amy courts: en route


The Accountability-From-Afar Factor
July 8, 2010, 3:14 pm
Filed under: Culture, Faith and Faith Life, Music, Politics

I’ve been trying to figure out an eloquent way of saying this for a while. But alas, I can’t wax poetic, because it’s still a thought in process. Either way, bear with me.

While touring with Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb, I watched and listened as a lot of “Christians” acted like the devil.

Jennifer told the world through a couple of specially chosen interviews that she is – as many already assumed and/or suspected – gay.

Thereafter, I watched as her message boards and blogs were flooded with comments like, “Burn in hell, Lesbo!” Some were more blatantly condemning than others; some were simple notes sending kind though not necessarily welcome prayers and advice; some were words of praise and gratitude for being the hero the Christian gay community has been waiting for.

Some people ignored Jennifer altogether and just wrote blogs, using the words “Jennifer Knapp” and “Homosexual” interchangeably, as if her sexuality is the whole of her personhood.

Some called for a modern witch hunt; many screamed from the rooftops that a “Gay Christian” is about as real as a unicorn; many threw around Bible verses they were told in Sunday School served as “proof” that gay is wrong and gays will burn.

And I received a modest share of comments and notes asking me if it was true, how I could tour with her, whether or not I was using my influence to “bring her back to Christ” or “win back her soul from the devil.”

I responded to most of those with a simple word of advice: “If you think it’s really that important that she know and hear your opinion on the matter, get in touch with her yourself.”

To which I received many a response of, “But I don’t have a relationship with her – you do!”

To which I responded, “Exactly. And you don’t have a relationship with me either. So what business is it of yours?”

To which I received many a response of, “But God commanded us to hold one another accountable!” Or “But Paul said, ‘blessed is the one who brings his fallen brother back to Truth!'”

And it got me thinking. About accountability. About our responsibility to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and our responsibility for one another to God.

Do we really believe ourselves capable of changing another person’s heart or mind?

Do we really believe we are responsible for saving others’ souls?

And if changing hearts and saving souls ARE our responsibility as humans…then what need have we for God? What work does the Holy Spirit have to do? If Christ alone and His work on the Cross are insufficient and He needs us humans to help Him out in the process…well, is He really worth it?

Obviously, I believe we were created for relationship and have great influence in the lives of those to whom we’re close. We’re meant to walk together, crawl together, run together. To carry one another’s burdens and lighten each others’ loads. Sometimes, we’re there to help each other see when we’re carrying unnecessary baggage, and then help each other unload.

For instance, I know that I – perhaps more than anyone else – have power and influence to change my husband’s mind or affect his heart-attitude. I know him, and he knows me, and we trust one another to such a degree that honesty is both expected and honored. If he’s being a jerk or is struggling with something that’s hurting us both, I can tell him so and he’ll listen. If I’m being a b!tch or am dwelling too much on vanity or pride, he can tell me so and I will listen. We listen because we know we want only the best for each other. And because we’ve developed a depth of intimacy in which that sort of accountability is being perfected daily.

But on the other hand, when some unknown Joe Shmoe from Facebook messages me about how immature or “out of sync” I must be in my spiritual life to have gone on tour with an artist he doesn’t know, won’t listen to, and despises simply because she’s gay (and therefore despises me by association)…well, I’m disinclined to do anything but tell him to shove it. He claims he’s holding me accountable, but in reality he’s just sticking his nose in someone else’s deeply private business.

I get it, though. Everyone has an opinion and feels “spiritually led” to share it when a public figure falls from grace. Everyone wants to be the one who leads her back to Jesus. Everyone wants to be the one who gets that extra shot of glory for bringing the lost lamb home. (And let’s be honest – we say we’re doing it for God’s glory, but we’re really doing it for ourselves and our long-overdue fifteen minutes, right Pastor Botsford?) It’s kind of like how every girl wants to be The Girl who makes the Bad Guy turn good.

But here’s the thing: Jesus was the one who went after the lost sheep, not the other sheep. Why? Because the other sheep were just as prone to getting lost.

And when Paul preached about holding one another accountable and winning the lost brother back, he wasn’t telling the Ephesians to hold the Philippians accountable, or the Galatians to hold the Corinthians accountable. I believe I’m safe to assume he was telling the church at Ephesus to care for its own, and the Galatians to care for its own.

But we’ve lost that reality today. Instead of taking seriously the responsibility to hold those *actually* close to us accountable and to invest deeply in those with whom we commune and fellowship on a daily basis, we’ve become a worldwide pool of public pastors who hold all the public figures accountable, whether or not we know them personally.

