“What Matters More” — Derek Webb, Stockholm Syndrome

Blog — By on July 6, 2009 at 6:58 am

Some of you may have been following the controversy and performance art marketing of Derek Webb’s new project Stockholm Syndrome. The song centered in the controversy was released by 20 thumb drives hidden strategically and put together over the weekend. If you want an audio only mp4 of the song, you can get it here.

Take a listen – what do you think? Right message? Wrong message? I think it’s “so susan isaacs”. Can I say that?

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    75 Comments

  • James says:

    Interesting. I'm not sure I completely understand what he's saying. I mean, Christians shouldn't be mean to gays, that I understand. But the part about being straight is all that matters to the person he's singing to…I don't get that.

  • Tim McGeary says:

    Maybe it would help if I post the lyrics, because I'm hearing/reading more to it than that:

    Lyrics:

    You say you always treat people like you like to be
    I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
    You love when people put words in your mouth
    'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak

    'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
    Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
    Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
    Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
    It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
    Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings

    'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
    About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save
    Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
    About 50,000 people who are dyin' today

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters

  • Jordan Green says:

    @James: I think Webb's song is saying Christians care more about people being straight than dying of AIDS.

    Not sure what was so controversial. I mean, sure, it's controversial to Christian culture, but it doesn't seem over-the-top considering changes to the church in the last 5 years or so.

  • aaron says:

    yeah, i agree with jordan on the topic. i think "it doesn't seem so controversial" is why he thought he could get away with releasing it when he originally recorded it. it's a shame the christian music industry is so cowardly, and can't take a stand on truth when faced with the likelihood of someone getting offended. it's a good thing Jesus didn't have that problem.

  • James says:

    I think the attitudes reflected in this song were much more accurate a few years ago than they are now. I don't know every Christian in the world, but I know a lot, and I just don't run across anyone these days who cares more about someone's gay-straight status than if they are dying of AIDS. I don't know anyone who hates gays.
    I guess we'll always have a few (Fred Phelps being the best-known example), just like we'll never completely remove racism. But gay-hating Christians are very much in the minority in 2009.

  • aaron says:

    i think the tide is shifting, but i think it'd still be a stretch to say they're in the minority. the religious right is self destructing, but there are still plenty of people who hold on to their values.

  • Tim McGeary says:

    First off, Derek is borrowing the phrase "we don't give a shit" from Tony Campolo about people dying in Africa that Tony made to shock the audience into attention at a Wheaton College chapel a number of years ago. He's also starting a new website giveashit.org to raise awareness and funds to build latrines in Africa to stop the spread of disease.

    You all are right to a point; it's not so controversial to us, but it is still is to Christian culture at large. There are very few Christian retailers who would ever sell this album with this song on it. It's happened to Derek before, and it's happened to others. During a radio interview Susan mentions a similar discussion with her editor in cleaning up some of her text in her book so that it could be presented to a wider audience.

    But the gay/straight issue is far from shifting. In the denomination I presently attended (PCUSA), every 2 years a fidelty/chastity/homesexuality amended gets passed at the General Assembly only to be shot down when it gets to the presbytery votes. Except that in each of the last 3 cycles, the margin of defeat has gotten smaller and smaller.

    From the very first cycle, churches are leaving the denomination to join a different Presbyterian denomination, which doesn't seem that unusual. Except there are differences of opinion as to who owns the land and/or the building: the church or the presbytery. So there are literally civil lawsuits against churches or against presbyteries. A clear case of 'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak.

    The political momentum of the religious right might be fading, but that is just pushing these opinions into the shadows: "what I believe is my own private right, correct? But if you teach my kids in public school that homosexuality is OK, then …" Isn't that how it's going to continue? Not all pastors are like Greg Boyd and becoming a-political.

    I wish they would. But I know that I still have a long way to go to be more like Jesus in this area.

  • James says:

    Tim, if I am reading you right, you seem to be drawing a parallel between denominations taking a stand against acceptance of homosexuality as non-sinful behavior and hate. Those are two different things.
    Casting those of us who regard gay sex as sin in the same league as hating gay people is, ironically, a very prejudiced position to take.
    I said that I don't see a lot of Christians hating gays these days, because Webb uses that word in this song. But Christian leaders voting to not allow gay leaders or–as happened last week–parting ways with a church in Ft Worth which is on record as being accepting of gay sex is nowhere near being hateful.

  • aaron says:

    right, because these denominations don't allow any sort of sin within their leaders, they're not singling out homosexuals. obviously if they found out one of their leaders had ever told a lie, he'd be out on the streets too.

  • Tim McGeary says:

    James – no, I'm not drawing that parallel at all. Or at least I don't mean to. I was mostly trying to point out that a.) this is very controversial in Christian culture and b.) the homosexual issue, at any level, is still very much in high tide.

    As for the example of the PCUSA, that goes to Webb's repeated questions: what matters more to you?.

    In the larger context of hating gays, let's discuss what that really means. Does it mean always voting against legal rights or privileges of unions and benefits? Does it mean always voting against leadership or membership in a church community?

    Or is there a difference word that hate for that? From Google, I read that hate means dislike intensely; feel antipathy or aversion towards; the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.

    Based on that last definition, would that parting ways with taht church in Ft. Worth be hate because there was "a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action." I would have said no before reading that definition.

    I don't have time at the moment, but I have to read more about the love God/hate family context Jesus talks about in the gospel to see if there is anything we can pull in here.

  • James says:

    If a a church/denomination's leadership reads Scripture and determines that it says that gay sex is sin, then by extension, they have a responsibility to take care to only place men and women who are committed to Jesus in places of leadership that shape the lives of others.

    I am not in church leadership, but if I were, and because I believe that homosexual sex is an act that is sin, I would ask persons actively participating is sexual sin to withdraw from influential positions in order to concentrate on their own repentance and getting their spiritual lives in order.

    I'd do this regarding a leader involved in any sexual sin. Scripturally, homosexual sin is not worse than adultery or an unmarried couple who are having sex, but it's not better, either.

    Note that I am not talking about someone who has such sins in their past. But the church in Ft Worth was actively endorsing current sexual behavior. If it were about past sins, there would be no church leaders if that were the case. Because all of us have done things listed in 1 Corinthians 6.

    If I were in leadership and applied the principles I described above, it would not be hate at all.

    I have no problem with anyone, be it Tim McGeary or Derek Webb, disagreeing with me about a theological point. But please don't characterize those who have such disagreements with you as hate. It's an unwarranted accusation.

  • Ragamuffin says:

    I hardly think a denomination having debates over homosexual acts being sinful is an example of hate. Nor do I think asking rhetorical questions about whether they'd allow a pastor who'd ever told a lie is a good analogy. A more apt one would be whether a denomination would allow a pastor who is in an extramarital sexual relationship or is a single pastor that was sleeping with his girlfriend to remain in the pulpit would be more on point.

  • aaron says:

    maybe not who ever told a lie, but who told a lie while being the pastor. you might not thing the two sins are equal, but paul did (maybe slander specifically, but still). or a divorced pastor who is remarried, that's one that Jesus actually talked about, so it should carry more weight for those who claim to follow Christ than homosexuality, which He never mentioned.

  • Ragamuffin says:

    maybe not who ever told a lie, but who told a lie while being the pastor. you might not thing the two sins are equal, but paul did (maybe slander specifically, but still). or a divorced pastor who is remarried, that's one that Jesus actually talked about, so it should carry more weight for those who claim to follow Christ than homosexuality, which He never mentioned.

    Complete non sequitur. Christ also never mentioned incest or pedophilia. Are those up for debate as well?

    While they have similar weight in that they are both sins and therefore need to be repented of, they are not in the same league. And if you really think that tells a lie is the same as murder simply because both are sins, you're just not thinking clearly. Heck, even two lies aren't of the same weight. If you lie about whether you think a certain dress makes your wife look fat, that's bad, but no on the same level as telling a lie that results in someone losing their job or getting someone killed. Plain reason should tell us that much. So while a pastor telling a lie is a serious thing, it's not the same as a pastor cheating on his wife or engaging in gay sex. Sorry.

  • James says:

    Aaron, I don't understand your post. Your last sentence has to do with whether Jesus mentioned homosexuality, and by implication, you are saying that it's not a sin. We can disagree about that respectfully, but that's another blog post. The question here is whether or not it's acceptable to brand those of us who do believe Scripture calls it a sin as haters.

  • James says:

    Aaron, to answer what I think is your point: there's a big difference between past sin and current sin. If a preacher has ever lied, he's not going to be tossed out of his position. And in 98% of current churches, the same would apply if he has homosexuality in his past. In fact, there are some great ministers out there who do have sexual sin in their past. But we aren't talking about that.

  • Ragamuffin says:

    I agree with James. There is a middle ground to take here where you can love someone and not engage in hate but still think something they are doing is a sin. And believing that the thing in question is sinful may mean that you don't allow those who unrepentantly or repeatedly engage in that conduct to hold certain leadership positions in the church. That is also not being hateful.

    Can some churches and denominations stand to be more consistent in applying this principle? Sure. But it's consistency that's needed, not a "new and improved" principle.

  • aaron says:

    ok, i had already updated my statement to only include current sin, so you can throw that all out. but sin is sin. in the eyes of God, all sin is equal. if someone is a murderer or a liar, without Jesus they'll be condemned to hell for their sin. so common sense may say that one is worse than another, and the earthly punishment for one might be worse than another, but in the eyes of God they get the same punishment. so if someone continues to engage in homosexual acts or continues to tell lies, they should have equal consequence.
    my saying that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality wasn't to say that it's not a sin (i do believe that's up for debate, but i'm not going to touch on that here). it was just to help put things in perspective. if homosexuality were the super sin that trumps all others like the church treats it, then Jesus probably would have said something about it at some point. in the realm of sexual sin however, Jesus did say that if someone gets a divorce and then remarries, it is adultery. this practice has become so common that the church doesn't think twice about it, ignoring the words of Jesus in favor of more obscure passages that touch on what they choose to focus on.
    to sum up… i'm not saying that it's necessarily wrong for churches to treat homosexuality as a sin, but it's wrong to say that that's all that they're doing if they don't treat other sins equally. and since we all sin, it's not right to single out homosexuality. i don't think it's a stretch to call that hateful.

  • James says:

    I don't know what to tell you, Aaron. My recent church experience has not been like what you are describing. I saw a good pastor lose his job over adultery recently. I saw another one a few years ago lose his job because of a very strong addiction to porn. I see churches treating sexual sin as sexual sin. And they're not firing people as punishment, but to allow the leaders to take time to repent, and get healing for themselves and others affected by their sin. It doesn't mean God is done with them, or that the ones who are asking them to step down are hateful in any way.

  • Ragamuffin says:

    I think you'd be hard pressed to find a church where a pastor continues to be caught in blatant lies, especially about serious matters, and it's not grounds for being removed from the position. Plus, there is a difference between someone who tells a lie or two over a period of years and a "liar" — one who tells lies regularly.

    And I'm sorry but some sins are more serious than others. Even the OT laws reflect this by the punishments God prescribed. Some punishments were things like restitution or some other form of chastisement. Others garnered a death sentence. So evidently God considers some sins as more grave than others.

    The Catholic church talks about mortal sins and whether you agree with them or not, I think they reasoning is illustrative. A mortal sin is one that involves a grave or serious matter and is done with full knowledge it's seriousness and wrongness plus consent of the will. Some things concern grave matters but are done out of neglect or without full realization of the implications of the action. Other things are done with full knowledge but are not over serious matters. ALL of these are sins, but while non-mortal sins certainly affect one's heart and conscience and relationship with God, serious mortal sins take such a searing of the conscience and willful hatred and disregard for those sinned against, it can remove one from a state of grace ("cause one to lose their salvation" in Protestant Arminian parlance).

    Now I say all that not to get into a debate over Catholic doctrine but just to give an example of what's being discussed here. One cannot seriously argue that God treats all sins with equal weight.

    Yes, dying in a state of willful unrepentance from any sin can send them to Hell. But it does not therefore follow that all sins are equally serious as it applies to one's qualifications for leadership roles in the church here on earth.

  • James says:

    By the way, isn't in 1 Corinthians that Paul actually gets onto a local church for not dealing with sexual sin among its members? Clearly, there's an obligation there to not simply stand by and not be "judgmental".

  • James says:

    Ragamuffin, I think Aaron has a point in when he says that sexual sin is more or less equal in God's eyes. I just disagree with him that there are a bunch of churches treating the issues that unequally. There might be a small number, less than one percent. But it's an exception, not the rule.

  • Ragamuffin says:

    Ragamuffin, I think Aaron has a point in when he says that sexual sin is more or less equal in God's eyes. I just disagree with him that there are a bunch of churches treating the issues that unequally. There might be a small number, less than one percent. But it's an exception, not the rule.

    If that's his point, I'd agree with him. Homosexual acts are no worse than adultery or heterosexual fornication. But then he keeps going back to the issue of lying or other sins and I don't agree with that. Murder is more serious in God's eyes than stealing someone's stereo.

    Again, the qualm should be with churches applying the principle consistently, not over whether the principle should stand at all.

  • aaron says:

    ok, here's a better example for you… Jesus says that if you look at a woman lustfully, it's just as bad as if you commit adultery with her. now first, obviously you wouldn't agree with that. obviously adultery would be cause for a broken marriage, while checking out a girl at the mall would not be. but Jesus says they are equal. so to continue that line of thought, have you ever heard of a pastor losing his job for checking out a girl he wasn't married to? i haven't. and i'm waiting for an example of a pastor being let go for being in a second marriage. if 99% of all churches hold to that, then it should be pretty easy to find examples.
    but if we're going to differentiate between severity of sin, i don't think you can put homosexuality on a level with adultery, and definitely not on a level with murder. i think for one sin to be considered worse than another, it should be judged by who is affected. in adultery, you're hurting yourself and your family. in murder, there's an obvious victim. who is the victim in a loving, monogamous homosexual relationship? you could make the argument that they're having sex outside of marriage, but that would just lead to people saying "so let them get married already!" i'm asking honestly, who is hurt by this? how could someone equate homosexuality with murder (which happens far too often) and still be able to claim that they're treating this person in a loving manner?

