Empathy for Dr. Albert Mohler (with update)
I was catching up with online news last night, and read about some vitriolic responses Southern Baptist Seminary president Dr. Albert Mohler has been receiving for the simple acknowledgement that there's a lot of homophobia in the SBC, and that homophobia is a sin that should be repented of. He followed that up with a vigorous defense of the traditional conservative position on homosexuality, but that wasn't enough for his detractor, who judged Mohler's statements as "pandering to the homosexual lobby." The SBC was similarly pilloried for showing some modicum of compassion for undocumented immigrants, which was judged "pandering to lawbreakers."
While Dr. Mohler would no doubt differ with my views on LGBT issues, I do recall the word "pandering" being used about me and my work some years ago by a well-placed Evangelical leader. I remember how that insult hurt at the time. So I wrote this note ... perhaps someone will forward it to Dr. Mohler.
Dear Dr. Mohler,
I wanted to express my sadness at the way your recent comments about repenting of homophobia were attacked and ridiculed by one of your fellow conservative Christians. I was also saddened to see your critic attack the SBC's mildly-worded statement of concern for immigrants.
First, I wanted to express empathy. I know it took courage for you to say what you said, and of course I think your comments are a step in the right direction. I know what it's like to take a risk and say things that you believe need to be said - because you believe they're true and because justice, kindness, and humility require you to say them - only to be maligned for doing so. I'm sincerely sorry you are experiencing this.
Second, I wanted to share a spark of hope. I wonder if, as you deal with these dismissive criticisms now and in the future, you might get some insight into how some of your past comments have seemed to people like me. I wonder if, being put in the situation you sometimes put others in, you might gain some insight that will make a difference in how you respond to others less conservative than you in the future. I hope that will be the case. But even if it's not, please know that I'm still sincerely sorry you're being maligned.
Third, I wanted to share a word of encouragement. Please don't back down. You don't seem like the kind of person to be bullied, but I've noticed how people are more prone to be bullied by their fellows than by their opponents. The simplistic dismissals and ungracious manner of your critics should not be rewarded with concessions. So stand firm, and maintain the courage to graciously differ with them - just as you have done with me and others like me on some occasions.
Finally, I wanted to say thanks to you and your colleagues for making the kinds of statements that elicited this negative response. On behalf of my gay family members and friends who face real homophobia from far too many churches far too often, and on behalf of immigrants who face increasing xenophobia as well - often within Evangelical churches more than anywhere else, thank you for taking a risk and saying some things that needed to be said.
I know that many who read my blog will join me in praying for you and your colleagues in the days ahead. Don't be intimidated. Keep moving forward.
Warmly, in Christ,
On the immigrant issue, see Roger Olson's wise editorial here: