Monday, March 22, 2010

When Opposites Befriend

Day 34 of 46 c Lenten Season 2010

Are you opinionated? Do you find it difficult to separate issues from the people who promote them? Sometimes we hold opinions so strongly that we can’t see the other side for all of our pontificating. Or, maybe that's just me?

True, we need to think through issues and evaluate ideas based on intellect and logic. But in the heady world of thought and analysis, we can’t forget the human element.

You may recall a short series of essays I wrote about church music and the popular trend of incorporating contemporary Christian music (CCM) into corporate worship services. Well, for all my bluster on the subject, I neglected to acknowledge the human side of the equation, and the respect I held for a CCM proponent who served in a church I used to attend.

The church was Pantego Bible Church, now located in Fort Worth. For a few years in the 1990's, I worked in their accounting office while Kevin Walker was music pastor. Several years ago, he moved to Colorado to start a musicians' mentoring ministry for CCM workers.

This past weekend, Kevin passed away after suffering from cancer, only a few years older than I. As I've reminisced about his life and ministry, I’ve been reminded that although I hold strong views on controversial topics, I can’t ignore people of similar conscience whose opinions stand in stark contrast.

Kevin Walker

In some ways, Kevin was not your typical CCM musician. He wasn’t particularly stylish or hip. He wasn’t a showman, nor could he read music. He was balding… well, OK, bald. Indeed, it was said that when he started cancer treatments, Kevin quipped that at least his hair wouldn’t fall out!

In other ways, Kevin’s music typified the very characteristics of CCM that drive me nuts: inane repetition, incessant beat, saccharine rhymes, and noise. It was no secret that when I attended and worked at Pantego, I intentionally arrived at worship services late to avoid most of the music.

But as much as I disliked his craft, I found Kevin himself to be a warm, sincere, humble, witty, and servant-hearted person who, unlike me, never criticized or complained. We were never close, and I haven’t seen him in years, but during the time I worked at Pantego, I quickly and easily came to respect him for his understanding of the Gospel and his love for people.

He knew I wasn’t crazy about CCM, but he never pushed me on that topic. Indeed, a lot of people at church didn’t like what was going on in the music ministry, but he worked within the realm of differing opinions and won over a lot of us with his aw-shucks demeanor.

Kevin worked long, hard hours. He composed most of the music sung at Pantego, and their content and theology were much stronger than most of the fluff I heard other churches doing. The songs in which he put Scriptures to music served as an easy way to memorize those passages.

And of course, Kevin’s tenure at Pantego occurred during the whole upheaval of the seeker movement in evangelical churches across North America. A lot of the vitriol aimed in his direction wasn’t intended for him per say, but at all of the changes in general. That’s part of the price any music director faces as being the visible representation of corporate worship in a church. But Kevin faced the rancor and frustration with amazing amounts of grace.

Agree to Disagree

Of course, some people think that if you don’t like their music, you really can’t relate to the musician, since they’re intrinsically part of each other. To a certain degree, for some musicians, that may be the case, but with Kevin, I’m comfortable in assuming that the relationship we had while we were both at Pantego existed to a great degree in spite of our personal preferences and differences. After all, can’t we disagree on processes and functionality while still being appreciative of another person? Must we necessarily disassociate ourselves based on unshared opinions or viewpoints? What is the extent to which personal convictions unnecessarily drive wedges between people?

Do you see where I’m going with this? A lot of conservatives, which means a lot of evangelicals, have been worked up into a froth lately over the healthcare reform vote. Indeed, there has been considerable animosity on both sides of the debate. Some might shrug their shoulders and say that’s how politics gets done in America these days, but the level of vitriol exchanged in the debate has risen to levels unbecoming civilized society. This past weekend, some reform opponents even shouted the n-word to black representatives as they arrived on Capitol Hill. To use such a despicable term belies a temperament woefully devoid of care, respect, and integrity.

Part of me wonders, though, if there were any evangelical Christians who voted for the healthcare reform bill, or at least supported it? Sometimes we white evangelicals forget that faith is color-blind and apolitical. How much of the animosity some of us have been fostering towards liberal Democrats has actually been directed at brothers and sisters in Christ who have a different opinion on this issue? It’s one thing to take a position on legislation – we have the constitutional freedom to do that. We also have the constitutional freedom to aggressively display our emotions, but we don’t necessarily have that right Biblically, do we? Especially not to fellow members in our broader community of faith.

Finding Similarities Among the Differences

Now, would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that the way I respected Kevin despite our significant differences should be a model for respectable political discourse? I’m not perfect, and the only reason Kevin is perfect is because he’s now in the presence of Christ. In His sovereignty, God placed the two of us in our respective positions at Pantego for a variety of reasons, and I believe one of those was for me to learn a thing or two about how to value a person on multiple levels. It's not quite the same as having different viewpoints on the purpose of government, but isn't the point still valid?

This past weekend, God called Kevin to his eternal reward, and He also ordained that a highly controversial vote would fall against the opinions held by many evangelicals. Some people come back from both events and console themselves by reminding us that “God is still in control,” which, of course, is true.

But it was true before Kevin passed away, it was true during the healthcare vote, and it’s just as true today. It’s not just a calming reassurance, it’s reality that holds true regardless of whether we like or don't like the things that happen.

Someday in Heaven, I’ll see Kevin – although I may not recognize him if God gives him a full head of hair (for the record, I still had hair when Kevin knew me). Won’t yesterday’s vote probably be a distant memory, too?

Meanwhile, will all the baggage we may carry around between now and then be worth the weight?

1 comment:

  1. FYI - Pantego Bible Church will be holding a memorial service for Kevin Walker at 7pm this coming Monday, March 29. http://www.pantego.org

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