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The latest supporter of marriage equality? A multi-platinum Christian rock star

Dan Haseltine, second from the left, with Jars of Clay band members
Dan Haseltine, second from the left, with Jars of Clay band members
Jars of Clay

If you enjoy 90s Christian Rock, chances are you're a fan of the multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning band, Jars of Clay.

That is, unless you are not a fan of same sex marriage — in that case, you might be less than overjoyed with them right now. (Anyone? Huh, huh? OK, "Overjoyed" is one of their better known songs. Feel free to take a brief musical interlude. I'll wait.)

Here's what happened: earlier this week, front-man Dan Haseltine took to Twitter to opine about gay marriage.

Not all of his Christian fans were thrilled with the endorsement.

But Haseltine wasn't about to change his mind.

Jars of Clay was not the first Christian rock group, but they were certainly one of the first good ones. Their first album broke in 1995, and shot them to Contemporary Christian Music stardom. JOC's unpolished, acoustic sound was a welcome antidote to the overproduced, over-harmonized kitschiness that was coming to define the genre. To this day, JOC is one of only a handful of crossover artists whose appeal extends beyond the niche Christian market that produced them.

With songs like "Love Song for a Savior" (above) and an entire album of remixed Christian hymns, JOC has always been very vocal about their faith. Even their name, they say, derives from a passage in the New Testament: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

And until Dan's Twitter pronouncement, no one doubted their commitment to Christianity. Now, however, some Christians are saying JOC has compromised their faith. In an article imaginatively titled "Shattering Jars of Clay," conservative writer Michael Brown said Dan's endorsement of gay marriage is the reason Brown has been "sounding the alarm these last 10 years" about weakening Christian values related to sexuality.

The unwelcoming response to Dan's questions is, according to Kaya Oakes, author of an upcoming book on the religiously unaffiliated, one of the reasons young people are leaving the church, as they feel "institutional religions fail to welcome the kinds of questions [they] bring to the table."

Also, according to a recent survey, one-third of young people who left their churches did so partly because of the anti-gay teachings they encountered there.

The singer, meanwhile, seemed mystified by the pushback and wrote that he hoped his tweets would start more dialogue on the issue. It seems they have.

Update: On April 25, Haseltine took to his blog to address the controversy that his tweets set off. Going forward, Haseltine said he wants to continue the discussion on his personal blog. Twitter was "a poor choice of venue" for such an important discussion, he said, because he was "unable to moderate the conversation in such a way that it kept everyone's views with a shared validity and civility." He also expressed regret that his personal opinions "bled into the Jars of Clay world," and said his views are "not theirs to shoulder."