Jonathan Merritt is a widely published columnist whose work appears in mainstream outlets like USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor and The Atlantic, where he just wrote a piece explaining why we shouldn’t boycott Chick-fil-A.
Merritt is also a deeply conflicted gay man who has aligned himself with the evangelical movement.
Oh, and he just got busted for a dalliance with an ex-evangelical gay blogger.
“In 2009, I was contacted by [blogger Azariah Southworth] in response to an article I wrote about just that—that Christians must love people who experience sexual brokenness. We corresponded several times by email and text for a couple of weeks, some of them inappropriate. When I was traveling through a city near him, we met for dinner because we’d corresponded so recently. As we were saying goodbye, we had physical contact that went beyond the bounds of friendship. I was overcome with guilt, knowing I had put myself in an unwise situation. We never saw each other again and we ceased contact after a period of time.
“When I returned home, I saw a Christian counselor to address the events in my life and sort through my childhood and what I believed God wanted for me. I also began to acknowledge to myself that I have sin in my past, sin for which I accept responsibility. Inappropriate texting, inappropriate actions are inappropriate no matter who the other party is. These were my decisions and no one else’s. It’s from my brokenness, that I feel I can now be transparent, honest, and authentic about these accusations. Those close to me know I have actually been planning to share the story of my brokenness for some time. Because it is part of my spiritual journey. And because it underscores the power of the Gospel to transform lives.”
Is Merritt putting himself on the cross because he and Southworth actually touched bodies when they hugged good-bye? Or did their farewell lead to something a little more carnal. For a professional writer, Merritt is being frustratingly vague.
Lest you think Merritt’s confession came from some need to be honest and Jesus-like, it looks like it was prompted by desperation: Southworth outed Merritt on his own blog, though he says it gave him no pleasure to drag the right-wing scribe of the closet:
“Exposing this truth of Jonathan’s sexual orientation is not an easy decision for me. I take no pleasure in doing this. As I type this my stomach is turning because I know of the backlash he will receive. I have thought about what all of this will mean for him and for me. I base my reasoning in the importance of living an authentic and honest life.
True change in the ‘culture wars’ may come through genuine fellowship and conversations but if there is not complete honesty and transparency when we come to the table than we are simply building a foundation which will soon deteriorate. We must have radical honesty in the character, intentions and identities of our leaders.”
Admittedly Merritt is more of an ex-gay, or ex-gay-in-training, than a fire-and-brimstone homophobe. In a Christian Science Monitor column from 2011, he criticized religious leaders who fixated on homosexuality far more than other biblical “sins.” The response from the evangelical community was, shall we say, ungodly, and CSM had to pull down the story.
But don’t cry for him, Argentina. He’s turning his lemons into lemonade with a special “announcement” at his pastor father’s Southern Baptist Church in Georgia. (Merritt had already been scheduled for four weeks of sermons there.)
For those of you inclined to feel pity for Merritt, who was clearly born into a repressive religious society, remember that he’s not some hillbilly who’s never been outside his one-horse town: He’s an educated and accomplished writer who uses his gift to tell people how to conduct themselves in the so-called “culture wars.”
This is the man who, last summer, told Huffington Post readers than LGBT-rights advocates need to stop hating foes of marriage equality.
This is a man who claims to be “broken” and yet preaches about God’s supposed plan.
This, dear readers, is a douche.