Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Controversy that Keeps on Controverting:

My mother's name was Irene, Maybe that's why I aspire to be irenic. I try.
I felt bad, when I read the other day that Eugene Peterson had said in an interview that he would do a gay wedding  My negative reaction was not only that another well known influential Christian leader had announced himself to be in favor of something I, together with most of Christian thinking for two millennia, find to be not in alignment with God's word, it was that Jonathan Merritt felt compelled to ask the question. I mean, come on, Peterson is eighty-four years old. As far as I know, he's never been a culture warrior. Couldn't he have gotten a pass on this one? Of course, he could have taken a pass. Just because a question is asked it doesn't mean that an answer must be given. But again, he's not as young as he once was. Is he as sharp as he used to be? In another article released the next day, Peterson said, "When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment." He went on to say, "I would like to retract that. That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage."
One's position on gay-marriage is the "Gotcha Question" of the hour. It's obvious that Merritt's piece is not long enough to add anything to the extensive discussion that has gone on for the past five, ten years, or longer. No attempt is made in Merritt's piece to differentiate between gay in the sense of homo-erotic desire, the way Wesley Hill describes it in his book Washed and Waiting, or the way the term is commonly used in our culture as both desire and practice. One can make the point that the introduction of marriage clearly implies the latter, but was Peterson keeping up?  Is that distinction recognized by everyone who reads the article? Maybe his mind is as sharp as my Uncle's pocket knife, but I know that as soon as that question came up he either had to shut it down or start juggling several balls at once. Shutting down the conversation isn't free either. Do a web search on "refuses to answer question on gay marriage," and note what comes up. It's tough. Exegetes will parse your words, culture warriors from both sides will take aim, and, this is where it really hurts, people we love may get hurt. I want to speak the truth, but I want to choose when and how. In todays omni-connected world I never who is listening/reading, and I can't assume that someone isn't.
As hard as it is, Peterson should have said, "No comment."
Better, Merritt, knowing that his interview wasn't going to contribute anything to an important discussion, and realizing that asking the question would just cause a good guy grief, should have asked no question.
The next day Peterson released the article I mentioned above. It is an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube. You can't do it. You just make a mess trying. Today I saw on my Facebook feed that some folk couldn't resist pointing out that Peterson had white goo all over him. Jake Meador wrote a piece that appeared under the "Christianity Today" banner. Actually, I think it is a good article, except . . . Meador could have made his point without kicking a guy while he is down. I guess I'm just naive. I don't move in the circle of those who publish books and have a huge international following, but I don't see why the ethics, or the importance of kindness, mercy and restraint are any different in that world than in the world I can see as I peer out through my keyhole. At the risk of being judgmental, the only reason I see for using Peterson's name in the otherwise worthwhile article is using the name of the famous author and Bible translator, caught with his foot in his mouth and toothpaste on his shirt, would increase C.T. and Meador's reach. The condemnation of one failure should not be built on a platform of failure to show love and respect to a brother, especially one at the end of a productive life.
A wise man who has been a member of the church I pastored all my adult life said on several occasions, "The more you stir in it, the worse it smells." Guys, let's quit stirring in this one.

(For what it's worth if you type in, or click on, some of the key words in the search engine on this blog, you'll find that I've wrestled and written several times on gender issues. Since I'm not always careful to use labels there are probably more. If you find some let me know. I'll add the labels. My other reader will appreciate it.)

2 comments:

Lee Walker said...

Howard, as usual you struck the nail head right in the middle. I knew there was something about that piece that I didn't like and you identified it clearly. Thanks.

Howard Merrell said...

Lee,
Thanks. I admire your practical, clear thinking. I appreciate your comment.