Oh for crying out loud ...
So I announce my hiatus after planning it since June of this year, unplug for ONE LOUSY WEEK in which I just barely don't blog, and suddenly a 3-year-old post becomes someone's object of interest.
You know: if it was my post on leaving or staying with your local church, or one of the many posts of daGifts, or one of the posts about politics, I honestly had already prepared myself to say, with no qualifiers, "so what?" In fact, of the roughly-500 posts I have made here over the years, there is really only one or two I would even bother with at this point if they received any sort of blow-back -- mostly because there's such a thing as too little, too late.
the one post which still draws 2% of the traffic all-time to this blog. I mean: last week, 150 people read that post, 3-and-a-half years after it was relevant.
Right? Who can resist it?
Well, apparently, Matthew Grant McDaniel is one of the 150 -- or maybe one of the tens of thousands of views -- that post has received in the last 3 years because he has penned what I would call the most-comprehensive response to that post since its original run in 2010. It certainly beats the pants off this response:
@hereiblog i believe that. unfortunately a lot of good people sometimes come off as assholes online
— derek webb (@derekwebb) December 30, 2010
Right? And I'm the bad guy. I'm the body part of disgraceful use. I'm the one who needs to justify his language, approach, heart, mind, soul, and lack of coffee shop invitations.
Let's take a deep breath here before we go on. Because the truth is that Matthew has really invested sincere and serious work in trying to reply to my original post, and he deserves some credit for that.
I congratulate Matthew for investing a lot of time in his piece. It wasn't tossed-off, and at the very least: it does a fair job of representing Derek Webb as thoroughly as possible. The problem, of course, is that he's responding to me and not Derek. To that end, a fair question is whether or not he represents me with any degree of fairness. I mean: let's put our cards on the table. Back in 2010, I delivered about 5000 words and 11 pages (single-spaced; it would take 40 minutes to read it out-loud) on this subject (not including the digital ink spilled in the comments). In that, that post is not hardly a tirade of name-calling and taunts: except for the one Counting Crows allusion, there is no snark or name-calling or any sort of real incivility. Almost all of it focused on the interview in question and the three main topics I thought, at that time, needed attention -- the Gospel, the Church, and the Artist. If he's writing an open letter to me in response to that, you would think that he would seek to cover that ground the way he might imagine I should cover the ground with Derek Webb..
But most of what Matthew did here is dedicated to adding new items from Derek not in evidence when I wrote the original post. So it seems to me that his response confuses anachronism with refutation. That is: he doesn't see that the many new pieces of evidence he is presenting were not historically in evidence when I wrote my open letter.
If I was really committed more to my hiatus than to other things, I'd leave it at that. Are there new things in the mix regarding Derek Webb? Sure -- I grant it with no qualifications. Done. What that has to do with whether or not my critique of that interview is useful or even civil is not clear. Thank you; good night.
But here's the thing: I think Matthew wants me to engage Derek now, 3 years later, on his next evolutionary step. He wants me to engage this video, for example:
A video in which Derek confuses how we "feel" about an issue of morality with whether or not the church has an obligation both to God's Law and God's Gospel -- what Derek sort of slyly refers to here as the "whole counsel of God". You know: I watch that video, and the longer I watch it the more I hope Derek will say something about the way the Law ought to point us to the Gospel, and what I find instead is that Derek says is (in effect), "I don't want to hear any Law because I don't think I hear enough Gospel (through the media from the Church on this one subject)."
I mean: he is rather sassy about the alleged "whole counsel of God," but where does it recommend in the Bible that we ignore each others' sins because we have sins? Don't we have James 5 and Proverbs 17 and Heb 10 which say exactly the opposite? Conversely: I'd be willing to review how he sees the "whole counsel of God" (since he brings it up) to visit the question myself of what my responsibility is as a friend, a husband, and father and a brother in Christ to visit the sins of those who are in my life. But what I'm not really willing to do is to simply let earnest and passionate talk overcome joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and most of all: love. Because love is not merely letting someone walk their own way until they fall down a hole: it is rather something else when someone is walking toward the hole.
Look: I am actually willing to stipulate a lot about Derek, as I was back in 2010. For example, I said this back then explicitly:
I have to grant you something: you are right about the problem the church has in addressing the "gay" issue. I blogged about that a few years ago myself, refer to that post frequently as the topic comes up and further notes are required, and I commend that to you for context of my note to you today.I also said this back in 2010:
I know someplace, somehow, you "get" [the Gospel]: the Son of Man was not sent to be served, but to serve, and to lay down his life as a ransom for many. He came to suffer much at the hands of the leaders of Israel and to be put to death. And he did this not as a moral example but as a sacrifice -- as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.My complaint about this interview was never the one I would make to Rob Bell or Joel Osteen or some of the greater miscreants in the sociologically-Christian English-speaking world. My complaint is that one fellow who definitely knows what the Gospel is somehow doesn't deliver it to sinners when he's face-to-face with a sinner talking about sin to an audience of sinners -- to the extent that somehow we are merely about the broad declaration that we "pre-emptively love" rather than pointing out what we lack, our transgression, in the place it really occupies between us and God.
So when that is reductively re-purposed as "Frank asks Derek to define the Gospel," when in fact my question is, "where is the Gospel in this interview when it matters most?" I think the number of uses we can find for Matthew's defense and rejoinder are limited.
What I simply can't do is grant that Derek's recipe for the whole pie is helpful either to the church at large, or to sinners who need the Gospel. That concern points out my other two concerns -- which are Derek's uses for the church, and Derek's view of himself as an artist.
But here's the real rub: Derek made a statement to Stedman that he's willing to sit down with anyone, any time, to hash out stuff like this. But in response to the original blog post, I have not received one word from anyone within the Kevin-Bacon-6-degrees between myself and Derek about my standing invitation to work this out face to face, on the record, in a way that Derek can explain his problems with my approach and his innocence on all counts.
Let's put it back on the table: I have Delta Sky miles, and some fun money, and a few vacation days open as discretionary time. My wife is fantastically-generous with me when I ask nice. I think that, rather than letting anyone else talk past either of us, I'm offering at least 60 minutes at a convenient site for Derek, with a neutral moderator (I'd settle for a moderator of Derek's choosing only to stand in as host and referee to keep the conversation balanced), in order to talk about this on the record. There are no "gotcha" questions as Matthew hypothesizes. There are only two necessary things: a real urgent belief that this topic is critical for the people of God and for our lost neighbors, and a sincere and firm belief that the Gospel is the solution.
That's it: that's all. The only other thing that can break into my hiatus would be Derek's willingness to have a 60-minute sit-down to resolve our differences.