Here below is my letter to the editor of Christianity Today, which I also emailed to Chuck Colson, in response to the Colson column here.
I am glad his column has stirred up the Body; one helpful response can be read here. I'll add more later; just wanted the "official" letter to be succinct. -dw
Thanks once again to the prophetic Chuck Colson for yet another wonderful, salient article ("Soothing Ourselves to Death," April 2006) to wrestle with. Our lives would be
Immeasurably shallower without this precious and powerful provacateur to deepen our Kingdom obedience.
Occasionally, Colson may flirt with hyperbole, or arguments which could be questioned. But for the first time, he has (unbelievably!) crossed the line into personal slander.
To claim that a respected Christian songwriter's scripturally sound prayer...which he put into a song which has blessed millions...is an unqualified "meaningless ditty which has zero theological content" is beyond opinion; it is judgement and slander...of a believer who is perhaps as mature and prophetic as Colson himself.
A quick check online reveals that many have already more articulately called attention to what may be fallacious arguments in the column. But amid the inevitable flurry of responses, I am asking for my letter to be published (in the print edition) in full, especially as it may be the only one publicly asking restitution.
And four words which will change and heal much.
First, I humbly believe that Colson is now biblically mandated to meet the brother (Kelly Carpenter) he has unintentionally offended.
I am only asking for Colson to utter two words at that meeting: "I'm sorry."
Not for his opinion, or musical preferences (This has nothing to do with which side of the "worship wars" one is on), or for anything else in the article; but for personal slander, which I hope was merely a result of an editing or ghostwriting gloss.
Then I request another two words be spoken by Colson. These are to be inserted into the article: "To me." As in "endless repetition of a (to me) meaningless ditty."
It may well be a meaningless song to Colson; that's fine and understandable. But it cannot be point blank a "meaningless ditty"...period. Especially not if it is pure heartfelt prayer (how can prayer be meaningless?) by a highly respected worship leader who undoubtedly believes it was divinely inspired (however imperfectly transcribed). To judge a prayer as a "meaningless ditty" is to judge not only its writer and his relationship with Christ, but any who find meaning and healing in praying it.
I am aware of one internationally respected Christian leader (likely
a friend of Colson's) whose life was radically touched by God as as result of hearing/praying ...in "endless repetition"...a particular worship song. It saved him from depression, giving up on his call, perhaps even suicide. As I recall, it is the very song ("Draw Me Close") under discussion. Is that meaningless?
Chuck, I love the subtitle to your column ("Should we give people what they want or what they need?") and its essential theme. I am assuming, then, you will appreciate the following words, as they would've fit astoundingly well as a closing to your excellent piece:
"On the other end of the spectrum is a God who is all too familiar. Yes, Jesus can be, among other things, our friend. Yet, sometimes we take this too far. We think of Him as our "buddy" Jesus that we keep in our pocket for good fortune. He makes sure we get those good parking spaces and he makes the sun shine today just for us.
The all-too-familiar God evokes worship that is devoid of reverence and fear. The familiar God makes it too easy for us to treat that which is sacred as profane."
I thought you would like that quote. Ironically, it is from Kelly Carpenter, the songwriter in question; the one who according to Matthew 18:15 has every right to ask four simple words from you.
You obviously haven't met him.
But, as a brother in Christ, I ask you to pray about whether you are now required to.
Pastor, Third Day Fellowship of Fresno
539 W. Celeste
Fresno, California 93704