Elton John is one of the most iconic musicians of the past half century.
The awards and accolades he’s received are too numerous to recount here. But it seems we can now add to his long list of accomplishments the title of preacher.
Speaking recently to Britain’s Sky News, Elton John spoke of his fondness for Pope Francis before dropping this mini-sermon….
“If Jesus Christ was alive today, I cannot see him … saying this could not happen,” John said. “He was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together, and that is what the church should be about.”
In fact, it does nearly every Sunday morning in every church across the country, at least the second part.
But, of course, I have no doubt that Elton John’s words will nevertheless be quickly and enthusiastically denounced by Christians across the internet.
We’ll proof-text him to death with Bible verses, decry his ignorance of the truth, and calls will be made for fellow believers to stand up for biblical values in the face of this obvious onslaught of Christian persecution.
But in our righteous outrage perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves why exactly Elton John’s words make up so upset.
Because if we can find the strength to take a deep breath and pause to look rationally and honestly and what he said, then I think would have to admit that at least that last half of the quote really is no different than what is preached from countless pulpits around the world every Sunday morning.
So what exactly is our problem with what he said?
Is our problem with the messenger?
If he wasn’t a celebrity or if he claimed to be a Christian….or wasn’t gay would we be more willing to listen? Or is he too “biased” to weigh in “objectively?” Then again, are any of unbiased enough to weigh in on this most contentious of issues objectively?
Or should the source of this mini-sermon actually give it more credibility?
Personally, when I first read what Elton John had to say I couldn’t help but think of the words of Jesus when the Pharisees told him to silence his disciples from proclaiming the truth.
Jesus replied to them, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Have we become so calcified in our thinking and so antagonist in our beliefs that we can’t recognize the truth of the gospel unless it comes from the “right” people in the “right” context about the “right” issue?
In other words, have we become so dogmatic and resistant to the movement of the Spirit that the rocks are now crying out?
God forgive us if that is true.
Or is our problem with the issue he’s applying this simple truth of the gospel to?
But perhaps that’s the real tragedy here.
Perhaps it’s an indictment of how we are behaving as the church today.
More than just debating whether Elton John is right or wrong, perhaps we first be asking ourselves, “Are compassion, forgiveness, and bringing people together still the hallmarks of the church?”
Or have we become a people defined by the lines we draw in the sand and the grace we refuse to extend to those we don’t deserve it?
But if that is what we have indeed become, would we even know it?
Or would we be blinded by our own pharisaical zeal to see it?
Obviously, 39 words from Elton John won’t resolve the debate over same-sex marriage in the church.
But they should challenge us to our core.
Because regardless of our position on same-sex marriage (or perhaps for that very reason), his words should force all of us to pause, examine ourselves critically, and honestly ask, “Are we really acting and speaking and thinking and loving like the people of God we have been called to be?”
Or have the rocks started to cry out in our absence?