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Judgementality

Having been away from blogging a while, finishing my Masters degree, I did not intend to write this, but on perusing fellow bloggers, I came across a discussion on Mike Warnke. I’ve no idea who Warnke is, or what happened beyond the fact that he had a ministry but had been caught doing something he shouldn’t have. I’ll NOT look it up – I don’t believe I’d gain much from reading about a fellow believer’s fall from grace! I began a reply to my fellow blogger, but it became fairly large, so…

There ARE lessons to be learned…

About 30 years ago, I was involved in Christian rock bands locally, AND had a job at the ‘largest Christian bookstore in Europe’, in my native Belfast. While there, our manager ordered in 144,000 copies (I had to unload the 3 crated pallets!), on vinyl and cassette, of 18 albums recorded by a then-unknown-outside-the-US singer/preacher, Jimmy Swaggart. Our boss played these teeth-grinding, doleful wailing dirges 24/7, saying to every customer who came in; “have you heard this new singer from the States? He’s just maaarrrvelous!”

Once he was gone on his tea break, we’d fight to see who could be first to take out the cassette and lose it behind another shelf, and put on some decent music, but the boss would return, and take a new cassette from the shelf stacks…

And so I came to HATE Swaggart; I’d even hear those songs in my head as I tried to drift off to sleep at night!! Shortly after this, on the back of his increasing fame, he appeared on some Christian breakfast shows, with a new agenda; warning people about the evils of rock music (being the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, I suppose he had first hand experience lol), but he started showing albums by Christian rock bands and stating that they were not to be listened to, as the musicians on these albums “were not Christians”! Now… salvation is a sacred thing; it is between the saviour and the sinner, NOBODY ELSE! I have NO right to call anyone else’s salvation into question. I may look for signs of spiritual fruit in them – love, joy, peace, kindness, etc. but their TRUE relationship with God is a secret thing that will only be revealed at the end. Note Matt.7:21-23!

THEN I started to feel sorry for Swaggart. I told friends that he’d need to watch out, for God would judge him for being so judgmental with others. And a few years later…? Then people I knew who loved his music and preaching suddenly wanted to throw his albums in the bin and mention him no more. I actually defended him! I said that if his music was SO good before (for these people with no real taste in music LOL), what had changed? He had fallen from grace, yes! Was it not possible to see his music from the heart of a man who struggled with his own failings?

Some years later, I was on my way into a rugby ground in Belfast for a Meatloaf concert, ably supported by Status Quo. A man was with friends giving out tracts, and handed me one. I handed it back with a smile and said “it’s OK, brother, I’m saved!” He smiled at me briefly. VERY briefly, then with utter indignation he snapped “well, what are you going in there for?” and stormed off. I just laughed, but I realised later that I really should have warned him not to fall into the same trap that Swaggart had done. He was in need of a friendly and loving, but serious rebuke lest he fall in the same way!

Today I am involved in church worship music, and the same thing happens: a song can be hailed as a brilliant piece of moving spirituality, but then we all hear the shocking news – the guy that wrote and sung that song has turned out to be a liar, a charlatan, a blatant flagrant sinner, false in his ways, a charred testimony…. “Oh, we can’t sing that song now!”

To which I reply;

“Well, point taken. We shouldn’t sing it…. So that means the Psalms are out then, too?”

“Huh?”

“The Psalms? Weren’t most of them written by a man who had an affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then when he couldn’t cover his tracks, arranged to have the husband, an honourable man, ‘killed in battle’?”

Usually met with splutters, stutters, or silence. Sometimes met with understanding and contrition, and a lesson learnt: if God chooses to use weak vessels for his own glory, it is actually our very weakness that glorifies him all the more (2Cor.12:9-10).

His grace is as boundless as an eternal ocean.

Grace be with you.

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46 thoughts on “Judgementality

  1. Doesn’t the Bible say to make a joyful noise unto the Lord? I hate RAP music but if it’s unto the Lord who am I to judge it. The same with Rock music or any other kind. If it’s joyful and unto the Lord wouldn’t it be making the Holy Spirit angry if we judge it? I have a ton to learn since I just enrolled in a Bible college. Even though I’ve been a Christian 12 years I still don’t know anything yet and am in need of some serious training.

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    • NOW you’ve mentioned the only book I actually threw against the wall, lol! I read it the first time around in the 80s. ‘Sober Saints’ only escaped that fate since I’m not such an angry young man now.

      I read through Blanchard’s ‘Read Mark Learn’ as my first serious Bible study and a few others of his books are superb, but that book was so glaringly wrong in many ways, so full of folk myths, so devoid of reasonable argument, and even descending to labelling rock music as ‘from the jungles of Africa’ that is was borderline racist. I looked up the book on amazon, and ⅔ of the reviews are spot on. I saw a more recent book ‘Can we rock the gospel?’ and it looks like Blanchard hasn’t learnt anything, or retracted his racism. Most rhythms in blues and rock come actually from Irish music; I can hear it in our folk music here quite clearly!

