A clip from a Skillet concert has been circulating on social media the last few days. In the clip, John Cooper, who serves as the frontman of the Christian rock group, can be seen calling on Christians to “declare war” on the deconstruction movement.
In the clip, which first began circulating on TikTok, Cooper said, “It is time that we declare war on this deconstruction Christian movement.”
“And I’ll tell you what: I don’t even like calling it a deconstruction Christian [movement], because there is nothing Christian about it. It is a false religion. It is a whole other religion,” Cooper continued. “And all I want to know from all these people lying to our young folks is if living your truest authentic self is really all that wonderful for you.”
“Why are you so sad? Why are you killing yourselves at the highest rates in American history,” Cooper asked, going on to characterize deconstructed “celebrities” as drug addled and in and out of rehab.
Cooper went on to say, “For all of these formerly Christian people who are trying to tell all these young folks that they think they found a third way…Their third way is this: ‘It’s okay if you’re into Jesus. Just don’t be into the bible.’ I’m here to tell you, young folks, there is no such thing as loving Jesus but not loving his word.”
This speech is similar to others that Cooper has given on different stops of the band’s current tour. And whether it is the adrenaline of performing a rock concert or genuine agitation, whenever Cooper gives such an address, it comes across as markedly aggressive and somewhat tone deaf.
But more than tone, as someone who shares Cooper’s desire for people to come to know Jesus and be transformed by his word and his Spirit, I do believe a more nuanced and empathetic approach is vital.
Here are at least three reasons why we should not “declare war” on the deconstruction movement.
The Deconstruction Movement Is Not a Monolith
When Cooper calls for Christians to “declare war” on the deconstruction movement, it’s unclear who he’s actually referring to, because deconstruction isn’t a singular group of people with a uniform set of beliefs or practices. The movement is decentralized, and many within it would have sharp disagreements on a number of important theological issues.
One common thread among most is their experiences of hurt, dissonance, trauma, or even abuse at the hands of authority figures within the Church. To offer a high handed and unilateral condemnation of such people shows a lack of empathy.
What’s more is that it flattens the diversity within the movement and how our responses should be nuanced and varied based on the individuals or groups to whom we are referring.
For some, they are deconstructing away not only from evangelicalism, but the church and the Christian faith altogether. They have moved to deny the authority of Scripture, the historicity of the person of Jesus, and essentially most moral demands found in the historic Christian faith.
But that’s not everybody’s story.
Some enter into a process of deconstruction because they want to break down their faith to its essential parts, remove any political or cultural ideologies that have been wrapped up in it and that they feel are congruent neither with the bible nor their personal moral convictions, and rebuild a new kind of faith that can be even more faithful to Jesus and his word.
This may mean that they will switch from one Christian tradition to another, or create new traditions or movements entirely. Not all those new movements will look the same as each other, and that’s okay.
Nevertheless, this kind of upheaval can be unsettling for those who have operated with relative success under the previous status quo. But we must not let that fear keep the Church from growing and evolving into more of what Jesus wants it to be in this cultural moment. And we certainly shouldn’t be declaring war on the people who are trying to make that happen.
In fact, there very well may have been some young people in the crowd during Cooper’s speech who are currently wrestling with these very things and who likely felt incredibly alienated by his words. Alienated from the Church, and maybe even alienated from Jesus by extension.We must not let fear keep the Church from growing and evolving into more of what Jesus wants it to be in this cultural moment. And we certainly shouldn't be declaring war on the people who are trying to make that happen. Click To Tweet
Jesus Never Called Us to Declare War on Other Religions
In his call to declare war on the deconstruction movement, Cooper referred to it as “a whole other religion.” That claim in itself is spurious. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that he is justified in calling it so.
Jesus never called us to declare war on other religions. In fact, Jesus never even really mentioned the faith of people outside his tradition. Furthermore, the people he had the most confrontational interactions with were the theological conservatives of his day. And even then, he was not at war with them, he was going to war for their souls.
Because there is no other human on this earth whom God intends to be your enemy. Paul says as much in his letter to the church in Ephesus.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Our war is never with other people, groups, movements, or religions. It’s with the spiritual forces of darkness.
There was one notable time when the Church literally went to war with another religion. It was called the Crusades, and I think we can all agree that it was a black spot on the record of Church history.
Rather than declaring war on those within the deconstruction movement, what we need to convey is that we are for them, not against them.
That doesn’t mean surrendering truth. It just means embodying truth in the way we love them.Rather than declaring war on those within the deconstruction movement, what we need to convey is that we are for them, not against them. Click To Tweet
Evangelism and Culture Warring Are a Bad Mix
Cooper made these remarks about deconstruction in the context of an evangelistic message at Winter Jam, a tour whose purpose is to use music to reach the next generation for Jesus. It’s a noble cause, and it’s my hope that thousands of teens and young people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus because of it. Many people on the tour are working tirelessly and sacrificially to that end.
But when we’re evangelizing, we need to be entirely clear what we are evangelizing people toward. Because evangelism and culture warring are a bad mix.
When we present the gospel, we absolutely must present it without attaching our political baggage to it. Obviously, we need to contextualize the message in light of the current cultural moment, but that’s different from injecting our ideologies into the message itself.
For Cooper, who has been vocally “anti-woke,” has expressed skepticism about the ongoing existence of systemic racism in America, and refuses to play at venues that require COVID-19 vaccinations, it is fairly transparent that he is importing a very specific ethic into his gospel presentation. And while it’s an ethic that Cooper is completely entitled to hold for himself, it isn’t one that every bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian would agree with.
When we’re calling people to faith in Jesus, we need to be incredibly careful that we aren’t also making our political or cultural assumptions of equal importance. If we do so, we may end up inviting people to build the house of their faith on the sand, rather than on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ.When we're evangelizing, we need to be entirely clear what we are evangelizing people toward. Because evangelism and culture warring are a bad mix. Click To Tweet