Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Derek Webb: ‘I Can No Longer Make Apologies’ for How Christians Behave

derekwebb.jpgIt’s not exactly Dylan going electric, but when Christian singer/songwriter Derek Webb turned techno on his latest album “Stockholm Syndrome,” it was reason enough to pay attention.
That’s not why “Stockholm Syndrome” is making headlines, however. After hearing the album, Webb’s record label, INO, refused to release one of the songs on the album, a scathing critique of how evangelicals approach homosexuality. “I had been working under what was a delusion,” Webb told me in an interview, “that although technically you could call me a “Christian artist,” it’s got nothing to do with how I make art, where I live, what I do.” Read on for more on why Webb wrote the song and why the label’s move shocked him.


When INO, your record company, decided they would not release the song “What Matters More,” was that an amicable decision, or was there controversy?
Yeah, there was. It was a surprise because I’ve put all of my solo records out with INO and there have been some challenging things on those records, and they’ve always been really supportive. I knew I was asking for trouble with that song. I understood that we had gotten into subject matter that was really tricky for INO’s system of distribution. But I guess I’d gotten so much other stuff in that I wasn’t really expecting it would be that big a deal. I had been working under what was a delusion that, although technically you could call me a “Christian artist,” it’s got nothing to do with how I make art, where I live, what I do. INO had done well to create an atmosphere where I felt like I could completely trust my instincts. So to suddenly hit a brick wall was jarring for me.
“Stockholm Syndrome,” which has an electronic sound, represents a pretty big jump from your past albums, on which you were a guy with an acoustic guitar. What’s behind that and how did Josh Moore figure into it?
My goal is not to be bored. Singer/songwriter music just bores me to tears, especially my own. And there are so many exciting possibilities in computer-based music. Literally any sound is available at any moment. I mean, if the Beatles were making their experimental suite of records today, they wouldn’t be doing things multiple-mono and in reverse and cutting the tape up. They would be using loops. It would sound like hip-hop. So, rather than emulate what my heroes were doing with limited tools, why not imagine what they might be doing with more modern tools? But I had no idea how to get there, and Josh has been at the center of this really vibrant and budding hip-hop community that’s happening in Houston–writing sequencing, engineering, producing. So we started to create sounds and send things back and forth.
Let me ask a little more about “What Matters More.” How would you like to see Christians change their ways?
I am not in the business of changing people’s behaviors. I just hope they listen to the song. What they do with it is kind of somebody else’s business. But here’s the reason I wrote the song–I have gotten to the point where I can’t go a lot further in several relationships in my life, specifically with several of my best friends who are gay or lesbian. I am having a hard time with them knowing the community that I am a part of, with all of us looking at this completely counterintuitive hatred coming out of my community. It was important to me to basically say to my friends, “Whatever you see under the category of Christian culture that we both agree is completely inconsistent with the person of Jesus, I want to draw a line and I want to get on the other side of it.” Because I can no longer make apologies for some of this stuff.
Many young Christians especially are comfortable saying, “We’ve got to stop from harping on homosexuality.” But that’s different from saying you don’t consider homosexuality to be sinful. When you ask in that song, essentially,, “When did Christianity become all about being straight?,” do you want to say that homosexuality doesn’t alienate you from God?
That’s a big question, and I’m not backing off. But I have not on this record addressed the particular morality of a lot of these issues. That has been so well covered by the church, unfortunately with no other connection–people have heard a lot of the church’s theology and not seen a lot of the church’s ethics. There’s a real disconnect there, and that bothers me. But I don’t think it’s a conversation that is had well in this medium. This isn’t an ideal medium to speak about such a personal and nuanced issue. There’s a huge discussion to be had, and I want to have that conversation. I hope to have it a lot on the road with people, but not if it’s a roomful of people with a camera on me. Because so much can happen between that intimate moment and the moment where anyone could hear that. What I can say is, I’m not trying to create some kind of a moral loophole for anybody. It’s not that anybody is less wrong as much as we’re all more wrong. Your question was, Do I think that homosexuality alienates you from God. Thankfully, not anymore than habitual heterosexual sin does.
People can and do disagree about that particular issue. The thing we can agree on is how poorly we are loving the people around us who live or believe differently than we do. Those are the people we are called to engage with and love and care for. Before you even try to love your enemies, how about knowing your enemies? How about knowing the people you consider to be your enemy? Because you might find that they’re not really your enemies. You’re your enemy, and you are just like your enemies. There is no difference. We all need exactly the same thing. So, that’s more where, you know, I hope some of this lands.