      That was in the days of ‘backward masking’ where guys would come to our youth groups with tapes wound backwards so we could listen to ‘wop-weep-lip, et, sue-eh-mon’ and then hear them tell us it was saying ‘worship satan’ as we sat and looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders! That soon went away!

      No, I relied on my own discernment at the time, and I could listen to much rock music that was just good music, and dismiss the foul stuff that sang of adultery and drunken orgies. I used to love Blue Oyster Cult, but after listening to their music one day, I realised that it was affecting my mood. I wiped those tapes. BOC actually DID talk about Satan on their live shows, but the vast majority of rockers just used such imagery to ‘get with the kids’. I mean, Ozzy Osbourne as the ‘Prince of Darkness’ – the very idea makes me laugh out loud.

      No, it springs from the conservative mindset that just dislikes anything new, and since we know ‘there is nothing new under the sun’… consider that introducing organs into church music in Victorian times drew exactly the same accusations of ‘bringing worldly music into the sacred’ and you get some perspective. Every generation in churches will suffer this, and we oldies must just move over, since the young ones are not the church of tomorrow, they’re the church of today!

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  2. A lot of bands in the 70s like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were into black magic, Jimmy Page even owned an occult book store.

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    • No argument on that, though how do you define ‘a lot’? I started googling some of it and it’s hard to verify everything since most of what you get is on blogs, and you can’t believe everything on blogs! 😛

      For example, I heard from many quarters that the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ was about the band joining the Church of Satan, and the figure in the window on the album cover was Anton LaVey. I actually believed it myself, but it’s pure myth: http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/hotel.asp

      Yeah, Page was a ‘follower’ of Crowley and did own that bookshop; so he dabbled in mysticism, as did others. That doesn’t stop me from discerning good music from bad (which is largely down to taste, so let’s rephrase that ‘right music from wrong’). It certainly doesn’t mean that a whole genre of a musical type must be condemned because some of its proponents were into false religious stuff and had some kooky beliefs. Like I said about Swaggart, just because he turned out to be seeing a prostitute for some time does not change how good or bad his songs were! I saw Freddie Mercury perform with Queen at Slane Castle in 1986; the greatest showman ever, talented beyond description… but… he was a raging homosexual, some say to me! So what? I STILL enjoyed his performance and his voice!

      Were it just down to what music we like or dislike, or based on the behaviour of the musicians, then I could make a really good case for banning all country music from churches! Much as I loathe it, I’ll not even try, since it brings joy and blessing to many. Why lovers of country can’t seem to grasp that I like rock and hate their music is beyond me; I just accept that they hate rock, but I won’t accept their attempts to defame it as a genre. As Larry Norman sang: “Why should the Devil have all the good music?”

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  3. I used to be into Classic Rock and heavy metal music. bands like KISS, AC/DC and The Rolling Stones were definitely into satanism as far as I’m concerned. ‘Do what thou shall be whole of law’ in other words do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, sex and expressing your sexuality is the main theme of Rock n’Roll in my experience.

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    • For me, enjoying the music regardless of what its proponents may or may not do is what I maintain. As I said, there are many faults in writers and singers of gospel music, and there are many non-believers who enjoy gospel music. Lifestyles and musical appreciation don’t have to be linked at all. If you decided you no longer wished to listen to certain music, I fully support your choice. I DID stop listening to BOC.

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    • My ‘background’ was actually atheist. My upbringing included no church or Sunday school at all, but once I became a Christian (more correctly, a full year after conversion), I started at a Baptist church and then progressed into pentecostalism.

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    • Yes, actually, at first. Well, second – my introduction to pentecostalism came through a very unusual avenue; a Congregational church! I only stayed there a short while – long story, then went to a local AOG for over 3 years, followed by an independent pentecostal church from the line of Principal George Jeffreys, which later was incorporated into the Elim. 25 years there, then 6 with a split from that church. Now attending a much more free and less controlled church (past 6 months) that was originally founded by Paul Scanlon; http://www.lifechurchbelfast.com

      I knew a German Lutheran at our Bible College; she was one who never cut her hair and always wore loooong skirts, though I get the impression that Lutherans are quite a ‘broad’ church and they don’t all do that sort of thing. I read recently that the Norwegian Lutheran church decided to separate from ‘the state’, which I welcome as I believe church and state fare better divorced. Is the Lutheran church the state religion in Sweden?

      Our Church of Ireland (Anglican) is a varied bag of liberals and evangelicals here, but it’s only one of what are termed the ‘four main’ ones; Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Roman Catholic. Pentecostals and other independents would make up a good proportion of Christians in NI.

