Every so often, a story comes along that encapsulates a whole world of stories—faith, politics, sex, media and more. There are lessons and there are questions. And maybe at the end, there are tears. This is one of those stories.
Twenty-five-plus years ago, Mel White was a key player in evangelical world and power structure. He was a ghost writer for Pat Robertson, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell. White helped galvanize evangelicals as a political force and communicated their fundamental beliefs to a curious nation.
Then Mel White disappeared from the scene. When he reemerged in the early 1990’s, White announced he was homosexual. For the past several years, he has galvanized homosexuals who consider themselves Christians and communicated their convictions about the Bible to a curious nation. He leads Soul Force, a movement that attempts to arrange dialogues on Christian college campuses and with prominent evangelical churches or ministries. White has also been a documentary film maker of some repute.
That’s part one of the story: one man’s change. He would describe it as leaning into the real Mel White and being who he authentically is, who God made him to be. He would say it has made him free. Others would say he has abandoned the Biblical model for sexuality, is living a distortion of who God made him to be and is actually in bondage.
But that’s not the end of the story. Mel has a son named Mike, who is a screen-writer and director of some repute (School of Rock, for one) He has also been very open about his bisexuality. This Newsweek profile of the Whites puts them in the news together as contestants on the latest edition of The Amazing Race.
After the predictable questions about gay marriage and Proposition 8, the last question of the interview is sobering and revealing:
Mike, how did your experience growing up with your dad shape your faith?
Mike: I definitely got a lot out of the ministry growing up, and we had a lot of theological discussions around the dinner table and stuff, and all that stuff certainly had a huge impact on the way I see things, and in a positive way. I don’t really consider myself a Christian. It’s complicated, like everything, but I think what my dad is doing as far as reaching out to the conservative Christian community for inclusion is a really courageous thing.
Mel: It’s ironic because given the state of what it means to be a Christian these days, I’m not a Christian either. I’m a mediocre follower of a first-century Jewish teacher. And being a Christian brings up all those stereotypes that are so destructive to the gay spirit. So when Michael says he’s not a Christian, I completely understand and feel the same way. I hope that one day we can reclaim that word, but as it stands now, it’s embarrassing to be a Christian.
So, neither man considers himself a Christian in any Biblical sense of the word. Both affirm that the primary defining truth of their life is their homosexuality.
So, watch this process. Biblical truth and theology are seen as positive, but are redefined apart from any larger redemptive purpose. Jesus is reduced from Lord of glory to a “first-century Jewish teacher”. Lifestyle is elevated as a defining reality. The “gay spirit” is to be protected at all costs, which is the same as saying that there is God-defined sin that is off-limits for discussion, as much as greed or pride or addictions. The gospel is utterly absent. And most grievously of all, this view of faith and the world impacts not one, but two generations – and potentially, those impacted by their media endeavors.
It’s quite the slippery slope and enough to break your heart.
No issue we consider is just an issue. It’s not just a political, cultural or moral hot potato. It’s a story of lives– and how they relate to the gospel. It’s a story of souls—and how they relate to their only Redeemer.
Pray for the Whites and the millions of precious people they represent. Pray that they encounter again the Risen Christ and true gospel they desperately need. Pray that we who claim Christ’s name will so love the gay people we encounter that Jesus’ message will be attractive and compelling. Pray that above all else, that Story will become their story.