I think McEnroe is taking heat for no good reason

Earlier this evening, I saw John McEnroe’s interview with CBS News anchors who grilled him about some remarks he made about Serena Williams (see above). McEnroe said in an interview with NPR on Sunday that he believed that Serena Williams would be ranked about 700th in the world if she were playing on the men’s circuit. The anchors suggest that McEnroe is denigrating Serena Willams’s success, that he owes her an apology, and that he made the remark in order to increase his book sales.

McEnroe refuses to apologize, and I think he was right to do so. If you look at the NPR interview, it is clear that McEnroe was not denigrating Serena Williams. He was asked a pointed question, and he gave an honest answer. Read it for yourself:

Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.

McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.

Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?

McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.

Garcia-Navarro: You think so?

McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.

McEnroe did not denigrate Serena Williams. On the contrary, he called her the greatest female tennis player of all time. McEnroe did not bring the issue up to increase book sales. On the contrary, the NPR reporter raised the question. McEnroe merely answered the questions by stating the obvious. 

It is a fact that men generally have greater muscle mass, denser bone structure, and taller frames than women. That means that male athletes are generally bigger and faster and stronger than their female counterparts. Is McEnroe really supposed to apologize for saying something that everyone already knows to be true? I hope not.

This little episode reveals just how much our culture’s understanding of male and female has shifted. Because of transgenderism or as in this case feminism, people are increasingly willing (and even expected) to overlook the biological realities that distinguish men and women. The result of this drift is that what used to be considered common sense is now considered insensitive. That is what caught McEnroe by surprise. But it doesn’t make what he said any less true. It just reveals a cultural drift toward the absurd.

The Christian baker who refused to bake the gay wedding cake is happy to serve gay customers

Colorado is attempting to force Jack Phillips, a Christian baker, to use his artistic gifts to create a cake for a gay wedding celebration. Phillips says that creating such a cake would violate his religious beliefs. And he is not singling out gay weddings. He has also declined to make Halloween cakes and cakes with risqué messages for bachelor parties. He refused them because those messages also violate his religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court will decide whether the government can force him to violate his deeply held religious beliefs when it comes to gay marriage. What will they decide? That remains to be seen. Until they do, however, it is important to keep in mind what this case is and is not about. Unfortunately, a lot of media coverage actually obscures the facts of the case. For example, The New York Times report today says this:

The case will be a major test of a clash between laws that ban businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom. Around the nation, businesses like bakeries, florists and photography studios have said, so far with little success, that forcing them to serve gay couples violates their constitutional rights.

This paragraph is actually incorrect. This particular baker is not discriminating against anyone because of their sexual orientation. He is not refusing service to gay couples because they are gay. In fact, he serves gay customers all the time. He is perfectly happy and willing to serve gay customers in his shop.

Likewise, USA Today and Religion News Service have an article headlined, “Supreme Court will hear religious liberty challenge to gay weddings.” This one really distorts the nature of the case. Phillips is not challenging the legality of gay weddings. He’s challenging Colorado’s attempt to force him into participating in one. [UPDATE: RNS corrected the headline after I tweeted about it.]

And that is the real issue. Phillips does not think the state has the right to coerce him to create art that contradicts his faith. Creating a cake for the purposes of celebrating a same-sex wedding would violate his faith. And that is what he is objecting to.

You will read press reports and hear news stories claiming that he wishes to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That is just simply not true.

How will this case ultimately be decided? The decision is likely to come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who was the deciding vote in both Obergefell and Windsor. David French explains the religious liberty peril before us:

If Justice Kennedy views this case primarily through the LGBT lens, then the First Amendment may well lose. Kennedy is obviously proud of his long line of LGBT-friendly precedents, and that pride has even led him to a relatively rare First Amendment misstep, so it will be critical to explain to him (and the other justices, of course) that this isn’t a case about “discrimination” but rather about forced speech. Framing matters, and the other side will wrongly frame the case as raising the specter of Jim Crow. The right framing is found in the First Amendment.

This case will likely be a watershed for how religious liberty claims are treated in the future. If the court gets this right, it will have gone a long way to upholding our first freedom in the Bill of Rights. If the court gets this wrong, it will have gone a long way to undermine it.

