This video makes me ashamed to point out the fact that I worship in a United Methodist parish. Come one, come all, to our three ring circus!
I realize that most of the criticism on this video focuses on homosexuality. It is an entirely relevant criticism with which I completely agree. Focusing only on that, however, misses a couple of other very important points that ought to be mentioned because they have greatly infected the larger church.
What is corporate worship?
It is plain to me that Mr. Simmons has a very low view of corporate worship and what happens there. The bit of make believe presented here is every bit as juvenile and trivializing as when Houston megachurch pastor Ed Young drove a Ferrari on 'stage' during worship. Both are shameful.
Corporate worship is not an entertainment spectacle on par with an NFL halftime show. It is a sacred time of humbly gathering in the presence of the creator of the universe and redeemer of mankind to receive his gifts and respond in thanksgiving. There is never anything casual or flippant about it.
After spending more twelve entire chapters contrasting the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and pointing out how what we have in Christ is superior in every way to Israel, the author of Hebrews concludes and commands:
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12.28-29 NKJV)
Yes, that's in the New Testament. Yes, the context is all about Jesus. Yes, this still applies to us today. Everything we do and say in corporate worship must be evaluated against those verses and pass the test of whether or not they exhibit or foster reverence and awe. If not, they have no place in our worship. Full stop.
Why are we affirming people to death?
One of Mr. Simmons' descriptions of the parish where he serves is that "here we can celebrate everyone for who they are...and I see that as divine." He goes on to comment, about every one present, "You are good, you are perfect, you are holy."
Really? I disagree. Christianity doesn't simply 'celebrate everyone for who they are' without caveat. While we value every single person as one made preciously in the image of God (a hard pill for many conservatives to swallow), nowhere in Scripture do we see our faith as content to let people stay where they are, shackled in disobedience, while affirming them in their sin (a pill that many liberals choke on).
More importantly than what I think, St. Paul disagrees. When rebuking the Corinthian Christians for taking their fellow believers to court (an act of unrighteousness), he points out the transformational power of the Gospel which does anything but leave people where they are:
Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6.7-11 NKJV)
Of course God loves you. Of course saving faith has nothing to do with your actions or deeds but only the work of Christ. At the same time, genuine faith transforms us and does not let us unrepentantly wallow or remain in sin but leads us to struggle against it until the day we die.
We could watch this video and talk only of homosexuality as the problem. Many have and many more will. There are other problems here, however, ones that may hit much closer to home than we want to admit. Thankfully, grace abounds.