There is plenty of excitement among secular thinkers because of apparent defections from Christian faith by celebrity musicians. This reaction to stories about George Perdikis and Dan Haseltine grows out of a principle of secularism: if someone is rich and famous, then he must be right. These two stories sound good to secularists because to secularists, it appears that both celebrity musicians are defecting from orthodox Christian teaching.
George Perdikis was one of the founding musicians in the News Boys band. In his own words Perdikis describes how the band came together, and also how it came to be characterized as a Christian band. The part I found interesting was the missing part. Nowhere in the story did George or anyone else in the band express any sense that Christ had led them to their success. Their “starving artist” story just happened to turn into a band considered to be Christian, because it was a Christian band that brought them out of the background. Neither George nor anyone else set out to serve Christ by using the gift of music. They all set out to become self-supporting, if not actually famous, with their music.
George explained his own position very well:
I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was create and play rock and roll… and yet most of the attention I received was focused on how well I maintained the impossible standards of religion. I wanted my life to be measured by my music, not by my ability to resist temptation.
In his own words, he considered Christianity a religion with impossible standards, and he is completely correct. Christianity does hold up standards no human being can meet. What he does not say is that Christ is the answer to those impossible standards, and he does not say that he trusted Christ to take him through the temptations. In his own words, he was always trying to deal with the standards and the temptations by his own strength.
Christians will recognize that George Perdikis has not “defected” from the faith, because he has never yet experienced grace. George Perdikis clearly never received the Good News that we human beings do not have to meet those standards, because God already knows we cannot do it. George Perdikis clearly never did receive the forgiveness and grace Christ purchases for every human being on the cross, because he always thought and still thinks that it is up to him to resist temptation in his own power. I have Good News for George Perdikis: George, you were never anything but an atheist, because you clearly never belonged to Christ. That is okay. Jesus loves you anyway, and if you decide to receive his forgiveness and grace, that gift is already waiting for you.
Dan Haseltine is a founding member of Jars of Clay, another band famous among Christians for exciting, innovative expression of Christian values. However, when he tweeted, “I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage,” Christians committed to an orthodox interpretation of the Bible were understandably disturbed.
Orthodox Christian teaching looks to the Bible for definitions of marriage and family, and there they find that the consistent model for marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and they further find that this model for marriage is rooted in the model of Christ’s union with his bride, the Church. There is nothing in the Bible that even hints that same-sex unions can be called marriages, and there are many admonitions against the sexual behavior that underlies a same-sex union. The Bible is a Christian’s guide for faith and life, and the Bible teaches only one definition of marriage: the union of a man and a woman. There are certainly other models portrayed in Bible stories, but only the union of one man and one woman union meets the standard of following the model of Christ’s union with his church.
Haseltine did not shore up his case for gay marriage by a later tweet in which he said, “I don’t particularly care about Scripture’s stance on what is ‘wrong.’” He later took the road political charlatans often take, telling the fans that they don’t understand the context of his thought or that it was a “poor choice of words.” Being a celebrity means that Haseltine has at his fingertips professional wordsmiths and masters of marketing mantras who will glibly help him talk himself out of this faux pas.
Haseltine is busily working his feet in his swamp of words on the subject of gay marriage. My mother always said, “When you are in a swamp, keep your feet still.” Her point was that stirring up the mud of a swamp would result in sinking, and the time would come when your head would sink below the surface of the muck. Haseltine is in danger of reaching that point, not because he “defected” from the faith, but rather, because there is no evidence that he had any faith to defect from. If he valued the Bible, he would not try to diminish its value as a guide for faith and life, acting as if he could pick and choose the parts that he liked the way a child might push peas to the side of his plate and eat only the mac and cheese. Haseltine defected from the image his band wants to project, and it happened, because that image is inconsistent with Haseltine’s personal values. To secular minds, it therefore appears that he has demonstrated that Christian teaching does not satisfy the loftier moral conclusions that arise from being one’s own god.
Fans of Jars of Clay who love the band for its rock style and pay little, if any, attention to the words of the songs or the words of the performers will forgive and forget this little faux pas. Fans can do that, because the Bible is not necessarily the guide for faith of life of fans of rock bands, Christian or otherwise. Christians cannot, however, casually dismiss the words of someone whose music has been injected into worship settings to honor God Most High. Worshipers who raise their hands in prayer and praise to the Resurrected Son, will not readily forget that the singer leading them in worship has said that he doesn’t care what Scripture says.
And they should not.
Probably someone will tell me I am a wet blanket or an old curmudgeon, but stories like this remind me how deeply I reject the place celebrity bands have won in Christian worship settings around the world. I am of the confirmed opinion that local people should worship the Lord with local talent. It may not sound or look like the professionals, but as you can see in the lives of George Perdekis and Dan Haseltine, there is some question about the likely validity of considering these bands to be “leaders” in Christian worship. I would rather sing a capella in a house church or be accompanied by a one-finger pianist who loves Christ and does her best than be led in worship music by a professional musician whose god is himself.
Beyond that, I also reject the idea that Satan won some big battle and has showed Christians a thing or two by his work in the lives of these two celebrity musicians. Hemant Mehta was thrilled to publish a post by George Perdikis, because he believes atheism has snatched a Christian out of the church, but he is, of course, mistaken. Some LGBTQ social and political activists are thrilled that Dan Haseltine has “exposed” the “hypocrisy” of Christianity. They have good noses for a cover-up, and they see the self-serving game Haseltine is playing in order to appear simply to have made an error in diction. They can see the truth of his pretended “slip of the tongue,” so they pretend to themselves that they have increased their demographic statistic of people who do not consider the Bible to be reliably true in all its teachings.
The Church is truly engaged in a battle with “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). That is why we put our faith in Christ, not in pastors or in famous evangelists or in celebrity musicians. George Perdikis and Dan Haseltine are merely today’s features in Satan’s never-ending quest to separate us from Christ. The “spiritual forces of evil” are constantly pounding Christians in their attempt to pull us out of the arms of Jesus, our Rock, our Fortress, our Savior, but Paul comforts us with these words:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the summer of 2016