December 18, 2018

How We Can Learn From the Lauren Daigle Controversy

Danny Brymer

If you have been keeping up with Christian music and pop culture, you have undoubtably heard about the controversy with Christian singer, Lauren Daigle. On her appearance on the Domenick Nati Show, she was asked if she believed that homosexuality was a sin, to which she replied, “I can’t honestly answer on that, in the sense of I have too many people that I love and they are homosexuals.” She went on to say, “I can’t say one way or the other, I’m not God. When people ask questions like that, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know because I’m learning too.’”This is going to be a hefty post, so fasten your seat belts. For those of you who know me and my introverted personality, aren’t you glad I don’t talk near as much as I write?

Just a Heads Up…

Before you get too far, let me be clear that this post is NOT about the issue of homosexuality. We could go on into many implications of that word, but that is a topic for another time. What you are about to read in this post could apply to any issue we are faced with whether it be homosexuality, premarital sex, abortion, or anything else that we may be questioned about. That just happens to be the topic Lauren was faced with. The fact of the matter was that she was faced with a question about an issue that the Bible addresses and she gave a response to it. The Bible says many things and we can acknowledge it in many ways, so that is what we will focus on.

Stepping Out in the World

I wondered how things would turn out since she broke into the mainstream earlier this year. In September, her new album Look Up Child debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, beating out albums by Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Ariana Grande. That was a feat unheard of for a female Christian artist. Then she made an appearance on The Ellen Show,which sparked some controversy from her Christian fanbase. Personally, I saw it as being a good thing that a believer could be a light in a dark place, and a huge opportunity to give God glory. She performed her least overtly Christian song from her album and said nothing about Christ, but performances and interviews are always edited, so for all the public knew, she could have outright witnessed to Ellen Degeneres. She handled her critics gracefully when asked how she could appear on an anti-Christian lesbian’s show. She responded by saying that she is not to choose who she to be kind to. She said in her interview with WAY-FM, “I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren’t, we’ve already completely missed the heart of God.” She was not wrong and I thought she was starting this mainstream venture very gracefully, but the story wasn’t over.

Then she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. She wore an outfit that was considered to be immodest by many in her Christian audience. I did not want to judge her heart, but in my mind I was thinking, “Do you really want to go down that road if you are trying to be a witness and a Christlike example?” The song she sang was a song that would be obvious to Christian listeners, but vague to unchurched people in its message. Again, I drew no conclusions.

And finally she appeared on the Domenick Nati Show and the house of cards went down in a tumble. The Christian community was off the charts up in arms. She received heaps of criticism with many also vehemently defending her. I like to say the depravity of man loves to manifest itself in the form of social media comments, and this was a perfect example. I saw many people outright say she was not a real Christian in caustic ways with others hailing her as a good “relevant” Christian while colorfully judging her critics, as well as everything in between.

So let’s pause for a moment. I see three scenarios that could be at play here: #1- she truly believes what the Bible says about homosexuality and was lying about or trying to downplay her convictions to keep her new mainstream fans, #2- she was being honest and truly does not know what she believes or what the Bible says on the issue, or #3- she believes contrary to what the Bible says and provided an ambiguous answer to attempt to keep her Christian fanbase. Am I a Lauren Daigle fan? Not particularly. She’s got a great voice and all, but we’ve got Adele already and so far I haven’t heard her top “Hello.” Again, Is this blog about Lauren Daigle or the hot button issue at hand? No actually. Lauren Daigle has brought things to light, but she presents a great opportunity to take a look at what being a Christian witness means.

Scenario 1

The first scenario reminds me a lot of Simon Peter. He displayed pompous bravado during the night of Jesus’ capture, claiming to go with Jesus to the end and cutting off the ear of Malchus, possibly trying to kill him to defend Jesus. However, by the time he had followed Jesus out to the courtyard to watch Him, he denied Him three times. This was a man who knew and loved his Lord, yet in a moment of human fear and weakness, gave in and outright denied the One who loved him more than anyone else ever could. We can all have some of Peter in us when we go out into the world. We may start out strong, maybe even cocky and overconfident as Peter was, and then cave into our fear and deny our Lord and Savior.

