I was a little Jesus Freak from very early on. I have 12 years’ of perfect attendance pins from the Methodist Church to prove it!
As a kid, I loved Amy Grant. Hers was the first concert I ever went to – at the Illinois State Fair, with my dad – and I was delighted to meet and date a guy in college who shared my lifelong affinity for the Christian music icon. My favorite Amy Grant song was “What About The Love?” It was on her 1988 album Lead Me On and was all about judgment. In it, Amy goes around judging this person and that person for this, that, or the other sin then looks in the mirror to see her “pointing finger, pointing back at [her].”
I don’t know when I first listened to the song or when it most resonated with me, but looking back I wonder if it had anything to do with my parents’ divorce. That happened in ’91, and maybe part of me wanted some reassurance surrounding the “sin” my parents had committed… I’m only speculating. Hindsight, you know.
You might laugh now, what with alllllll the divorced people running around America and no churches in sight (or earshot) outright condemning it from the pulpit, but divorce is a sin, Biblically-speaking.
Divorce is a “one-time sin,” they say. God forgives, they say. But the gays, they say. They keep on sinning, they say. But, yeah, in God’s eyes, according to the Bible, divorce is the same as homosexuality which is the same as jealousy which is the same as murder which is the same as lying, and so on. They’re all in one big heap of sin together, all equivalent in the “eyes of the Father.”
And that’s what Amy realized in the song: it didn’t matter what anyone else was doing, she was sinning just like them; her sins were the same as theirs – and vice versa. Hence, the finger pointing back at her.
Later, when Amy divorced her then-husband and married now-husband Vince Gill in less than a year, I remember hurting for her. Her actions weren’t received well by her Christian followers, to say the least. She was shunned. And I felt defensive of her. I thought she was too harshly judged. Like she wasn’t given any grace.
After college, I was a youth group leader in my church, and when one of “my” kids told me he was gay, I told him I still loved him and so did Jesus. (No big deal, right?) A week later, the pastor called me and told me I wasn’t a “good influence on the kids of the church.” I left my role. I left the church. I lost my footing. I was devastated. I felt betrayed. Abandoned. Shunned. Humiliated. I wondered Where’s the grace? And What about the love?
The next few years of my life I spent in religious detox. (Music was my saving grace.) Seventeen years later, I’m still detoxing.
But that’s a whole other post for another time. Maybe. (But probably not.)
Jennifer Knapp was/is another Christian artist. An American, she left the country for Australia in 2003. When she came back and released a new album in 2007, she also came out as gay. (FYI: she wasn’t newly gay.) She was so terrified of how her fans would react that she moved a literal half-world away to avoid their shunning.
Recently, a video “surfaced” of country artist Morgan Wallen using the n-word. I don’t know all the details of the video. I haven’t watched it, and I don’t care to. I have no tolerance for the use of that or any other racial slur. And also, I was immediately uncomfortable with the reaction Wallen got. He was suspended from his record label, dropped from radio play across the country, and barred from consideration for the year’s ACM Awards. (Even still, purchases of his music on streaming sites soared, so there was definitely a counter movement.)
Meanwhile, representatives of the NAACP and a black gospel singer reached out to Wallen and asked him for conversations. (Dialogues, if you can imagine!) Wallen accepted and soon after issued what sounds to me like a truly sincere apology by video. He didn’t make excuses (unlike this nitwit Cuomo and his ilk, as an aside); he owned his shit and offered remorse.
Still, just like the [Dixie] Chicks were shunned by fans in the early 2000s, Wallen was shamed by the reactions of a so-called “cancel culture.” And it all left me asking What about the love?
Don’t get me wrong. PLEASE. I’m not suggesting that the Chicks’ political remarks are the same as Wallen’s hate speech. Or that either is “the same as” divorce or homosexuality. Or that my being shunned by a pastor for sharing Jesus’ love of the gays is directly akin to any or all of the others. Please don’t make a spurious connection that I explicitly don’t mean to imply.
But there’s a theme that runs across the scenarios, to me, and that is “how it is to be crucified and judged without love,” in Amy’s words.
I wonder if we could all just take a breath (or as many as it takes to see our own fingers pointing back at us in the mirror…) before we shame anyone. If, in those moments, we could ask ourselves this simple question, I suspect we’d all muster a little more love in our response.
So, what about the love?