped away from all labels, institutions, and movements, and began a quest of letting Scripture speak for itself. As a result, I now find myself no longer fitting into any one “box” or under any one label, and that there is only one movement worth fighting for: the cause of Christ. Today I emerge from the cornfields at the urging of a respected friend in order to offer a unique perspective of an institution whose history will reveal a similar journey to my own. Read more »