It is very possible that Lauren was not ready for this test and so she denied what she knew to be true out of fear of what it could do to her career. It could have very well damaged her career, but she would have protected something far more precious than her fame or record sales. Christ said in Mark 8:36 “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Christ goes on to say in verse 38, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Those are serious words for those being ashamed of Christ which should alarm us every time we hide or downplay. Like Peter however, we as believers have the opportunity to repent of our shame and denial and resume our calling as His witness. No sin, even one as serious as that is too great for God to forgive, so if you truly are in Christ, He will not let you go and He will see you through this offense.

Scenario 2

This scenario is one that is far too common in the American church today. If this is true of Lauren, I commend her for her honesty and pray that she finds the truth. I can understand that we do not have the Bible all figured out, but is staggering, the presumptions that permeate our churches because of Biblical illiteracy. According to a recent study by LifeWay and Ligonier Ministries, 78% of professing Christians believe Jesus to be the first and greatest being created by God. That is just one of many examples of Biblical illiteracy in action. Of course, surveys will never show the whole story, but yielding those results is certainly worthy of alarm.

We live in a world of fake news and it did not start in the 21st Century. 1st Century Christians experienced fake news all the time, which is why the Apostle John told them to “test the spirits” and not just believe everything that claims to be of God. We have the seemingly harmless cultural influence on Scripture like the story of the unkind innkeepers who turned Mary and Joseph away in Bethlehem to heresies like the creation of Jesus and guarantee of material and health blessing rewards of Heaven.

We as Christians need to know what we believe and be able to defend it.  We must equip ourselves with the belt of truth to hold our armor in place as we battle a brutal and cunning world of dark forces. Lauren could be a novice in her Biblical literacy and be in need of some serious study and mentoring. If you do not know your Bible well, I implore you to get it out now and study it. Don’t take what you hear about Scripture and believe it just because he said it or she said it, or this blog says it for that matter. Follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17 and search the Scriptures to ensure that everything you hear lines up with what God’s Holy written Word says.

Scenario 3

The third scenario is a very serious one to say the least. This means that you know what the Bible says and flat out deny or discredit it.I’m not talking about soteriology, eschatology, state of spiritual sign gifts, mode of baptism, or any of those secondary doctrinal issues that often divide Christians.I am talking about what is specifically laid out in Scripture that we cannot debate. It could be the issue that Lauren was tested with, or others that are paramount to the Christian faith. Though God only knows the eternal destiny of those who in this scenario, it is hard to see the Spirit’s fruit in it.

If you read the blogs on this site, you are most likely not in this camp, but if you are, take notice! Domenick Nati recently released a statement of his response to the backlash against Lauren Daigle to which he said that Moses spoke against the issue and so did Paul, but Jesus never said anything about it, so therefore it does not come from divine inspiration. He must have missed the important piece of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

You might read a Bible that has the words of Christ in red print. That is a great tool to be able to quickly find the words spoken directly by Christ, as they are key words of Scripture. However, they are no more Holy Spirit inspired than the black printed words. I see a lot of talk from liberal or progressive Christians dismissing the Bible as “just a book” or accusing evangelicals of worshiping the Bible rather than God. The Bible is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in this time and so we don’t just read about God, we hear from God directly.

A 4th scenario?

There is a fourth scenario that I have seen tossed around and that is that Lauren was following Christ’s example in Luke 20:1-8. Let’s consider that. In that passage, Jesus was asked by what authority He was acting upon. That is what I call a stupid question. Of course, they knew that Jesus claimed to act under the authority of God. Early in His ministry, He had established that He was the Son of God and did things such as cast out demons by the power of God. They had no intention of getting to know Jesus better. Then He responded with his own question on whether the baptism of John was of heaven or man. When they could not answer His question, He refused to answer their initial question.

Another instance of Jesus seemingly dodging a question is later in Luke 20. The Pharisees again question Jesus with the intention of tripping Him up. This time, they do it through their spies by asking if they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. The passage even says that they were not sincere, but wanted an opportunity to have him arrested. Jesus gave an answer that threw them a curveball saying “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s.” It appears as though Jesus was avoiding the question. In a way He was in that He gave them no explicitly direct answer as they had expected. However, He actually did answer the question in that people should pay taxes to Caesar, but that ultimately everything including Caesar’s belongs to God. We can go deeper with the exegesis and context, but the point is that answer was compelling enough that the Pharisees could not trap Him and were left dumbfounded.

