So quite a bit of hype and discussion has been flying about the internet in the past few days concerning Derek Webb’s new album–primarily about the song that I mentioned in a previous post. At internetmonk.com, thethinklings.org, and dennyburk.com, in order of severity. Quite a few people have problems with Derek, the new album, and/or this specific song. I think I’ll try to sum up what people are saying and attempt to respond. I’ll probably end up doing quite a bit of what Derek warns against though (“You wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak”).
1. A few people have an issue with his use of language.
A lot of people, though they may agree with his point, have issues with his use of language. They say it is offensive and unnecessary. I don’t want to say that Derek Webb is just like Jesus, (no doubt some people will read this in that way), but I imagine that some of the people looking on at Jesus clearing the temple were offended by him turning over the tables and cracking the whip… I mean, why did he have to sound so mad? He could have simply asked them nicely.
2. Some have expressed an issue with his clearly indignant tone.
A commenter on the post at thinklings.org pointed out that others have made similar points without the use of anger, with the implication that if Derek had done this, it would have been better. Once again, I think we should look to Jesus’ example. Jesus called those people whom society had labeled as “sinners” out in their sin in a very gentle way. To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus offered living water. To the woman caught in adultery, he said, “Go and sin no more.” There is no indication that Jesus had to point out Zacheus’ sins at all. On the other hand, Jesus showed indignation, anger, and what certainly would have appeared as arrogance to the religious types.
3. Some have pointed out that he is simply degrading into another one of these emergent/new monastic types who is telling us all to champion liberal social causes, and they’re tired of being told that they don’t give enough to the poor or do enough to help those less fortunate.
First, I think those people are missing the point: both Derek’s point and the point of many (not all) of the other voices telling us those same things. I’m not accusing any specific person in any of the above links of this. I cannot help but wonder if many of the people suggesting this simply don’t want to hear it because they don’t want to hear the truth. Sure, there are some great churches that are doing some great things. Evangelicals give a lot of money to hunger relief, etc. But if you don’t think that the majority of American Christians focus on the culture war infinitely more than on helping the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and healing the sick both physically and spiritually, then I’m not sure that you are paying much attention.
So before you write Derek Webb off, consider the fact that this may be exactly what we need to hear. And maybe, just maybe, the reason why it makes you so mad or annoyed or frustrated is because you’re the one who needs to hear it most. And don’t forget that simply giving a hearty amen if you agree isn’t quite enough either.
4. One more thing is that he is focusing on law and not gospel.
This may be true to an extent, but I don’t think he’s forgotten the gospel. Two things. First, you have to consider this album in the context of his other music. Second, though the gospel is not mentioned explicitly, it is implied in this song.
The following line:
“denying all the dying of the remedy”
He’s clearly referring to those who have been hated for their sin (he’s referring specifically to homosexuals). He’s calling them “the dying.” So whats the remedy? I’m pretty sure that Derek would say that the gospel is the remedy.
Now, I know its not explicit, but the Gospel is there.
But, this song is clearly directed toward those who already know and believe the Gospel:
“Cause if you really believed what you say you believe; you wouldn’t be so damn reckless with the words you speak”
If they really believe the Gospel and the love of Jesus towards sinners, then they wouldn’t be so quick to condemn sinners and, in turn, deny them the remedy, aka, the gospel…
Maybe I’m stretching it, but I don’t think so…