A friend of mine forwarded this tweet to me and wanted me to express a reaction about it:
To the ten of thousands of #LGBT people who were spiritually abused by ignorant churches and pastors as children *and yet* somehow fought to become happy, healthy adults, I celebrate you this weekend. #HappyPride 🏳️🌈— Jonathan Merritt (@JonathanMerritt) June 24, 2018
I feel uncomfortable reading Merritt's tweet. Not because I feel hate toward him. If anything, as I explain in the video below, I can see a reverse image of my own experience in his anger and bitterness. He grew up in a culture and came to realize it suffocated him. That's something I know a great deal about.
We ended up journeying in opposite directions. As the son of a president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he epitomized privilege and prestige much like the gay Getty children recently profiled in the New York Times. But he migrated from the "good ol' boys" of the Baptist South to a different old boys network of New York liberals, winning a platform at the Atlantic Monthly and Religion News Service. He uses his platform quite often to attack the evangelical world, including people I admire and like.
I migrated in the opposite direction. When I packed my bags and moved out of New York City in 1998, at the age of twenty-seven, I said goodbye not only to the Bronx but also to the cosmopolitan liberal pro-gay world that had cradled me since my birth. In the heart of the LGBT world Merritt romanticizes, I experienced abuse, trauma, and exploitation that it would take decades to heal from. Unlike Merritt, I didn't have the comfortable option of setting myself up in an established elite of privilege and influence. Ironically, I migrated to the evangelical conservative world just as Merritt's newfound friends in the liberal world I left behind were dancing on the graves of evangelical conservatives. Jonathan is one of the star dancers in that act.
If I were forced to guess which is harder--growing up gay in a white aristocratic home in the South or growing up straight in the home of a divorced Puerto Rican lesbian in New York state--I would say the latter. But maybe I am totally wrong. There might be aspects of Merritt's experience that far overshadow anything I suffered. And in the end I think I arrived at a healthier place than he did. I know the evangelical world and I know New York City. I'd rather be in Texas with my wife and kids.
The person who forwarded me Merritt's tweet may have expected a sarcastic response from me, but I do not want to react that way. Underneath his social exterior there is a person there. Jonathan Merritt seems full of pain and loneliness. His bitterness is no greater than my own sinful propensity to hold grudges and stay angry too long.
I pray that he finds some peace in his heart and meets a woman who can bring him back to the Lord and give him children. I pray that all the evangelical world can feel the blessing of happiness in Jonathan Merritt's heart, and the resulting decline in his attacks on our world.
I pray for hurting people everywhere. I sincerely do and ask you to, also.