While I hesitate to bring any more attention to Skillet’s John Cooper than is absolutely necessary [and it’s almost never necessary], I felt the need to respond to something pretty awful he just said at a recent concert.
As reported by Relevant Magazine, Cooper made statements about how Christians need to “declare war against this Deconstructing Christian Movement.”
Now, it’s no secret that those in the Reformed, Evangelical Christian camp are getting pretty freaked out about Deconstruction these days. They don’t know what it is. They don’t know what’s causing it. They just know it means they’re losing followers, and that their stranglehold on Christianity in America is slipping, and they don’t like it.
Now, it should be obvious that the idea of a person who follows Jesus – the Prince of Peace – declaring war against anyone, for any reason, is a pretty big red flag that this person is not following Jesus. [At least not when declaring war against those who disagree with him].
But, what really bothers me most is the question of what exactly does he mean by “declaring war on this Deconstructing Christian Movement”? Are we talking about hit squads? Or armed violence? Does he want Evangelical Christians to start targeting people who are Deconstructing?
I guess what I really want to know is: What does this war against Deconstruction look like?
The ambiguity here is what concerns me most. There is at least the hint of violence in his statements and enough gray area that some in his audience could easily fill in the blanks to justify aggression against their own brothers and sisters in Christ who dare to question the status quo of their faith.
Is that what they want? Is this really the best way forward?
What Cooper and others don’t understand is this: They’ve already been at war with those who dare to doubt or question their version of Christianity for a very long time now.
In fact, it’s this toxic, hateful response to those who ask questions and doubt the status quo of Evangelicalism that is driving the Deconstruction movement in the first place.
That’s right. If pastors, preachers and Church leaders would take the time to listen to those who doubt, or even give those people a safe space to process their questions, there’s a great chance that this Deconstruction Movement they’re all so afraid of wouldn’t exist at all.
Why? Because their churches would give them time to work out their faith, and support and love them no matter where they landed on doctrine, and stand by them as they questioned the answers that no longer make any sense.
Sadly, the Evangelical Christian Church has proven that there is no room for questioning, and no tolerance for doubt. Either you accept their Statement of Faith, or you’re out.
And so, people have gone out, and continue to go out, because they’re discovering they are not welcome anymore.
The war Cooper calls for has already begun. The real question is, can we stop it before more people get hurt?
I have already approached other Evangelical leaders who have made it their hobby horse to demonize Deconstruction and claim that Progressive Christians aren’t “real” Christians. People like Alisa Childers and Sean McDowell have ignored my pleas for open dialog, interviews or even a phone call to talk about the dangers of creating division in the Body of Christ rather than working towards reconciliation as Christ commands us.
So far all I’ve received is radio silence, and [at least in the case of Sean McDowell], a friendly “No, thank you,” even though he admits that causing division in the Body of Christ [as he has been doing lately] is “an abomination to God.”
Now high-profile Evangelicals like John Cooper of Skillet have gone and declared war on those Christians who don’t agree with their particular version of the faith.
What’s next? Bounties on our heads? Burning at the stake? Publicizing our home addresses so we can be harassed and silenced by those who wish we’d just shut up and stop asking questions?
I shudder to think.
But, the bottom line is that, when Christians declare war on other Christians, everyone loses.
Rather than declaring war against us, why not sit and listen? Why not engage the questions? Why not try to appreciate that those who are Deconstructing their faith are moving closer to Christ rather than away from Christ?
If war is what they want, I only hope and pray that it’s reconciliation and mercy they receive from those they oppose.
We can’t achieve anything by returning hate for hate, or violence for violence.
Like it or not, John Cooper is my brother in Christ. We may not agree on Penal Substitution or Eternal Conscious Torment, but then neither did the earliest Christians for the first 500 [or even 1500] years of Church History.
I refuse to be baited into a war with my own family.
I stand ready to forgive, to show mercy, and to work for reconciliation. Because that’s the ministry I have received from Christ: the Ministry of Reconciliation.
If John Cooper, or Alisa Childers, or Sean McDowell want to understand us – rather than attack us – I’m open to listen and to share.
I can only hope and pray they, and the rest of the Evangelical community, can overcome their outrage and confusion long enough to do the same.
Here’s to the unity of the Body of Christ.
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Keith Giles is the author of the 7-part best-selling “Jesus Un” book series from Quoir Publishing. His latest -and final book – in this series, Jesus Unarmed: How The Prince Of Peace Disarms Our Violence is available now. Keith is also the host of Second Cup with Keith [a new solo podcast available now on the Ethos Radio App, for Apple and Android and on Spotify; and the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast [along with co-hosts Matthew Distefano, Dr. Katy Valentine, and Derek Day], and the new Imaginary Lines YouTube Channel with poet Darrell Epp. He and his wife, Wendy, currently live in El Paso, TX and work with Peace Catalyst International.