Scholar says intersectional feminism is a cult

Christina Hoff Sommers studies the politics of gender and feminism as resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and she is the host of the “Factual Feminist” video series. Yesterday, Ben Domenech interviewed her for The Federalist Radio Hour (download here or listen below).

Sommers defines her own feminist views over and against “intersectional feminism,”1 which she says dominates college campuses today. She says that intersectional feminism is like a “cult” which allows no dissent and silences all contrary views. It is heavily invested in identity politics, promoting a kind of “oppression olympics” in which there is a competition among students to prove who is the most aggrieved by perceived oppression of one sort or another. It is divisive and censorious, and the toxic atmosphere it creates cannot be sustained. Something has to give.

In a recent symposium on free speech, Sommers identifies intersectionality as the leading obstacle to free speech on college campuses. She writes:

When Heather Mac Donald’s “blue lives matter” talk was shut down by a mob at Claremont McKenna College, the president of neighboring Pomona College sent out an email defending free speech. Twenty-five students shot back a response: “Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist?.?.?.?classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live.”

Some blame the new campus intolerance on hypersensitive, over-trophied millennials. But the students who signed that letter don’t appear to be fragile. Nor do those who recently shut down lectures at Berkeley, Middlebury, DePaul, and Cal State LA. What they are is impassioned. And their passion is driven by a theory known as intersectionality.

Intersectionality is the source of the new preoccupation with microaggressions, cultural appropriation, and privilege-checking. It’s the reason more than 200 colleges and universities have set up Bias Response Teams. Students who overhear potentially “otherizing” comments or jokes are encouraged to make anonymous reports to their campus BRTs. A growing number of professors and administrators have built their careers around intersectionality. What is it exactly?

Intersectionality is a neo-Marxist doctrine that views racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, and all forms of “oppression” as interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Together these “isms” form a complex arrangement of advantages and burdens. A white woman is disadvantaged by her gender but advantaged by her race. A Latino is burdened by his ethnicity but privileged by his gender. According to intersectionality, American society is a “matrix of domination,” with affluent white males in control. Not only do they enjoy most of the advantages, they also determine what counts as “truth” and “knowledge.”

But marginalized identities are not without resources. According to one of intersectionality’s leading theorists, Patricia Collins (former president of the American Sociology Association), disadvantaged groups have access to deeper, more liberating truths. To find their voice, and to enlighten others to the true nature of reality, they require a safe space—free of microaggressive put-downs and imperious cultural appropriations. Here they may speak openly about their “lived experience.” Lived experience, according to intersectional theory, is a better guide to the truth than self-serving Western and masculine styles of thinking. So don’t try to refute intersectionality with logic or evidence: That only proves that you are part of the problem it seeks to overcome.

How could comfortably ensconced college students be open to a convoluted theory that describes their world as a matrix of misery? Don’t they flinch when they hear intersectional scholars like bell hooks refer to the U.S. as an “imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy”? Most take it in stride because such views are now commonplace in high-school history and social studies texts. And the idea that knowledge comes from lived experience rather than painstaking study and argument is catnip to many undergrads.

Silencing speech and forbidding debate is not an unfortunate by-product of intersectionality—it is a primary goal. How else do you dismantle a lethal system of oppression? As the protesting students at Claremont McKenna explained in their letter: “Free speech?.?.?.?has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.” To the student activists, thinkers like Heather MacDonald and Charles Murray are agents of the dominant narrative, and their speech is “a form of violence.”

It is hard to know how our institutions of higher learning will find their way back to academic freedom, open inquiry, and mutual understanding. But as long as intersectional theory goes unchallenged, campus fanaticism will intensify.

I think Sommers is onto something here. And I think that Christians need to take note. Intersectional theory certainly does stifle free speech, and in particular it seeks to shut down religious perspectives that conflict with the theory. That is why, for example, Christian arguments about sexuality and gender are often met not with counter-arguments but with appeals to the lived-experience of those with one or more of the LGBT identities. In other words, Christian truth claims are not met with reason but with accusations of oppression and abuse.

Joe Carter has written an essay identifying helpful and unhelpful elements of intersectionality theory. I am concerned that the unhelpful elements of intersectionality theory have already established some beachheads within the evangelical movement. On more than one occasion I have been told that my views on sexuality and gender are deficient not because they are incompatible with God’s revelation but because I happen to be a heterosexual white male. My overlapping layers of “privilege” render anything I would say irrelevant and unworthy. This is intersectionality at work, and it shuts-down necessary confrontations with scripture in the name of intersectional righteousness.