Lauren Daigle hardly did the same thing, even though she found herself in a similar situation. I can understand her recognizing that the discussion was not going to be a fruitful one. I have been in and have seen enough Facebook debates to have learned that arguing rarely (though never as far as I’ve seen) results in change. She might have had that premonition and she could have simply said, “go read the Bible and find out for yourself.” She could have even pulled a Jesus on him and responded with her own question, maybe saying, “Have you read what the Bible says on the issue?” However, when she acknowledged uncertainty about the issue, the benefit of the doubt went out the window. She did not respond with a profound reply that dumbfounded the host, but gave him a new headline. Jesus may have danced around the questions, but He got to the heart of the issues, because those asking the questions were not looking for answers. The host was not looking to uncover the answer, but did uncover that Lauren was not prepared to face the question.

Though I do not believe that Lauren responded the way Christ did, the situation was very similar. There are many out there who would love to trip us up and watch us crash and burn. Many of them can out-argue us or be more quick-on-their-feet, savvy people. In frustration, we could be led to say things that we would regret, which serves as fuel for the critics of our faith. Lauren could have even been confused by the wording and did not think clearly about what she said. Who knows? We do not need to play their game. Although Christ instructs us in Matthew 10:16 to be as “harmless as doves,” He also instructs us to be as “wise as serpents.” Be wise and cunning, and gauge whether an interaction like that could be fruitful or could lead to a meaningless argument. Proverbs 17:28 says “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” That is many of us more often than we’d like to admit and in instances like this, that verse would be a lifesaver! Responding with anything less than the love of God will damage our witness, so be wise when you answer such questions.

Do not misunderstand me here. This is not a license for passivity or fear. Do not decline to answer or sidestep the question out of fear or cowardice, but out of wisdom, following the leading of the Holy Spirit. If the gospel is not welcome, it is best to move on as Christ said to “shake off the dust” when we leave an unwelcome town. Be prepared to answer someone who is legitimately inquiring about your faith. In their trying to understand, they may argue and may not be won over in that instance, yet be faithful in sharing the gospel to them. That is different from those who are belligerent who will try to trap you and discredit your witness. Do not cast your pearls before swine. (Matt. 7:6)

Sphere of Influence

You may be in one of the above scenarios and Lauren Daigle could be in the same situation. Lauren has been given an opportunity few people have, a platform of such great magnitude. She will be heard more than most pastors around the world will. Now I am not elevating her above or alongside pastors or theologians. I do not go to her or people like her to learn about Scripture either. Nevertheless, she has a wide sphere of influence. Young girls will hear what she says and become influenced by it. People will learn claims about Christ because of her words. We are all like Lauren Daigle to some degree in that we all have a sphere of influence. Whether we know it or not, people are watching and listening to us and are impressionable based on how we wield our influence. It may not ever be to the level that Lauren has, but it is a sphere of influence nonetheless. Like Lauren, most believers are not pastors or theologians, yet we have all been called to proclaim Christ, and not just some of Christ.

There is a cliché that says “you are the only Bible most unbelievers will ever read.” I would debate the theological accuracy of that statement, but the sentiment rings very true. We are representations of Christ, so how are we presenting Him? You have an opportunity with someone right now that neither I nor Pastor Mitchell have. If you truly desire to be a shining witness, it doesn’t matter whether you have a PhD in Biblical Studies or if you just got saved last week and finished the book of John. The Holy Spirit will work through you to draw the world to God.

How are you using that opportunity? Are you chickening out because of fear of rejection or loss? I have good news for you. It’s not too late! Repent and God will make you that city on a hill you were meant to be. Is your Bible knowledge weak? Stop reading this blog and take out your Bible right now and study it. Maybe you are in that third scenario and if that is you, I would seriously implore you to search your heart. Do you truly believe in Jesus Christ? Do you know that it requires full trust in Him and His written Word? Do you really want to be responsible for spreading lies about Christ among your sphere? And are you trying to be a faithful witness, but have put your foot in your mouth too many times? Be wise and know when to and when not to engage.

Now am I advocating a boycott of her music? No. If that were so, I’d have to boycott hundreds of years worth of songs because of the sin of their authors. Her music is not the point. Again, let me clarify that I do not know the state of her heart. Only God does. I would encourage her critics to recognize her weakness in the situation, but to also have grace and compassion toward her and pray that she would be right with God, wherever she may be. None of us who are believers are exempt from the above scenarios and are prone to the same struggles she is.  May she be a helpful reminder that we are being watched and looked at as symbols of who Christ is. We cannot make Christ look any better than He already is, as He is far too great for that. However, we can be unwittingly used by the enemy to be an obstacle to the light. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we go into the world as His witnesses.