The Gospel According to Glennon. That’s the title of an article I read about Glennon Doyle Melton in Elle Magazine last week, and I haven’t been able to shake the deep grief, the soul lament, I have felt in its aftermath. Glennon began her public platform as a Christian blogger at Momastery. Her blog turned into a best seller book, then into a second best seller that detailed her fight for love with her husband who had previously cheated on her in what was, at times, a highly dysfunctional relationship. It ended with them renewing their vows on a beach, each having put in the work to save their marriage, but by the time the book hit bookshelves, Glennon was on her way to breaking up with her husband and entering a gay marriage with soccer star, Abby Wambach, with whom she seemed to fall in love at first sight.
Glennon has connected with many women I know and love—many to whom I’ve ministered, and many who have ministered to me. She teaches a gospel, a type of news that feels good, to a staggering number of thirty to forty year old wives and moms. They are our sisters and our friends. I imagine a number are readers here too.
I mourn because I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ really is the best kind of news, even though this good news of Jesus is precipitated by the bad news of our destruction when we follow our own way. I mourn because though the path is narrow through belief in Christ, the destination is incredibly good for all who are in Christ. I mourn because I know SO MANY WOMEN struggling to persevere in overcoming faith in hard situations who found Glennon an encouragement to do so. I mourn because Glennon seems now to encourage women toward the very opposite of the hard path to which God calls us. To cheers and accolades, she has walked away from the hard thing, followed her heart, and rejected an orthodox understanding of Scripture. I’m unable to fully articulate the weight of discouragement put on the backs of those I know and love fighting for faith in hard situations when a former encourager heads in such a way.
After days of sadness in the wake of reading the article, I woke up yesterday, not sad, but angry. I wasn’t angry at Glennon, but at Satan who again … and again … and again … and again, at every generation throughout all time, figures out a way to sell us the same old lie. That God doesn’t mean what He said. That what He said isn’t really the best for us. That trusting what God says in the Bible will actually destroy our souls. Satan wants you to trust yourself, or Glennon Doyle Melton. But whatever you do, don’t trust God. Don’t trust the Word He sent us. Don’t trust His revelation of Himself to us through the Bible. There is good news to be had, but it is not found by trusting God’s words. It is a very old lie, and none with any awareness of Scripture should be surprised to see it surface yet anew. Satan may be persistent, but he is not very original.
We see the first iteration of this lie of Satan in Genesis 3.
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Satan first temps a human with this lie to distrust God’s explicit instructions in Genesis 3, but it has been his Go To Lie ever since, generation after generation, culture to culture.
That thing you thought God was saying? That’s not what God really meant. Those dire consequences He warned you about if you disobeyed? They aren’t real consequences at all. In fact, instead of killing you, disobeying God will bring you new life. Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart.
For thousands of years since creation, THIS has been Satan’s lie. And this is the lie that Glennon Doyle Melton and what Elle Magazine calls a “roving wolf pack of acclaimed authors turned motivational speakers and ‘aspirational spirituality’ practitioners” are teaching a generation of disillusioned Christians.
Melton’s fans took the news in stride; the bloodbath never came. “You deserve it, you Love Warrior, you!” wrote a reader from South Dakota. Another wrote: “I just don’t have a ‘Love’ emoji big enough for this.” In the two days following Melton’s coming-out post, her hug line only grew.
You deserve it. You deserve to make some choices to serve yourself, even if they contradict the Bible. You deserve to do what’s good for you, even if the Bible specifically says, “That’s not good for you!” But God is jealous for His glory and adamant on the righteousness of His standard, not because He wants us to be cosmically miserable, but because He and His kingdom are GOOD. My friend Anne Kennedy has well diagnosed the root discrepancy between Glennon’s aspirational gospel and the actual good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus isn’t about your personal self actualizing, self fulfilling, self focused love. Love doesn’t win when it’s you that you love the most. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Glennon, for all her ‘in loveness’ with Wambach, is most devoted to herself. She is the pearl, and she has sold everything to keep it.
It makes initial sense for us as individuals to centralize ourselves in our own story with our aspirations as its central theme. But God’s Word teaches us that the true path to self-fulfillment is exactly the opposite. “They that lose their lives will find them,” Jesus taught us.
Even secular Elle Magazine seems to understand aspects of the problems in Glennon’s gospel of self:
All of this has led to a new charge against her: that she is sugarcoating divorce and its aftermath. “As someone who actually walked that, it’s bullshit,” says one of my divorced friends. “It just seems reckless and irresponsible, because there are so many women following her like sheep.”
“She puts a knot in my stomach,” says couples therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, whose latest book is called Healing From Infidelity. “I can’t count how many times I hear women quoting her when they come into my office. On the positive side, she wants to empower women. But the fact is, most people don’t do divorce all that well, especially when children are involved. She’s strengthening their conviction that they need to get away from their husbands, instead of learning to work through challenging issues. Sometimes you have to be a warrior to stay.”
Sometimes, dear sisters, you have to be a warrior to stay. And I’m not talking just about a hard marriage recovering from a husband’s unfaithfulness. [We must note that Glennon had biblical grounds for divorce in that situation. But she consciously renewed her vows after his infidelity, which puts her in a different category. She made a covenant commitment to her husband TWICE.] I am talking about the thousand different ways we are called to live out our created purpose as ezer daughters of our ezer God, strong warrior helpers of THE STRONG WARRIOR HELPER GOD. We women were made in God’s image in a particular way, created to persevere, protect, advocate for, and suffer with others in hard things, particularly in our covenant relationships, things that Glennon at first seemed to champion. The really beautiful thing is that God didn’t just create us as women in His image to do hard things, but through the true gospel, through Christ IN us, who died FOR us, we are equipped to do these hard things – hard things that Scripture teaches us we need to obey.
Persevering in covenant relationship.
Treating others the way we want to be treated.
Obeying the limitations God puts on who we can have sex with.
We can do hard, self-sacrificing things because God did it first for us. It’s His self-sacrificing warrior love that cost His own life that we might gain ours. And He also does it with us. We aren’t out there self-sacrificing as warriors for our families, our friends, our communities, and our churches alone. We have One who comes along side us in aid, called our paraclete in the Greek, our Comforter/Counselor/Helper in the English. The Ezer of all Ezers indwells us and equips us, that we may stick with the hard things in our lives and persevere through them.
I understand why women resonate with Glennon. I really, really do. She tapped into true concerns in many women’s lives, and for a season, encouraged them to stay in the hard things, mourn what was wrong, and fight for what was good. It would be a mistake for any Christian leader to discount that. But understand that the solution she chose in the end, to “follow her heart” even as it lead away from the Bible not towards it, doesn’t actually solve any of the heart problems. What we need is the grace that only God can minister to our hearts to do the hard things to which He has called us. We need to avail ourselves of the means of grace through which He promises to minister it – the preaching and reading of His Word, prayer, baptism, and so forth. Dear sister, walk with the Spirit. Read and trust God’s Word. Press into Him as He convicts you from it. Believe God. Trust His revelation of Himself to us. And let our Ezer God equip us to be ezer women, fighting for all that is right and good as He has revealed to us in Scripture.
Satan seeks to devour our generation as he has every one before us, but the Spirit is strong and our eternal end secure. We can trust our God, and we can trust His Word to us.
** Here are a few resources that have meant a lot to me when I have been struggling to persevere in hard things.
The Life We Never Expected by Andrew and Rachel Wilson
Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
A Chance to Die (on the life of Amy Carmichael) by Elisabeth Elliott
These Strange Ashes by Elisabeth Elliott