I’m pretty sure it can all be blamed on the advent of the social network. We “friend” one another on Facebook and Myspace and follow each other on Twitter, and suddenly we believe we’re close enough to the Stars to insert ourselves and our opinions into their lives…the lives of people we “know” based on 140 character snippets, and carefully chosen and worded dialogues.

When you add to this new “friendliness” (which isn’t authentic friendship at all, I might add) the natural anonymity the worldwideweb provides, we each are suddenly gifted with a platform from which to safely and anonomously spew venom at those we don’t know from Adam.

From behind a computer screen, we can play preacher and savior without anyone ever knowing we’re addicted to porn, are morbidly obese, or are stealing from the government. We can create a personality that doesn’t remotely mirror reality. And with our perfectly manicured fake personalities, we claim all authority to brazenly condemn to hell those who, if ever we saw in real life, we wouldn’t even have the balls to approach…much less berate.

My point is this: Over the past few months, I’ve watched a lot of people say (type?) a lot of truly hateful things…things they would never say to true Friends; things they would never say to another person in real life because, in real life, they know it’d be wildly inappropriate; things they themselves would never listen to or learn from if their dirty laundry was aired in public; things they would certainly never say to another person in the presence of Christ.

And yet every single day we – you, them, me, we – vomit on the internet.

I just wonder, which version is the real you or the real me? Am I, in real life – in real reality – the person who thoughtlessly speaks her mind regardless of how hurtful the words might be, simply because I don’t intimately know the person to whom I’m responding and thus don’t think or care about how it might damage them in the long run? Or am I the person I want to be? The person who strives to see and illuminate the Image of God in everyone, whether I’ve met them face to face for coffee or just word to word on a Facebook forum…

When so much is lost or blanketed in web translation – when we can’t see facial expressions or hear tonal inflections or read body language or see the rage or fear or sadness behind the eyes – I think we lose some of our humanity too, and instead treat each other like avatars rather than people with beating hearts.

Anyway, I’m just thinking out loud and wondering if it’s even truly possible – much less reasonable or Biblically mandated – for Jane Jones from Podunk, MS to hold me accountable or “speak into my life” when she’s never seen me or met me, much less known my very heart?

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37 Comments so far
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Thank you Amy. Beautiful and articulate.

Comment by Carla

Well, friend, it may not be poetic, but it is eloquent. Thank you for pouring out your very thoughtful responses to your recent experience. Much has been said and written about the universal problem of poor internet etiquette, but especially when it comes to words spoken by Christians, I have been shocked by both the venomous and the “well-intended” words I’ve heard and read. May God help us to take all of our words seriously, speak truth in genuine love, and discern more carefully when He is really calling upon us to speak and when it is really none of our business. I appreciate both these words and your heart.

Comment by Gwen Moore

From this and the total of about 5 minutes I’ve shared with you in person, i conclude that you freaking ROCK.

Comment by misty

“And if changing hearts and saving souls ARE our responsibility as humans…then what need have we for God? What work does the Holy Spirit have to do? If Christ alone and His work on the Cross are insufficient and He needs us humans to help Him out in the process…well, is He really worth it?”

A. thanks for helping me procrastinate. B. this is something that goes through my mind daily. Do you really think God is not doing His job in convicting my heart? How arrogant are you when you are trying to tell me what the Holy Spirit hasn’t! I mean, right? Man! You nailed it.

We are made perfect thru Him. He is not made perfect through our two cents.

Great blog.

Comment by Li Li C

You know I love you and I applaud your effort to share your thoughts because so many need to hear this message and think on how it applies to them. I am sure no one has never had a positive influence toward God from such unGodly comments like calling her those names. We are to love people WHERE they are. How quick we are to throw stones.

When I first moved to Nashville I was “witnessed to” by a Church of Christ pastor who I knew only on a professional level. After a few brief interactions he began asking me personal questions and before I knew it, he explained to me how I was a “whoremonger” and showed me in scripture, how I was going to hell because I was living with my fiance. The Lord did work on me and draw me and my husband to Him, but not though fear or being called out publicly and being shamed. My returning to the Lord had NOTHING to do with that pastors words. I was hurt and angry. But I realized that wasn’t the Lord…that was man. Sometimes we so badly miss the mark, in the Lord’s name.

I think God gives us all opportunities to witness and only I know what the Lord has called me to do. And only Amy knows what she is called to do. Just because we are Christians, we are not called to set every sinner straight about their ways or sins. In fact, that is what sends many people fleeing from church. Every person will give their account to God personally. As we think about all this, maybe we should all look at our own lives and look at our circle of influence, then take the speck out of our own eye, and witness to someone by our lives when called to do so…1 Timothy 4:12

I would challenge all Christians to say, how many of us, myself included,

Comment by Amy Wuertz

Yep. What you said, Ms. Courts.

