Thanks to Kha Do for another fantastic track from this past weekend’s Habañero Hour house show with Seryn:
Here is the closing moment from this past weekend’s house show with Seryn (captured by our good friend Kha Do – Thanks Kha!):
Westboro, led by Fred Phelps, is actually more of a dysfunctional family than a church (see the documentary Fall From Grace, if you haven’t already – the “church” is almost exclusively Phelps’ family members) has gained notoriety over the years for brandishing such God-exalting signs as “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Fags” and “Thank God For Dead Soldiers.”
Their rationale is a perverted version of Calvinism (what Mark Driscoll calls “crazy Calvinism“) in which the doctrine of election is taken to mean simply that, if you’re not “elect,” then God hates you and that the only message of the Cross is judgment and, since we don’t know who is elect and who is not, is is not only wrong but sinful to claim that God loves everyone.
Westboro’s explanation of why they will be picketing Mars Hill is as follows:
“To picket the false prophet and blind lemmings at Mars Hill Whore House where they teach the lies that God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation. Shame on you for calling yourself the Mars Hill Church! False advertising doesn’t come close! Paul would turn over in his grave at your God-hating, Christ-rejecting lies! You have a form of godliness, but you deny the power thereof…WBC will speak the truth to you in love—as God defines ‘love’. We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins. God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die. You would know these things if you would pick up a Bible and actually READ THE WORDS!”
Now, as someone who does hold to reformed soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), I am offended and disgusted by their vitriol and perplexed by their reading of Scripture. Not only that, based on Scripture, we must be skeptical about whether or not these people are even Christians at all. Now, before you go all nit-picky and say that I’m guilty of the same thing as the people of Westboro, let’s consider some Scripture. While we could certainly consider Scriptures promoting the preaching of the idea that God loves all (John 1:29, John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, etc.), I actually want to focus on another emphasis of Scripture.
Matthew 5:44 says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 1 John 4:8 not only tells us that “God is love,” but that “Anyone who does not love does not know God.” Let’s be clear, Westboro claims that they are Christians, but here they are picketing another church. John 13:35 says that it is by our love for one another that the world will know that we belong to Jesus and 1 John 4:20 goes so far as to say: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Westboro’s version of “love” is to proclaim hatred and spew vitriol. This is not only bad doctrine, it is evil and anti-Christian.
Our prayers this weekend are with our family at Mars Hill Church. What a great opportunity for them to demonstrate love and humility to the people of Westboro. After all, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).
Skye Jethani recently wrote about a news report claiming that a 12 year-old boy with cerebral palsy was removed from a worship service for being a “distraction” during the Easter service. While the mother says: “We were very abruptly escorted out,” officials from the church say: “this young man and his family were not removed from our church. They were escorted to a nearby section of our church where they watched the service in its entirety.”
I don’t pretend to know exactly what happened, but I do want to focus on something else officials from the church said:
It is our goal at Elevation to offer a distraction free environment for all our guests. We look forward to resolving any misunderstanding that has occurred.
Jethani writes, that this church:
which probably represents the views of many churches, says they want to “offer a distraction free environment.” I’m assuming this means avoiding distractions from among the congregation, because in my experience there is plenty that happens on the stage that keep me distracted from God. Smoke machines and lasers, really? But I digress.
This is something we at Church of the Cross have talked through. We have worked hard to create an environment in which people understand that our worship gathering is not a performance and we are not passive observers. What kind of culture have we created where the thought would even occur to us that certain people need to be relocated (if not removed) from a worship gathering because they are “distracting” others? Is God distracted? From what might someone made in God’s image “distract” us from? After all, wasn’t Jesus known for welcoming those whom others considered “distasteful”?
The attitude here represents a larger problem: we have come to view “success” or “failure” in the church by worldly standards rather than God’s. We have come to view worship as a performance; so much so that many churches run their gatherings by the clock rather than by the Spirit. It is not uncommon for churches to have their gatherings planned out to the very second, dictating everything from guitar solos to prayer-length. While I understand that time is important is important if you have more than one “service,” but come on, is this worship or a performance?
While I’m not arguing for disorderly or chaotic worship gatherings, what might change if we understood our worship gatherings to be family gatherings? After all, haven’t we been adopted by a loving Heavenly Father? We don’t remove the distractions from our family gatherings, we work through them.
I am so thankful to gather with people who are not there to be entertained and who strive to be like Jesus, welcoming those whom the world views as distractions.
Kristi and I have long had a heart for adoption even though the time has not yet been right for us. We’ve basically had a boy every two years. So, just about the time we would get ready to start the adoption process, we would find out Kristi was pregnant again (please don’t read this as saying that no one should adopt and naturally have a child at the same time, it just wasn’t right for us). But a year or so ago, we took “measures” so that we will (most likely; miracles are always possible) not have any more natural childbirths.
So last night, we went to an informational meeting about foster care – the first step in becoming certified to provide a home for foster kids. As I read some of the statistics about kids in the CPS system, my heart just wept. I was reminded that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18), that God blesses His people to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3) and that, perhaps most of all, God has adopted me (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5, etc.).
Adoption (and, by extension, foster care) is a powerful display and demonstration of the Gospel. At great cost to Himself (yes, adoption and foster care will cost you), God provided wholeness for the broken hearted and family for the displaced. He has made His enemies His children! How could His children not have a heart for those without a safe place to lay their heads at night?
I have become increasingly convicted of how selfish I have been over the years. I like “my space” and “my things” in “their place.” But God has welcomed me into His family. How could I not open up our home to demonstrate the ministry of reconciliation?!
I am humbled and excited to be part of the live-blogging team for the upcoming Together For Adoption conference here in Phoenix, October 21-22. If you have ever considered adoption or are curious about how this is a Gospel issue, please join us for this great conference. What if every church in AZ provided security for a child? What if every Christian family in AZ opened up their homes?
- Find out more about the Together For Adoption conference.
If you’re in the Phoenix area and can make it tonight, I can’t recommend highly enough that you head over to the Lost Leaf and check out Seryn. You won’t be disappointed. If you can’t make it tonight, The Habañero Hour is hosting them for two shows later this month (see here and here).
Here is Seryn performing “Towering”:
Here is the band performing “Beach Song”: