Among current issues facing our culture, no issue is either more significant or more provocative than how we respond to the increasing pressure to normalize the gay lifestyle. No escape exists on dealing with and deciding this issue. Nor is there a way to remain morally neutral. Either our culture will embrace the gay agenda which, in essence, fundamentally transforms our societal definition of marriage, or it will not. Gay lobbyists and policy-makers will settle for nothing less than full, unequivocal acceptance of homosexual marriage >>>
Recently, I challenged Jonathan Merritt’s opinion piece published March 24, 2011 by The Christian Science Monitor. Entitled “Evangelical shift on gays: Why 'clobber scriptures' are losing ground,” Merritt, Director of College and Single Adults at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia, reasoned evangelicalism was losing ground on the issue because they failed to demonstrate neighbor-love to homosexuals. Jonathan supposes while “Homosexual practice is sin according to scripture,” it is also true that “gossip, lying, pride, most divorces and the many other "respectable sins" that run rampant in our church hallways” are sins as well. He concluded:
“Retaining young people is crucial, and a more accepting generation will not tolerate business as usual when it comes to the debate over homosexuality. Pastors need not compromise their convictions, but they can expect congregants to call for a more accepting, forgiving message – a more Christian message. If Christian leaders can’t make that transition – and quickly – instead of an awakening, evangelicals may be facing an exodus”
Citing as ally to his position, young Merritt quoted Dr. Al Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
“We’ve lied about the nature of homosexuality and have practiced what can only be described as a form of homophobia,” Mohler says. “We’ve used the ‘choice’ language when it is clear that sexual orientation is a deep inner struggle and not merely a matter of choice”
I strongly challenged Merritt’s reading of Mohler, suggesting he skewed the president’s position—whether intentional or unintentional is presently beside the point—to which Jonathan insisted he did not and possessed the interview transcript to prove it (Merritt ridiculed my request to examine a copy of the transcript, however). Jonathan further indicated he had a conversation with Al Mohler after The Christian Science Monitor published his piece, and, according to him, Mohler “did not mention that his quote was taken out of context.”
Curiously, Jonathan’s essay is now pulled from The Christian Science Monitor (which is why the link above to Jonathan’s essay is the YahooNews.com feed)*. If Mohler’s quote was as authentic as Merritt insists, why would the essay be pulled? Or, there may exist another reason The Christian Science Monitor axed Jonathan’s piece. I tried without success to contact them to inquire about the missing essay. Perhaps Jonathan could inform the public what happened to his opinion piece published by The Christian Science Monitor on March 24, 2011 entitled, “Evangelical shift on gays: Why 'clobber scriptures' are losing ground.” I feel confident his readers would appreciate a clarifying word on his mysteriously deleted commentary.
Nor is this the end of reasonable complaint just because the piece is pulled. After all, even though The Christian Science Monitor withdrew Jonathan's essay, it still remains active on the internet as my link to YahooNews.com shows. Hence, if Jonathan Merritt does not explain the quote attributed to Al Mohler, then Dr. Mohler himself is obligated to explain it. According to Jonathan Merritt, Dr. Mohler implicated Southern Baptists of lying about the nature of homosexuality and exploiting “choice” language in order to deceive the public. If Dr. Mohler did say what Merritt insists, then Southern Baptists are entitled to know precisely how we have been untruthful. Deception is a serious moral crime in anyone's vocabulary. And, in the cultural climate we presently find ourselves concerning this provocative issue, this is no time to be speaking in riddles. Let's be clear:
If Al Mohler accused evangelicals generally and Southern Baptists particularly of lying about the nature of homosexuality as Jonathan Merritt firmly indicates, then we demand full explanation in clear, unambiguous language
On the other hand, if Dr. Mohler did not accuse Southern Baptists of deception, then Jonathan Merritt owes the public a clear explanation as to his apparent exploitation of Dr. Mohler's words.
Another ally Jonathan pulled to his aid in arguing his position was Jay Bakker, son of the fallen PTL
star, Jim Bakker. Jonathan approvingly quotes Bakker in his essay, dubbing Bakker the “bellwether” on the homosexual issue for evangelicals. Quoting from Bakker’s book Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self, and Society, Merritt rehearses the “clobber” Scriptures which he believes evangelicals invariably employ to beat homosexuals into moral submission. However, Bakker goes much further than Merritt suggests. In fact, Bakker flat refuses to label homosexual behavior as sin. In fact, Jay Bakker embraces and supports SoulForce, a “Christian” homosexual organization founded by fallen evangelical literary icon, Mel White, who rocked the evangelical world by "coming out" as gay. Bakker has actually travelled and publicly demonstrated with SoulForce at "nonviolent" rallies held across America in lobbying for the gay agenda. In addition, Bakker spearheads an action league to put pressure on Bible publishers to expunge all references to “homosexual” and/or “homosexuality” from English Bibles. Jay Bakker even proudly performs gay “marriage” ceremonies.
And this Jay Bakker Jonathan Merritt describes as the pied piper of evangelical response to the gay agenda. Is this really where Merritt would lead evangelicalism, since young evangelicals will no longer stand for traditional marriage as Jonathan Merritt so often reminds us?
Albeit the father-son relationship, in the end, one must surely question how Dr. James Merritt can continue to allow Jonathan to serve on staff at a church with such conservative Christian roots. Perhaps a question needs to be asked of Cross Pointe's Senior Pastor:
Has Dr. Merritt changed his views on the nature of homosexuality?
Interestingly, not long ago, Dr. Merritt surely spoke for most Southern Baptists about appropriately responding to social sinners—and a perfectly acceptable response I might add. Know I take no joy in the appearance of driving a wedge between father and son. Nonetheless, since Jonathan publicly states his views, both he and his father/Senior Pastor must accept responsibility for those views.
So far as I am concerned, I cannot fathom how Jonathan’s radical views are acceptable to mainstream Southern Baptists, presumably the very people making up Cross Pointe church. May our Lord help us all as we work our way through this incredibly sensitive issue.
With that, I am…
*there are other sources as well; I also created a special page and copied Merritt’s essay for sourcing purposes (this page is *not* in circulation so there are no copyright infringements)