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    • No, but I looked it up on Amazon. I DID add it to my wish list, behind maybe a dozen other books lol.

      From the reviews (most good, one poor, one good but critical) I imagine I would find myself agreeing with it in part. I banned soap operas from my house when my kids were growing up since I did not wish for the ‘norm’ of everyone in soapland being unable to remain faithful in marriage to have any influence on them! However, I am in the camp that believes as adults we must engage with the world WHILE we are in it. Too many churches have this mentality that I’ve criticised so often and in so many ways, that we should ‘come out’ of the world when in fact we should be ‘in the world but not OF it’. Children need shielding to an extent from harmful stuff, and you might argue that applies to ‘young’ believers too, but once we’re past spiritual infancy we should be able to get out there and start being salt and light. The questions Jesus asked us; ‘can a light shine under a bucket?’ and ‘if salt loses its saltiness…?’ lead me to believe he means us to NOT shy away into a church building and prevent ourselves getting ‘dirtied’ by the world. If Christians are working in media then at least they have a chance to be an influence.

      I read a female blogger who reviewed ’50 Shades of Gray’, having read the book AND watched the film. She felt that just deciding not to watch it was a wrong way of dealing with it, reflected and prayed about it, and underwent the trial in order to be able to criticise it from an informed viewpoint. The result was a VERY good review which exposed the depths of the sickness in it! To an extent, we need to make an attempt to ‘take on’ these things or we shall be dismissed outright. Practically every believer I know derides ‘The Life of Brian’ yet has never watched it; they just go by what their pastor has said about it, who never watched it either! Me? I watched it and laughed my head off! There is nothing in the film that is disparaging of Jesus or God, but of human nature and the eternal need people have to blindly follow a ‘Messiah’ figure. Brian was a caricature of how easily some very unqualified persons can become religious leaders with huge followings; a great lesson, but VERY funny too. IMHO. 🙂

      And reviewers mention about us facing persecution for our stance. If that is in the book, then I’d take exception. Persecution is not someone calling us names for saying “I wouldn’t watch that!” – if we actually stand up against governments over things like human rights, their dealings with despotic regimes and injustices like fracking and the TTIP, then we might face a FORM of persecution if we face charges by such powers. REAL persecution is what’s happening to believers who face ISIS! The cushioned Western 21st century church has no real claim to the honorary badge of ‘persecution’.

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  4. I have read the book for myself and I have to say it’s a good read, there’s a website called christian spotlight which reviews recent films and tells you of any offensive content.
    The life of Brian is pretty offensive as are most ‘Monty Python’ films.
    Definitely check the book out it’s well worth a read.

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  5. My reply to you turned into a blog, which I have not been able to finish, being very busy tending to my ailing mother. Soon!

    I’d be curious to know: last Sunday after church, my wife and I visited our local museum to see the National Portrait exhibition. There were two female nudes in the gallery. Would you find that offensive, or just consider it as art? Michelangelo’s sculpture of ‘David’ is hailed as a great artistic and religious ‘icon’.

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  6. Finally got to watching that. Very hard to listen to that guy’s voice, to be honest! Comes across as VERY condescending. His points are valid which relate to certain depictions in art which ARE pornographic, yes! Some ancient art shows sex acts and even orgies. We’ve just inherited a world where such things are now in full colour HD video, streamed over the internet. It’s ‘nothing new under the sun’, just an upgrade!

    However, I tend not to rely on the ‘early church fathers’ nor the Reformation church founders, since may things they said and did can be picked apart quite easily as attitudes of their time, not in keeping with scripture, or an interpretation of scripture that went in the wrong direction. I blogged on how a teenage boy was executed in Calvin’s Geneva for striking his parents! (http://wp.me/p2FH9L-8y).

    When we turn to scripture, which I failed to see the speaker do in the video, what do we find? “To the pure, all things are pure…” (Titus 1:5). The picture of Adam on the Cistine chapel ceiling would be incorrect if he were not naked, so it is simply a representation of a Biblical figure. I see nothing else beyond that, nothing titillating or pornographic, because I choose not to. The response within my heart to nudity is entirely my choice, and being aware of my weakness, then should it be a problem to me, I must act accordingly. As Jesus warned us; if our eye causes us to stumble… (Matt. 5:29). Note the ‘IF’. This is the same attitude I take with alcohol, as we discussed. It has no ‘hold’ on me, to draw me into addictive behaviour, therefore it is fine for me, though it may be a real stumbling-block to others. Indeed, Paul writes to the Colossians that “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” are simply ‘rules of this world’, which “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col. 2: 16-23).

    If you are pursuing the ‘heart change’ that Jesus desires for his followers, then you come to know which things are detrimental to the health of your heart and which are not. Blanket bans are external rules imposed by both the world, and by religious leaders on their flocks. Let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth, not any man.

    Blog nearly done!