And this is the test for evangelical Christians. What will we do when intersectional righteousness is at odds with God’s righteousness as revealed in scripture? This is the great fork in the road, and the two paths do not lead to the same destination.


1 See my previous posts on intersectionality here and here. For a primer on intersectionality, I recommend Joe Carter’s article “What Christians Should Know about Intersectionality.” Andrew Sullivan offers a powerful critique of intersectionality from a secular perspective in “Is Intersectionality a Religion.” If you want to take a deep-dive into some actual intersectional theory, I recommend Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139-67. For a popular introduction to Crenshaw’s theory, see her recent TED Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.”

Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”)

Over the weekend, I came across one of the saddest interviews I have ever seen (see above). It’s an interview on The New York Times Magazine website that features five “non-monogamous” men and women. All five of the persons are involved in sexual relationships with others in the group and with many others outside the group. There are two married couples in the group, and one woman who has no legal tie to either of the couples. The interview describes what their non-monogamous marriages are like, and how they make their marriages work.

What is really sad about this interview is that the dysfunctionality of these relationships is apparent even though it is being presented as simply a new and enlightened way of imagining marriage. In one couple, the husband says he agreed to non-monogamy only when his philandering wife said that she wanted an open marriage. He knew that the only way he could keep from losing his wife was to agree to this arrangement, and that is what he did. Nevertheless, the husband still gets jealous, and he still worries that a more attractive or more wealthy man might take his wife away from him.

In the other couple, the wife seems concerned about the other women her husband is seeing. Nevertheless, she agrees to the open marriage as well and is seeking out her own relationships outside the marriage. But still, she seems uneasy about the whole thing.

One woman is not married but is having an affair with one of the husbands in the group. She is doing this while also carrying on affairs with a number of other men and women not included in the interview. And even though she too has agreed to these “open” relationships, she worries that she doesn’t have a “nesting” partner like the other two couples in the interview. She is a loner in the “open” relationships, and has no legal tie to anyone. She worries that she will grow old and never have a “nesting” partner.

None of the five people in the interview express any moral qualms about what they are doing. Nevertheless, the dysfunction and insecurity are there for anyone to see. The worry about someone stealing their “nesting” partner away. The desire to have a “nesting” partner. What are these but a desire for some semblance of fidelity and faithfulness?

In spite of the slick presentation, there is no avoiding the fact that these relationships are a mess. And they are that way because we were not made for so-called “open marriages” nor for “ethical non-monagamy” (yes, that’s what they call it). Something will always feel wrong in sexual relationships that lack covenant and fidelity. Having a “nesting” partner is just not the same.

What does it say about our culture that The New York Times Magazine sees fit to mainstreaming these relationships? What does it say about us that we are becoming more and more accustomed to this kind of fare in popular culture? Things have changed and are changing, but not for the better. But feature stories like this one make you wonder if anyone has noticed.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them” (Romans 1:22, 24).

Christians are rightly grieved to see the perversions that are being mainstreamed in our culture. Our culture has not only rejected the heterosexual norm of marriage, but also the norm of monogamy. There is every reason to believe that every other norm will be tested as well. They already are.

The interview above reveals an attempt to sanctify promiscuity by calling it marriage. Nevertheless, marriage is not an infinitely elastic institution that can be reshaped and redefined according to individual tastes. It is not something that can be customized to include unfaithfulness and adultery within its purview. Marriage is the covenantal, conjugal union of one man and one woman for life. Any arrangement outside of that divinely ordained structure will eventually lead to frustration and pain. We cannot alter the nature of marriage, though some are certainly trying. And they do so to their own hurt.

U2: The concert was great–a little preachy, but still great

It’s hard to believe that I have been listening to U2 for over 30 years. It’s also hard to believe that I’ve never made it to one of their showstopping live performances until just last night. My wife and I bought our tickets months ago, just after they went on sale. So we have been anticipating this for quite some time.

I know Bono did not want this tour to be about nostalgia, but for us it certainly was. We wanted to hear them play the old stuff, and that’s exactly what they did. It was lump-in-your-throat spectacular. In fact, I got a little verklempt when “Where the Streets Have No Name” began to ring out (see video above). It was unbelievable. As Bono began singing, a giant UPS jet flew so close to the stadium that it looked like it might land on us. It slightly terrified everyone, which I think only added to the excitement of the performance.

