Well, it’s been six days now since the 2014 Grammys’ version of the Golden Calf narrative. Six days in the world of the internet. That means it’s no longer newsworthy or noteworthy. At the same time, for those of us who are slower processors, perhaps the sixth day is a good reflection time.
Back in December, I posted a couple of articles on Christianity and homosexual practice. My primary context for those articles was Romans 1. And as I turn my attention to the Grammys, again, my context is Romans 1. At the risk of tooting my own horn at my previous attempt at societal analysis, I’ll go ahead and say up front: I told you so!
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom 1:21-23)
Far more serious than that stupid Beyoncé/Jay Z pagan dance ritual, far more fundamentally flawed than Katy Perry’s witch-wannabe performance, far more basically idiotic than Taylor Swift’s angry attempt at self-decapitation by whiplash, and far more degenerate than a new trinitarian sanctioning of same-sex marriage, in a wedding ceremony conducted by Mother Latifah, Daughter Madonna, and Holy Macklemore—worse and more foundational than any of these things was the great God-exchange that took place. One of my good friends, Brian Munro, remarked on Facebook how he had never felt his Christianity to be so insulted and offended as it was that night. I would certainly agree with that; but I also wrote this in reply:
I would nuance things a bit differently. I don’t think it was so much a swipe at Christianity as it was a redefinition of Christianity. It was an attempt to create a Christianity after their own image. The really offensive part of that production was their arrogance in thinking they could declare what God would approve of or not approve of, with absolutely no attention given to the God who has told us what he is like in the Scriptures. And, of course, as I argued in a couple of blog posts back in December, it is also evidence of the righteous judgment of God on a generation that has decided to engage in the “Design-Your-Own-God” project (Romans 1:18-32).
The basic sin committed at the 2014 Grammys was the exchange of gods.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness . . . (Rom 1:18)
There were conscious attempts to suppress the truth at the Grammys at their Sunday night service. I’ll give just one example from the lyrics of the song, “Same Love,” sung by that most astute of all biblical exegetes and theologians, Macklemore:
The right wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made rewiring of a predisposition
Playing God, aw nah here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago
I don’t know
Two things I would note here: (1) Since when does love for all one’s children translate into approval of everything they do? (2) Second, what’s the paraphrase he mentions? He talks about “a book written thirty-five-hundred years ago”; so I take it he’s referring to two particular verses in the book of Leviticus:
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (Lev 18:22)
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. (Lev 20:13)
Again, my question is: “Where’s the paraphrase?” Does he think there’s been some Judeo-Christian conspiracy to rephrase these verses in such a way that, whereas they originally referred to something else, now, on account of some gross prejudice, they’ve been paraphrased to refer to homosexual acts? To be sure, there are all kinds of exegetical, contextual, and hermeneutical questions that should be raised regarding how these verses are to be interpreted. But the translations we have in our Bibles are pretty much straightforward. And as far as answering those important exegetical, contextual, and hermeneutical questions—and you’ll just have to trust me on this one—Macklemore is not a particularly reliable resource.
This is nothing other than a rather feeble attempt to suppress the truth.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (Rom 1:18)
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Rom 1:24-27)
I have already talked about this extensively in the two articles I posted back in December. But just to reiterate and comment very quickly: Homosexual practice is sinful. And the front-and-center emphasis on homosexual practice that took place last Sunday night was sinful. But this sinfulness was also a revelation of God’s righteous wrath. It does not, by any means, exhaust that wrath, but it is the beginning of the revelation of that wrath. It is the judgment of God on a sinful society that has been engaged in the great God-exchange.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Rom 1:28-31)
I suppose there’s a measure of subjectivity in my appraisal here, but I would argue that, perhaps, with the exception of murder, these things were all on display last Sunday night to one degree or another. Again, evidence of the sinfulness of society, as well as of God’s judgment on that society.
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:32)
The message at last Sunday night’s service was not: “Let’s tolerate homosexual practice.” The message was: “Let’s encourage it. Let’s glorify it. Let’s praise it. Let’s celebrate it. Oh, and by the way, ‘In your face, you bigoted Christians. Get out of here. And take your God with you. We have our own.'”
I’ve read a number of sociological assessments of what happened at the Grammys. On the one hand, there are those who say that the Grammys constituted ample evidence of a society that is going to hell in a hand-basket. I’ve read others that argue that the Grammy awards show, and other such self-congratulatory, ostentatious displays are in no way a true reflection of society. I suppose the answer is somewhere in between—though, given how homosexual practice has gone from toleration to celebration at such an accelerated pace, I would lean toward the former.
So, allow me to engage in a bit of prognostication, since my earlier attempt at societal analysis was so right on. I don’t really get stressed out, or shocked, or offended, or angry, or upset by the kinds of things that happened at the Grammys. Oh, I do to a measure. But that isn’t my primary reaction. And that’s because when I see these things happening, I see them as the revelation of the righteous wrath of God. I pray for those involved, that God will open their eyes, that they would be converted, and be healed. But I also know that, as the psalmist says, God’s wrath against wicked people brings him praise (Ps 76:10). Whatever is happening, it is all moving toward the ultimate exaltation of our glorious God. So, here’s how I believe things will play out. Society will continue to exchange God for that which is not God. They will continue to engage, more and more, in all kinds of wickedness. They will continue to change the labeling. They will call evil good and good evil, darkness light and light darkness, bitter sweet and sweet bitter (Isa 5:20). They will grow more and more bold in celebrating and showcasing their wickedness. They will continue to ostracize the “judgmental” fringe elements of society, Christians. Persecution will grow worse and worse. As it is now in many parts of the world, it will become more universally perilous to name the name of Christ. But the church will not lose hope. Indeed, the watchword will be, “Lift up your heads; your redemption is drawing near.” And then Christ will come to redeem his people. All injustices will be corrected. All wrongs will be righted. Evil will be called evil again, and good good. God will manifest himself as holy. And the world will know that he is the Lord, and no other.
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, 18 and the idols will totally disappear. (Isa 2:17-18)
And that will be a great day.
February 1, 2014
Biased, but discerning!
Thanks for the great post Dr. Shepherd. If we do not continuously remind ourselves of God’s ultimate sovereignty such displays of depravity will cause us to dispair. We can rest confident not in the world but in Christ who has overcome the world.
Great to hear from you, Dan. Thanks for the feedback. Yes, our hope is our sovereign God.
Thanks again for the great post. You have one very memorable line: “sung by that most astute of all biblical exegetes and theologians”. This line, which was a great piece of satire really underscores a problem. Many of the most vocal people and the ones most listened to are among the least knowledgeable on the subject they speak of. It is amazing that people often look to actors, musicians and other celebrities for guidance on subjects that have nothing to do with acting or singing.
We are bombarded with celebrity opinions on Global Warming Science, the environmental impact of the tar sands, the true nature of God etc. Asking the average celebrity to weigh in on these subjects is like asking me to weigh in on how to promote a record, or deliver a good line on stage.
I’d be willing to bet that you could deliver a whole bunch of good lines on stage!
In a way, we have become a very celebrity-reliant culture. For the most part, they don’t get everyday folks to endorse consumer products. Hence, the huge dollars paid out to celebrities to “star” in television ads. (As an aside, I wonder how much it cost Chrysler to get Bob Dylan to become an ad person!). Unfortunately, with regard to Christianity, it works both ways. Macklemore doesn’t have the credentials to bash Christianity. But some of the celebrities (primarily sports stars) who push Christianity in various venues aren’t all that qualified either to be spokespersons for Christianity either.
Thanks for the feedback.
This is the second time I have read this post today…. I think it was better the second time. Hey, I’m not saying that for a grade either.
Thanks, Sheldon. Let me encourage you to keep on reading the article. Maybe it’ll eventually be perfect! 🙂