Psalm 100. Yes, it’s a chapter in the Bible, but that’s not what this is about. I’m referring to the acapella group at the University of North Carolina (UNC). I first heard of them two years ago when a friend of mine had me listen to their version of Hosea’s Wife (originally by Brooke Fraser). Since then, I’ve discovered and liked several more Psalm 100 songs. Recently I decided to google them to learn more about the group… and then I found this.
Apparently, five years ago, one member of the group was asked to step down from (forced out of?) the group because a) he is gay, and b) he didn’t believe that homosexuality was a sin. A bit of context: Psalm 100 considers itself to be a Christian acapella group and its constitution is the Bible or some such gist.
Now, I believe in God, I believe that God is the source of all life, that He is everywhere and knows everything, and that He cares about each and every one of us, whether or not we acknowledge Him. Plus He created the entire universe, which is pretty awesome; this is literally God’s world and we’re all just living in it. Also, I know that God saved my life when I was suicidal, took away all the baggage I’ve been carrying and gave me a fresh start. And that’s pretty much it as far as my knowledge of God is concerned. I am no Bible scholar or theologian. So everything I am about to say here is based on my (thoroughly inexpert) opinion.
I think that what the acapella group did was an act of discrimination, plain and simple. What’s more, instead of owning their bias, they hid behind the smokescreen of “my religion/bible/pastor says…” The thing is, the Bible says A LOT of things, a lot of disparate, often confusing, sometimes even contradictory things. An example of what the Bible says is Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged… (Matthew 7:1-2).Even if the other Psalm 100 members believe that homosexuality is a sin (which is easy for straight people to believe I guess), who are they to declare Will Thomason (that’s the person who was given the boot) unworthy to sing in a Christian singing group because of that? I’m sure that if we’re to examine each of their lives, we’d find at least half a dozen traits and habits that are condemned by the Bible and the group would have to be permanently disbanded.
I’ll end my rant about the group itself here. What really drove me to write this post was a response to the UNC controversy by a certain pastor JD Greear. In his article, he praised Psalm 100 as some kind of group of martyr heroes who were willing to stand true in the face of oppression/criticism/disapproval from an opposing majority – the UNC students and outsiders who didn’t agree with Psalm 100’s decision. What’s more, there were several statements in Greear’s article that really irked me and I’ll go through each of them now.
There really was no way for the group to remain faithful in conscience to Jesus and not ask the offending member1 to step down. These Christians believe (as do I2) that the Bible considers, in no uncertain terms3, homosexuality to be a sin.
- “…offending member”? As in, his presence in the group was offensive or was it simply his same-sex attraction that was too vile to be tolerated in this apparently pure and sanctified group?
- The fact that the pastor agrees with them does not justify their decision.
- Um… no. No, it’s not that clear. In my capacity as an ordinary and non-certified Bible reader, I’ve gone through several of the passages that denouncers of homosexuality usually use to bolster their positions, and frankly, I am no clearer on what God has to say about it. Sure, there’s Leviticus (18:22) that says it is detestable (it also says that homosexuals should be put to death and that it is a sin to plant two different crops on the same field or wear clothes made of blended fabrics), and later on, Paul the chauvinistic fundamentalist apostle also listed homosexuality as a sin (but then he also said that it was forbidden for women to speak in church so…). In fact, Jesus very clearly said NOTHING about homosexuality. Nevertheless, I suppose that if you are already biased against something, you can interpret Bible verses to support your bias.
Even if you disagree with their views on homosexuality, you have to respect their acting in accordance with conscience4. If we believe the Bible is clear5 on this issue (which I believe it is: to consider Jesus’ view on homosexuality, click here), how can we do otherwise6?
- I agree. Except that it could also be deep-seated bias disguised as conscience.
- And that is a BIG “if”.
- “…how can we do otherwise?” I’m so glad you asked. You could let him know that your Bible condemns homosexuality, and then pray for him that he would one day see the truth (your truth?). In the meantime, let him continue in his walk with God in peace, without kicking him out of your clique, because let’s be honest, who he is attracted to does not affect his ability to sing.
If Christians are first and foremost known as a people under the Lordship of Jesus, what kind of message does it send when they turn a blind eye to a teammate who speaks in His name while openly defying Him7? If they ignore this issue, which other sins should they tolerate? Should they ignore a teammate openly espousing exploitation, adultery, dishonesty, or racism8?
- So accepting that you are gay is openly defying Jesus? This is news to me. What should he do? Live in denial? Stay closeted? Go to one of those gay-curing camps?
- Yeah, because feeling physically and emotionally attracted to someone of the same sex is the same as subjugating another human being for your profit, breaking up a family, betraying people’s trust, and treating other races as inferior.
