Prominent evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt, a leading voice of the younger generation of evangelicals, has been “outed” by a blogger after Merritt wrote an article in The Atlantic in defense of Chick-fil-A. This makes me sad on many levels.
First, I’m sad that I can’t eat a Chick-fil-A anymore. I grew up on Chick-fil-A and always enjoyed them as a teenager at Atlanta Braves games. When I was slimming down on Weight Watchers, Chick-fil-A was always my “go-to” healthy choice for low points and delicious food (the grilled chicken, not the regular sandwich, mind you). I will miss the chicken, but not the greasy aftertaste of bigotry…
But, back to Merritt, there is so much to be sad about here. I’ve always been torn on the issue of “outing”—when someone who knows and anti-gay person is being hypocritical in their condemnation of homosexuality, because they, of course, are one. Without the “outings” though, we wouldn’t know about hypocrisy of such prominent anti-gay figures as Ted Haggard, or ex-gay star John Paulk, who was seen exiting a Washington DC gay bar and admitted his “transgressions” after being confronted with the evidence.
Merritt admitted in an interview with Ed Stetzer that he had engaged in “physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship,” with the blogger, but that he does not identify as gay simply because he’s, y’know, tempted to kiss and fondle other guys.
What makes me the most sad, however, is the continued peddling of the lie that to be Christian one must “suffer” or “struggle.” This is the line we hear the most from gay and lesbian people hoodwinked into suppressing their true God-given self to please popular Christianity. Merritt parrots this line, calling gays and lesbians people who “wrestle with the baggage they carry in life. People like me who passionately pursue God—on His terms and not ours—experience incredible times of struggle along the way.”
And, we can’t just skip by the jab at gay and lesbian Christians who are obviously living on “our terms” and not God’s terms when we reconcile our sexuality and spirituality. I’d like to give Merritt some really good news: you don’t have to “struggle,” because your sexual orientation is not “baggage,” it’s a blessing. This idea of the Christian life as “struggle” with “baggage” is a ruse to keep the queers in the closet. As long as they can be convinced that living for Jesus means struggling with baggage and feeling “periods of depression, frustration, and confusion,” they can keep the gay and lesbian believer from being what God intends—happy and struggle-free (at least around the issue of sexual orientation).
But, there’s no need for all this teeth-gnashing and struggle. Jesus (remember him?) actually says that he came to give us life “abundantly,” not a life of struggle, depression, frustration and confusion. The religion people invented after Jesus has given us plenty of that, but if we actually go back and base our lives on Jesus’ terms, then struggles disappear. If we are to judge our lives on what Jesus said he brings to us, then struggling is a sign that we aren’t in it. Abundance—as in an abundance of joy, compassion, love, peace, justice and all the other things Jesus prattled on about—would mark how our lives are supposed to be going.
The moment I gave up “struggling” and stopped seeing my sexual orientation as “baggage” was the moment I experienced abundance, in spades. The struggle stopped. God does not give brownie points for extra struggling, especially when it’s unnecessary and self-imposed. As an Episcopalian priest friend once said to me, “God created us because God thought we might enjoy it.”
To paraphrase the Lolcats: If you’re struggling as a Christian, “ur doing it wrong.”