  • James says:

    To allow someone to stay in a position of leadership while practicing homosexuality is not a victimless crime. This has nothing to do with allowing someone to get married.
    And I have seen pastors forced to resign when they got a divorce.

  • James says:

    And for the record, I totally agree that many Christians treat homosexuality as worse than other sexual sins. In fact, if you do a Google search for "how should christians treat homosexuals?" the #1 item is a piece I wrote a few years ago: http://www.middletree.net/hs.asp
    My point is that Webb is out of line if he has swung the pendulum too far the other way, and considered those who regard gay sex as sin to be haters. There may be a few who are as he characterizes them in the song, but IMO, it's very few.

  • Tim McGeary says:

    Great discussion, guys. Beyond my expectations. I'm sorry for steering the conversation to church leadership because I think that is just one (and small) example of what Derek is getting at.

    I do want to add two questions to the mix:

    1) are you discussing your POVs from the perspective of homosexuality as actions or as an identity? Is a person who identifies him/herself as homosexual but remains chaste welcome in our Kingdom communities?

    2) I don't think anyone touched on the literal definitions of hate but rather the standard political view, as in extreme intolerance. Moreover Jesus seems to talk in binary of love or hate. There's no in between: you me and hate family; cannot serve two masters – love one and hate the other or vice versa.

    How do we deal with that here? I've had enough gay friends or colleagues who are just like me struggling through life. Am I really loving them by voting against a legal status between them and the person they love? Is it not an unloving action to vote in a way that says "you are not worth the same rights as me"? If it is not love, then is that not hate?

    Getting back to Derek's point, is it more important for the Church to push any anti-gay agenda than it is to say the tens of thousands of people who die everyday of AIDS and starvation and other dieseases? Is it more important that we worry about correcting our image as a Church than saving lives?

    Sorry, that was more than two questions. :)

  • James says:

    Very good questions, Tim. And before I respond, may I say I appreciate the generally cordial tone and lack of flames in these comments.

    As for one who has friends who are gay, I would say my answer about what to say to them depends on one things: are they Christian? If they aren't, then any conversation should be about Jesus, what He has done for and through me, and what He can do for and through you. You don't need to be straight as much as you need Jesus.

    If you are Christian, then Scripture is very clear that we are not to just pretend it's OK to be involved in sexual sin, whether it's porn, gay sex, or adultery. And it's not about looking down at someone. I am not disqualified to speak if I happened to have sinned before at some point in my life. I have an obligation to say something:

    Proverbs 24:24-25
    "Whoever says to the guilty, 'you are innocent'—peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them."

    Ezekiel 3:18-19
    "When I [God} say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

    Ephesians 4:25
    "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."

    Colossians 3:16 NIV
    "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

    Now, I didn't make those up. And there are many many more. The bible couldn't be more clear about this.

  • James says:

    You said: "are you discussing your POVs from the perspective of homosexuality as actions or as an identity? Is a person who identifies him/herself as homosexual but remains chaste welcome in our Kingdom communities?"

    Excellent question. Because of my perspective that research and the bible have shown, convincingly to my satisfaction, that many gays are, as a group, a bunch of hurting people, I would encourage a person who has strong feelings to seek out healing from God, made possible because of the work of Jesus. By healing, I mean healing the hurts that ultimately may be the root cause of feelings which did not come from God.

    Having said that, I wouldn't disallow such a person to be in leadership, as long as he agrees that such feelings are not in line with God's plan. This wouldn't be any different from any church's requirement that leaders are on the same theological page.

    Clearly, though, the sin is in the actual physical act itself, not the status as a gay man or lesbian.

  • James says:

    Tim said: "Is it not an unloving action to vote in a way that says "you are not worth the same rights as me"? If it is not love, then is that not hate?"

    Tim, let's say you think that homsexuality is sin. Not better or worse than other sexual sins. But definitely sin. Wouldn't the loving thing be to tell your gays friend that what he is doing is not in his best interest? Is that not more loving than endorsing it?

    Let's say I walked into a room that you are already in. My hair is on fire. You immediately alert me to this condition. My reaction should be to address the situation, then show gratitude to you. Now imagine that my reaction goes like this: "Tim, how dare you tell me my hair is on fire! Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you?"

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