Response to David Henson on Jennifer Knapp

Recently, blogger David Henson of unorthodoxology wrote about the response Jennifer Knapp was receiving from Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) after revelations that she is Lesbian. I appreciated the blog article and the comments as it helped me understand what had happened to two of my favorite Contemporary Christian Musicians: Jennifer Knapp and Ray Boltz.

In the entry and the discussion, Henson argues that CCM’s response to Knapp reveals a double standard in the way the CCM responds to a woman’s sexual identity vis-a-vis their response to a man’s. He uses Michael English as his principle point of comparison. English is a Christian Contemporary Musician who still enjoys broad popularity despite admitted adultery, drug charges and other rumors. I should explain that the term “Christian Contemporary Music” or CCM refers to the industry and not to all Christians nor all musicians who happen to be Christians or all musicians who perform music that is Christian. Water muddied enough?

In the comments following the article Henson wonders if the reaction to Knapp is an example of the double standard or an example of anti-gay sentiment among more conservative Christians. Undoubtedly it is both. However, the double standard and anti-gay sentiment operate at different levels of our consciousness. Few if anyone would openly argue for the moral appropriateness of a double standard. It exists for many at a more subconscious and unspoken level.

By contrast, the anti-gay sentiment is openly expressed by many Christian leaders–particularly evangelicals. While there is a general moral consensus against the double standard for men and women, there is not moral consensus around how the church should respond to gays and lesbians.

I think it’s important to say that because I think it reveals the way bigotry and prejudice lingers. This is common sense but, I’ll say it anyway: There’s a long gap between the point where we officially express an openness toward a group we have previously condemned morally and the point where we actually internalize that openness in our day to day behavior. Ordained women clergy have been officially embraced in our theology and practice for decades. However, there remain churches and individuals who cannot or would not accept a woman as their senior pastor. They would never say that publicly but it operates below the surface. There are people who have open views regarding gays and lesbians in general who would nonetheless struggle emotionally if their son or daughter came out as gay or lesbian.

Removing legal structures and theological pronouncements that reinforce bigotry is an important first step toward realizing equality. But, we should never kid ourselves that those old bigotries leave our emotional and spiritual landscapes just because our theological and legal landscapes shift. As for Jennifer Knapp, she has unfortunately crossed expressed theological pronouncements about homosexuality and a lingering but submerged double standard for men and women.

Head Against Into Wall Syndrome

The other day I caught a radio preaching offering a familiar diatribe against those who have placed career and success above family and faith. It came with the typical call for people to choose work that matters and lives that have meaning–significance rather than success. Aside from the obligatory stint in fast food and a couple of other jobs I had in route to ministry, I have always sought “significance” in my career choice–ministry and teaching. As I listened to this preacher extolling the virtues of the search-for-significance based life choices, I wondered if he wasn’t selling a bill of goods that wouldn’t deliver on the promises.

First, let’s not sell the pursuit of wealth short. I realize being in ministry, I’m not supposed to make making money my main priority. It’s a hypocritical standard we have in church. Generally people celebrate the fact that their work is valued enough to receive substantial pay for their work. Not in ministry. In ministry, if you expect a large salary, you soil the sanctity of ministry. Understand, by ministry standards, I am well-paid. Even then, the living made is a tenuous way to make a living. People who just work to make money and succeed at making a lot of it, have fewer anxieties, more freedom and greater breadth of experiences. Money can’t by you happiness? OK, but the lack of money doesn’t supply joy either.

Second, there’s no guarantee that if you seek significance, you will find it. There are plenty of days when I have no sense that what I am doing matters to God, to God’s Church or to the world. There are those who would say that that is only an indication that I am not seeking God’s guidance on a daily basis–probably so. Nonetheless, things have to get done. And some of those things are tedious, spirit-draining and mindless. Essential but not significant.

Finally, the search of significance requires competence. Just as not everyone has the talent, luck and wisdom to make money so too not everyone has the talent, luck and wisdom to find meaning in what they do.