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  7. The Italian renaissance was all about bringing back the greco roman pagan art style, the roman catholic church was influenced by a lot of pagan things, you’ll notice in paintings for example cherubs which are really cupids the roman god of love. nudity in in art really flies in the face of what happened in the garden of Eden, there’s a reason why we wear clothes. I think you’ll find it’s you who is not following the word of god, but are coming up with your own ideas.

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  8. That’s funny! The maker of the video made no reference to scripture, but quoted from church ‘fathers’ and history, as you did too, whereas I actually quoted THREE scriptural references, yet it is ME who is ‘coming up with my own ideas’!?

    I rest my case for my blog as a rallying call for churches to return to a scriptural base from positions that have been obtained by centuries of tradition and attitudes that masquerade as scriptural and/or spiritual yet have little foundation in what is actually ‘taught’ in our scriptures and the first century church!

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  9. A lot of pagan things did find their way into the church, thanks to emperor Constatine the so called great, who persecuted christians.

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  10. True! So why do we continue with such attitudes when we have the gift of scripture in our native languages to refer to? ‘The church’ tried to keep them from us for centuries, knowing we would be able to point out where they’d gone wrong. Modern churches do the same thing by preaching the same old mantras without really investigating the nuances within scripture: the subtle lessons that go against the perceived wisdom and the agreed morality. Quoting what previous church commentators said without referring BACK to scripture just perpetuates the deceit, whether intended or not.

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  11. Interesting question! Bit random? Personally or socially, I wonder. Personally, when I was at school, a few friends started smoking it, but it was only tobacco cigarettes with a tiny bit of cannabis in them. I was tempted to buy one from them, but some good friends back home talked me out of smoking it. I cannot recall what made me want to try it, but I knew once I chucked it down a drain that I’d not wish to again; it held no draw for me.

    Socially, it is actually a drug that is proven as an effective painkiller for certain conditions like MS, and creates a calming effect on users, who then say that it’s good for social bonding. Certainly better for it than alcohol abuse. However, long term use has been linked with feelings of paranoia, particularly if the user started young. Since tobacco is legal, and causes far more disease and death than cannabis, the argument to decriminalise it is a valid one. It’s too mild a drug to make someone a criminal in my opinion.

    On that note about criminalisation, here’s a very interesting lecture (from TED – great forum) that I only saw on Facebook four days ago! – food for thought indeed!

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  12. There are different species of cannabis and they have different strengths, which they have in Amsterdam coffee shops, people who smoke a joint should only take two puffs and let it breath for five minutes.

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  13. I’m surprised, Andreas! You’re very vocal against alcohol, yet you know about how to smoke a spliff!! LOL.

    I’m not passing any judgment or making any condemnation. Anyone can do (almost) anything in moderation, IMHO. I just wasn’t expecting THAT reply! 🙂

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  14. I do not smoke marijuana, I am not defending it. but at the same time I am anti drugs. I learned the information stated above from a bbc documentary, the shopkeeper in the cafe in Amsterdam shop gave that advice to the lady smoking it and well she over did it started feeling paranoid, marijuana is something people have to be very cautious with. people get high on THC for the same reason people get high alcohol and for many it’s a crotch.

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  15. Cannabis used to be legal in chemists until it was banned in 1937, it was used to treat asthma, now they use it to treat violent seizures, tremors, stammers and parkinson’s disease.

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  16. That stance makes it possible to see how we can decriminalise drugs AND combat the problem, but only if we couple it with effective programs to provide support and hope for potential users. For me, that is all part of the gospel: preaching good news to all for salvation, healing and restoration to God and to our own health, mental and physical.

    It’s up to the church to do that, I think.

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  17. no he said we have to be careful not to judge musicians music by their lifestyle, didn’t you read the entire book? sometimes you have to read books all the way through before you pass judgement on them.

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  18. Haha! Of all the books I have read, Sober Saints and Pop Goes The Gospel are the ONLY two I could not finish. My attempt to complete Sober Saints confirmed to me that I was right to not do so in the first place.

    Glad to hear that Blanchard DID conclude that. From his other writings, I would have been surprised and disappointed if he had not. Otherwise we may discard all of David’s Psalms!

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  19. Some good points are made in that book that you should definitely take into consideration, the reason why people get so angry about this is because it comes between them and the thing they like the most.

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  20. No, I’ve read a few books that I didn’t agree with or agreed very little with, and I got to the end of them all. This made me angry because so much of the stuff I read was absolute tripe! There is a point at which you lose any faith or confidence in an author to continue making any sort of rational argument, but that’s only happened twice in my lifetime! Just happens to be the two books we have discussed, strangely!

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    • No. As I said, it’s on my wishlist, but there are so many, and I’m having to budget on books now. Don’t know what I’ve spent over the years. Current book I’m reading is from the library!

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