  • Leta Rector

    The comment “We have got to love those around us” says it all.
    I was brought into living & active Christianity that meant something to me with the constant teaching “Love people into The Kingdom of Christ.” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t ostracize people into The Kingdom. He didn’t shame people into the Kingdom (most people already are shaming themselves). He didn’t judge people into The Kingdom. He didn’t hate people into The Kingdom. He didn’t talk show people into the kingdom. Jesus Christ loved people into His Kingdom. He ate with sinners. The leaders of the synagogue pointed to that as proof positive that He could not be of God.
    Wherein, actually that was PROOF POSITIVE that He was from HEAVEN.

  • Faye Clark

    It is not for Christians to judge homosexuality but rather to lead by example. It is shown in several places in the Bible that God does not favor homosexuality. But also, there is a resounding message of loving and including people in our daily practices, as opposed to hating and alienating. Just as people have the right to choose homosexuality, however, there is also the right to reject it for religious reasons. However, that rejection should not be of the person but of the behavior. Sending a message that this behavior is not acceptable for particular people is not wrong. We all have the right to stand for our beliefs. And the right to associate with people who believe the same. Just not to deny people based on what we personally believe. GOD is the judge, not man.

  • Your Name

    Please I would like to point out that it is not God who disfavors gays in the bible, but the MEN who wrote the Bible trying to figure out what God wanted. Obviously there was and still is a great deal of homophobia in the middle east. Please try to separate the message of Love that Jesus imparted with the failings of men following their CULTURAL biases when writing this historical book.

  • William Brown

    I am not trying to be inflammatory when I ask “Your Name” this question…How do you come to your conclusion that it is not God that condemns homosexuality, but it is man trying to figure out what God wants? That is a big statement to make without backing it up with scipture. Homosexuality was never presented in a positive light in scripture, yet was often referred to negatively. Since, as Christians, we use the Bible as the measure for truth, show me your measure.
    To the subject of this post, I have to agree with Derek Webb, it will be how much I loved, not how much I judged, that will change the world and honor my God. Sin is sin; I am not free from all habitual sin, and I would seriously question anyone’s claim that they were. So even if you make the argument that homosexuality is habitual sin(which is often times viewed as different from an occassional sinful lapse), do you deal with “theirs” differently than you expect “yours” to be dealt with? I don’t and I dropped my rock a long time ago.

  • JIm Schafer

    In reference to the above statement regarding homnosexuality and its impact on the church.
    I have worked in mental health for 22 years. During that period I was confronted with a lot of disorders that affect one’s identity. I have discovered that when an individual has difficulty in any social issue that deals with relationships, the primary issue is with the self. Until that issue, has been resolved there will be no need for any addressing of any other issue. I can provide scripture that has assisted most individuals dealing with addictions, not only with substances, but also with relationships, behaviors, identities, and a lot of other details — including homosexuality — that ones have used to cope with daily pressures, and relationships is Romans 7: 14 through Romans 8: 1. as you read this passage apply it to yourselves and you can find reality providing possible reasons for your behaviors as well as the solution to help return you to a more calm and relaxed lifestyle. But I encourage you not to just stop at 8:1, but proceed to 8:26 through 28. and don’t stop there but continue to the beginning of chapter 9. (However, remember that these letters are written as a complete letter–not divided into verses nor chapters.)

  • April

    In reference to Mr Jim Schafer… Your above statement basically proves that a person is more or less Mentally Ill if they are Homosexual. That does make a lot more since and explains alot of things. At least it gives them a good reason. They can’t help themselves. That’s what they are trying to say (in a round about way) Anyway aren’t they? Just in other words. Like, I’m sane. You’ve just let us all know that in the many years of your experience it’s come down to Mental Health. Thank you, You are a very wise man. Now since that is all cleared up. And there isn’t anyway the Man ‘Mr.William Brown can get through to you about his point of veiw… To each his own. We All Some Repeating to Do…Can you recall how many times the Bible Tells us all to do That?

