Monday, July 18, 2016

Forsaking the John Pipers Of the World

The first time I heard John Piper, I was a little put off.

It was in a Passion Conference video, and the sermon he gave was fine. It was something about how he spoke which rubbed me the wrong way.

But everyone else in the world seemed to love him, so I didn't say anything. We all have personal opinions about preachers and styles and interpretations. That's okay.

Over time I saw more and more of what Piper was saying on various topics. Some was good. Some was not.

He ignored the views of women while speaking into our situations. He slut-shamed and pointed out certain people's sins in a public arena, while staying silent about child abuse and rape within the Church. He wrote on a variety of modern topics claiming the will of God, but never backed his views up with Scripture.

His words have been downright harmful. Despite this, he still writes and says things I agree with. He preaches both truths and untruths.

Every human being has a part of the truth; nobody has the whole. One person can't contain the truth of life, spirituality, and existence. It's far too big. We learn new pieces of the puzzle from others we encounter. It's one of life's beautiful things.

I want to treat Piper in the way I treat most everyone else. He has some pieces, and other times makes pieces without consulting the manufacturer. I want to take in the good and decry the bad. I don't think doing so has to be a self-conflicting impossibility.

But two things lead me to want to distance myself from him, as well as others who've passed baseless opinions as God's truth to a large audience and knowingly injured others.

First of all, I don't want to reinforce his celebrity. He may say some things that are good, but he's also damaged some people in a bad way. And he hasn't backed down, rarely apologizing for his words. I haven't seen him humbly acknowledge when others are right and he is wrong.

That's concerning: all of us are wrong at some point, and we should learn how to handle it gracefully.

In light of that, I fear that spreading good words he's said will only lead more people to listen to him. Like me, they'll see he's big and popular and think, my feelings must be in the wrong about him.

I don't believe in shutting someone out of your personal space as soon as they're insensitive. But when the issue of celebrity comes in, a person's words are weighed on a different scale. You're allowed to cultivate safety in your life.

The second reason is that I care too much about justice. When people are hurt, I hurt. I get angry. I wait and plead and push for action, an apology, a healing of wounds.

I've written on this blog that when there's a rift between two groups, reconciliation can come from either side. Thus whichever side you're on you should offer the olive branch. I no longer believe that's always true. There are situations which are one-sided, where the wronged party saying, "it's okay, better luck tomorrow," encourages the abuse to continue.

Black folks shouldn't have to, and can't, do anything differently. They're just living their lives, but they're not valued as highly as others. Change needs to come from our end, from the white people--it can only come from us.

When someone tramples others without remorse and won't act to undo it, I have to put up boundaries.

I cannot open myself to someone who continues misrepresenting, devaluing, or shaming others. I can love them, respect them, but not give them a voice in my life. A KKK member might say, "Jesus loves you," but their proud racism will taint those words. It's unlikely it will sound positive as it should.

I will have to hear it from someone else. Luckily, many others are saying it.

Word count: 661.