Anyway, our overall experience was a good one. We are earbud consumers of music these days, and it’s good to experience an event with enough subwoofers to shake your insides while you listen. It was a fantastic show. One that we will never forget.

I am not going to write a proper music review here. Nor am I going to reflect on the legacy of the iconic album “The Joshua Tree” (for that, read Mike Cosper’s excellent piece). My aim is to offer some reflections that have less to do with the music itself than with the message of the performance. And there is no question that U2 is trying to deliver a message on this tour.

1. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bono said that he wanted to bring the “The Joshua Tree” into 2017. Songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” were originally written to critique President Reagan’s foreign policy in South America back in the 80’s. Bono wanted to take such messages and apply them to current events. But he says that he wanted to do so without alienating red state America who voted for Donald Trump. In his own words, Bono says:

I also think it’s very, very important that people who voted for Donald Trump feel welcome at our show. I think they have been hoodwinked, but I understand and I would not dismiss the reasons why some people voted for him. I think people on the left really need to put their ear closer to the ground. I do this thing where I say, “The party of Lincoln, the party of Kennedy and those in between holding on, those letting go of the American Dream are welcome.” This is the most important line: “We’ll find common ground by reaching for higher ground.”

Even though the political critique wasn’t as severe as it could have been, it was nevertheless very clear. You have to appreciate the effort to mute the criticism, but it was still there. Any Trump voter paying attention would have understood that Bono was coming down on their guy.

2. Related to that last point, Bono fans tend to treat him like a religious leader. When he speaks, there is a worshipful hush and a nodding of heads as the sage holds forth. Bono must be accustomed to this kind of reverence because he presses into it. This show was without question the most preachy one I have ever attended. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bono is a good man. I admire his compassion, his commitment to relieving suffering around the world, his emphasis on forgiveness and love. He puts his money where his mouth is. I think he is sincere and good, and I do not wish to critique him personally.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel there was more platitude than substance. For example near the end of the show, Bono exhorted all of us that we needed to put aside what divides us. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the left or from the right, from the blue or from the red. If we can all just focus on the “one” thing that is more valuable than anything else, we could all be united in spite of our differences. And then he concludes that we all just need to focus on the “one.” And then he went into the song “One” with no further explanation of what the “one” is. It felt like that moment in City Slickers when Curly tells Billy Crystal that the secret of life is “one” thing but then doesn’t tell him what the one thing is. Bono insists that we need to be united in our commitment to the “one,” but he gives us not one clue what principle unites us.

The end result of this leaves you feeling pretty thin. What principle or person could possibly make us put aside our differences? What could possibly make war and poverty cease in the world? What could move the human heart to love when it is currently so given to hate? Inspiring as it is, it is not going to be a U2 concert. Nor is going to be the force of Bono’s personality. Nor is it going to be the music. Bono leaves it to us to find the “one” thing that will put everything right. It seems to me that the “one” thing isn’t a principle but a Person–Jesus Christ the savior of the world. Perhaps that is what Bono wishes to imply. It is hard to tell, however, when he lionizes personalities and principles that foment the very division that he wishes to overcome. Which leads to one final observation.

3. The encore for this show is an ode to women activists. As the band plays “Ultraviolet,” there is a giant screen featuring the likes of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Ellen Degeneres. As I was watching these faces light up screen, I couldn’t help but think: “Hmm. I think one of these things is not like the other.” But Bono explains his rationale:

The future is about women. I really believe that, so let’s make it an ode to women. As you know, feminine spirit is crucial at times when the male hegemony is causing mayhem. After the Second World War, people like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, whoever … Marvin Gaye, say – that’s a feminine spirit. The 1960s was a feminine spirit, and the 1960s was born in the rubble of the Second World War.

Great leaps forward of consciousness have a feminine spirit. Men start to look like [women], they grow their hair long. It’s a funny thing, the Renaissance. … Whenever you see the feminine spirit there’s usually a jump in consciousness. In the One Campaign we’re leading with, “Poverty is sexist.” It’s a campaign run by women. And I’m just watching, stepping back, to be the kind of town crier that I used to be. I’m still banging on drums, but I’m in the background. The singers are women. I’m amazed by it.

The actual execution of this “ode to women” is pretty heavily tilted toward pop culture icons. But it was very clear that second and third wave feminists are also prominent–Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc. And yet, the movement that Steinem and Friedan represent has given us one of the most divisive ideologies on the planet. Whatever your opinion of feminism, we can all agree that it is not the “one” principle that unites us. Not by a long shot.

Bottom line: This was a fantastic concert, and we enjoyed every minute of it even if it was a bit preachy. We didn’t come for that anyway. We came for great music delivered by one of the best bands of all time. That is what we got, and it was a fantastic show.

Soldier of Christ

Jarrod served in the US Army with a 12 month tour in Afghanistan where he experienced the physical and emotional struggles of war. Witnessing the fragility of life, he sensed a clear call to ministry during his difficult deployment. That is how he ended up at Southern Seminary and eventually at a pastorate in a small church. Watch his story above.

Os Guinness: “President Trump is God’s wrecking ball”

Collin Hansen recently interviewed Os Guinness for the Beeson Divinity School podcast and asked Guinness about evangelicals and the 2016 presidential election. You can listen below at 2:07 or read my transcription below the audio.


Collin Hansen:
One of the opportunities we have essentially to take stock of ourselves as evangelicals often comes in the aftermath of presidential elections… What would you say that you learned perhaps about yourself or about evangelicals in the aftermath of the presidential election?

Os Guinness: I’m not sure I learned too much about myself in the election. Evangelicals though, they were roundly attacked for say the 81% who voted in Donald Trump (I thought unfairly). I think a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the president as I understood it (the evangelicals I know), it wasn’t that they voted for Trump, ’cause they knew that he was an extraordinary character who’s got some obvious flaws. But it was more that they voted against not just Hillary but all the henchmen and women she would have brought in with her because culturally speaking, if that particular party had got in apart from the grace of the Lord in revival, the culture and it’s trends in America might have been irreversible. So it was a vote against that rather than for Trump. The way I put it is I think President Trump is God’s wrecking ball stopping America in its tracks [from] the direction it’s going and giving the country a chance to rethink. Now we’re not putting our hope in the president or in politics, but you have a window to regroup, to rethink. The church profoundly needs reformation in all sorts of areas. So there’s a breathing space.

You can listen to the rest of the interview above, or visit the podcast page here.

NPR: “Southern Baptists Update Bible’s Language On Gender”

Earlier this week, I wrote about an article in The Atlantic that claimed the Southern Baptist Convention has produced a “gender-inclusive” translation of the Bible. The Atlantic piece was badly mistaken on many points, but it nevertheless generated some headlines in the run-up to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ.

NPR covered the story in its morning edition yesterday. I did a brief interview for the segment, which you can listen to above. You can also read the transcript here or download here.

“The Gospel according to Glennon”: What gospel?

Elle magazine has published a long-form essay on famous mommy-blogger Glennon Doyle Melton. Until Melton divorced her husband and came out as a lesbian last year, I really didn’t even know who she was. Even so, she has been a popular blogger and writer for a number of years, especially among women. Her openness about her imperfect life has endeared her to millions of readers, many of whom are Christians. Anyway, the Elle feature tells her story, which I won’t rehearse here. I encourage you to read the piece for the full account. Nevertheless, I would offer a handful of reflections on the essay:

1. I have never been a reader of Melton, so I am coming at this as someone with very little knowledge of her. Still, it is striking that for someone who was billed as a “Christian” writer, there is nothing about her in this article that would suggest that she held to the Christian gospel. Maybe she did at some point. But it is absent even in the part that narrates her “conversion.” Perhaps readers more familiar with her work can weigh-in on this, but I still thought that was a conspicuous absence.

2. Even before her coming-out, this article says that her fellow travelers were the likes of Rob Bell and other pop-spirituality/self-help gurus. It also says that she has been a member of the United Church of Christ–a “church” that sanctifies sexually immoral relationships. Were these items red flags to Christian readers before her coming-out? It seems like they should have been.

3. The author of the article emphasizes that Melton’s authenticity and openness about her imperfect “messy” life is what made her so popular–even among non-Christians. It seems that there is a lesson in this. An air of “authenticity” and “messiness” is no substitute for authentic Christian faithfulness. We would all do well to learn how to tell the difference. 

