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How Many More Petersons Are Out There?

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Written by: Jared C. Wilson

petersonIt was the "yes" heard 'round the evangelical Twittersphere, at least for the day. In an interview with Religious New Service's Jonathan Merritt published yesterday, evangelical stalwart Eugene Peterson professed what appeared to be a reversal of his views of homosexual relationships, saying, among other things, "I don't think it's something that you can parade, but it's not a right or wrong thing as far as I'm concerned."

When asked by Merritt whether he'd personally officiate the wedding of a same-sex couple, Peterson answered simply, without equivocation: "Yes."

Depending on your perspective — a fondness for or a skepticism about Peterson and his work — reactions in social media streams ran the gamut. Some admirers of his ministry expressed shock. Critics complained that "only people who weren't paying attention" to his "trajectory" could be shocked. Close followers of Peterson's work, including a few who have attended some of the rare public events at which he's appeared over the last few years, mentioned that this isn't a new position for him, that he has been making these same affirmations in smaller group settings for a while.

There are many others, however, who were not shocked, but nevertheless saddened. Count me one of them.

I am old enough to remember when it was unfashionable to like Eugene Peterson's work simply because his work had become so fashionable. Cutting my ministry teeth during the rise of the seeker church movement of the 80's and 90's, I had grown weary of the misuse and over-use of Peterson's Bible translation The Message. But as my generation aged, we found so much more depth in Peterson's writing than we were previously led to believe. Where The Message had been used to make the Scriptures more palatable for modern worship, to make it more up-to-date, it was Peterson's work on pastoral ministry (mostly) that became increasingly relevant to many of us precisely because he was eschewing modernity as an ecclesiological virtue.

I have never pastored a very large church, and I've always resonated with thinkers and writers who championed the smallness and ordinariness of faithfully shepherding a local congregation. For many like me, Peterson became a kind of patron saint--a defender of the institutional church while also a critic of the professionalization of the pastorate, a dismantler of the spiritual racketeering so many in our day pass off as Christian ministry.

Yes, he tilted leftward. We saw that. Many just dismissed this as an affectation, an impression left of his being artsy or contemplative. But he had never clearly embraced that which the Bible calls us to reject. He hadn't gone the way of the Rob Bells or the Brian McLarens or of numerous other thought leaders who'd followed their hearts right into religious liberalism. At least, we didn't think he had.

Whether Peterson had been sharing these convictions for a while or not, yesterday's RNS piece has clearly been his most public admission. What is most curious about the interview, assuming it was published verbatim (or close to it), is how much is missing. Peterson offers no defense for his position, no biblical rationale, no theological reflection. There may be a variety of reasons for this. Peterson is notoriously "out of the loop"--it's possible he didn't know or quite understand the reach and impact his statements would have on social media. It's possible he knew that his interlocutor was a sympathetic ear to this position. (Jonathan Merritt routinely publishes articles and editorials offering support for ministers, writers, and other leaders who have rejected the traditional teaching on biblical sexuality.) It's equally possible, I suppose, that he simply doesn't care, that he doesn't think he owes anyone an explanation.

Knowing the careful and introspective thought that has gone into his writing on Christianity and the Christian ministry, I'd be surprised if Peterson could make no attempt at exegetical reasons for his views. But the reality is that he offered none. He only offered that he has over the last several years met gay folks who "seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do," and this has changed his mind.

Certainly knowing gay people--spiritually-minded or otherwise--will change the demeanor and tenor of many people's speaking and thinking on same-sex attraction and their ministry toward the LGBTQ community, but as a justification for rejecting traditional views on sexuality it hardly seems to suffice. And it actually seems to undercut what Peterson has been carefully teaching so many of his devotees all along--that God's word holds the wisdom that runs counter to the seasonally shifting whims of the world, that faithful ministry means, among many other things, enduring steadfast while the trends and fads of the culture swirl around us, that what really and ultimately counts is "a long obedience in the same direction."

Lately, each day in evangelicalism seems to bring with it a new watershed. A few months ago, popular author and conference speaker Jen Hatmaker made waves with her public affirmation of same-sex marriage. Even after the backlash, which has cost her not just readers and fans but also speaking engagements, Hatmaker has not disavowed her views. Peterson may be in a different position, as he is not a frequent conference speaker, nor is his publishing reliant largely on the typical evangelical customer base. He has been somewhat of an outlier all along, drawing devotees from multiple Christian traditions and tribes. But the fallout of his announcement pushes us to face a cultural crisis in evangelicalism many have not yet faced. For instance, how many more Jen Hatmakers and Eugene Petersons are out there?

