Eugene Peterson is a well known Christian author and the guy who penned the paraphrased version of the Bible called The Message.
Last week something happened with him. If you’re not up on Christian subculture news, you can catch up by reading this. Or to summarize: Peterson was interviewed and sounded like he was affirming gay marriage, but then the big Christian bookstore LifeWay threatened to pull his books off their shelves, and mysteriously Peterson retracted his statements the next day.
Here are two ironies about this situation.
First, about the bookstore.
The Message would have been pulled from LifeWay bookstore shelves because Peterson hinted that he is now leaning, in faith, at age 84, toward including a traditionally excluded/oppressed group. That same inclusion was at the center of Jesus’s ministry and teaching… in other words, his “message.”
The translator of The Message agrees with the message of The Message… and as a result, The Message stops being sold.
Now, if you are a bookstore that sells this particular translation of the Bible, why would you do so? Because it’s effective, people like it, and it sells/makes you money? Or because it reaches people with the gospel? If it’s the latter… does the validity/effectiveness of The Message translation rest solely on Peterson’s views of marriage? If he changes his mind, you’re going to yank it off the shelf, and stop reaching people?
Second, about the impact of exclusion.
If you’re a fundamentalist Christian who reads the Bible literally and believes those who haven’t believed/accepted Jesus are going to spend eternity in hell, yet continue to exclude gays (on a social level, from marriage; or on a spiritual level, because you’re sure they’re in the wrong/sinning)… what chance do they have of really hearing the gospel? What chance do they have of not spending eternity in hell? What chance do they have of lending their ears to you, if your message is “you’re not welcome here?”
“Yeah but the Bible says so, and truth is truth.” OK then… isn’t your very truth-telling, as you may call it, keeping them from hearing the real Truth (the one that may save them)? In other words, which truth is more important to be trumpeting from the rooftops? The small-t “truth” that homosexuality is condemned by the Biblical authors? Or the capital-t Truth that Jesus died for the whole world?
As St. Francis said:
Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.
Yes please. Shall we?