Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Getting the Message

Image result for eugene peterson

Our media connection to the outside world was limited while we took up residence on Change Islands, Newfoundland, for the month of July, and we were glad for it. We did have access to the internet during the limited hours of the local library, or sitting outside the library in our vehicle to get a connection! This meant we were largely blissfully ignorant of the endless sewage outflow of President Trump's Twitter rants.

I did see that a Christian leader I had long admired found himself in hot water. Eugene Peterson is in his eighties, and retired from long pastoral ministry. My appreciation for Peterson comes from his thoughtful books from an earlier era about the importance for pastors to develop a contemplative spiritual life rather than becoming religious shopkeepers whose agenda is dictated by keeping church customers happy. Peterson is also the author of The Message bible paraphrase, a remarkable feat of interpretation which often brings a fresh reading to passages which can seem dry or inaccessible in other translations. Search for the NPR On Being interview with Peterson to get a sense of his deep spiritual wisdom.

Image result for the message bible

Peterson ended up in trouble as the result of answering a question honestly during an interview. He was asked if he would marry a same-gender couple if he was still in ministry, and he said yes. While he has been a darling of the evangelical world for a long time he immediately incurred the wrath of many. Hell hath no fury like a supposed Christian whose convictions are assailed by someone who has developed a different perspective on the gospel. Sadly, Peterson backed away from his response under the pressure of intense criticism.

In recent years a number of conservative Christian authors, theologians, and leaders have changed their minds and hearts regarding LGBTQ orientation and relationships. The anger and bile directed toward them is astonishing. Canada's Michael Coren is an example of someone who was loved by the Christian right, and is now passionately hated by a host of former supporters. While Jesus said nothing about homosexuality and there are only a handful of verses on the subject in the entire bible, these convictions run so deep that it compels some Christians to ignore the message of radical inclusion and love altogether.

I'm grateful to be part of a denomination that did its often painful soul-searching several decades ago. The United Church paid a price, to be sure, but thank God we were willing to do so.


1 comment:

Laurie said...

I was very happy to be part of the United Church back then. Also glad you had a great month away. I really enjoyed your pictures on twitter. Happy to have my daily blog read back. Thanks.