  • Mordred08

    April: “Your above statement basically proves that a person is more or less Mentally Ill if they are Homosexual. That does make a lot more since and explains alot of things…”
    Like, for instance, it explains that you don’t know anyone who’s gay. Otherwise, you might not automatically assume they were mentally ill. I don’t know why I expect more of you people. It seems that when it comes to the LGBT community, “they’re insane and therefore not entirely responsible for their evil ways” is about as sympathetic as you’re capable of being.

  • William Brown

    Mordredo8..I hope April doesn’t mind me chiming in here…I think she was being a little sarcastic.

  • Chad

    Every believer should agree that it is neither condemnatory nor judgmental to let the Bible say what it says. So, what does the Bible say regarding homosexuality? Romans 1:18-32 makes it plain that homosexuality not only results (future tense) in God’s judgment, but is also a result (present tense) of God’s judgment. In other words, the Bible teaches that homosexuality not only leads to God’s judgment, but is also evidence that someone has all ready been judged by God. That being said, disobedience to one’s parents and a host of other sins fit in the same category. So, to view homosexuality as more alienating from God than disobedience to one’s parents is a failure to embrace the clear teaching of Romans 1.
    Further, to view homosexuality as more alienating from God than disobedience to one’s parents is to fall into the trap of hypocrisy mentioned in Romans 2. The Jews looked with a condemning eye on the Gentiles, while they themselves committed the very same sins.
    In addition, to view homosexuality as more alienating from God than disobedience to one’s parents is a failure to see the broader theme woven through Romans 1-5, in particular. This theme is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is entirely opposed to legalism, which seeks to be right with God on the basis of one’s own morality, often as compared to someone you view as less moral than you in a particular category. In American Christianity, homosexuality has often been the sin by which people have tried to justify themselves by appealing to God, saying, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as the homosexual!” This is entirely opposed to the Gospel of grace, which is, in essence, that Jesus Christ lived the life sinners should’ve lived, thereby meeting God’s righteous requirements on their behalf, so that sinners are treated by God as if they lived the life Jesus lived. Conversely, Jesus also died the death required of sinners because of their sin, thereby satisfying God’s wrath on their behalf. People are not made right with God by avoiding sin and improving themselves. People are made right with God by echoing the words of the great song, Depth of Mercy, which says, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”
    So, how should Christians view homosexuality? We certainly don’t condone it. To condone any behavior that God has all ready declared sinful, as has the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America regarding homosexuality, is plainly and undoubtedly wicked. In fact, if the ELCA has adopted the correct position, then God is a liar and, as such, is Himself in need of a Savior! So, how do we love people who do things we don’t condone? It depends. If the person is an unbeliever, then we no more avoid them than Jesus avoided eating dinner with Gentiles and tax collectors. Christians must love unbelievers, which takes on several forms like eating dinner with them, praying for God to show them the same mercy He has shown us, and preaching the Gospel of Jesus to them. We must, however, be careful not to soft-peddle sin as if they are pretty good people in need of a spiritual band-aid or as if the gift of repentance doesn’t accompany salvation. People aren’t saved by thinking much of themselves, but in recognizing their own spiritual poverty before the God who is mighty to save.
    Dealing with homosexual believers, however, is a different issue. To the person who says, “I’m trusting in Jesus alone for salvation and am constantly seeking to turn from and hate sin and to turn to and love God, but the sin of homosexuality is a constant battle for me,” I would say, “Welcome.” This person believes the Gospel, calls sin sin, and is seeking to repent. There is no issue here unless we demand that Christians be entirely perfect, which would result in 100% vacant churches. On the other hand, to the person who says, “I’m trusting in Jesus alone for salvation, but I’m also currently living my homosexual partner and am planning to continue in that behavior,” I would say, “While I love you and am praying for you, 1 John 3:7-10 should cause you to see that you really do not believe the Gospel. Scripture is crystal clear in its assertion that a person who plans to continue sinning with neither plans nor even the desire to repent has not been legitimately saved. As such, I cannot in clean conscience, welcome you into our fellowship as anything more than an attendee (i.e., not a member).”