And since I don’t know you at all – please let me offer up a suggestion for you and Ms. Knapp. 🙂 When the dust settles, maybe you can do an EP of “Breathe” with her singing harmony. I saw the YouTube version, and to quote Ms. Knapp: “it knocked my socks off.”

Comment by Diane

I wish to heartily second comment #3. your blog was well reasoned, well spoken, and, i beleive as well that you ROCK!

Comment by Joshua Gibson

Beautiful post, Amy. Something so many need to hear.

I do think there are times God gives people something to say to someone they don’t know well… but that being said… if God does do that, i almost guarantee it will be a word of encouragement and conviction, not a negative statement of condemnation. A book I read while back by John Eldredge talked about how God brings us conviction… but when we feel condemned, that is from Satan.

Comment by Misty Fagan

Amy, I am a little disappointed we are not actually friends. I guess I’ll have to stop name dropping…next week.
I completely agree with you and I wonder if anonymity is actually hurting online dialogue when it comes to deep seeded issues or social causes. Because few people would actually hold you(or me) accountable over a cup of coffee or VooDoo Donut for workaholism, gluttony, or racism. But we can easily rant how this guy or gal said or did this or that because no one will reply. And if there is no reply it is a monologue or, as I like to think, no better than the talks of my insane and homeless buddy Thom.
Thanks for hosting this discussion.

Comment by Jeremiah

I think it may have been you that said it back in the OHCC days. “It’s not my job to ‘save’ people. That’s Jesus’ job. Mine is just to live life in a way that proves He’s saved me.”

Comment by Micah DL

Amazing. RT’ing this bad boy right now. Love love love this.

Comment by Xylon

I really appreciate your comments and thoughtful post. This line in particular struck me:

“But here’s the thing: Jesus was the one who went after the lost sheep, not the other sheep. Why? Because the other sheep were just as prone to getting lost.”

I’ve read many of JK’s interviews and a lot of surrounding articles/2cents in the past few months. Two of of the most impactful ideas I’ve learned in all of this is that one, there will always, always, always be discussions around homosexuality (and many other issues) within the church and within society. Always. Forever. There is no one “answer” to find as a global community–we all wrestle with/contend with these matters from an individual perspective (even if one gives that power over to the church/society to define his/her view, it is still an individual election to do so)–we can only enter into the discussion and get better at co-existing with one another.

And two, while there should be a space for this conversation of exploration to happen (e.g. in person vs internet), the interchange is often lacking a deep respect for people’s individual paths and his/her community of faith. This lacking comes from both sides.

I can no more assume to know an Evangelical’s (or anyone else’s) heart or relationship with God than they can assume to know mine. Sounds simple enough but this idea has allowed me to let go/not get caught up in the debate, but rather respect differing opinions and ask for/create the space my own journey, for my own connections with my community of faith.

I appreciate the reminder that yes, we are all sheep equally prone to getting lost…and being found. Thanks for the post.

Comment by alison

I’ll keep this simple even there is so much on my heart. This was VERY well spoken and wise, Amy. I hope to meet you someday and at least have a moment of face to face connection.

Comment by Bonnie T

Amy,

I appreciate your struggle as you’ve explained it. There is a lot to work through biblically when confronting a person about any kind of sin, and I do think Christians are guilty of making homosexuality a “super-sin.” I do recognize that the closeness of the relationship does matter. However, we are still in a universal church. Each believer is in some way connected to each other.

I think of the woman caught in adultery in this situation. Jesus said both refused to condemn the woman to death and also said go and sin no more. I think that speaks to the balance between two types of Christian personalities. Those who are merciful and don’t like conflict tend to confuse mercy with excusing sin. Others concentrate on the “sin no more” side of the equation and need to learn still more mercy.

Just some points regarding your thoughts on the Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses means to convict. He is the “Helper.” The Spirit may speak directly into the heart of a person, but much more often the Spirit will use the preached or sung Word, a pastor or lay person speaking into their life, or even a well placed blog post. No, we are not “responsible” to change hearts, but all Christians are responsible to partner with the Helper and speak tough words about sin and mercy into the lives of friends. Occasionally when there is a prominent figure in sin, it’s important for the health of the whole church that more people than just some close-knit group of friends, maybe people on the internet, can help the conversation.

For example, in your own blog post, you are confronting the sin of Christians who have behaved without mercy towards Jenn. You have a right and maybe a responsibility to do that. I think the reverse could be true for those who may lovingly confront Jenn on the internet.

