This is actually the second time in less than a month that I have taken heat over this particular issue. I took a beating behind closed doors for an interview that appeared in an article entitled, "Reduce, Reuse, Religion." When the interview was conducted, I thought it was going to be about environmental stewardship and younger evangelicals, but I soon realized that it was primarily about gay and lesbian issues. The article's lead sentences state:
"Jonathan Merritt doesn’t want to talk about his own views on gay marriage or civil unions -- perhaps for good reason. Merritt is a young evangelical leader, a prominent writer on modern faith, and the son of a former Southern Baptist Convention president. The religious landscape of this country may be changing, but anyone who espouses equality could derail a future leadership role among evangelicals..."
The journalist seems to imply that I play my cards close to my chest because my views on gay marriage or civil unions could get me into trouble. In the sense that he means it, the implication is dead wrong; but in another sense, it is spot on.
My views are not controversial in that I believe a redefinition of marriage, much less the moralization of the homosexual lifestyle, runs in direct opposition to the teachings of scripture. I hold to the historically orthodox position. But, perhaps they are controversial in that I don't elevate homosexual practice above and beyond all the other sins in scripture like many Christians.
Homosexual practice is sin according to scripture, but so is gossip, lying, pride, most divorces and the many other "respectable sins" that run rampant in our church hallways. 33% of pastors say they have viewed pornography in the last year, and in 1996 at Promise Keepers event 50% of men said they had viewed porn in the week preceding the event. Are we speaking about our own sexual sins with the same frequency and veracity? If two people are co-habitating or getting an unbiblical divorce, we often turn a blind eye, but if a gay couple visits the church, they are often treated as if they have some sort of contagious disease. Truth be told, Christian treatment of homosexuals runs contrary to the teachings of love replete in scripture.
I have many gay friends who have suffered at the hands of evangelical Christians who spit venom at the gay community every chance they get. Like many young evangelicals, I am weary of the unloving, unsympathetic, uninformed speech directed at the gay community. It is time those who bear the name of Jesus Christ stand up and call our community back to a posture that reflects the teachings of the One we claim to serve.
What can we do to affirm, rather than undermine, our claims to love our gay and lesbian neighbors?