Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eugene Peterson to LGBT Americans: I was against you before I was for you, and then I remembered I was against you. Never mind."

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind... 
Notwithstanding all their other virtues, however, American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several decades. Despite dynamic success at a popular level, modern American evangelicals have failed notably in sustaining serious intellectual life. 

-Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994
UPDATE, from Christianity Today, today:
A day after a Religion News Service interview portrayed retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson as shifting to endorse same-sex marriage, the evangelical leader retracted his comment and upheld the traditional Christian stance instead. 
Peterson, best known for creating The Message Bible, also regrets the “confusion and bombast” in the fallout of his remarks, which were widely shared and commented on online yesterday. 
Peterson stated: 
Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.” 
To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything. 
RNS columnist Jonathan Merritt had asked Peterson, “If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?” Peterson had responded with one word: yes.
My previous, now irrelevant, comment:

After a recent valedictory interview in which he not only announced his retirement from public life but also his acceptance of marriage equality, 84-year-old theologian and pastor Eugene Peterson is being slapped with a boycott by the largest religious bookstore chain in America.

A satellite of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1891, Lifeway operates 186 stores through the southeast, serving some 2.7 million customers a year.
“LifeWay only carries resources in our stores by authors who hold to the biblical view of marriage,” stated a spokesperson for the affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). “We are attempting to confirm with Eugene Peterson or his representatives that his recent interview on same-sex marriage accurately reflects his views. If he confirms he does not hold to a biblical view of marriage, LifeWay will no longer sell any resources by him, including The Message.” 
The LifeWay website currently lists 135 titles by Peterson, including dozens of versions of his Message Bible, his memoir The Pastor, and his popular book on discipleship and the Psalms, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. 
The 84-year-old served for decades in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which now permits same-sex marriage and openly gay clergy. But Peterson has been widely read, celebrated, and respected among generations of evangelicals, including pastors. 
After Christian author Jen Hatmaker affirmed same-sex marriage last year, also in an interview with Merritt, LifeWay stopped carrying her books, citing “significant changes in her theology of human sexuality and the meaning and definition of marriage … which contradict LifeWay’s doctrinal guidelines.”
LifeWay, despite its stated mission that includes the declaration,
The Bible is unchanging, but church practices and the needs of Christians will change over the years. We will seek to meet the changing needs through wise risk taking, innovation, and excellence. (I Corinthians 9:22-23),
LifeWay has a history of defining off its shelves books and authors who, from time to time, are found to have crossed the chain's inerrant notion of truth, determining "not to stock or to discontinue several prominent Christian authors, including Joel Osteen, William P. Young, and Joyce Meyer, due to its doctrinal standards. The chain has pulled titles from Mark Driscoll and books about heaven tourism," Christianity Today reports.

Another popular evangelical author, Rachel Held Evans, saw her 2012 book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, dropped by Lifeway after a reported dispute with her publisher over using the word "vagina" in the book.

Lifeway never explained why they dropped the book. While Evans readily acknowledged booksellers can sell what they like, she also noted that religious book chains have a semi-monopoly on the market, with which they can not only signal displeasure with authors' work but punish them financially:
I’m disappointed, of course, and not just because I’ll take a hit in sales. While Lifeway certainly has every right to choose its own inventory, I think the notion that Christians should dance carefully around reality, that we should speak in euphemisms and only tell comfortable, sanitized stories, is a destructive one that has profoundly affected the evangelical culture as a whole...
In another article, detailing the stranglehold - amounting to prior restraint- a few reactionary minds have, Evans wrote:
But what is perhaps most disturbing about this whole culture is the pervasive, stifling fear it has created among writers, editors, and publishers. I have spoken to former editors who left Christian publishing because they were exhausted from living with the fear that they would be fired for sticking their necks out and championing “edgy” projects. I know authors who are afraid to share their egalitarian views on their blogs because they might lose their book contracts. I too have hesitated before being honest about my views on gender, politics, and homosexuality for fear of repercussions. No one seems to like that the industry is this way, but many are just too afraid to challenge it.  
For all the amazing people who work in Christian publishing, and for all the amazing books they produce every year, there is this undercurrent of fear and insecurity that undoubtedly stifles our collective creativity. And this fear and insecurity is a direct result of the unreasonable standards held up by Christian bookstores. 
Also this week, the Pew Research Center released a study finding, among other discoveries about the political arm of American evangelicalism,
A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. 

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