Last month, Stan Mitchell, pastor of Gracepointe Church announced his congregation's plans to move from Franklin, Tennessee to Nashville. Self-describing as a "progressive pastor," Mitchell shared with USA Today Network's Holly Meyer that he felt Nashville's marketplace might be more accepting of Gracepointe's recent adoption of sanctioning same-sex marriages. One line in the interview stood out the most to me, the part where Mitchell says, "There are pastors all across this country who call me weekly that are thinking the same thoughts, trying to find the courage to do the same thing in evangelical churches."

I have no doubt this is true, and I have long suspected this is the case.

One hallmark of the attractional ministry so dominant in American evangelicalism is the reluctance to speak out on many cultural hot topics. The attractional paradigm is a populist strategy, so its ministers rarely if ever speak up about, for instance, government corruption or civil rights abuses. Perhaps they consider those matters too political. And yet the Bible speaks to them. Fewer and fewer will venture anything about abortion. Perhaps for the same fear of seeming political. And you would be hard pressed to see them offering much of anything on the Bible's teaching about homosexuality. Tackling that or any culturally controversial matter would violate one of the attractional church's cardinal rules: Keeping the customer satisfied.

A few years ago one of our nation’s leading evangelical voices, Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, caught flak for mentioning in a sermon that a same-sex couple had been serving in leadership at one of the North Point campuses. In his illustration, he did not mention any approval or disapproval of same-sex marriage per se, but only that one of the partners was not fully divorced from their (opposite sex) spouse. Given opportunities to clarify his views on homosexuality, Stanley has not exactly done so (that I could find).

Stanley and other leaders of similar and even lesser platforms realize this is a hugely controversial subject and likely to cost them something. If they come out for same-sex marriage, they risk alienating their traditionalist evangelical customer base. If they come out against it, they risk alienating many progressives and “spiritual but not religious” devotees who have been drawn to their ministries precisely because they seem “non-judgmental.”

I suspect if any of these folks were to voice their opinion, for or against the traditional teaching on homosexuality, they'd be surprising a significant portion of their audience. Think of the criticism Joel Osteen received from those who felt betrayed by even his apparently embarrassed support for the biblical teaching. He later softened his views in response.

The question isn't going away. Gay rights advocates care. Evangelical traditionalists care. The option not to show your cards will eventually not be an option at all.

The distant popularity of The Message notwithstanding, Peterson has never shared much in common with the leadership-industrial complex of attractional Christianity. And his public admission comes at a time when he’s consciously winding down in life and ministry. He's never sought popularity or a big platform; those things were, in a way, thrust upon him. But one thing I hope his statements and those from leaders like Jen Hatmaker and Rob Bell will have in common is in emboldening others to admit their stances and let the chips fall where they may. Not because I think that's a good thing, but because I suspect there are plenty of influential pastors operating in cowardice and hiding behind the naivete of their congregations. For the good of the church, and for the sake of their own consciences, I hope, as Mitchell says, they will find the "courage" to make the admission.

Will they lose their platforms? If the response to the interviews with Peterson (who at this time has already lost his publishing outlet with LifeWay) or Hatmaker are any indication, they are likely to lose some favor. Many congregants may leave. Mitchell's church has shrunk sizably since his shift. This is the trend of liberalizing Christianity. But many attractional leaders are likely to maintain their popularity and their profitability. Many have built their ministries on sentimental religion and pop-spirituality; echoing the cultural zeitgeist on homosexuality isn't likely to feel so jarring to their most ardent supporters.

History has shown that cultural appropriation is always crouching at the church door. Many times it holds sway in the pews and in the pulpits. We grieve rightly when our ministerial heroes show themselves susceptible to the spirit of the age.

But when all gets shaken out, orthodoxy always remains, perhaps rattled but not undone. James Merritt, a pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (and also, incidentally, Jonathan Merritt's father), tweeted shortly after the news broke: "I’ll change my mind when God changes his. His is the only opinion that matters and on this issue God neither stammers or stutters." Or, as Eugene Peterson has said, "No truth is ever out of date." It is good that our hope is not in pastors or pundits, but in the glorious Redeemer in whom there is no shadow of turning.

UPDATE: In the 24 hours since the original RNS interview published, Peterson has (thankfully) retracted his statements.

