I never liked Creed (the band, not the ones we say in church). I didn’t like Scott Stapp’s voice, I didn’t like the fact that all of their songs consisted of the same three chords, and I really didn’t like the fact that they were a Christian band. Or weren’t a Christian band. Or were sort of a Christian band.
When Creed was at the apex of their popularity, they were a multi-platinum, multi-grammy, multi-million dollar band. And there was a lot of confusion as to whether or not they were a Christian band. They were sort of like U2, except without cool nicknames like “Bono” and “The Edge”. Scott Stapp’s lyrics certainly contained a lot of religious references, such as being taken to a higher place where blind men see and the streets are made of gold. But Scott’s behavior didn’t certainly didn’t reflect Christ.
While he was in the band, he partied a lot. He regularly drank to the point of blacking out. Stories of his crazy, orgy-ish behavior would pop up in the news from time to time, causing us “holy” Christians to shake our heads and disassociate ourselves from Scott and his behavior. His behavior proved that he obviously didn’t know God, and that Creed was not a Christian band.
But my opinion of Scott changed recently when I read his autobiography, Sinner’s Creed. I found myself feeling much more merciful toward him and much less judgmental toward him.
Scott’s biological father abandoned Scott and his family at a young age. I can’t imagine the deep wounds that left in Scott. Scott’s adoptive father was an incredibly mean, legalistic, man, who used physical and verbal abuse to keep his family “holy” and “godly”. He punished Scott in a multitude of sickening and bizarre ways. He physically beat Scott. He also spiritually beat Scott. When Scott didn’t bring home sufficently high grades, he was forced to read the entire book of Job, then write an analysis of the book. Then Scott’s dad took Scott’s paper, claimed credit for it, and used it in his Sunday school class. The entire Stapp family lived in fear of their father. I can’t imagine how Scott’s relationship with his human father influenced his understanding of his heavenly Father.
In spite of all his father’s legalistic insanity, Scott genuinely wanted to serve Jesus as he grew up. He wanted to witness to people, and pray, and be a good Christian. He wanted to be a Christian. His father made him feel like it was never enough, but he tried. He gave it everything he had.
When Scott finally went to college, his new found freedom ate him alive. He indulged in sex and drugs. Rock and roll became his new god, amd he poured his energy and devotion into writing music. Music gave him life, and purpose, and passion, but the rock n’ roll world also sucked him into immorality.
As Scott talks about the meteoric rise of Creed, it is obvious that he loved it and hated it. He loved the adoring fans, but the band’s grueling tour schedule nearly killed him. He loved the attention, but also hated being at everyone’s beck and call. He turned to alcohol and pills for relief from the grind.
The amazing thing is that in the midst of all the craziness surrounding Creed, Scott still had a desire to follow Jesus. He still wanted to do what was right and good. He still prayed regularly, still asked God to guide him and lead him. Scott lived in a strange world.
Finally, after a number of years, Creed came apart at the seams. Scott’s health was broken, and his relationships with his fellow band members were broken as well. Today Scott is on his own, pursuing a singing career while also seeking to serve the Lord.
After reading Scott’s book, I feel much more inclined to extend mercy to him for the things that he did and said during his time with Creed. Was it sin? Yes, of course. Sin is always sin, and there is no excuse for it. But I also realize that sin never happens in a vacuum. Sin comes from the heart, and our hearts are shaped by our biology, our family history, our current circumstances, etc. Scott experienced a childhood nightmare that I cannot relate to. He was thrust into the spotlight in a way that I never will be.
These things make me slower to judge Scott. The fact that he is again serving the Lord also make me slower to judge Scott. See, here’s the thing: I’m not sure if I would have reacted any differently given the same set of circumstances. My heart is no “better” than Scott’s.
We live in a culture which loves to point out people’s failures. When someone fails or falls, it ends up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. When we see those failures, let’s be slow to judge and quick to extend mercy. Let’s be quick to pray for the person who is being humiliated in front of the world.
Jesus was slow to judge me, I want to be slow to judge others.