The Need for Christian Secession

Like many others, another Progressive-Christian theologian decides to leave Evangelicalism behind over the homosexual issue.

Recently the virtual pages of Religion News Service have been graced with further crossfire related to the endless evangelical argument about LGBTQ inclusion.

Jonathan Merritt posted a piece defending evangelical blogger Jen Hatmaker against her evangelical critics, who have treated her to the now-standard exclusion, criticism and rejection since she offered full LGBTQ inclusion.

When I released my book, I was met with the same chorus of rejection from many of the same people who are treating Jen Hatmaker to the same experience today. I should not have been surprised, but was surprised, at the ferocity of the resistance. Publishing that book led to my exile from the American evangelical community.

The good news for me was that my career was by that time not dependent on good standing in the U.S. evangelical community. (emphasis added)

On one level, you can’t blame him for waiting till he was financially secure before fully releasing his views. On another level, how long was he being at least somewhat disingenuous with people before making his full views known.

It has taken me some time to process fully what has happened to me and what I should make of it. I have had a bit of post-evangelical syndrome, and have laid low for a while.

But now, roughly 30 months later, I am about to offer two kinds of public responses to what I have experienced. You might call them a “micro” and a “macro” response.

At the “micro” level, I have prepared a new third edition of my “Changing Our Mind” book. It will be out in early June. This edition … includes my acknowledgment that common “evangelical” modes of reading Scripture and undertaking moral discernment will never lead to a fully inclusive posture toward LGBTQ persons. But I then go on to make the case for why I believe those common evangelical modes are inadequate ways both of reading Scripture and discerning moral truth.

With some caution, it seems like what he is saying is the following: the conservatives are right that a common-sense and traditional understanding of scripture denies inclusion towards homosexual activity, but hey, the last 2000 years of interpreting scripture and moral truth have been wrong, so trust me, because I know what I am doing. This approach does not sound very promising to me; nevertheless, he can have at it as far as I am concerned.

At the “macro” level, I have also written a memoir. This book…is both a spiritual autobiography and professional memoir. It tells about a confused young man wandering into a Southern Baptist church in the summer of 1978 and emerging four days later as a born-again Christian — and what happened to him in the 40 years after that.

What happened? A love affair with Jesus that for the great majority of 40 years was spent in Southern Baptist and evangelical contexts, until my own sense of moral and intellectual integrity forced me to take stands leading to my exit from those worlds.

Everybody’s story is different. Of course millions of American Christians remain quite happily situated in Southern Baptist and/or evangelical Christianity. I wish them only the best, and am done fighting with them.

I now believe that incommensurable differences in understanding the very meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the interpretation of the Bible, and the sources and methods of moral discernment, separate many of us from our former brethren — and that it is best to name these differences clearly and without acrimony, on the way out the door. (emphasis added)

Yup, and the sooner this is made utterly clear, the better. In fact, the sooner Progressive-Christians admit that, if push came to shove, they are more progressive than Christian, then the better it will be for everyone.

I also believe that attempting to keep the dialogue going is mainly fruitless. The differences are unbridgeable. (emphasis added)

Yes indeed. The division is too wide for a reconciling debate. The worldviews are too different. And that is why I am pushing for Christian secession.

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