4. The story of Melton’s coming-out was particularly sad–and perhaps even a little bit dishonest. Melton did not merely come out as a lesbian. She divorced her husband to pursue a relationship with a woman that she had fallen in love with. Her husband’s description of his experience is worth considering in his own words:

As for Craig, he remembers receiving an urgent text message from Glennon one afternoon, saying she had something very serious to discuss. “It sounded like 911, like Code Red,” he tells me over the phone. “I rushed home. On the way, I was thinking, Either she has cancer, or she’s gay.” (Obviously Craig isn’t as clueless as he’s sometimes portrayed to be.)

When he found out it wasn’t cancer, “I hit the floor bawling,” he says. “I was just so happy she wasn’t going to die.” Then came a wave of “sadness, confusion, and anger,” he says. “I thought we had been doing things the right way. Both of us had been working on ourselves. We’d entered a phase that was supposed to be a new life for us. It was a shock. It felt like the end of the world.”

But eventually, Craig says, he felt he had no choice but to accept his new reality. Glennon and Abby are, after all, “two women following their hearts,” he says, slipping into Glennon-speak. “Isn’t that what life is all about? Finding true love? If Glennon is happy, and Abby is happy, and the kids are thriving, what’s wrong with that?” Now he shares joint custody of the children with Melton, and he recently accepted a new job in technology sales.

There’s no question that both spouses played a part in the dissolution of the marriage. But still, it is striking that Craig is unable to lament the end of his marriage. He is obviously grieved over the loss, but he does not even hint that anything wrong has happened. Because his wife fell in love with a woman, she is to be celebrated for divorcing him. But would people be celebrating the divorce in the same way if she had left him for another man? Probably not. Why? Because “coming-out” and embracing gay identity is seen as sacrosanct in our culture–even more holy than the covenant of marriage. Even more important than maintaining one’s wedding vows.

The result is that the divorce gets whitewashed. Its impact on the husband and children is almost completely a non-factor in the story. The central factor is Melton’s personal happiness and self-fulfillment. And that is why so many of her readers feel empowered to pursue divorce instead of sticking it out through tough times in their own marriages. Here is a telling comment from a marriage counselor interviewed for the article:

“She puts a knot in my stomach,” says couples therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, whose latest book is called Healing From Infidelity. “I can’t count how many times I hear women quoting her when they come into my office. On the positive side, she wants to empower women. But the fact is, most people don’t do divorce all that well, especially when children are involved. She’s strengthening their conviction that they need to get away from their husbands, instead of learning to work through challenging issues. Sometimes you have to be a warrior to stay.”

5. If this article is accurate, what is left of Melton’s “Christian” faith cannot be reasonably described as authentically Christian. The article says,

She’s equally enthused about her new role as a pillar of the progressive opposition movement. Since leaving Craig for Wambach—who stumped for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been an advocate for women’s equality and LGBTQ causes—Melton has recast herself as a leader of the Christian resistance to Trump. “It’s one of the best parts of our relationship,” Melton says. “We wake up in the morning, and we literally say to each other: ‘Coffee and revolution.’?”

To that end, Melton has stopped blogging about floor crap and started blogging about Black Lives Matter and the need for intersectionality. These days, when she reminds her followers that they “can do hard things,” she’s not talking about scraping Play-Doh off the rug but about helping children in Aleppo—or calling your congressperson. “I realized I didn’t just want to parent children in my own little home, but to mother the whole world,” Melton says. “What’s the point of gaining influence if you’re not going to use it?”

Mother to the world? Wow. But what is she bequeathing to her “children”? It’s not the faith once for all delivered to the saints, but sadly something else altogether.

Have Southern Baptists embraced gender-inclusive Bible translation? Not by a longshot.

Jonathan Merritt and Garet Robinson have penned an article for The Atlantic with the inflammatory title, “Southern Baptists Embrace Gender-Inclusive Language in the Bible.” The subtitle continues, “America’s largest Protestant denomination has produced a revised translation that incorporates many features it had long condemned.”

No doubt the timing of this article is no accident. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) begins its annual meetings tonight in Phoenix, Arizona. It would indeed be a bombshell for messengers to learn as they arrive to the convention hall that their denomination has delivered a product that the rank-and-file have long opposed in resolution after resolution.

It would be shocking if it were true. But it’s not true. In fact, it’s demonstrably false. Merritt and Robinson’s article is not only riddled with factual errors. It also appears that they do not even understand the basic issues of the longstanding debate over gender-inclusive translations.