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Shayne,
I think you have some good points here, but based on your last statement you mostly missed Amy’s point. The point is the “confrontation” is occurring on the internet. Essentially strangers with an agenda that may or may not be well intentioned have sought out, reprimanded and verbally condemned Jennifer and others that have been trying to support her. The internet is not the place for that, in my humble opinion, and I think that is one of the things Amy is trying to get across. It is not a personal, private place where individuals connect and are in relationship. Jesus did not confront via the internet… and I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that if He came to us today instead of 2000 years ago he would not be using the internet… what do you think?

Comment by Bonnie T

Bonnie,

I think you’re correct in the specific sense of confronting a brother in an attempt to lead them personally back from sin towards a more God-ward life.

However, there is a place online for saying “this is false teaching” or “this is not what it means to live as a Christian.” It’s that kind of confrontation that is appropriate, and it’s been going on for hundreds of years, but not on the internet, but in book form. Bonnie, do you think you can confront (in the sense I mean) in public written word? Luther did that with his 95 Theses. The mode of where things are written publicly changes over time, however I do not like the fact that people hide behind fake names. That’s the danger. The name you see here is my real name. You could probably look me up as a real person.

Christians have many duties to pursue truth and mercy. Those who know Jenn have one kind of responsibility to personally engage her. But when Jenn goes on national television and writes online and frankly confuses what it means to be a Christian, then it’s using those same forums and means, that Christians in general need to state truth (done of course mercifully and lovingly). If Jenn was not talking about any of this publicly, then I do think it would be wrong for the average Christian (especially in Podunk, MS) to “speak into her life.”

I’m just trying to draw out some distinction here about how complex confrontation is. There are many kinds of confrontation for many purposes for many audiences.

Best,

Shayne

Comment by Shayne McAllister

I agree with most of what you said, Shayne.

You are right that anyone’s sin affects us all, as the universal Body of Christ. But it is not effective for anyone-who-wants-to to address the sin, anymore than it would have been effective for someone in the church at Ephesus to start commenting on the sins at Corinth. The Ephesian is removed by time, space, distance, and – most important – the daily relationships and community which is necessary to understand the depth and breadth of the issue and address it productively. Anytime we attempt to address a person’s sin – even a famous one who “lives in public” – we must be aware of all of the contextual issues that contribute to that sin. It’s not effective to tell the Preacher Man, “porn is wrong!” when we’re unaware of the marital issues, childhood issues, and other issues that created the public problem. When we do open our mouths in that way, all we’re doing is throwing stones at a surface issue. Christ taught us to retreat and mend the roots. And that simply cannot be done on a universal level anymore than a spinal surgeon in Spain can treat my broken back here in Nashville.

I agree that we must be careful not to forget the gravity of sin in favor of showing mercy. But remember that mercy, like forgiveness, cannot exist or be shown without its brother, the sin itself. Just as forgiveness is not an act of excusing the sin of the offender, but the choice of the offended not to hold the offender bound by or to that offense, so mercy is a gift given precisely when no other means is possible. It doesn’t cover or undo or excuse sin; it treats it at the deepest level, where only love can actually create a change of heart. We humans pass enough condemnation and judgment on ourselves to last many lifetimes. God is in the business of redemption and reconciliation through the gifts of mercy and grace…both wildly undeserved but lavished without condition.

I also agree that the Holy Spirit uses others to speak into our lives. I believe I made that clear. I even agree that there have been times when people I don’t know but from Facebook have been Tools – ha! – of God to challenge my attitude. But I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who became a Christian or changed their entire way of life based on the single-sentence rants of nameless, faceless people who condemn us to hell unless we agree fully with them. I mean…think about it. Have you ever made a HUGE life change – ended a long term relationship, converted to a new religion or simply converted from one sect of Christianity to another – based on the Facebook dude who said, “Change your way or you will die!” If you have, I daresay you’re among the very very few.

Finally, you are right that in my blog post I’ve confronted a prominent issue among Christians. But I would argue it is one thing to confront the issue itself and quite another to confront an unknown person. (Which, I confess, I did when I named Bob Botsford.) Jennifer’s announcement was a perfect opening for the church at large to discuss the issue of homosexuality within the Body, and to address the issue within each local body. It was (is) right and good for churches and pastors to seize that opportunity and start talking about the issue. But where the church failed, I believe, is when it started discussing the person rather than the issue. Very similar to when, in the late 90s, the church used the news of Amy Grant and Gary Chapman’s divorce to gossip about two people rather than to address the issue of divorce among believers.

Bottom line: there is much room on the internet to confront and address sin. There is no room to condemn people, on the internet or otherwise; no room to address the lifestyles of people we don’t know. Because none of us lives in a vacuum. Our lives are lived in contexts…contexts that are decades in the making. And we cannot address any sin without understanding its roots. If you don’t know the roots – i.e. if you don’t know the person – you cannot speak to the leaves. At least, not effectively.

