Andrew Rappaport recently decided to release a handful of short, 6 minute Rapp Reports podcasts condemning AHA practices and ideology, as well as offering up his own thoughts on the problems with those pesky abolitionists (including one especially bizarre episode which I may get to next week). For this reason, I did want to address one that is tied up in his understanding of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, which are verses he references on numerous occasions, and which convey the notion from his perspective that Christians are never, ever to air their grievances with each other before unbelievers and the unbelieving world.
To kick us off, Andrews says:
“Scripture is clear that we should not be protesting or airing our grievances before the unbelieving world”
“Paul is being very clear here. He says when one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to before the law….uh go to the law before the unrighteous instead of the righteous? Paul’s whole argument is not..the lawsuits are basically the way its applied, but the the principle that we see is that we don’t bring our grievances before the unbelieving world, we bring them to the Church. And often what you find with this group is that they don’t go to the Church and try to talk to them, they go to the Church to try to get them to submit and air their grievances out for all to see. That is unbiblical. That’s not what scripture says. That’s airing a grievance before an unbelieving world, and it would be a sin. Paul says don’t do that”
It’s unfortunate that Andrew can’t see the hypocrisy and inconsistency of his actions here. First of all, here he is, posting on multiple public social media mediums where unbelievers reside, in the midst of an unbelieving world, his grievances against fellow Christians. Crossposted to Twitter, Facebook, Facebook groups, websites, etc, he’s not taking his grievances before the Church alone as he demands others do, yet rather is sharing them far and wide for anyone to see. If the standard is no public grievance or dispute between believers can ever be aired before unbelievers, as he says, then he is off to a really bad start.
Second of all, his ministry partner Pulpit & Pen publicly airs their grievances with other Churches, pastors, Christians speakers Christian leaders on a daily basis. That is what they are known for. That is their shtick. Where is the consistency in condemnation of that violation? I’ve never heard Andrew ever bring it up. Unfortunately, Pulpit and Pen has a wide audience and when they write articles to air their grievances with a fellow believers like Chris Tomlin and Jeff Durbin, as they did in the last few weeks, and get thousands of shares on Facebook and tens of thousands of views…well, its almost as if Andrew believes that saying something on social media is actually a private thing, and an action or word is only public if its done in front of Churches with boots on the ground.
Next Andrew makes the case that when abolitionists do Church Repent outside of a Church there is essentially no difference between AHA and Westboro Baptist Church. One has signs that say “God hates fags”, “Thank God for dead soldiers”, and “God hates you. You will burn in Hell forever” vs “We are are attempting to bring your apathy into conflict with their death.” and “Your neighbors are murdered here.” His point is that despite the different messages (though honestly I would suppose he views us as far worse than Westboro Baptist) , people won’t be able to tell the difference between any two groups for any reason.
This is interesting because I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that Andrew would be against it, or at least find it more palatable if Church Repent was ONLY done to openly pro-choice Churches in the community. If we only went to Churches that openly supported Planned Parenthood, or if we went and protested Churches that were openly affirming of gay marriage and the LGBT community, would he have the same concerns?
I suppose he would have to. He would have to be equally against any Christians protesting those Churches, because based on his understanding, the world doesn’t know the difference and would see one Church protesting another Church and publicly airing their grievances, and that would be wrong. If the issue is perception, then that negative perception would have to be avoided at any cost. Which is also interesting because he has put numerous videos deconstructing Roman Catholic heresy out into the ether of the world wide web. Like him, I don’t believe Roman Catholics are Christians, but because the unbelieving world does and sees us all as the same, airing public grievances against them would give the world a negative impression- seeing as how what matters is how the matter is viewed from the outside looking in, not how it actually is.
Thirdly, Andrew says
“They want to deny it’s a protest but here is the thing,. when they play games with language, and this is what every cult does, they lack integrity with language, and when they want to say its not a protest, that they say is exhortation, even though everybody else but this group would see it as a protest, the reality is they just lost their argument to say that abortion is murder. Why? because the abortionist says its not murder. If we can play fast and loose with language, then you just undermined your whole argument. The issue is that words have meaning.”
Unlike actual cults like Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses who purposely use language to deceive and obfuscate, we are upfront about our understanding of terms and how we define things. Our website prominently explains it and defines how we view this delineation and distinction. When people ask us what we are doing outside Churches, we don’t hide behind the meaning of words, but rather carefully and clearly explain our puposes for being there. In some situations we will straight up say : “Yes, we are protesting this Church”. We have specific and clear definitions of this. In other cases, we will say that we are exhorting them, and we have specific and clear goals in this as well. These practices aren’t always played out perfectly, and I’m freely willing to admit that there may be some confusion about it, but to suggest that we lack integrity with language is just silly and doesn’t comport with reality.
Lastly, and this is important, it should be said that I don’t accept his interpretation or his exegesis and application of 1 Corinthian 6. He says the lawsuit is the way it’s applied, but then he wants to run off and grab some other principle. Well why can’t the point of the text- the lawsuits and taking each other to court, be the application and the principle? So here is a counter exegesis offered by John Reasnor that I believe sticks way more closely to the text. If Andrew and his ministry partners would adopt it, he wouldn’t be in the hypocritical, inconsistent position he frequently finds himself in.
“The 1 Corinthians 6 argument is one in which the claim is made that abolitionists are violating Scripture because we are communicating to other Christians via a public venue. It is said that abolitionists are bringing a “grievance” before the world in an unworthy manner because their signs may be seen by unbelievers from the road. Let us examine the relevant texts (1 Cor 6:1-8) to determine whether or not this is a legitimate use of Scripture.
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the Church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!”
What is the apostle Paul talking about? Is he talking about disputes in public? Is he talking about public calls to repent? Or is he talking about suing other believers in pagan and humanistic courts?
Could the text be relevant to signs being seen in public? Is there anything in the text about a dispute being seen by unbelievers? I think not. The context of these verses is clear. The apostle Paul is plainly talking about believers suing other believers and taking them to worldly courts. It says nothing about a dispute or exhortation being public.
Those that use 1 Corinthians 6 against the Church Repent Project would have you read half of one verse, and that verse clearly out of any relevant context. If one reads “why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the Church?” you may be fooled into thinking 1 Cor. 6:1-8 condemns the CRP. But what is “them”? “Them” is the cases mentioned. Legal cases. Legal disputes. “Lay them before” does not mean within earshot or within sight of the lost. It clearly means having the lost adjudicate the disagreement.
1 Corinthians 6 is very relevant to the Church Repent Project but in the opposite way the critics would have you believe. 1 Corinthians 6 exhorts believers to go to one another and not to go to unbelievers. That is exactly what the CRP is doing. When the Godless police is called in to harass and intimidate abolitionists, that represents a 1 Corinthians 6 violation.
Once again, we cannot forget the hypocrisy. Although some of these critics bombastically claim that abolitionists are sinning by “publicly airing grievances”, these very same critics air their grievances against abolitionism in the same public space. A glaring example of this extraordinary inconsistency is when a critic confronted abolitionists at the Shepherds’ Conference. His accusation was that abolitionists were confronting Christians in public, yet he made this accusation in public.”
This is a much better exegesis, it is more faithful to the text, and honors Christ by seeking to be more precise with his word.