Jonathan Merritt, the SBC, and the Culture Wars: What’s Next?

Something has exploded on the blogosphere — and I have a feeling it’s only getting started.

Jonathan Merritt, a young, up-and-coming Christian author and online columnist (and son of a prominent SBC pastor / former SBC president), has been “outed.” After publishing a column in which he declared his intention to continue to patronize Chic-fil-A –– despite the calls for protests — it caught the attention of gay, former evangelical blogger, Azariah Southworth. The column, you might say, was a fairly innocuous (whatever your position on the gay marriage issue), mostly “pragmatic” take on the ineffectiveness of boycotts and an argument for distinguishing commerce from politics. Nonetheless, it was the trigger for Southworth, who had personal knowledge of Merritt, to call him to come out (or he would produce the “evidence” himself). Merritt did respond (and quickly), in this interview with Ed Stetzer, In his response he did not claim a gay identity, but acknowledged that he’s struggled with gay attraction as a result of a childhood experience of sexual abuse.

I don’t want to dive into the murky questions of sexual identity and the ethics of “outing” here (except to point out that, to my mind, Azariah seems to be engaging in the same kind of culture-war tactics that many decry of conservatives). What I really want to say is simply that what we have here is an opportunity. It seems like this thing could go one of two directions: the SBC, Merritt’s “tribe,” (and related conservative denominations) could harden on the issue, lash out with a vengeance against Southworth and gay “activists” — and perhaps even lash out against Merritt himself. One interesting aspect of all this is that Merritt has been one of the more compassionate voices within the SBC regarding homosexuality. Some may jump on this as an occasion to undermine such compassionate responses (which would be missing the point entirely). But here’s a better alternative: they could, on the whole, take this as an opportunity for a big-time injection of compassion into the culture war debate about homosexuality and gay marriage. In the culture wars, it’s easy to abstract from the complexities of reality, make everything black and white, and fight the war at 10,000 feet. It’s also easy to separate “us” from “them” and to forget that the line of brokenness and sin cuts through us all.




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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • good word. Thanks, Kyle.

  • Bill

    You’re an idiot.

  • Kate

    I disagree with you, bill, but thank you for a few moments of LOL.

  • Jonah Falcon

    Ever see The Boys in the Band?

    Harold: You’re a sad and pathetic man. You’re a homosexual and you don’t want to be, but there’s nothing you can do to change it. Not all the prayers to your God, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you’ve go left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you’ll always be homosexual as well. Always Michael. Always. Until the day you die.

    • sam

      Jonah, what gives you the right to define somebody’s identity as “homosexual” – is that not an individual choice? What about a little freedom here? I respect your right to deal with this as you have chosen to do so – how about granting that same right to others.

  • Sam_Handiwch

    It’s disturbing that Merritt claims that childhood abuse led to his consensual adult behavior. It cheapens the real “brokenness” experienced by victims of abuse and only further confuses the issue of what homosexuality is.

    • Wright

      I don’t think that he’s claiming that this happens in every case, only that it happened in his case.While there probably is an in-born component to homosexual proclivities – the chances of one twin being gay if the other is too being significantly higher than that of regular siblings or the population at large seems to suggest as much – that’s certainly not the whole story. Besides, the research doesn’t bear that out. I’m not aware that research has until now pinpointed a specific marker or cause for homosexuality, and there’s a good deal of agreement that factors in early childhood can affect how a person develops sexually. So really, unless you have some special insight into Merritt’s situation, I’d be less hasty to question his account.

  • sam

    2 points:
    1) Jonah, what gives you the right to define somebody’s identity as “homosexual” – is that not an individual choice? What about a little freedom here? I respect your right to deal with this as you have chosen to do so – how about granting that same right to others.

    2) The APA (American Psychological Association) states the following about cause in their pamphlet, Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” American Psychological Association (2008). “Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality”.