Comment by amycourts

Amy,

Again I appreciate your thoughts. I’m trying to seek a balance here. Just a few short points.

1. Some things are wrong in any context. You said of telling the preacher that porn is wrong, that we have to understand what context created the problem. I don’t think I have to understand his context to say that porn is wrong IF my primary point is to warn others and not necessarily to bring that pastor back. As you said, that’s for a local church.
2. You used the word “effective” frequently in your comment. I think you would agree that, with the Holy Spirit, any communication can be effective. Some preach Christ out of envy. We don’t like the manner, but we still should rejoice. If someone preaches truth and is a jerk while doing it, God can still use it, even though it’s not best.
3. Paul named names, and the history of the church is one of circulating letters among churches. Once a letter was recognized as Scripture (say 1st Corinthians) that letter was circulated to Ephesus ect. So when Paul named names to one church, another church may or may not know that person but they still knew Paul was talking about a name and an issue. I don’t see the peril in naming names publicly if sin is promoted publicly. In fact I see great value in it, because there is life context. If the Church preached for sexual purity and against all forms of sexual impurity, the use of names of people who have fallen stand as personal and concrete warnings for each of us to watch ourselves so that we don’t follow so-and-so. I’ve seen that done without a “holier than thou” attitude that was helpful.

[9] I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. [10] So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.
(3 John 1:9-10 ESV)

So John names names here publicly, and ironically it’s for the sin of not welcoming a brother.

2 Tim 4:10

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Shayne,
Great Truth is being written by both you and Amy. I think it is hard however to agree to disagree and there is some of that needs to be admitted to here. I disagree that we should rejoice when truth is spoken by someone being a jerk. How is that Truth I wonder? I think we can pray that the truth buried in the ugliness would be seen, however, I think most people that are being a jerk while trying to speak truth do not have in mind the idea of speaking the truth. There is something else human and ugly going on there. Unless you would define Christ’s angry response to the merchants in the temple courts as jerkish. Just reaching for clarification here.

Comment by Bonnie T

Bonnie,

I hate to proof-text. I really do. But this is where I’m getting that idea: Phillipians 1. I think it’s pretty clear. We don’t have to rejoice in the bad WAY Christ is preached, but that He is. We have to have our attitudes saturated in scripture first.

[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. [17] The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice,
(Philippians 1:15-18 ESV)

Comment by Shayne McAllister

To sort of back that up with an example. Jonah went to Ninevah with a message from God. He didn’t like these sinners in this city. He ran away from God just SO they would not repent and he knew God was a merciful God. God turned him around and he went to Ninevah. BUT STILL Jonah preached this “You’re going to be destroyed in 40 days.” He didn’t even say “But if you repent . . . ” It’s God who saves, and the people repented without even being told it was possible that they could be saved. God used the worst jackass of messenger with an incomplete message with a bad attitude to save a city. What a God we serve! It takes like 10 min to read the story of Jonah.

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Shayne,
Thank you for the proof-texting because they are great validations of your point, which is what I wanted, a little clarity.
However, I think we also learn in the Jonah story that he was ultimately taught something of how God works DESPITE HIS poor attitude and that is where the internet bashing becomes an issue for me. The story of Jonah points out God’s love for the people of Ninevah and He was disappointed in Jonah’s reaction. However, he also loved Jonah and gave him the opportunity to understand His heart through the plant/shade/worm lesson.
So, it’s the incredible haughtiness that displays itself in a person’s words that is so disappointing on the internet. It’s turning people away in DROVES. Maybe some of these individuals we are discussing go back and experience the moving of Yahweh like Jonah. But that is not something that I think would present itself publicly just like in the Jonah story as well. That was a private exchange between Jonah and God. So maybe I should be able to rejoice in Truth being spoken by a jerk. But I must add more importantly, that the people we are talking about have this story of Jonah to read just like you and I. Yet it seems like rather than be humbled by it maybe it gives them license to speak Truth with contempt for others.
I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have as follow up.

Comment by Bonnie T

Shayne – You hate to proof-text? Ha! I think you rather enjoy it… 🙂

I suppose, in response, I’ll use numbers too.

1) Indeed, some things – in my opinion, very few, but some nonetheless – are wrong in any context. And of those things the church should never back down when addressing. But again – as you clearly understand – there’s wild difference between addressing an issue and condemning a person.

2) I do use the words effective and productive often because I believe that effective and productive ministry is what we should strive for. Of course, God can use a donkey to reach someone if and when He needs to. But shouldn’t our goal, as believers, be to avoid being that ass? While, in the end, I’ll always be grateful for reconciliation, the end does not justify the means. To suggest that it does is to give license to people like Fred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” to do as they please because, ultimately, some good *might* come of it. Is that what we’re striving for? Or are we striving for righteous ends met by righteous means?