The problem was not that the member struggled with homosexuality; the problem was that he was no longer submissive to Jesus9 on this issue. Jesus receives broken sinners. I know, He received me10. The ones He turns away are those who insist on being Lord in His place11.
11. Like Psalm 100 who insisted on judging their fellow singer in God’s place?
Our stance on this issue may be one of the most important tests of faithfulness in our generation12
As the Reformer, Martin Luther, said, the courage of the soldier is tested in how well he stands at the place where the battle is the hottest, not in how brave we posture ourselves where the battle is no longer being fought13. It takes very little courage to decry the evils of racism, the exploitation of women, the greed of Wall Street, or the abuses of power in our culture.14
- Because kicking a gay person out of a singing group because they’re gay is such an epic struggle.
Our faithfulness to Jesus is tested in whether we maintain His decrees in things our culture finds the most unpopular. It took courage for Martin Luther King to stand against the status quo in the 1960′s; it takes that same courage to stand against the status quo today15.
Does he even know what Martin Luther King stood for? MLK and countless others sacrificed their time, their freedom, their lives to overthrow an oppressive and repressive 200-year-old system that was literally killing their people. These boys and girls at UNC just decided one day to oust a fellow singer. If they got criticized for that, then they earned it. These are two VERY DIFFERENT situations.
We cannot pick and choose which parts of Jesus to which we surrender. To follow Jesus means total surrender to His Lordship. He must rule in all dimensions of our lives. His teachings on homosexuality may offend us today16…
- BUT JESUS DID NOT TEACH ON HOMOSEXUALITY!!!!
How can we ever know Him for who He is if we come to Him with our minds made up on what He’s allowed to say17?
- Who is Greear addressing at this point? Will Thomason, who was kicked out of the group? The people who don’t agree with his getting kicked out? Because none of us is trying to curtail or control Jesus’ speech. As far as the Bible is concerned, Jesus already said what he had to say. And he said nothing about homosexuals so what exactly is the pastor talking about?
This is not a political statement about the place of homosexuals in society18. This has only to do with whether the member can lead in a group united under the Lordship of Jesus. Christians are more than willing to live side by side with and befriend homosexual people in a free society, respecting their rights and freedoms19… If a vegan-club council member suddenly develops a love for bacon, is the vegan club out of line in asking said council member to step aside20?
- Isn’t it though?
- What kind of double-speak is this? Did this man read everything else he wrote up to this point?
- Sure, but straight people don’t suddenly develop a desire to sleep with members of the same sex, so no. this comparison fails. Veganism versus meat-eating is a bloody choice. Romantic attraction is not.
Sexual ethics are not the center of Christianity21
- Oh? Then please explain to me how and why someone got kicked out of a singing group because of said sexual ethics.
JD Greear’s article has been one of the most infuriating things I’ve read in a while. I know he wrote it five years ago, but there are still many today who spout this kind of religious jargon to defend some questionable decisions and actions. If you’re a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or any other kind of bigot, just own it; don’t try and be cute by saying that someone else (Jesus?) told you to discriminate and that you’re morally obliged to obey him, and then turn around and still try to play the good guy by spouting words like “salvation” and “forgiveness”. I thought Greear’s article was extremely patronizing. The last time I felt this angry at a pastor’s words was when I went to Mercy House church in Amherst MA, and the pastor spent an entire sermon preaching about how women cannot be pastors/elders/leaders in the church, not because he has anything against women (of course not), but because the Bible says so, or some such nonsense. Once you have a strongly held bias, you will find evidence to support your perspective wherever you look.
Again, I am no religious expert. And even if I was, I simply cannot speak for God. Why would God make some people gay, then turn around and say that it’s a sin to be gay, or to enter a relationship with another gay person? This question has been on my mind for a while now and I’m no closer to an answer. Some translations of the Bible list homosexuality as a sin, while some others don’t. Certain things in the Bible remain unclear or are subject to interpretation, which is why some congregations avoid alcohol like the plague, while others preach moderation. Some churches (I’m looking at you Catholics) say that birth control is a sin while others are all for family planning. Jehovah’s Witnesses say that blood transfusions are a terrible abomination that will completely destroy one’s relationship with God, while other Christians never even thought to question giving blood to someone in a health crisis (and some others say that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not even Christians, but a cult).
Pastor Greear did not speak for all Christians when he wrote his article. If his reading of the Bible has led him to believe that homosexuality is wrong, that is his pot of beans. But his opinion is not a universal truth; it’s not even unanimous among Christians . I also find it bloody irritating that he assumed that anyone who sided with Will Thomason or who didn’t think homosexuality is wrong is simply following popular opinion. Did it never occur to him that we might be following our own consciences on this one? Or is it only the people who share his views that have consciences?