Eugene Peterson — pastor, author of The Message paraphrase Bible — recently made waves in the Christian world. First, he “affirmed” same-sex marriage, then he backtracked, still claiming to believe in “biblical marriage.” LifeWay threatened to pull his books from their stores if he didn’t align his beliefs with theirs, and a day later he did.
“Gay-affirming” Christians praised Peterson, then railed him. Evangelicals cried out against him, then breathed a gigantic sigh of relief.
And somewhere in the middle of all this Eugene Peterson drama, I couldn’t help feeling like my story and the stories of all my other brothers were lost in the noise. Irrelevant and unnecessary.
In times like these, you either must be gay or straight to the extreme — there is no room for struggling with faith and sexuality anywhere in between.
You demand marriage equality, or you stand rigidly opposed. You despise the Church, or you embrace her. You “affirm” the LGBTQ community, or you condemn them to hell.
“Affirming” — it’s turned into such a buzzkill word. Because I have convictions not to enter a sexual or romantic relationship with another man, I’m learning I cannot be “affirming” to other gay people. I cannot love them, and I cannot start a fruitful conversation with them.
I cannot even get the space to utter the words “me too” at the shared plight of our bullying, isolation, and inferiority — inside the Church and out.
A few days ago, I tweeted the following:
Whether #EugenePeterson supports same-sex marriage or not, my story and other “Side B” stories get drowned out regardless. Rough stuff.
— Thomas Mark Zuniga (@thomasmarkz) July 13, 2017
I didn’t think a whole lot about this tweet after posting it. A little vulnerable, sure. But totally innocuous, right?
Well, I got attacked. I got labeled by multiple folks as: patronizing, wretched, intolerant, cruel, etc. I no longer give much weight to attacks from strangers on the Internet, but I do question my repeated efforts to bridge the gap — a gap that feels more like a chasm.
Is there no hope? Will anti-God and anti-gay never find a bridge?
This post isn’t about the merits or perils of same-sex marriage. It’s not even about Eugene Peterson or LifeWay’s stronghold on the Christian world.
It’s about a significant sliver of stories going untold, drowned in the noise from “Side A” advocates and Evangelical America.
In times like these, I’m especially grateful for Your Other Brothers. I’m grateful YOB exists, that so many follow us, commenting on our posts, sharing their own stories. Even supporting us financially so that we can cover monthly upkeep and climb more mountaintops and tell even more stories.
We currently boast about 100 people in a secret Facebook group for supporters. Of all the SSA / Side B Facebook groups I’ve been involved with over the years (too many), this one stands out.
These brothers are uniting around a common vision and purpose. They’re confessing their sins, they’re proclaiming praises, and they’re even posting pictures with other brothers in the group. Guys who once walked this struggle alone are staking refuge in a greater story — from the Internet and beyond.
The struggle may never vanish, but struggling together trumps struggling alone.
What a beautiful concept. It’s playing out every single day in our group.
One of my Twitter attackers blasted our numbers, claiming that our few dozen faithful followers is “insignificant.”
I disagree. I disagree so much.
This few dozen is changing the narrative. This few dozen represents cities and nations from the East to the West, and this few dozen is making aloneness a thing of the past.
This few dozen is growing.
One brother a time.
One blog post at a time.
One comment at a time.
One podcast at a time.
One story, one whisper at a time.
I often feel invisible in the Church. But I don’t feel as invisible as I once did.
How do you feel about this Eugene Peterson / LifeWay controversy? Do you feel invisible in the Church, or do you feel seen and heard and supported? If you have any questions about Patreon and our secret Facebook group, comment below! It’s a phenomenal group of guys, and we’d love to add one more to our midst.