Jonathan Merritt, Religion News Service

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and has published more than 1,000 articles in respected outlets such as USA Today,The AtlanticNational Journal, Christianity TodayThe Washington Post, and He is author of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined and A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. His first book, Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet, was called "a must-read for churchgoers" by Publisher's Weekly.

As a respected Christian voice, Jonathan regularly contributes commentary to television, print, and radio news outlets. Jonathan has been interviewed by ABC World News, NPR, CNN, PBS,Fox News, Slate, Politico, and The New York Times. He serves on the advisory board for Religion News Service, America's largest provider of news about religion and spirituality.

Jonathan first entered the public eye when a classroom epiphany prompted him to organize a national coalition of Christian leaders who care about the creation. Since then, he's been on the front lines of pressing cultural conversations from poverty to orphan care. He is a member of the national board of directors for Bethany Christian Services, America's largest adoption agency. Outreach magazine recently named Jonathan one of 30 influencers reshaping Christian leadership.

Jonathan has become a sought after speaker by colleges, seminaries, churches and conferences on cultural and religious issues. He holds a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

Jonathan occasionally utilizes a research assistant to facilitate interviews, but the final questions and content are his. He resides in Brooklyn.

Posts By This Author

The Specter of 'Normalization'

Image via Rene Bach / Flickr / RNS

In the fight over gay rights, conservative Christians have a new enemy. No, it isn’t a politician or activist or organization. It isn’t a noun at all, but rather a verb: normalize.

In Albert Mohler’s forthcoming book, “We Cannot Be Silent : Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong,” the president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., discusses the normalization of same-sex relationships a whopping 39 times.

“The normalization of homosexual relationships and the legalization of same-sex marriage” is, in Mohler’s words, “the debate of greatest intensity of our time.”

Why Gay Couple Barred from Leading Worship Will Keep Singing with Hillsong Church

Monty Brinton / CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly previously competed on the reality TV show “Survivor.” Photo courtesy of Monty Brinton / CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. / RNS

Canfield and Kelly have decided to keep singing each Sunday at Hillsong, despite the restrictions. They recognize that the decision they’ve made is not one that every person in their position should make. But they believe it is the right one for them.

“If every gay person leaves their church because they have been treated poorly, nothing will change,” Canfield said.

“They still want us, and we feel called to stay. And we’re telling all our gay friends at Hillsong to do the same.”

Interview: Russell Moore on His Past Life as a Democrat, Religious Liberty, and Franklin Graham

Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board, listens. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is in the spotlight after interviewing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at an evangelical conference in Nashville on Aug. 4. Moore spoke with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt about a range of pressing issues and the message of Moore’s new book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.

Southern Baptists Cozy Up to GOP After Pulling Back

REUTERS / Hans Deryk / RNS

Photo via REUTERS / Hans Deryk / RNS

When it comes to political partisanship in the 2016 presidential race, it might be said that Southern Baptists have taken one step forward and two steps back.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced in a press release that its president Russell Moore would be interviewing Republican candidates Jeb Bush (live) and Marco Rubio (via video) before 13,000 attendees at the denomination’s missions conference on August 4. Leading candidates from each major party were invited, the release states, but only Rubio and Bush accepted.

What Does It Take to Forgive Someone like Dylann Roof?

REUTERS / Jason Miczek / RNS

Police lead suspected shooter Dylann Roof, 21, into the courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on June 18, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Jason Miczek / RNS

What does it take to forgive someone like Dylann Roof? How does one muster the courage, the conviction, the moral fiber to grant such a gift to someone who has already taken so much? To serve a feast of forgiveness to a person who hasn’t even ordered a single serving?

The story of Collier’s astounding forgiveness reminds me of another ancient one. Baking in the sun, an innocent Nazarene named Jesus hangs from a Roman cross. He’s losing blood at a rapid rate. His weeping mother is crumpled at his feet, adding emotional agony to his unbearable physical torment. Jesus opens his mouth to speak, but what will he say? Will he curse his executioners or cry out against those complicit in the broken trial that landed him there in the first place?

Madeleine L’Engle’s Foundation Awards Grant to LGBT Group at Wheaton College

Mary Lyon Hall at Wheaton College. Photo via Flickr

Mary Lyon Hall at Wheaton College. Photo via Flickr

The foundation of Madeleine L’Engle, the late National Book Award-winning author of A Wrinkle in Timehas awarded OneWheaton, an independent community of LGBT students and alumni from Wheaton College, a $5,000 grant.

OneWheaton is committed to affirming LGBT students but is not officially recognized by the prominent evangelical school, which can expel students caught in homosexual behaviors.

The group plans to use the money to fund public discussions and forums about LGBT issues and evangelical culture.

Shepherds or Shamers? The Rise of Church Discipline in America

Photo via branislavpudar /

Photo via branislavpudar /

While there are no reliable figures, some church followers think the number of congregations using “church discipline” is growing among conservative congregations. As more cases come to light, they raise questions about the biblical basis and legal implications of such practices. Are these church shepherds just doing their best to care for their flocks, or are they crossing a line by shaming and shunning their so-called sinners?

Meet the Gay Celibate Catholic Who's Shaking Up the Sexuality Debates

Image via Tarzhanova/

Image via Tarzhanova/

A few decades ago, there were two options for people who wanted to follow Jesus but were attracted to the same gender: They could either throw off religion and embrace their sexuality, or they could remain in the faith and hide their sexual orientations. Today, there are other options. Some — like Matthew Vines and David Gushee — are attempting to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships. Others — such as Julie Rodgers and Wesley Hill — are leading a movement of celibate gay Christians.

Among the second group, Eve Tushnet has risen to prominence. She has a popular blog hosted by the Patheos Catholic Channel and has created a stir with her book Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith. We asked her why it is important to her to self-identify as a lesbian and whether she’s missing something about the uniqueness and importance of erotic intimacy.

Evangelicals Want to Follow the Global South on Gays. They Should Be Careful What They Ask For

Image via Markovka /

World map painted with watercolors. Image via Markovka /

If religious conservatives are truly awakening to the need to dialogue with global Christians, they need to be consistent. It doesn’t make sense to exploit non-Western perspectives on LGBT rights but refuse to hear those same voices on matters such as nationbuilding, war, immigration, environmental policy, and foreign aid.

The inconsistency leads me to believe that these calls are more about political posturing than a desire to really listen to our global brothers and sisters.

Q&A: David Brooks on Character, Sin, and Rumors About His Religious Journey

Photo courtesy of Random House / RNS

Author David Brooks at home, in Bethesda, Md. Photo courtesy of Random House / RNS

Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character, traces human virtue throughout the centuries, and then profiles a handful of “heroes of renunciation” who he believes serve as models of character. The book has sparked conversation about Brooks’ views on morality, theology, and even his own Jewish faith.

Brooks talked about society’s obsession with selfies, whether we’re too self-absorbed, and rumors about his own religious journey. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.