I appreciate everyone who read my article yesterday, “McCalla, AL: Triple Homicide and Luke Bryan Good-Timers.” The article has been viewed over 7,000 times since it posted yesterday afternoon. I praise God for such a wide reading, and I continue to hope the Lord uses it to draw people closer to Him.
I remain convinced that McCalla, along with the rest of the nation and our world, needs the wind of the Holy Spirit to move upon us in fresh ways.
John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Acts 2:17 “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Peter’s sermon, quoted from Joel 2:28).
Obviously, there were many responses to such a direct article. I appreciate everyone who took the time to express your thoughts, both those who stood in agreement and those who disagreed. I do wish it were possible for me to respond to everyone individually, but there were just too many comments all over the place, and it wouldn’t be practical to attempt to respond to them all.
So instead, I’d like to respond to some of the basic themes and objections I saw coming through the comments, beginning with those who stood in agreement.
I’m grateful for those who agree
There were very many comments from fellow Christians who see the situation the same way I do. This includes several area pastors and many people who have matured over long years in the Christian faith. These are people who are genuinely convicted by the realities of darkness in our community, and so the article resonated with them. Here are some of those comments (names omitted):
“Yes this stepped on my toes a little, but this article is amazing. We need more Godly individuals such as him. I have the upmost respect for this man and his family.”
“Mr. Dollar, I understand what your intentions were. I applaud your willingness to stand against the pervasive darkness in our communities, and to call evil by its proper name.”
“Pastor, this is a most convicting and compelling word to our community. thank you.”
“I definitely agree with you. More people need Jesus in their hearts. If everyone had a heart full of Christ, things like this are less likely to happen. Amen, my friend!”
To all of these who agree, thank you for voicing your support. Your words are confirming and helpful. When I think of how sinful I am, I realize that in writing an article like that, my motives may be mixed, my flesh could come raging through, etc. But your words served to confirm that I did my best to articulate a biblical position (weak and fallen as I am).
Now, let me turn to answer those who were not in agreement with the article. First of all, I very much appreciate your willingness to express your thoughts, and I want to respond to as many of your concerns as possible. I have thought deeply about what you have said and have been praying over my response back.
Essentially, there were three major objections to the article.
Objection 1: Who am I to judge individuals?
This was, by and large, the chief objection. Many read the article and perceived me as a holier-than-thou religious hypocrite, making judgments on individuals that I had no right to make.
This is a fair criticism (pharisaism has typically been one of my worst sins). However, I am sorry that my words were perceived this way, because I did not intend for them to come across like that. To the degree that I am guilty of such religious hypocrisy, I publicly repent of my sin and ask forgiveness.
Let me clarify my intentions. I am not setting myself up as judge over any individual, including Steve Hutcheson. I do not have the moral grounds to do so. If I was judging anyone, it was myself. I am the chief of sinners. I am a horrible, wicked person who has offended a holy and righteous God.
When Paul says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), he was talking about me. I deserve eternal condemnation in hell for disregarding and breaking God’s law. That is my position before God apart from Christ, and thus, I have no moral grounds to judge any other person whatsoever.
If anyone felt I was calling them a bad person, I will quickly say that I am a worse person. I have no defense for my sin before the holy judgment seat of God, except that Christ died to forgive me of my idolatry, lust, hypocrisy, pride, and so on. Thank God for this truth:
Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In the article, my goal was to present the truth of the Word of God. I have no moral grounds to judge the spiritual condition of either myself or others, but God does. We must all give an account to Him based on the standard of his Word, not the standard of a mere man (like me). Some perceived that my tone was, “I judge you,” but my intention was, “The Word of God judges us.”
For example, many people took offensive at the idea presented in the article that people should go to church. But that is not my idea or standard. That is a truth I learned in the Bible. God is the one who has clearly stated that He wants his people to be faithful to their local congregations. I was simply making the point that as a whole, people in our community disregard this command of Scripture. For example:
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The Bible also commands us to be faithful to our spouses, to be sexually pure, to avoid the ways of the world, to avoid drunkenness, and to be a people of purity and prayer. As I wrote about each of these things, I was not personally judging other individuals, but rather attempting to point McCalla to what God says about these matters.
Hebrews 13:4-5 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Ephesians 5:3-13 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
These are God’s words to us. They are His judgments.
I will freely admit that I may have failed to be clear about my intentions. After all, I am making the point that I am a wretched sinner who constantly fails to live and speak as God would have me to. So I wouldn’t be surprised, knowing my own sinful flesh, that I failed to communicate this clearly in the original article.
For clarity’s sake, I was not attempting to judge individuals by my own moral standing, but rather to point all of us to the Word of God, which does have the moral authority to judge us. I ask you and God to forgive me if I misrepresented his Word in anything I wrote.
Objection 2: Who am I to judge McCalla as a whole?
Many folks also took offense to my belief that McCalla is a spiritually dark community as a whole. Some people worded their objections in a way that made it look like I don’t love this town or the people in it.
I would only say, the reason I wrote the piece is because I dearly love McCalla and the people in it. I long to see people in our community experience the freedom of salvation through Christ, the joy that comes from walking with the Lord, the sweetness of the fellowship of believers, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the powerful Word of God.
In the article, I mentioned the wonderful churches in our area. By that I would include the many mature Christians who live in our area, who are daily living as salt and light in the community. I wasn’t trying to give the impression that there is no light at all in McCalla. There is much light, thank God! But my focus in the article was on the spiritual darkness that remains and which I see every day.
