Jonathan Merritt, a gay progressive Christian and the son of former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Dr. James Merritt, posted a thread on social media Thursday (Sept. 28) sharing how he and his father are able to have a close relationship despite their theological differences.
In addition to Merritt’s father having served as the president of the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, James is the senior pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.
“People often ask me how in the world I maintain a close relationship with my dad,” Jonathan posted. “I’m a progressive gay man, and as many of you know, he is a Southern Baptist preacher who describes himself as ‘to the right of Ronald Reagan.’”
Much like his father, Jonathan is an accomplished Christian author and regularly contributes to The Atlantic, The Week, The New York Times, USA Today, and Christianity Today, among others.
Jonathan explained that “these days, you can score a lot of likes on social media by posting about the people you’ve bravely severed from your life—problematic parents, snarky siblings, catty childhood friends.”
Merritt said that in “severe cases, this may be a necessary step, but in this age of ‘going no contact,’ my dad and I have chosen another, harder path. We’ve chosen to stay and stick it out, and learn to love across difference.”
“Yes,” he added, “we still establish healthy boundaries, but we are more focused on how we can build BRIDGES TO each other than BARRIERS FROM each other.”
This doesn’t mean that the father-son relationship Jonathan and James have chosen to maintain comes easily. Jonathan told his social media followers, “It’s been one of the toughest things—I cannot emphasize this enough—I’ve done in my four decades of living. We disagree on a lot politically and theologically. A LOT. We often joke that some of our disagreements could peel paint off the walls.”
Nevertheless, Jonathan shared some “wonderful truths” their relationship has taught them both.
“We have learned that it’s impossible to love someone when you’re constantly trying to change who they are—and that this works both ways,” Jonathan said.