Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amy Grant

My response to Amigo's comment on my last blog post:
Help me out with Amy Grant. I really like her singing. "Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus" ranks up there as one of my favorite Christian songs. But then comes her personal life (as I understand it). She is divorced from her 1st husband and marries another man, who divorced his wife and married Amy Grant. I read where she said she felt God "released her" from her first marriage. Now I am not trying to be smart mouthed or mean here, but isn't this pretty much what John the Baptist slammed Herod for? I understand God forgives us our sins, but I really don't get the feeling that Grant ever really repented. If I'm out of line on her, let me know and delete my comment.

I would never delete an Amigo comment, and I think he brings up a lot of good points that really ought to be discussed often in the Christian community -- especially as non-Catholic Christians continue to divorce at the same or higher rate than the general public. One thing I've realized recently from some stuff going on at our church is that there is no such thing as a "private" sin in the family of God. So, though a Google search may someday reveal this post to the rabid Amy Grant fans out there who like to insist on her near-saintedness and kvetch continually that a divorce of seven years ago ought never to be discussed again, I'm going to post a bit about the whole "Amy Grant thang" and why and how it affected me. Bear with me, please.

I try to imagine sometimes what it would have been like to have been raised in a Christian household. For those of you who were, try to imagine for a moment what it would have been like to be a sixteen-year-old high school junior and never have heard the Gospel. Of course you would have heard of Jesus (usually in the swear-word format) and you may have even been to church once in a while, but you had never really been told the message of Good News and the unfathomable love of Christ. Try to imagine that, if you will.

Then, imagine that at the end of your favorite pop music CD you hear the words, "When it all comes down, if there's anything good that happens in life it's from Jesus." You can imagine, I'm sure, that at first you would be surprised; then, maybe, a little angry or turned off. But, if you kept listening, the words would start to seep into your soul and revolutionize your worldview.

It took almost five years of soul-searching, flirting with Objectivism and atheism, reading the Bible, praying and listening for this sixteen-year-old to become the young woman who committed to Christ at the age of twenty-one. I would never say that Amy Grant made me a Christian -- only the grace of God through the Holy Spirit can do that -- but Amy Grant's music was the first exposure I had to the idea that there was something unspeakably precious to be gained at the cross of Jesus Christ.

To say I have a soft spot for Amy Grant would be an understatement.

To say that my heart was not broken by the sad and sinful events in Amy Grant's personal life in 1999 would be a lie. Because I had seen a woman made of clay and then expected her to walk on water -- the mud ought not to have been a surprise, but it was. Amy Grant had become so much more to me than just a singer of wonderful songs -- she had become my model for what life in Christ can mean -- beautiful family, happy marriage, successful career. Not exactly what Jesus said about taking up the cross to follow Him, huh? But what did I know, anyway? -- I was a baby Christian looking for the keys to secular bliss in the bosom of eternal truth.

Amy Grant's divorce was, I believe, caused, at least in part, by her and Vince Gill's adultery. I do not believe it was physical adultery, but I do believe -- from the evidence of both their subsequent actions and their words -- that it was spiritual adultery, which, as Jesus reminds us, is pretty much the same thing. She fell in love with a man who was not her husband, and, instead of fleeing the situation, she allowed herself to be mired in incredibly tempting circumstances. For the sins of the heart -- which is where all sin begins -- I believe that repentance comes from nipping those flashes of darkness in the bud. When the heart's contemplations turn into action, repentance is shown by ceasing the actions and seeking forgiveness. All of this is only done through prayer and the workings of the Spirit within.

Has Amy Grant repented of her sin? I should think that her repentance would have included staying away from her temptation instead of marrying him, but my job is not to try to peer into her heart. She says she has sought and found forgiveness from the Lord. I can only take her at her word. Has she asked her first husband, Gary Chapman, for forgiveness? Has he asked her for it (since marriages seldom break up for a one-sided reason)? I don't know. The worst of it was the Chapmans' three children's having to witness their parents' marriage falling apart. That stinks, no matter how much money or fame or faith your family has. Have they asked their children for forgiveness? Goodness, I hope so (though parents so rarely do).

What was hardest for me was to see evidence that Christianity does not protect us always from our sinful natures. With repentance, it protects us from God's justifiable wrath, but it doesn't automatically make us the most discerning of people. We are so easily deceived -- and we do whatever we can to justify our exposed sin to ourselves and the world. For Amy Grant to have said that she had been "released" from her marriage without giving one of the very few reasons that a Christian is biblically allowed to divorce sounds like someone desperate to give holy sanction to sin. That's dangerous. But, if she did have biblical reasons to divorce (from my understanding: abandonment, abuse, adultery, and a non-believing spouse who wants out) why not state them? It is not edifying for the Body of Christ to see their brethren divorce without cause. No-fault divorce is a worldly message that ultimately harms the Gospel.

Okay, so Amy Grant and Vince Gill most likely committed adultery (and their spouses had most likely sinned against them, too). Divorce is generally bad. It is one of those things that, even when it is the necessary course, is never really good. When children are involved, it is often catastrophic. The Baby Boom generation on up through today's parents are going to be answerable to the future and the Lord for two main legacies of foulness: the social acceptability of abortion and divorce. Both rip children apart -- the first physically, the second emotionally. I can only imagine that that pisses Jesus off to no end.

But, where do you go from there? Can Amy Grant still be a powerful witness for the Gospel? I can acknowledge my own disappointment and disillusionment and still find that, yes, her life is a powerful witness of God's grace and restoration in the midst of deception and sin. For, though their relationship started out of lust and adultery, God has used that to His glory. He has given the Grant/Gill household a beautiful daughter and, from what I've read, He has brought healing to all the parties involved. He has truly taken what man has done for evil and turned it to good. And He is still using the gift of music that He so lovingly bestowed upon her, as, especially, the two recent hymns albums have resoundingly testified. I could never be one of those people who say that Amy Grant has lost the right to proclaim the truth of God because of her sin; were that the case, I, too, would never be able to speak or write of Him. She is no more sinful than I. I try to live with a prayerful and repentant heart, and I believe that she does, too.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Favorite from the De-Motivational Posters Series

Funnily enough (Is "funnily" a legitimate adverb? Must look it up later in the OED), I was reminded of this poster by a cool screensaver that came with my Cozi family organizer. The screensaver brings up a slideshow collage of various pictures from different folders in our computer. From the folder, "Clip Art Downloads," which is basically anything I've ripped off of the Internet, came the collage of this poster, a publicity shot of Carolyn Arends, an album cover of Amy Grant, a photo of Carole Lombard, and a photo of Rosalind Russell -- all of whom are some of the least dysfunctional ladies ever to have graced the (musical) stage or screen.