Some seemed to imply that I thought McCalla was more spiritually dark than other places in the world. I don’t think so. I think darkness is reigning powerfully in other places as well – indeed, in every place.
But in my article, I focused on the darkness of McCalla because this is where we live. We can’t say, “Well darkness is everywhere, so we should not address it locally.” It is precisely because darkness is so thick all over that each community must address it locally.
But here I would repeat what I said before – I am the worst of sinners in McCalla. I dare not judge others by my own moral authority, because I do not have any. I deserve God’s just condemnation just as Steve Hutcheson does, and just as we all do: “One trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18).
My goal, rather, was to present what the Word of God says about the spiritual condition of our area.
Objection 3: Who am I to judge Luke Bryan and the concert planners / promoters?
In my article, I pointed out that in the wake of a triple homicide, we as a community should take a careful look at our spiritual condition, both as individuals and as a whole. In order to drive that point home, I used the upcoming concert as an example of how we can easily be distracted from the things that matter most.
Besides Luke Bryan, I could have just as easily used a thousand other things that distract us very quickly from the Lord and from His Word. Sports, vacations, making money, laziness, greed, anger, and plenty of others are just as distracting, and often worse.
When I brought Luke Bryan into the discussion, I was simply trying to make a point: We are far too easily distracted from the things that matter most in life.
Some took my comments to mean that anybody who listens to Luke Bryan or who goes to the concert is a bad person. But that is not what I intended to say in the article. Rather, I intended to say that people need to be focused on their relationship to Christ and how to live for the glory of the Lord. Especially in the wake of such a horrible tragedy, we need to be intentionally focused on the things that matter most. Whatever it is that gets in our way of drawing near to God is a distraction.
For God’s Glory
I base this view on the fact that Scripture teaches that God created us primarily to bring glory to Him. He does not exist for us, but we exist for Him. Human beings were designed by God to be agents of His praise and glory. This is our intended purpose.
Revelation 4:11 Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.
The reason we are called sinners, the Bible teaches, is because we do not care about this. We honestly believe our lives are about us, and that if God exists, His purpose is to make our lives better. This is the essence of idolatry and the point of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
Redemption in Christ is the only correction to this rebellion. When we are forgiven of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins to move us towards the lives God originally intended for us to live – lives that honor and glorify God:
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
In this last verse, notice the purpose of redemption is to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you.” That is, God saves people so that they will praise and glorify Him.
Based on what Scripture says, then, all men and women are required to live their lives for the glory of God. It is only possible to do so if a person admits their rebellion and sin, repents, and trusts Jesus to save them:
Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Distractions from God’s Glory
On Facebook, I noticed several times how one post would appear expressing sorrow over the shooting, and it was followed immediately by a post indicating how someone couldn’t wait to party with Luke Bryan. When I saw these posts together like this, it cut me to the heart.
I have nothing personally against Luke Bryan. I am thankful for all his charity work and commend him for it. But I don’t think the lyrics of his songs help people grow spiritually. It would be very difficult to make the case that his music helps people draw close to God and live for the glory of the Lord.
Even Paul Simon
I’ve always struggled in my own life with this problem. I love Paul Simon and have for many years. His music entertains me, soothes me, and makes me smile. But I noticed at some point in my life that his music did not have a positive impact on my spiritual well being, and might even have a negative impact. I began to analyze myself after listening to him for several hours. I noticed my soul was feeling cold and numb rather than full and satisfied. As enjoyable as his songs are, they just don’t help me in my walk with the Lord.
I do still listen, but only in a limited way. And I try to be more discerning about the lyrics of his songs, rather than just letting them sink in without a thought. As gifted as Paul Simon is and as much as I love his music, I do not want him to distract me from my life’s goal of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
That was my point for bringing Luke Bryan into the article. As I said in the original post, I am not a legalist when it comes to secular music. But I do know that a myriad of things distract people from seeking God with their whole hearts – and music can be one of them.
The concert planned months ago
Some objected to the article, stating that the concert had been planned months ago, long before the shooting in Coleman Lakes. I understand that, but that is besides the point. I was simply using the upcoming concert as a way of showing how easily people can get distracted from what matters most.
Hutcheson and Luke Bryan
I also understand my hypothetical about Hutcheson listening to Luke Bryan songs after the murders was a stretch. More than likely, he wasn’t. But I wasn’t trying to be literal in that part of the article. I was pointing out that Bryan’s lyrics would have nicely fit the party that Hutcheson and his girlfriend were having after the murders. I was using words to paint a vivid picture regarding how the world thinks about life and its purpose and then contrasting that with what the Bible teaches (I quoted Romans 13 at that point in the article).
Again, I do appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative. I’m glad people feel free to express their hearts. Conversation and discussion about these things is very good. I realize that in the eyes of many, I am to be judged for what I have written. My only response is that my heart is held captive by the Word of God. When I read the Scriptures I cannot help but come to the conclusions that I’ve expressed.
I do want to reiterate my love for McCalla. As a non-confrontational introvert, I would never have written that article for any other reason. I hate the spotlight and controversy, and I’d much rather quietly read books in a corner somewhere. But I do love the people of McCalla, and I long for every person to know the joy of Christ and experience the freedom of His grace. It is His amazing grace that has saved a blind, wicked, sinful wretch like me.