Merritt and the ACLU On Same Page


Below is a post from guest contributor Tim Guthrie. Tim is Senior Pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Knoxville Tennessee. To comment on this post, you can go to Tim’s blog here.

USA Today ran an article by Jonathan Merritt exposing his own views (not those of the norm in SBC life) related to homosexuality. Though Merritt, the son of SBC Pastor James Merritt and Liberty Grad (of which I am) presents his heart for loving people, he also reveals a dangerous view of Biblical understanding and application.

I do not question his heart. I do question several things in the article and I also question his use of “title” in describing who he is and what he does which I will explain later.

Issues that need to be addressed:

1. He seems to think that LOVE should cause us to defend the normalization of the homosexual agenda. He writes “As Christians, we clearly won’t be able to support any and everything. For example, our biblical convictions prohibit a redefinition of marriage. Yet, there are other areas where we may be able to offer support. We should support protecting our gay and lesbian neighbors from discrimination in the workplace and cleaning up the legal cobwebs that govern hospital visitation rights and inheritance for same-sex couples. ”

The above statement is contradictory at best. We cannot redefine but we can normalize which is redefining.

2. He seems to have a limited view of Biblical Law and application of such. Again he writes “Scripture says the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, gives life. A spirit of love in public policy is one that all Christians can support.”

Maybe he has forgotten that it is whole of the law that gives life in the fact that Jesus fullfilled all of it on our behalf. Jesus did not negate it.

3. He seems to equate our command to love with a mandate to “affirm or endorse”. He writes “Our assertions that we love our neighbors must be accompanied by visible expressions of that love. Therefore, we need to begin looking for ways to affirm, rather than undermine, our claims to love our gay neighbors.”

Maybe Jonathan has forgotten or never heard his father preach on “tough love”. Though he quotes I Corinthians 13 for the phrases that fit his desired presentation, he leaves out words from that chapter such as:

1 Corinthians 13:5-6
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth…

Add to this that Jonathan’s father has been clear in what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and how we should stand for what God says is right and yet love the sinner. In fact, I remember specifically hearing him state that “our loving people must never be used to compromise the TRUTH of God’s Word!”

And finally, I completely dislike the whole way that Jonathan is tagged as the writer of the article. At the end of the article appear these words:
“Jonathan Merritt is a faith and culture writer who serves as national spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative.”

Nothing is mentioned of the fact that Jonathan has NO position within the structure of the SBC. The appearance is left to allow anyone who does not know SBC details to think that this Initiative is indeed an actual SBC Initiative. It further leaves the impression that Jonathan is the spokesperson for such.

He is NOT! Period.

But then I discovered that his views actually run in line with those of the ACLU. Read the following:
“The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue Tennessee public school officials if they do not stop restricting students’ access to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Web sites on school computers.

Tennessee schools are connected to a statewide computer network that uses filtering software that groups Web sites into different categories, reports. Local school officials have the ability to block or unblock those categories.

In a letter dated April 15, the ACLU said as many as 80 percent of public school districts in the state might be blocking access to non-sexual sites that offer educational and political information about issues like gay marriage.

The letter alleges the software blocks all sites designed as such by default. Federal and state laws only require schools to use filtering software to restrict obscene or harmful information.
The ACLU demands the schools have a plan to restore access to sites designated as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender for the 2009-10 academic year by April 29, reports.”

So if I follow the reasoning of Jonathan Merritt, I would be wrong in encouraging as a parent, Pastor, and more importantly a Christian, that the state and local authorities ignore the ACLU. In fact, I am writing to encourage them to fight the ACLU on this.

We are quickly seeing the rise of a movement that seeks to change perception more than it seeks to live in Holiness and Lordship surrender to Christ. It seems that some need the public perception more than they need the blessings of their God.

Wes Kenney over at sums up this whole issue quite well when he says:
“As Jonathan Merritt is my brother in Christ, I love the “spinner” who wrote this article. I’m just not terribly fond of his “spin.””

Maybe it would helpful for all of us to look to the courage of Miss California. In front of a television audience with the dream and goal of her life at stake, she stood true to her Lord and His Word.

May we all!