  • Chad

    As an addition, I would say that to welcome the unrepentant homosexual as a church member is on par with welcoming the man who says, “I’m trusting Jesus for salvation, but I’m perpetually unfaithful to my wife and have every intention of continuing in that behavior,” or to the man who says, “I’m trusting Jesus for salvation, but I gossip constantly because it’s fun, and I have no plans of ever stopping that wonderful activity!”

  • Chad

    Oh, and the song isn’t “Depth of Mercy” (although that is a great one). It’s Rock of Ages.

  • Stan Clark

    It would be foolish for any Christian to say, as Your Name did, that “the MEN who wrote the Bible (were) trying to figure out what God wanted.” Okay then, so you say that the parts of the Bible that list homosexuality as a sin are mere opinion? Oh, well then, I believe that it is impossible for God to love, so I’m just going to say that the parts about Jesus bearing our griefs and being the Messiah and all that are also just opinion. Now you say, “but you can’t discredit that part; that’s the gospel!” Well apparently your “gospel” is meaningless because it is derived from the writings of a book completely based off of the opinions of men that, I quote again, were just “trying to figure out what God wanted.” Oh, and the part in the Bible about not committing adultery: well, I really like having sex with prostitutes and masturbating, even though I’m married, so I’ll just keep doing all of that. After all, Jesus only came to love us, which of course means giving us what WE want, right? And beside, how can we be sure that that part’s true, since the Bible is only opinion.
    Now, you seen what I’ve so easily done to the gospel in just a few minutes? Well I did that using Your Name’s brilliant strategy. Oh, and the thing about the authors “following their CULTURAL biases”?: well, one could argue that when you say homosexuality is okay, then you are just following the ideas of your American culture.
    Now that I’ve said all that, I would like to point out that I really do masturbate on occasion. So I, a born-again believer, am just like the gays. The only difference is that I have a desire to walk a away from my sin; a desire that purely comes from God. But how can the gays ever have this desire put in them until we allow them to be involved in our churches and let the Holy Spirit change them. Let us never forget that we cannot change anyone; that is the Father’s job. Our duty is to “make disciples of all nations…” and then let Him, the All-powerful, do the rest.
    Oh, and the one who said that homosexuality is a mental disease has clearly never met an ex-gay.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jerry Banley

    I think a lot of the issues most Christians have with homosexual Christians is the fact that most of them will never admit that they are sinning. They say “love me and accept me that way I am” and never say anything about repentance. I am disappointed in people like Jennifer Knapp, who, as a public figure, have a responsibility to live as an example to other believers. I have a couple of homosexual friends, who admit that it is in fact a sin, and want to change. But even with any other sin, the change has to come from the inside out, from the Holy Spirit within. I lived for a long time believing drunkenness was ok and used any means to justify it, when the Bible clearly states that it is sinful. God was not done working inside me, and he’ll never be done, at least not until eternity! Maybe God is not done with Jennifer Knapp either. I don’t know, but her album “Kansas” will always be one of my favorites.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment David

    Jesus said that “they” hated Him because he testified that what they did was evil.

    The world says homosexuality is a good thing. God says it is not. We do no one any favors whatsoever by winking at this particular perversion without being honest about the end result of it.

    If my friend was in a perpetually adulterous relationship, I would not wink and say I loved him anyway, and that God loves him, too. I’d tell him it was sin, he needed to repent and that, until he did so, I was going to take Paul’s advice and have nothing to do with him until he did repent.

    I’d hope that my friend would do the same for me. Sin is deadly. Take off the kid gloves and deal with it for what it is: both temporal and eternal death for those who will not repent. Nothing in the universe is more important, and the fact that the majority of the Western church is acting like a bunch of Pharisees doesn’t change anything.

  • Pingback: Derek Webb, homosexuality, and being sorry – a brief history | No Guts : God's Glory :: Matthew Grant McDaniel

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