Ed Stetzer introduces Jonathan Merritt:

. . . Recently, after Jonathan, in a piece written for The Atlantic, defended Chick-fil-A against a potential boycott by gay activists, a “gay evangelical” blogger claimed he had evidence Jonathan himself was gay. In the parlance the effort was to “out him.” Merritt’s defense of Chick-fil-A had already exploded in the LGBT blogosphere, but this inflamed the issue as many sought to discredit Jonathan after he dared to defend Chick-fil-A.

Jonathan’s views have been clear–he considers homosexual practice as sin and is not in favor of redefining marriage (about half of America agrees, btw). Such views make you a target today, regardless of your personal situation.

“Outing,” in case you do not know, is the practice of revealing that a certain person is gay without his or her consent, is not an unheard of occurrence though it is not always looked on favorably within the LGBT community. My heart grieves to see such low integrity, particularly when done by a person who claims the title “Christian”–and I am deeply disappointed with a few “Christians” in the blogosphere, who, since they disagreed with Jonathan in the past, seized the moment. Sad.

Yes, Jonathan Merritt is a public figure who lives in the intersection of church and culture, and is accustomed to cars coming from both directions–which appears to be the case now. In the past I have used my blog as a way for leaders to address blogosphere issues (see this interview with Rick Warren, for example) I want to do the same today.

So, I asked Jonathan if he would take a few questions and respond to this situation for himself. He has agreed, and I welcome him to the blog today.

You can read the whole interview here.

Living in a broken world as we are, I’m sure that we will see more of this in the days to come: Christian leaders struggling with same-sex attraction. Some will succumb, and some will fight for purity and obedience by grace through faith. I commend Jonathan for his honesty, and Ed for seeking to provide a forum to do this in the right way, just as I lament the utterly unconscionable actions of professing believers who seek to take political-theological advantage of rumors and pain.

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19 thoughts on “Jonathan Merritt, Transparency, and the Ethics of Gay Outing”

  1. donsands says:

    Incredibly messy stuff the Church. But this is worth talking about. Thanks for addresssing this Justin.

    I have a SSA friend on Facebook. A good brother in the Lord, and we have had some good arguments, but for the most part we have been a very special encouragement to one another.
    I also had an older brother who died from AIDS. Horrible way to die.

    Have a great Lord’s Day!

  2. Harvey says:

    Anyone have a biblically sound argument (that means using scripture) for why Christians should engage in attempts to alter and influence secular culture and government, especially when those attempts turn so many off to Christianity? Can’t seem to find one.

    1. Andy says:

      have a listen to wayne grudem’s talks through his book on politics and the bible. they can be downloaded freely from the scottsdale bible church site
      http://www.christianessentialssbc.com/

    2. Wesley says:

      Harvey –
      i would be interested in having you define a few of your terms. 1. What do you mean by “attempts to alter and influence secular culture’? and 2. What do you mean by ‘turn so many off to Christianity’? I believe how you define those two things would have radical implications for how one answers. Of course, Scripture is filled with examples of the gospel penetrating hearts and radical social implications coming about as a result (i.e. Acts. 19, Daniel 4, John 6) But i think that is my main and primary response to what i think you mean by your questions viz. the gospel is concerned i think primarily with individuals NOT causes. When we get that wrong (think that social reforms are what saves people and not the gospel) we miss the whole point. Problem is individuals are often caught up in causes/issues and it is not always so easy to separate the two. Simply put, when the gospel transforms people those people then bring about social change by the nature of that change inside them (again, see Acts 19) Part of showing forth the character of God will at times mean standing against what is wrong/evil and championing what is good. But as Christians, i don’t believe our primary focus should be on social reform in and of itself.

    3. Frank Turk says:

      Hi Harvey —

      An atheist, a buddhist, a muslim and a christian all get elected to political office. Why is it that the only one who should not seek to influence policy is the Christian — especially in the West which, let’s face it, is rooted 2000-years deep in Christian ethical and political philosophy?

      All sorts of people forget that this passage is in the book of Romans:

      [Rom 13]
      Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
      [/Rom 13]

      Notice that Paul doesn’t make a comprehensive list of things one must do “for the sake of conscience.” He makes a broad list of obvious places where people are prone to think they ought to honor God and not Caesar. But the core assumption is that the bearer of the sword is working as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” What happens, do you think, when government surrenders the role of being the arbiter of justice for society?

      Those who are seeking to change definitions in our society in a fundamental way are the ones undermining justice — and it’s unlikely that anyone except the Christian politician is really equipped to say why. While that person has to be wiley enough to know the difference between the role of government and the work of the Gospel, he can’t be indifferent to one or the other — yet it seems that you think he ought to be.

      I wonder why?

  3. Harvey says:

    Or even a link to an article or book that actually uses scripture.

    1. waynebradley says:

      Could you please answer Wesley’s questions? And by using scripture, do you want chapter and verse or just an argument that uses scripturally based principles?

    2. mel says:

      The problem with this point of view is that one would think that we have always had same-sex marriage, unlimited porn everywhere, ect. and that Christians have suddenly decided that everyone else must change to accommodate them.

      Perhaps the reason that the world/this country has become so wretched is because of apathetic Christians that just want to live their little bubble lives and not rock the boat. Perhaps it is because the idea of actually suffering a little persecution in a country that is all about the “pursuit of happiness” is just not something to be allowed on the menu of an American Christian.

      Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

      1. Well said. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve written on this myself and hopefully it can be of assistance to someone. bit.ly/LNz50Y

    3. mel says:

      Harvey try Romans 1. Most especially that there is no excuse for someone to not recognize the God of the universe. That we are to proclaim the gospel. If a person is turned off by something then their heart is just looking for an excuse and not searching for God.

      Most importantly, God saves, not our well thought out planned witness. God doesn’t need us and we can’t hold back the Holy Spirit. We can subject our own hearts to hardening though. We are called to stand for the truth of the scriptures. Even if it means that we might get our heads chopped off like John the Baptizer.

    4. Daryl Little says:

      Harvey,

      Do you have any chapter or verse in which we are told not to influence a particular sphere of life?

  4. Michael H. says:

    Anyone who would “out” someone because of an ideological disagreement has absolutely no credibility when claiming to be more compassionate than others who don’t share their view.

  5. Paul Murphy says:

    What Jonathan did was sin, and I appreciate his openness and humility in expressing this and not running away from that fact. For those guilty of sexual sin there is forgiveness. I pray he continue to face his situation, submit himself to counsel and accountability and submit himself to God’s correction and restoration. I’m praying for him and his family.

  6. PJ Anderson says:

    When you stick your head in the lion’s mouth we shouldn’t be surprised when it closes on you. Criticizing the cultural assault of the pro-gay lobby brings risk and damage. No one should be outed in this manner.

    However it since it has happened one hopes that Mr Merritt will be completely honest about his troubles so to not allow others to bring accusations against him. Also, it would be helpful for his church to clarify the nature of his employment during the time this occurred since he was on staff in a pastoral role at the time. Finally, I hope this doesn’t become a platform building issue but one of true humility. We don’t need another person running around saying how they were attacked for their sins so buy my book.

    Unfortunately I think we are at the precipice of a new wave of persecution (and I’m talk real, physical persecution not someone glaring at you) against the church. We should pray and seek the purity of our convictions.

  7. Joe says:

    Painful to read. Made me uneasy. My heart goes out to him. But he is talking about it now because he was in fact caught, and there is still ambiguity in his answers. I don’t think gay sex is worse than any other sexual sin when we are talking about human brokenness, but leadership demands an unusual degree of integrity. The affirmations of Merritt seem encouraging in terms of supporting a wounded brother; they seem a little too eager in terms of excusing a Christian spokesperson. We have been so completely put on the defensive in the arguments about SSA that here we seem tripping over ourselves to be positive. That may be a necessary over-reaction. But, on the other hand, if you are struggling with SSA, I am not sure you are the right person to be engaging in rhetorical warfare. There seems like there are some strong warning flares here.

  8. I was struck by the sincerity of Jonathan and his honest responses to the questions asked. It takes great courage to discuss things that are so personal and private in nature. Those who attempt to injure or embarrass anyone because they believe it will promote their particular agenda are certainly not acting in a manner consistent with the teachings of Christ.

    After many years of counseling with individuals who have struggled with sin in their own lives, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason Christ counseled us not to judge others, is because we humans are so bad at it. Too often, judgement is rendered more to condemn than to console. Too often we “judge” others in an effort to justify our own agenda, or rationalize our own shortcomings, and we all have plenty of them.

    To those who attempt to justify their “minor” sins at the expense of those who struggle with what they consider “major” sins, I invite them to read the following article…

    http://resurrectingchristianity.com/wwjd/

    Happiness, peace, love and redemption all come through Christ and our conforming to his teachings. And in this increasingly confusing and complicated world we live in, the solutions to life’s most difficult questions are answered in the simplicity of God’s word.

  9. Jean-Pierre says:

    Jonathan I love you just the way you are. God will also always love you.

    People are complex and loyalty to a religious faith can sometimes be extremely difficult.
    For people that believe the Bible says that homosexual sex is a sin and they are attracted to the same sex the options are all difficult.

    If you are brought up in a religious tradition you usually think it is true and right.

    But even if the Bible is to be understood that way, most fundamentalists would not condemn homosexual orientation per-se.
    All mental health groups and almost all Christian mental health therapists agree that orientation is not something you can change if you want to. Behaviors can be changed.

    In America there should be room for both Evangelical fundamentalists and gays.

    Many people have evolved on their view of gays, not just Obama. Exodus International has repented from their anti-gay political agenda and has promised to try to protect gay people
    from violence. (While Cathy is donating $1000 to those who advocate the death penalty).

    Your church, the Baptist Church, has been the leading obstacle to human rights for gays.
    This includes not only the issue of marriage protections for gays and their families, but job discrimination, hate crimes legislation, anti-bullying for gay children or those that are perceived to be gay, and visitation rights for a dying partner at a hospital.

    You have been a voice for moderation in your church and I hope some day your church will recognize that gays need protection from all the hate this church has fomented.

    I appreciate people like you that are advocating for a small change. They are not advocating for gay marriage but they are understanding that since their orientation is not changing they have a connection to gay people.

    For the overwhelming majority of gay people,however, celibacy is not an option that they would consider. Those that are religious tend to believe that God gave them the gift of sexuality and that denying it is like waving a fist at God and saying I know better.

    Full story here: http://www.queerty.com/anti-gay-columnist-jonathan-merritt-admits-to-inappropriate-relationship-with-gay-blogger-20120726/#ixzz22pO9BkFi

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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