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10 days ago
Interesting, and saddening, article on how evangelicals are more and more prioritizing cultural norm and letting it influence their beliefs/ideology
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Introducing code owners

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While effective code review is essential to every successful project, it's not always clear who should review files—even with GitHub's reviewer suggestions. Now repository maintainers can define exactly which people and teams need to review projects using code owners. This new feature automatically requests reviews from the code owners when a pull request changes any owned files.

How code owners work

To specify code owners, create a file named CODEOWNERS in the repository's root directory (or in .github/ if you prefer) with the following format:

# Lines starting with '#' are comments.
# Each line is a file pattern followed by one or more owners.

# These owners will be the default owners for everything in the repo.
*       @defunkt

# Order is important. The last matching pattern has the most precedence.
# So if a pull request only touches javascript files, only these owners
# will be requested to review.
*.js    @octocat @github/js

# You can also use email addresses if you prefer.
docs/*  docs@example.com

This format may be familiar if you've used gitattributes.

With that in place, code owners will automatically be requested for review whenever a pull request touches the files they own.

requested code owners

An extra layer of code security

For projects with more rigorous review processes, we've also added a new protected branch option to ensure the right people have a chance to review.

require code owners setting

With protected branches enabled, a code owner for each owned file has to leave a review before anyone can merge a pull request to that branch.

waiting on code owner review

We hope this helps make your review process even more effective. Let us know if you have any feedback on code owners using our help form.

The code owners feature was inspired by Chromium's use of OWNERS files.

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18 days ago
This sounds like a very bottlenecky idea
18 days ago
It's just a way to specify suggested reviewers
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millennialsargueback: poutine-existentielle: nightworldlove: guiltyfandoms: thattallnerdybean: d...

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cashier: sorry for your wait. we’re short-staffed today

millennial: oh that’s ok no worries :)

 baby boomer:

But listen that’s the thing. 

We are short staffed almost 97% of the time at my retail job. Because corporate has figured out you can overwork 4 people at minimum wage instead of paying for the 8 people you should probably have to be on the clock.  

Baby boomers grew up with stores that were adequately staffed, with workers who most likely had weeks of training for their jobs as opposed to the 1-2 shadow shift training we get now. Also those workers most likely were able to be full time if they wanted. Now retail, except for management positions, is mostly made up of part time workers, because you don’t have to give them benefits. So you have a workforce of perpetually underpaid, overwhelmed, undertrained people trying to do their best all while dealing with an entire generation of people who refuse to acknowledge that the system has changed and the average retail worker has NO control over that change and is being taken advantage of.

Like we got our customer surveys back, and almost every single one mentioned that they couldn’t find someone to help them or we needed more people on register because it was TOO SLOW, but what did management tell us instead of scheduling more people? We need to be quicker on register and call for backup if necessary. Which makes no sense because we can’t call for backup THAT ISN’T THERE.

Y'all my parents haven’t worked retail since the 70s and they absolutely never believe me about the things that happen at work. I explain the schedule for next week gets hung up on the Friday before and they scoff and go “well when i worked at X they had it a month up your manager is just lazy.” No mom, its company policy to only do “two weeks” in advance. They won’t give you a full month’s scheduling in advance cause it let’s you plan for a world outside of work.

Or about the hours, workload or anything. They just assume its an individual’s failing instead of corporate mandate. Or, if they do believe me (that its company policy) they call it ridiculous and point out some survey that argues its Good Business to do (insert decent thing here).As if they think the higher ups don’t know this and are simply ignorant of Good Business Practices. They don’t understand that retail has completely shifted from caring about its employees to squeezing out every penny now instead of investing it for later.

Cause that isn’t how it was when they worked and they just can’t seem to see otherwise.

   I think there should be a ‘bring-your-parent-to-work-day’ instead of ‘bring-your-kid-to-work-day’, it would shock so many parents and would probably make them finally realize how much retail indeed has changed in the US.

when i first got hired as a cashier, my manager who had been doing that since she was like 17 in 1975 told me that back in The Days, when you were hired as a cashier in a grocery store it was a) a well paid job & you could get full time work easily b) a respected career choice c) the store closed at 6pm and was closed on Sundays so the hours were a lot more pleasant d) they made you go to cashier school for 2 weeks, which was basically a fake grocery store and you just learned the trade completely before even meeting a customer
now its like : you get like 20 hours a week, bullshit shifts like 3:45 to 10:15, a 20 minutes training before being thrown to the wolves, customers tell you you deserve your shitty lowlife job as soon as you don’t thoroughly kiss their ass

The millennial experience is tied to growing income inequality and the indentured servitude of student loan debt

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19 days ago
It's really interesting to think about the generational expectations when it comes to retail jobs
19 days ago
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20 days ago
Baby Boomers continue to be blind to the bullshit world they created.