3) Paul did name names on occasion. But a) when he did, he almost always named names in praising people like Priscilla and Aquilla, and acknowledging them as a model; and b) you’ll have to show me significant proof – both biblically and extra-biblically – that Paul’s letters were considered Scripture before any of those he named in a negative light were made known to any churches other than the one to which said letter was written before Paul – or that person’s – death. If you can prove that, I will still maintain it was the exception, not the rule. You quoted 3 John, where D-man was named…but who was this written to? Was it an open letter to all churches, or to one? There we find the distinction. Furthermore, I can think of at least one example of grave sin when Paul addressed the church at Corinth about the incestuous relationship therein, in which he (deliberately, I assume) did NOT mention names, though it was clear the issue was known by the whole body. Either way, though, I think it’s pretty clear that Paul wasn’t in the business of spreading negative news about one church to the others, and was clear to them that all such matters ought to be dealt with among that local body….not among the universal church.

4) You mention that it can be of use to name names and site certain people as “examples of what not to be” or “how not to live.” Again, I ask: can you think of any circumstance in which doing so would *benefit* the person being made an example of? If the ultimate goal is to see the offender reconciled…welll, do you really believe that parading him about as “The Sinner” (as if his publicly acknowledged sin is any greater than our many daily hidden sins), humiliating, berating, and openly condemning him will actually serve him in any way? It *might* (and that’s a big fat maybe) serve as a deterrent for someone else tempted by the same sin, but only because the tempted one doesn’t want to be similarly humiliated – not because the tempted one understands the gravity of the offense or the spiritual need for repentance. But again, if the goal is to bring The Sinner to repentance…how will public humiliation or condemnation serve that purpose? It seems to me, at least from my experience, that parading sinners about as examples only drives said Sinner farther from the truth we’re trying to draw them toward. Which is so utterly ineffective, counter-productive, and harmful I’d call it sinful itself.

5) And finally…I think the bottom line is that there is a difference between confronting the sin and confronting the sinner. The former can and should be done in a public forum and should involve the universal church. The latter ought to be done by those in said Sinner’s inner circle of friends and family…because only they know the depths of the issue. To again use the example of the Porn Pastor: It is perfectly acceptable for the church in general to discuss and condemn addiction to porn and the many common and generalized negative affects of such addiction. But the church at large cannot be of any help to the Pastor himself because to help him, one must understand where he comes from, what his struggles are, where he’s been hurt, and where he needs healing. The public only sees what’s on the surface, but there is always a tangled, deeply rooted web beneath the surface that has to be untangled. Those sorts of contextual circumstances – the kind that make each person’s story and life utterly unique, no matter how common their struggles are at surface level – are things that the general public cannot know and thus cannot help.

Comment by amycourts

Amy,

I think we’re getting somewhere. Using the same numbered points.

1. OK. Here’s the elephant in the room. Is homosexual behavior in the life of a professed Christian one of the things we should not back down on? (you could insert theft, anger, bitterness, adultery for homosexual and the question would be the same). This is an important question to the entire discussion.
In the same way there is a difference between condemning a person and addressing an issue, there is a difference between gossip, and answering public false teaching on what it means to be Christian and gay. Once Jenn went public, those of us who don’t know Jenn have a primary responsibility to confront her and her views as a false teaching. Those who know her have a different and more focused responsibility to her as a person.

