Did Christians Ruin Spencer Chamberlain's Life?

To hear the guys discuss this topic on the Provoke&Inspire podcast click here.

In a recent interview with the Australian music website Music Feeds, Spencer Chamberlain of the band Underoath claims that Christianity ruined his life. 

Photo By Johnny Costa/Isahermit Photography Photo By Johnny Costa/Isahermit Photography
Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is the Director of Come&Live! and is the younger son of David and Jodi Pierce. Come&Live!’s vision is to create a worldwide mission community that will provoke and inspire Christian artists to use their God-given creativity to revolutionize the world for Jesus.

Website: www.steiger.org/benpierce



This tragic affirmation, coupled with the colorful language in the band’s new single, “On My Teeth,” has the Christian community all stirred up and continues to create a lot of debate around just what went wrong.

As I read the Music Feed interview, I felt deeply saddened for Spencer and the pain other Christians have caused him. He seems like someone tired of carrying a burden he never asked for, and hurt by people expecting him to be someone he never was.

An article in Christianity Today, written by Martin Saunders, explores just who is to blame for Spencer’s exodus from the faith, and concludes that the fault lies in the attitudes and actions of Christians. He laments our tendency to “turn our backs on and cut off those who walk away from the faith,” as well as our failure to “show unconditional love and grace,” often priding ourselves in our “pharisaic puritanism over love and compassion.”

On the surface, it’s tough to argue with any of these accusations, yet does this tell the full story?

Undoubtedly, our behavior has a significant impact on the beliefs of others. It would break my heart if I found out that something I said or did had caused someone to stop following Jesus. God takes our sin very seriously, and we will be held accountable for how we live. In Matthew 12:36, Jesus offers a stern warning when He says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”

Still, should a person's beliefs be based on the performance of others? This seems like flawed and dangerous thinking. I find that Spencer's example reveals some critical flaws in the increasingly popular narrative that states, “The behavior of other Christians ruined my faith.”

My heart in writing this is not to prove anyone wrong nor to make Spencer look foolish, but rather to get to the real source of the problem, spark an honest conversation in the Church, and hopefully bring some clarity to a confusing situation.

When someone walks away from God, who is to blame?

In order to try to decide that, I suggest we engage in three actions.

1) Explore what is truly the underlying motive

I have no doubt Spencer has been hurt by Christians. I have, too. But to make that the sole cause of his rejection of Christianity is an oversimplification. His concluding statement in the Music Feed interview reveals that there is more to the story.

He says, “I’m trying to love everybody whether they be Atheist, Christian, Muslim, etc. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight or trans; I don’t care at all, just as long as you’re a good person. I love good people, and I don’t care what you believe in. That’s why I wanted to get rid of the title of being a ‘Christian band’ because that’s such a stupid category to put yourself in. We never sang about it in the first place, so what’s the point? You can come to our concerts and believe in whatever you want. We want to make music that everyone can listen to without feeling restricted.”

It’s apparent that beyond being angry about how he was treated, Spencer no longer believes in biblical Christianity. He didn’t leave his faith solely because of the behavior of others, but because he no longer agrees with its absolute morality or exclusive claims. This is not uncommon, and is often the unseen cause hiding behind the accusation of being hurt at the hands of those in the Church.

Frequently, if you dig a little deeper, you will find that it is a rejection of the basic beliefs held by Christianity, not the behavior of other Christians, that is truly at the root of someone's departure from the faith.

2) Base commitment on truth, not performance

On the most basic level, my struggle with Spencer’s reasoning is that Christianity should be accepted or rejected based on whether it’s true or not.

The implications of the claims made by Jesus are very serious. We should consider them carefully, and choose wisely. It seems strange that we would risk our eternal fate because someone hurt us. After all, who has ever perfectly lived up to any standards?

It’s common sense that our commitment to any claim or worldview should be grounded in its truth. Yet so often, the performance or opinions of others determines our choices, and this thinking is deeply flawed.

Imagine that someone approaches you and tells you and 100 other people about a dietary plan that cures all diseases, but none of you manages to follow it perfectly. Everyone compromises and cheats, including you. When you fall short, the others judge you and treat you harshly, and after a while, you decide that you’re fed up and abandon the diet.

Does this make sense? If the diet delivers as promised, you would be foolish to reject it on the basis of the performance or judgements of others!

The same mistake should not be made with the claims of Christ. Examine them honestly. If you conclude they are false, by all means reject them, but not because of the actions and attitudes of deeply flawed human beings.

3) Get back to the basics

It’s not right when people, myself included, do bad things while calling themselves believers, and yet that is why Jesus came - to rescue sinners like me, like us.

Ultimately, the “I left God because of other Christians” narrative reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel. I am not asking people to follow me, and this is great news because I make a decent follower, but a lousy God. Christianity is about falling at the feet of Jesus and receiving His grace.

Are we hypocrites? Absolutely! And as Matt Chandler says, “There's room for one more!”
It’s not right that we mistreat one another, but this should drive us to pursue Jesus even more, not walk away from Him. Don’t abandon your father because you get into a fight with your siblings. Real healing comes from leaning into God’s mercy, not from running away from it and blaming others.

We need to ask God for a revelation of what it meant for Him to send his Son to die for us “while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8)

—————————————————

It’s tragic that Spencer sees Christianity as an abusive force that drove him to drugs and away from God. Sadly, he’s not alone in this. We need to deal severely with any attitudes and actions in the Church that are leaving people hurt and confused.

But it doesn’t help to oversimplify the problem. Being honest, especially with ourselves, is critical if we are going to see resolution. If you or someone you know has purportedly left Christianity because of being hurt by other Christians, is it possible that you’ve actually rejected God because you disagree with His standard of life or the path to salvation?

Have you considered whether the claims of Christianity are true, or have you rejected it because of the flawed performance of its followers?

Can I invite you to examine the basic truth about Jesus - that He calls sinners, like me, to surrender control and receive forgiveness?

I plead with you, when other Christians hurt you - and they will - that you run to Jesus and not from Him. In Jesus, you will not only receive healing, but the capacity and strength to forgive others rather than blame those that, like you, are in desperate need of His mercy.

 

To hear the guys discuss this topic on the Provoke&Inspire podcast click here.

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