Mending Shattered Jars – Portrait of an Apology

I recently commented on a statement by Dan Haseltine. In case you were not a teenage Christian in the early 2000s, Haseltine is the front man for the band Jars of Clay. He recently got into some hot water for a twitter conversation in which he appeared to say that what the Bible considered wrong was less important than how we treat people, that he didn’t think conservative arguments against Same Sex Marriage held water, that Gay Rights were similar to Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights, and some other things. Michael Brown, a conservative Christian scholar, talk show host, and blogger, immediately posted a scathing article titled the Shattering of Jars of Clay which was picked up by Charisma News and the Christian Post. Haseltine discovered what it was like to be on the ugly end of the Evangelical machine, and he almost immediately published an apology of sorts to his website.

Now, the purpose of this post is not so much to dissect Haseltine’s apology, but to discuss what apparently happened and to move forward with some thoughts about wisdom and public presence.

I will be the first to admit, my instinct is to be skeptical of Haseltine’s response. The things he said were pretty clear, and his apology seems to chalk it up to sleep deprivation and the limitations of social media. However, I am a big fan of taking people at their word unless given a reason to do otherwise (since that is what I would want them to do for me). In addition, Haseltine doesn’t make excuses. It isn’t “I was sleep deprived so I’m not responsible for this.” It is “I was sleep deprived and it caused me to say something unclear.” It wasn’t “I can understand how you misunderstood me on 144 characters.” It was “I should have known better.” Haseltine has committed to opening discussion with the purpose of clarifying his view and moving forward, and I commend him for that.

Now, I think that we can all learn a lesson from this incident. Haseltine’s apology, and I would encourage you to read the whole post, notes several things. First,  he notes that he was positioned on a panel in which the question “Does the western church’s focus on moral behavior undermine the church’s ability to love?” Now, this is a valid question, but Haseltine also notes that he hasn’t given much thought to the issue of Gay Rights. I would bet that most Christians, particularly conservative Christians, have not given much thoughts to these issues. Because of his unique status as a celebrity his thought process as he reasoned out his position (or started to at least) was very public. I think I can speak for most theologians when I say that I don’t want my theological positions to be assessed based on the beginning stages of their formation. However, what this reveals is that on some level all of us need to be thinking through these things. Unless you are radically isolated from the world, you know someone who is gay. If you don’t, you will. Their status as a citizen of the country, their rights to engage in various social, religious, and political activities will confront you… and you can either reason out your position in private, or you will be forced to reason it out in public, just as Dan was.

I really hope that as Dan processes these things that he is obedient to the Scriptures and recognizes the clarity of what it says. I think that Dan can be a powerful voice in an otherwise floundering field of compromise that is the Contemporary Christian World. Pray for Dan and for the other members of Jars of Clay (it appears that they took some flack for it, and were direct with Dan that they do not hold the positions he communicated) as they are very public voices in the dialog.

Also, on the off-chance that Dan reads this (if you know him… please send it to him), I love you and am glad that you’re showing the humility that you are. Please reach out to me if you want a safe (but VERY conservative) ear to dialog with.