Remember Jars of Clay? One of a handful of "cool" 90's kind-of Christian bands? The group's lead singer Dan Haseltine has caused a mini firestorm among his evangelical base of supporters this week by issuing a series of tweets in support of same-sex marriage.
His move comes just weeks after World Vision, a major Christian charity, had to walk back its brief decision to not discriminate against perspective employees who were LGBT. Like World Vision, Haseltine quickly had to reckon with a pretty strong backlash in the wake of his public engagement with the subject. And while the singer has since apologized for his "poor choice of words" on the role of scripture in his thinking, he has yet to walk back his questions on same-sex marriage itself. If nothing else, the episode is a telling example of just how tough it is even in 2014 for many evangelical Christians to move away from a traditional stance on the issue.
Here's the beginning of his days-long series of tweets on the subject, which were prompted in part because of a film he viewed on a plane trip — 12 Years a Slave :
The treatment of people as less than human based on the color of skin is crazy... Or gender, or sexual orientation for that matter.— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014
Not meaning to stir things up BUT... Is there a non-speculative or non "slippery slope" reason why gays shouldn't marry? I don't hear one.— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014
I'm trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But It doesn't hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women's suffrage.— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014
I just don't see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 21, 2014
That tweet produced quite a few replies, as one might expect, and Haseltine went back and forth with his followers on the subject. Some were very respectful: "I don't think there would be immediate harm to our nation. We have free will. Then again, what about Sodom and Gomorrah?...also, this is just a thought. The more gay unions, the less natural procreation," one follower tweeted at the musician. He replied, "why? I don't follow the logic in that." Other exchanges were less polite. Eventually, some members of the Christian press picked up his take on the subject — one that has become more and more a source of generational divide among Christians. Charisma News sounded a bit panicked in a piece called "the Shattering of Jars of Clay:"
Dan, you wrote, “Never liked the phrase: ‘Scripture clearly says...(blank) about... Because most people read and interpret scripture wrong.”
Perhaps this is the root of your problem? Is the Bible not clear about anything? Sin? Salvation? Forgiveness? Jesus being the only Savior and Lord? Adultery being bad? Fidelity being good? Shall I list 100 more items that are abundantly clear in Scripture?
The Christian Post's Crossmap blog chided Haseltine with this response: "Scripture also addresses homosexual behavior in both the Old and New Testaments, warning that immoral sexual activity will lead to death and eternal damnation."
Some Christian radio stations (reportedly) pulled his music from rotation in response to this thoughts on Twitter, and some (former) fans deleted Jars of Clay from their playlists. All the while, Haseltine tweeted about same-sex marriage for days, dropping in and out of an active conversation with his followers with new thoughts on why there's basically no good argument against allowing same-sex couples to marry:
@scribblepotemus Then why condemn hatred and toxicity? You're refuting yourself. You are headed nowhere fast friend. Consider and repent.— Chris Bolt (@clbolt) April 23, 2014
motive for this tweet fest is to unpack the political position that fights gay marriage. Why does it matter to so many? What's at stake?— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 22, 2014
tweeting scripture verses to settle my questions of gay marriage isn't helpful. Simple answers to complex questions= meh.— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 23, 2014
I have received so many great messages from gay Christians. You have encouraged me.— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 24, 2014
No empathy in so many of the comments I've received. What if it was your son? Your daughter? Would that change the tone of the convo?— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 24, 2014
So many gay couples display more loving characteristics and healthy relationship practices than most traditional married couples....— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 24, 2014
Could there be something to learn from them? Or are we passed the ability to learn?— Dan Haseltine (@scribblepotemus) April 24, 2014
And that's just a small portion of his thoughts. You can read the rest here.
On Friday, Haseltine announced on his personal site that his Twitter conversation on gay marriage had ended, for now, in part because he was upset that the backlash against his questions had negatively impacted his Jars of Clay bandmates. He also said that he "communicated poorly" when he "unintentionally wrote that I did not care what scripture said. Thus, the tsunami hit." But he also gave a lot of context for what started his Twitter engagement in the first place, indicating that he is not done with the issue:
If gay men and women were being oppressed, not having an opinion in the matter seemed equal to the acceptance of systemic racism by way of silence. The common quote, “What is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” came to mind.
Having grown up in the Christian church, I have observed and perpetrated many acts that originated out of fear. In my career as an artist, musician, and storyteller, I have attempted to illuminate fear-based behavior in the church.
I have attempted to provide questions that could lead to a more love based approach. This has meant taking a careful and often critical view of contemporary church behavior and culture.
Although Jars of Clay was never the most explicitly Christian of Christian bands (Religion News Service noted that Haseltine has long described Jars of Clay as occupying a "middle space") Haseltine is open and active in his faith as a Christian. His band founded the Christian charity Blood:Water Mission, which combats AIDS/HIV and water shortages abroad.