Eugene Peterson is not a name familiar to most Americans, but within evangelical circles, Peterson is well-known. He wrote a translation of the Bible called "The Message," which is a preferred text for churches trying to lure in new members who might be put off by the "thou shalls" and "thou shall nots" of the King James Version and the more accurate scriptural translations like the English Standard Version.
Peterson, in an interview connected to the release of his last book (Peterson is retiring from public life), told a reporter he would perform a gay marriage in the United States. Liberal Christians quickly praised Peterson and swiftly condemned faithful Christians who expressed even the slightest disappointment in Peterson's secular evolution. Within 48 hours, however, Peterson had walked it all back and declared, again, the Bible is inerrant, marriage can only truly exist between a man and a woman and he would do no further interviews.
Peterson's walk back struck some as being pressured by his publisher at a time Lifeway, the largest Christian bookstore chain in America, said it would pull Peterson's books if he abandoned Christian orthodoxy. Lifeway had previously pulled Jen Hatmaker's books when she abandoned Christian orthodoxy for worldly popularity.
Two weeks ago, GracePointe Church in Franklin, TN, announced it would be moving to Nashville, TN. The church decided to abandon Christian orthodoxy and embrace gay marriage. It then decided it needed to move to the city and rebrand itself as a "progressive" church in order to keep growing. It put up for sale its $5.7 million property that includes 22 acres of land and a 12,000 square foot church.
The pastor at GracePointe said he has received numerous calls from pastors across the country who want to support gay marriage, but are afraid of what it might do to their congregations.
Evangelicalism in the United States is increasingly a business. There is a long line of pastors who are more interested in revenue streams than saving souls. Gay congregants, often childless, tend to provide a healthy source of revenue. One megachurch pastor in the Southeast I know has said his gay congregants are the best tithers and he, therefore, expressly avoids approaching any portion of the Bible that might hurt their feelings.
It is not just a rejection of orthodoxy disrupting Christianity in America. There are numerous evangelical pastors in the nation who have tied themselves to President Trump. They will defend anything the man says or does so long as their own perceived agenda is winning. The President can expect his Christian supporters to keep their mouths shut when the President declares he can grab a woman by...well...you know. They will defend his every misquote and misuse of scripture as the shortcomings of a new believer or even the second coming of Cyrus.
The media and secular left in the country would prefer to focus on the Christian money makers of the right hitching their wagons to the president. In so doing, they could not care less about the pastors losing souls to the world because they have abandoned consistent Christian orthodoxy to make a buck. In both cases, however, Christianity in America is suffering setbacks.
The most faithful pastors in this country are not the cowards trying to figure out how to lead their churches to accept gay marriage, but the ones who are willing to stand against the world, and even the President, in favor of Christian orthodoxy. Too many Christian pastors in America, both on the left and right, have become fixated on running businesses and growing profits instead of saving souls. They will all one day be held to account.
Regarding Eugene Peterson, former Southern Baptist Commission President James Merritt, who is also the father of the reporter who asked Peterson about gay marriage, tweeted, "I'll change my mind when God changes his. His is the only opinion that matters and on this issue God neither stammers or stutters." Unfortunately, in America today, too many pastors stammer and stutter because they are more concerned about making a buck off tickled ears than the word of the Lord.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.