2. Entering Fred Phelps in the conversation is a quite a bit off topic, because what he’s saying isn’t biblical and neither is his manner. In the Phillipians text, he’s not preaching Christ out of envy or poor motive. He’s just plain not preaching Christ. It’s kind of like the saying that whoever mentions Hitler in an argument first loses. If the real goal is to help Christians not be asses and to speak with grace, well that’s harder work, a longer blog post, and the right direction in my mind. But I think you’re essentially saying: look if you don’t know the person then don’t talk about them and their life. As I said earlier, once you go public that privacy privilege can and should be gone.
My main point here is that pragmatic arguments (arguing that something is right or wrong because it works or doesn’t work) take a back seat to clear declarations of biblical truth. Pragmatic arguments are highly subjective to each of our circumstances and life experience. At the end of the day, God uses flawed people. I think that’s a silver lining on this discussion we can all rejoice in.
3. To answer about the names named in Scripture. I’m not going to go into every instance “biblically and extra-biblically.” Suffice it to say that we have a lot very early manuscripts of these letters found in various places that probably would have been in the lifetimes of those named. Peter references the writings of Paul as scripture and assumes his audience was familiar with them. (2 Peter 3:15-16) But whether they were dead or alive, I don’t think Paul shared the dichotomy between naming names and confronting an issue. Sometimes they’re the same. In 1 and 2 Cor. He didn’t need to name names, because everyone knew who he was talking about (the sin was so open and known). He wasn’t trying to protect the reputation of the one in question.
4. “If the ultimate goal is to see the offender reconciled….” There’s the rub. For me in my position, it’s not. It can’t be. That’s not my job as you’ve said. The good of the church as a whole and clarity on what it means to be Christian is my goal. Yours may be different. I don’t believe public or private condemnation is ever right (it is God who ultimately condemns. He knows the heart.), but public warning is all over the Bible.
Honestly I think you’re doing some straw man reasoning when you put up public humiliation vs. private confrontation as the only two possible methods here. True public warning will not have any shred of “parading” of a sinner. It would be a humble, but clear warning that what so and so says is not correct. The main point of my comments here on your blog is that there is a graceful way to use the story of Jennifer as a warning. Read Acts 15 and Galatians 2:11-14 to read about Paul openly confronting Peter. . . and it worked. Paul did this open confrontation because “even Barnabas was carried away. . .” Naming names in a public forum does have it’s place even before all the brothers as in Acts 15.
5. Would you agree with this compromise wording? “While it is the role of the church and friends of a sinner to confront them and bring them back to full fellowship in the church through repentance and faith, it can be the role of the church at large to address public teaching that could lead others astray.”

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Hey Shayne,

You know, you and I could go back and forth on this all day long. We’re both well versed and studied in Scripture, but we are nonetheless at a stalemate. I don’t care what the elephant in the room is if I don’t belong in said room. I’ve stated the bottom line for myself plainly enough, and it’s different for you. Quoting Scripture at each other won’t bring us to any middle ground. We may agree on what sin is (at least some of it), but we disagree on its treatment. So we’ll boil it down to this: I won’t go to your church, and you don’t have to come to mine. But we’ll remain brother/sister in Christ, ever at His unfathomable mercy.

Comment by amycourts

The discussion isn’t about coming to each other’s churches. Quoting scripture to each other won’t bring us to a middle ground. Yes. Why is the goal to come to a middle ground? Not sure. I think this means you’re done talking about it. Cool.

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Again, thank you Amy for your insights. I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said here and it is spurring on some research and writing of my own.

Comment by Bonnie T

Bonnie,

The fact God uses sinful attitudes sinlessly should never be seen as cover for more sin. Should we sin that grace may abound? By no means.

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Shayne,
Glad you agree on that point. Interesting discussion you two.
I think I mentioned earlier that there does come a point in a discussion where people may have to just agree to disagree and still respect each others opinions. But that’s the rub, we don’t always do that. It becomes a fight. In that fight sometimes one side is convinced they are right, sometimes both sides are convinced that they are the ones that have the right answer. Truth is that God is still good and probably quite amused regarding the discussion. And finally NONE of us can truly grasp all truth.

Comment by Bonnie T

ok… im not REALLY sure i want to get into all of this, but Amy- your blog was poingnant enough for me to reply.

1st, (since listing seems to be the ‘in’ thing lol) thank you. thank you for what you do, for what you did (touring with JK and DW), and in general for being a way cool person.

2nd, for me, there are two distinct issues with this post and with the replies therein. you speak of sin both generically, and specifically- attached to Jennifer Knapps homosexuality. In regards to sin generically, i agree with you 100%. the open forum of digital communication has allowed us all to be ‘monday morning quarterbacks’ or… ‘monday morning preachers’ if you will… pointing fingers and casting stones behind email addresses and avatars. i think its sinful, shameful and all around bad form. even Jennifer Knapp said in one of her recent radio interviews (paraphrased) ‘…the response to my coming out in person has been mostly positive- people don’t tend to say mean or hateful things to my face…’

for me, however, i think it MUST be addressed (though this is opening a whole other can of worms, and for this i apologize Amy) is that homosexuality isn’t a sin. so all of this discussion regarding JK SHOULD be mute. we can talk about sin generically all day long, but in this particular instance it shouldnt apply. but it does. because we live in a world of translated translations… of cliff notes and digests… and somewhere along the way (personally i blame King James) we changed a few words. going back to to the original greek and hebrew, there is NO word that is used in the bible for ‘monogamous homosexual relationships’. they existed… they were common in fact… but they were such a part of accepted culture, they werent called out or labeled differently. bottom line is, when read in context to both surrounding scripture and to historical context of the time in which the bible was written, it is this Christians opinion that the only thing the bible condemns in regards to homosexuality is rape/non consensual sex (of any gender, by any gender). the remaining references are in regards to jewish purity laws which, 1. im not jewish and 2. are not necessarily applicable today. at the time of the early church there was a real culture war between the jews and the gentiles… Jesus called them together, but for sure they didnt like it. so the jews maintained their purity laws to try to set themselves above. but today i eat pork, wear clothing of mixed fibers, even partake of shellfish now and then- and i, personally, am ok with that.

