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Soiled Bride

August 28, 2013

As is my habit, this morning after booting up my computer, I turned on Pandora and selected the Steve Green ‘channel’ for some quiet, meditative praise and worship music to serve as a backdrop to my morning reading. I then open up the site Gospel Coalition ( to read the blog from D.A. Carson. This morning another article caught my eye, “Derek Webb Was Wrong, He’s Sorry, and He Loves You” written by Mike Cosper. It tells the story of how Webb’s career in music ministry has been criticized and marginalized, especially since his first solo-release in 2001, She Must and Shall Go Free. His song, Wedding Dress, raised some eyebrows for the phrase, “…cause I’m a whore, I do confess/I put you on like a wedding dress…”

Through the ensuing years, Webb has remained a maverick in the CCM industry, but his songs and the emotions and thoughts they evoke in me strike a chord that resonates within me. Yes, the imagery can be hard to take, but they are strikingly on target for where I am in my struggles (far too often, no struggle at all) with the old Tony. Mr. Cosper begins his article on Derek Webb with this description of the artist and his early career:

“Derek Webb first appeared in the Christian music scene with the Texan folk-rock band Caedmon’s Call. On their 1996 self-titled record, Caedmon’s Call (their first national release), he was the angst-ridden voice, expressing doubts and agony that weren’t common threads in CCM. Some instantly identified—people who’d always felt a bit out of place in the church, for whom doubts and struggles were constant. For other listeners, Webb was like the outspoken skeptic in your small group, the one who seemed suspicious of sentiment that were a little too warm and smiles that were a little too plastic. In nearly 20 years since, he’s maintained that posture, agitating and provoking the very world his music inhabits.”

The church today is filled with pious folk whose plastic smiles often shroud hearts that are hurting and lives that are restless and troubled. We too wear Christ as a wedding dress, covering our true self with the imagery of a chaste bride ready for her groom. We’re afraid to be honest with each other (and far too often, ourselves) because we fear being ostracized or, as happened to Derek Webb, marginalized by the church. But his honesty with confronting his own struggles in his music and forcing us to examine ourselves (as Paul instructs us in his letter to the Corinthians) is needful today and every day if we are indeed to be the bride ready for her Groom.

Twenty-six years ago, I was a respected member of the community; a highly regarded nurse and paramedic with a bright future and long years of service ahead of me. All of that came crashing down and now I live in a shadow world where “good” people want all ex-felons to reside. We are prevented from being hired for any, but the most menial of jobs and the vast majority of property owners will not rent to us; but we’re not so different from those “law abiding citizens” who make our lives a harsh reminder of our crimes, extending the reach of prison to us even after we are released.

This behavior is especially strong in many within the Church today; a place that should recognize the necessity of forgiveness and a second chance is instead a place of pharisaical rigor that precludes compassion and mercy. We all at heart are the whores Mr. Webb sung about, but we are afraid to admit it to others or ourselves because everyone else is walking around with their plastic smiles, spouting platitudes about how good God is. Not coincidentally, one of the readings from D.A. Carson’s blog today is Lamentations 5 and that particular section of Scripture is particularly appropriate;

“The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
For this our heart has become sick,
for these things our eyes have grown dim,
for Mount Zion which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.
But you, O LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why do you forget us forever,
why do you forsake us for so many days?”
Lamentations 5:16-20 CEV

Jay Thomas, lead pastor at the Chapel Hill Bible Church ( recently began a series of lessons in Galatians; his first teaching, an overview, highlighted the ministry of Skip and Barbara Ryan and how he lived a life that in appearance to others had it all in regard to Christian ministry. A loving family, a successful ministry at a nationally-recognized church, and the respect of his peers; all a veneer hiding his own struggles that he hid even from himself. That changed when his addiction to narcotic pain-killers surfaced; he lost his position, the respect of his peers and almost his relationship with his wife.
Why does this happen? Why are we so shocked when a pillar of the community, of the church is revealed to be human after all? Why can’t we forgive; is it because we decry the sin in others so that if we scream all the louder for their blood others will not notice the stains in our own lives? Isn’t that part of the motivation of a crowd in Jerusalem some years ago who yelled for the government to execute a young rabbi named Jesus?

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