Public Outbursts About Eugene Peterson and Jen Hatmaker Reveal Wider Christian Issues

Public Outbursts About Eugene Peterson and Jen Hatmaker Reveal Wider Christian Issues July 13, 2017

Grandma's BibleThis week, RNS writer Jonathan Merritt got Christian writer and author of The Message (a much-loved biblical paraphrase) Eugene Peterson to go on the record as supporting gay marriage. He told Merritt,

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.

When Merritt asked Peterson if he would perform a Christian same-sex wedding, he said he would.

Strangely enough, after a massive internet blowup and after LifeWay’s retail arm threatened not to sell his books, Peterson retracted his comments today, issuing a statement reported on by Christianity Today. In this statement he said, “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.” Peterson seems to have been caught off guard by a hypothetical question; in his statement, he said that he would not perform such a wedding after all.

In a very similar episode, last year popular blogger and author Jen Hatmaker, in an interview with the same reporter, Jonathan Merritt, also acknowledged having shifted in her beliefs about gay marriage. When asked by Merritt if she thought an LGBT relationship could be holy, she responded,

I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.

The internet blew up. LifeWay also removed Hatmaker’s books from their shelves (note, though, that LifeWay also has pulled authors like prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen from its shelves). People farewelled Hatmaker and shunned her, and she later wrote about what a bruising, painful time it was for her at the hands of what she called “the Christian machine.”

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