Merritt and Robinson claim that the first edition of the CSB was well-received in 2003 and that “the Bible battlefront quieted for more than a decade.” This statement is glaringly inaccurate. The year 2003 was about the time that the translation controversy began heating-up to a fever pitch—especially after the publication of the now defunct TNIV. There were a string
of publications weighing-in on the controversy through the early to mid-2000’s. And even after that, the controversy was never entirely over.

My point is simply this. Merritt and Robinson reveal very little evidence of familiarity with the debate or with the issues in contention. The result is an article with so many problems that I can’t even begin to catalogue them all in a single blog post. But for the sake of illustration, I’ll cite two examples:

(1) Merritt and Robinson make no mention of the fact that the CSB follows the Colorado Springs Guidelines in its approach to gender language. The Colorado Springs Guidelines were drafted in 1997 in the wake of news that the NIV would be producing a gender-neutral revision. On May 27, 1997, James Dobson convened a meeting of evangelical scholars and leaders that drafted a set of guidelines for handling gender language. Those guidelines have long been regarded by both sides of the debate as a standard for those opposing gender-neutral translations. The CSB translators followed those guidelines, an observation which leads me to my second point.

(2) Merritt and Robinson allege that “a number of the same ‘gender-neutral’ elements that the SBC previously condemned were inserted into its own translation.” If Merritt and Robinson had consulted the Colorado Springs Guidelines, perhaps they would not have made such an inaccurate statement. Perhaps they would have noticed that the examples they cite of “gender-inclusive” renderings in the CSB follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines!

For example, Merritt and Robinson point out that,

The CSB now translates the term anthropos, a Greek word for “man,” in a gender-neutral form 151 times, rendering it “human,” “people,” and “ones.” The previous edition had done this on occasion; the new revision adds almost 100 more instances… The CSB translates the term adelphoi, a Greek word for “brother” in a gender-neutral form 106 times, often adding “sister.”

Merritt and Robinson see this as an example of gender-inclusive translation, but the Colorado Springs Guidelines allow for certain instances of anthropos to be translated in a gender-inclusive way. The same is true for adelphoi, which often does refer to “brothers and sisters.” What Merritt and Robinson fail to understand is that these points are fairly uncontroversial in the larger debate.

The debate has not focused on examples such as the ones cited by Merritt and Robinson. Rather, the debate has focused on examples where the biblical author clearly intends masculine meaning. A gender-inclusive translation will often mute the author’s masculine meaning with a rendering that is gender-inclusive. That is the point of the debate. And Merritt and Robinson produce not a single example of the CSB muting masculine meaning with a gender-inclusive rendering. Not one example.

I should also mention one other thing. I know the translators of the CSB. There is a reason that they agreed to follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines. The translators themselves all oppose gender-inclusive renderings of scripture that mute masculine expressions.

I have been following the gender-inclusive translation debate in scholarly and popular literature for over a decade. I am also the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, an organization devoted to upholding what scripture teaches about men and women and their respective roles in the home and in the church. I know what gender-inclusive translations look like, and I am on the record opposing them. The CSB is not a gender-neutral translation of scripture, nor were the CSB translators trying to produce one. On the contrary, the translators intended to produce an accurate translation that faithfully renders what the authors of scripture intended to communicate. The CSB has admirably achieved this goal. The critiques of Merritt and Robinson in The Atlantic are completely off-base.

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Postscript: For readers unfamiliar with this debate, I thought it might be helpful to illustrate the kinds of “gender-inclusive” renderings that the Colorado Springs Guidelines were designed to eliminate. For example, the NRSV is a gender-inclusive revision of the RSV. Consider the NRSV’s gender-inclusive revision of 1 Timothy 3:2:

RSV: Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife
NRSV: Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once

The RSV rightly renders the underlying Greek term as “husband” (Gk. andra). The gender-inclusive NRSV mutes the fact that Paul is not talking about married people in general but about a “husband” in particular. By eliminating the clear masculine meaning of the underlying Greek, the NRSV obscures the fact that Paul intends for pastors to be qualified men.

Gender-inclusive translations of scripture routinely do this kind of thing. They obscure masculine oriented details of the source text. By following the Colorado Springs Guidelines, the CSB translators have taken pains to avoid this kind of thing. For Merritt and Robinson to suggest otherwise is to misrepresent the CSB.

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