On Sunday in a blog post at Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt summarized some personal reflections on his sexuality which are detailed in his new book Jesus is Better Than You Imagined.
Merritt, also the author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars which I endorsed. In that book, Merritt raises good questions and frequently illustrates the damage done to the Gospel and to people by culture war battles over social issues. In this blog post and his new book, he makes the matter personal.
The church is at a critical juncture on sensitive matters such as these. Churches need to create safe spaces where their people can be honest about what they feel and what they’ve experienced. All of our stories belong at the table. We need to listen to each other and learn to love each other and then pick up the scriptures and ask, “What does it look like to follow Jesus with our hearts, minds, and bodies?” If I shared my story for any reason, it was this one.
Merritt describes unwanted sexual contact as a child and then struggles over his sexual identity as an adult. He doesn’t label himself with a sexual orientation label and describes a fluidity that is characteristic of some people. I appreciate that he does not peg his same-sex attraction on his childhood and in fact says that it is “dangerous” to assume a connection.
Merritt’s experience is similar to so many who are same-sex or bisexually attracted but maintain loyalty to beliefs which are incongruous with same-sex sexual behavior or relationships. The American Psychological Association’s sexual orientation task force report calls this experience, telic congruence.
I look forward to reading his new book.