i wont go into the scriptures verse by verse but will only suggest that if you want a non-biased examination of the verses- if you ACTUALLY want to challenge yourself- open you mind a bit to the possibility that you may have been led astray by a mis-translated KJV… then i suggest you read ‘What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality’.

other than that, i will say thank you again to Amy, and blessings to all- who read and may agree or disagree- that is the joy that is humanity… we may be created in His image, but we are not all alike, and thats ok.

sincerely,
ginny

Comment by ginny guedes

I appreciate this, Ginny. I’m can’t speak to where I stand on the issue itself (though I don’t see any case for total shunning of those who are both gay and Christian). I’ve only begun to dive into the biblical case for homosexuality – one means being the book you mentioned (which I found at a thrift store for like $.50). The biblical text, along with context, culture, and all that modern science is only beginning to show us about the genetics of sexuality…well, suffice to say I definitely think it’s at least worth the discussion.

Shayne, yes, I think I’m done with the discussion with you. If we can’t come to some sort of unity or mutual understanding on the matter, which really ought to be the point of any discussion (otherwise what are we doing but shouting past each other because we like to hear ourselves speak, while having no need or desire to actually engage another person), then we’ve come to the end of productivity. And yeah…It’s fairly obvious to me that if something – anything, whether it’s a web discussion or figuring out how to market my business – is unproductive, it’s not worth continuing.

Comment by amycourts

Amy, i appreciate your honesty and candor. Thank you for validating my response without feeling the need to agree or disagree!

To get back on your ‘general’ subject of communication and accountability between strangers and those whom we call ‘true friends’ i will add this. i had a friend say to me once, (paraphrased) ‘when two people enter willingly into a conversation- BOTH parties must be open-minded enough to believe that in the course of the conversation new ideas/thoughts/concepts may be provided that could change their view on a subject. if they are both willing to have ones ideas changed (even if ever so slightly- as we all have subjects we are more firm on than others) then they are entering into a discussion. if one or both parties enters the conversation 100% unwilling to part with their current ideas on the subject, then it is an argument.” you succinctly said the same thing when you mentioned ‘shouting past each other so we can hear our own voice’.

i hope that more people will choose to enter into discussions on this and other ‘hot button’ subjects rather than arguments. also i would encourage us ALL to admit when we’re too steadfast on an issue to discuss it. call a spade a spade. if you’re not open-minded to change about something, then just state your point and go home, quit repeating the same jargon over and over. or better yet, just keep your opinion to yourself.

Comment by ginny guedes

I thought we were coming to a mutual understanding. So close.

If at the end of the day you go to Scripture, then it’s worth it. You said the point of your original post was that this thought was in process. I hope this discussion has helped that process in some way.

I’m not quoting scripture at you. If it feels like that, I’m sorry. But I do think it’s very important that any discussion we have about the Christian life be grounded in Scripture first and foremost. The goal of Scripture is not that we ultimately gain middle ground, it’s so we can be more conformed to Christ. He isn’t middle ground.

Comment by Shayne McAllister

Hey this book is very nice

Comment by Safely find a date for tonight with no risk

Amy,

Thank you thank you for this loving post. It completely broke my heart to see some of the responses on the internet to Jenn’s revelation. I have recently been digging into this issue myself. I have long believed that homosexuals should be welcomed into the church but have only now been studying the Biblical basis for accepting them and their relationships. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality is a great little book. I also recently finished Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers which is a little more scholarly and really powerful because it was written by a straight pastor who previously opposed homosexuality but came to the conclusion that there is no Biblical support for that through study, and not just because he knew and loved someone who was gay and went looking for something to support that.

I also want to say part of the reason I found your music was because I knew you had been touring with JK and when she came out and you stood by her, I knew you were the kind of Christian that I wanted know better and that your music would be deep and powerful and full of redemption. And it is, and I have been so blessed by it. Thank you!

Comment by orualundone

[…] Amy Courts digs into the Christian phenomenon of attempting to keep people accountable whom you don’t even know, and how the internet has facilitated this false sense of intimacy. […]

Pingback by Around the Internet: Links 7/20/10 « Orual Undone

You commented on my blog just before running your first 50k. I just came across it today. Did you get it done? Are you still running? Take care.

Comment by Patrick Perry




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