Dare To Dream: Pastafarian Wins Two Year Battle To Get Driver's License Photo Taken Wearing Spaghetti Strainer On Head

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pastafarian-drivers-license.jpg This is a video detailing Pastafarian Sean Corbett's battle to exercise his religious freedom and have his of Arizona driver's license taken while wearing a colander on his head. Me? I just want to take a license photo that doesn't make me look like a serial killer for once. They never get my good side. "There are no sides, it's a head-on portrait." I want to face backwards.
'I tried a couple different locations and was met with a lot of pushback and resistance... I was scorned at every location I went to, and they put out a memo about me, so by the time I got to (the) fourth and fifth MVD, they stopped me at the door. They got angry at me and treated me with such disrespect'. He recently tried again and, after talking with the location's manager, was able to take the photo.
Sadly, after hearing about the license photo, an Arizona bureaucrat put a stop on the license and now wants Sean to have a new photo taken without his religious helmet. Me? I just want a Marie Calendar's spaghetti and meatballs microwave dinner right now.
After communicating with the OIG regarding my license, it is currently not revoked or suspended. They have a stop on the license which prevents me from making duplicates, but the license is still valid at this moment. They are requesting that I return to the MVD to surrender the license and be photographed without the headwear. I confirmed that my photo does not interfere with facial recognition software. This indicates that there is no error, they simply are discriminating against my religion. I have reached out to the AZDOT Civil Rights department and have spoken with a representative who is familiar with my story and is working with me to see what steps are necessary to fight this issue.
What a battle. Granted not a particularly bloody battle like the way I like to trounce my enemies, but everybody does battle differently. It's like tying your shoes -- some people use the bunny ear method, and other people do it the adult way that I never mastered. Okay so maybe it's nothing like tying your shoes. Maybe it's like riding a bicycle? I don't know, I suck at smilies. "You mean similes?" Those too. Keep going for the video while I sign up for simile and metaphor lessons.
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20 days ago
His license doesn't expire until 2045?!?
20 days ago
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Hardest Job


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

I think he'll be a freer spirit if he knows he can deal death with every motion.

New comic!
Today's News:

This is like... the week of weird parenting comics.

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21 days ago
21 days ago
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Make Time To Be Bored

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Boredom isn’t what it used to be. Boredom used to be the absence of stimuli, the lack of interest in any available activity. Boredom was being left alone with your thoughts.

Today, though, boredom has taken on a new character. Today, boredom is the presence of a screen and an ever-scrolling timeline of social media. What used to be staring blankly at a wall or into the sky has been transformed to staring vacantly into a glowing rectangle.

When we were children and teenagers, boredom seemed like a bad thing, because idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right? But boredom should not be confused with idleness. Idleness is laziness and indolence. It is refusing to do what needs to be done. But boredom is simple inactivity, a break from the hustle and bustle and busyness of life. Boredom is the pause between activities or the deliberate escape from activity altogether.

Something happens to us when we are outside the flow of constant stimuli. It is then that our brains switch into a higher mode, that they begin to mull over ideas, that they begin to convert information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. We can’t stop our brains. We can’t not think. We can’t not ponder. It is in these times of boredom that we are struck by unexpected thoughts, that our brains suddenly burst with new ideas, that our minds are stimulated with fresh insights. Boredom fosters ingenuity and genius. It even fosters godliness.

It used to, at least. But today, in every moment of boredom, our hands drop to our pockets or purses to withdraw our ever-present glowing rectangles. We push that button, we tap that app, we swipe and we scroll. We give our brains the stimulus of friends’ pictures, clickbait headlines, meaningless listicles, and never-ending fail videos. Our brains never slip into that higher mode, they never have time to ponder, to consider, to meditate. Our glowing rectangles are stealing from us something that is precious.

Today, more than ever, we need to introduce—no, reintroduce—boredom into our lives. We need it for the sake of our minds, for the sake of our hearts, for the sake of our knowledge and wisdom and godliness. We need to deliberately step outside the flow of constant stimulus. We need to make time to be bored.


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22 days ago
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