A postscript on Peterson (the danger of faulty reasoning)

In the midst of the social media storm over what Eugene Peterson did and didn’t say and why he retracted, a one line put down has been employed on twitter to close the debate down.  The line is this:

“FYI: Christians who still respect pastors who affirm Donald Trump’s moral character don’t have much room to criticize Eugene Peterson today.”[1]

This is clever isn’t it. The basis of it is that you have to choose between Donald Trump (the bad guy) and Eugene Peterson the good guy. Pastors cannot disagree with Eugene Peterson because they didn’t disagree with Trump.

What this does is politicizes the discussion and turns it into a tribal issue. If you disagree with Eugene Peterson then by implication you support all the worst aspects of Donald Trump. You must be in favour of making lewd comments about women and offensive remarks about Mexicans. You must support building walls and indiscriminate travel bans.

On the one hand that seems very clever doesn’t it but actually it’s disingenuous because what is at stake here is not whether some people disagree with what Peterson said (and given that Peterson ended up disagreeing with himself in the retraction then we are on interesting ground) but whether or not what he said was right in the light of what God says.

It’s also not that clever in the end because what do you do when someone comes along who says “actually I do disagree with what Donald Trump has said and done. I do find his words deeply disturbing but I also disagree with Eugene Peterson.”

You see, in the end what matters both for Trump and Peterson is not whether or not they say things that you and I like or dislike but how God evaluates their words and actions.

[1] This was from the twitter stream of @VinesMatthew but reflects a view expressed a significant number of tweeters.

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