I met Jonathan Merritt last month. We had exchanged emails over a subject of common interest, the lack of SBC Leadership speaking to the brouhaha over at the ERLC. I have since read his book, A Faith of Our Own. There was little doubt the personal experiences shared in that part of his story were not exhaustive. He is not much older than our oldest daughter.
All of us have parts of our story we hold in reserve. On most occasions we get to open up those spaces to others on our own terms. Not so in other instances.
A friend alerted me to a Southern Baptist Christian blogger turned Christian Enquirer. Under the rubric of just giving facts, said blogger feigned no agenda. Repeatedly he narrated his decision in such a way to present it as inscrutable. Bloggers love web traffic. Even Christians love train wrecks. The convergence of wanting to be read and wanting to read about someone’s possible fall is the perfect Internet storm.
I emailed Jonathan. My interest was not to scoop the real story. I did not feel the need to get the story. Our culture is full of these sorts of enquiring episodes. The truth would not come out via endless speculation. My interest was to let Jonathan know I was praying God would give him what he needed for this situation. Read carefully here – I was not interested in finding out whether Jonathan Merritt was or was not gay. Christian grace had been shuttered for personal aggrandizement. I was appalled. If Jonathan were gay, said blogger illustrated what Al Mohler had said was our, Southern Baptists, poorest of track records dealing with people and complex matters while so stridently pounding the table of our self-righteousness.
You should know, Jonathan offered to tell me his story. I declined. It seemed disingenuous to send a note of prayerful support expecting insider privilege. In my own mind this paralleled another friend’s experience. I emailed the person regarding an odd comment left on my blog. I was fairly certain this friend did not regularly read my website or the comments. I know what you are thinking. All your friends read your blog. In reply to my email, just as Jonathan did, the friend offered his phone number and an explanation. I declined. Friendship with strings seems like no friendship at all.
Jonathan agreed to be interviewed about the incident. Ed Stetzer posted the Interview just a short time ago. You should go read it.
Last week, the Lectionary texts included the description of Jesus’ compassion when he saw the crowds. He interrupted his planned period of rest with the disciples. More broken people were strewn along the shoreline. Stopping to serve rather than rest, Jesus kept busy. If you take nothing else from Jonathan’s Interview, consider how Jesus stopped to bring grace and mercy to broken people.
I am hopeful that this time around the SBC Leadership will sieze the moment to call all of us to the Incarnation. Once again a watching world will be able to tell what sort of courage we have if we stand in solidarity with another human being or retreat into sanctimony. If we will not speak up about how Jonathan was treated by our own, then our access to the Internet should go dark.
UPDATE: Other Southern Baptist Responses