I was once told that if you were going to be in pastoral ministry you were going to need thick skin, I learned that lesson the hard way and it appears Eugene Peterson is now learning the same lesson. The situation I found myself in was not as public as what Peterson is going through but I was amazed at how fast the faithful will turn on you and many of them were people I considered my friends.
Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian Minister, theologian, and author of many, many books but most know for his adaption of the bible called The Messenger. In a recent interview with Jonathan Merritt, Peterson was asked about his position on same sex marriage and he appeared to change his position to say that if asked to perform a wedding for a same sex couple he would perform the wedding. This set off an almost immediate fire storm among the Evangelical world and led to Life Way Christian Stores threatening to pull all of his books off their shelves. A few days later, Peterson seemed to retract his statements.
All of this because a Christian said that LGBTQ folks should have the same rights as other Christians. Peterson chose love over hate and got hate turned on his as a result.
In a recent follow up article, David Gushee relates his own experience when the Evangelical Machine turns against you.
If you do decide to make the break, you have to be spiritually ready. You have to know what’s going to happen. You have to count the cost before saying anything. You have to understand that those who stand with scorned and marginalized people will be scorned and marginalized.
You have to realize that whatever abuse you are taking from evangelical authorities is nothing compared to the abuse that LGBTQ people have taken from pastors, teachers, parents, and “Christian friends” every day of their lives.
Then that all has to get connected to your Christian discipleship. You have to reach a place where you see that being abused by religious authorities for standing in solidarity with those they deem unclean is exactly what happened to Jesus, the One whom you have pledged to follow, imitate and obey.
Gushee concludes his article with this advice:
So don’t worry about me, or about the rough week Eugene Peterson had. Do worry about those LGBTQ Christian kids who continue to experience stigma, rejection, and even contempt in their own Christian homes, churches and schools. Worry about what the events of last week taught them.