Amazing how easy it is to pass judgment on the fallen. I thought that was something the world was enthralled with? Celebrity’s fall from the spotlight, public gaffes, embarrassment, divorce, infidelity, public intoxication… The world consumes failure like it’s chocolate.
And then I thought about the church as a whole. And I think we’re actually worse about it. Fans of celebrity in the world actually seem to wish their idols would get themselves back on track. Christians wish their exalted leaders would just go ahead and die or fade into permanent obscurity the moment their humanity becomes visible. The veneer drops, and suddenly the image of Christian cool we invest ourselves into is gone like a vapor.
Someone tells you that Christian band you like actually smoked pot on the road. A popular Christian author believes something politically different than you. A pastor you used to listen to on the internet teaches something theologically you disagree with. A champion of abstinence marries someone who isn’t a virgin. They become too popular. They become too passe’. One way or another, the people we root for fail us. And we self-righteously declare their betrayal with reckless abandon- ending our little fit of disappointment with the phrase, “I guess all we can do is just pray for them”.
Which brings me to Michael Guglielmucci.
This Australian pastor and musician has been involved with Planetshakers and later, Hillsong. He wrote a song called “Healer” that appeared on Hillsong’s “This is Our God” album. The song is a truly inspiring, and in my opinion, Spirit-filled worship tune. Purportedly written in response to Guglielmucci’s cancer diagnosis, thousands have been touched by the message of it, coupled with his own story. A few weeks ago, he came clean. He never had cancer. In an interview, he basically stated that the fabricated illness was a diversion, an attempt to hide his rampant pornography addiction behind something bigger. Thousands around the globe love(d) that song. Thousands were touched by it. And now, thousands feel very betrayed.
I can’t speak to the man’s heart, nor would I even consider trying such a thing. He and God have a lot of things to work out. He and his wife and family have a lot of things to work through. He’s come clean, apologized, and is making certain any money he’s made off the song doesn’t end up in his wallet. We applaud the confession, sense relief that he’s not dying, and tear him to pieces with our ostracizing. Hillsong has removed the song from the album and DVD it appeared on. His bank accounts are being audited. Thousands have written in distant support, and thousands in personal hurt and anger. I wonder if either approach lines up with Jesus much… not to judge the hurt or the patronizing, just for my own heart.
See, many many many years ago (I’m old!), I was a liar. You know those people who just make up impossible stuff for no reason? Perhaps for attention, or maybe to seem cooler than they think they are? Yeah. I was that guy. I remember telling kids in elementary school that I owned a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 a full 2 years before the game even existed. I remember telling friends I had played in a Japanese rock band. I remember telling a family I lived with that I had “ganglio-glioma”, a made-up form of nerve cancer. Yeah. I was that guy. Eventually, every lie will trap us. We will be diminished for it, not exalted. And if we ever get more popular, or cooler, or get the attention we want- the fall once the truth comes out takes us much lower than we were to start with. Always. Guaranteed. I have no idea why I lied about such random stuff. I don’t see the motivation for it now, years later. If I was hiding something else in the lie… both have come to light now. If I was looking for value in being looked at as ‘better’ than I was… I was looked at worse afterward. And the big lies cost me big. It’s been almost ten years since, and my closest friends and family from back then still won’t talk to me. It hurts, being a completely different person now, and not being able to reconcile with them.
So I understand a little of what Mr. Guglielmucci has gone through. The lengths he’s gone to protect his lie. And the long, hard road he’ll have to take to be restored from here. But I can’t judge him so harshly. I can’t be angry with his human mistake. I can’t hold him to a higher standard than I am. That higher standard is the cross, and every single one of us is unworthy of it. Thank God for His grace- the only thing that will ever measure up. I’m not speaking for JFH in this- this is only my own opinion- but after the hurt has settled, I think all this will make “Healer” an even more appropriate and anointed song. One that’s meaning has deepened because of this. One that now speaks to the long-haul, heart-restoration power of God, instead of just the physical. One that can still be used by the Holy Spirit to touch our lives. One I still plan to sing.