The Self-Centred Gospel of Glennon Doyle Melton
The book of Jude is one of the most interesting in the New Testament. This short epistle opens up by Jude explaining that he is going to address an ugly, controversial issue (false teachers in the church) because he feels like he has to, though he would much rather write about the great gift of salvation in Christ.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
I feel the exact same way whenever I write something like this. I don’t like to criticize people. I don’t like to do the ugly, controversial work of saying negative things about other people. But sometimes it can be necessary for the greater good. I hope that this is the case here.
Glennon Doyle Melton became famous in Christian circles first for her “mommy blog”, where she writes mainly for women on all sorts of subjects, from housework to body image to family to addictions. Her audience grew quickly, and it is estimated that her blog reaches roughly 7 million readers per week. Since then she’s written 3 books, her most recent of which has become a New York Times best-seller and is part of the Oprah Book Club. She also is a frequent guest speaker, particularly at women’s conferences. Simply put, her voice is out there and has influence on a lot of people.
There’s a lot to like about Glennon. She’s an extremely gifted writer; articulate, winsome, and witty. When reading her, there’s absolutely no doubt that she is a caring person and genuinely wants to help people. Her writing is shockingly vulnerable, brutally honest almost to a fault. But that is part of the attraction—as she opens up about all the ups and downs of her personal life, it resonates with others who face similar obstacles. No topic is off limits with her, as she talks openly about her struggles with alcoholism, binge-eating, mental illness, thoughts of suicide, and significant marital strife.
Her message is one of unconditional love and acceptance, both of others and of self. This combination of gifted writing, openness on issues many are hush-hush about, and positivity, makes for quite the enjoyable recipe. No wonder her impact has spread so far.
But therein lies the problem. While Doyle Melton sets out to free women from their own self-made cages, she does so in a way that is, in my own estimation, entirely unbiblical. This would be no big deal except that Glennon absolutely professes to be a follower of Christ. It’s one thing to get false messages from unbelievers, but when it comes from within the church, that’s a whole different story.
There are a few reasons why Glennon’s influence worries me. For one, before the release of her latest book—in which she details at length the struggles of her marriage including her husband’s porn addiction and adultery—she announced on her blog that she was leaving her husband. This seems strange, since the book was largely about not giving up on a rocky marriage. She explains on her blog:
But what can happen over time is this: You wake up one day and realize that you have put yourself back together completely differently. That you are whole, finally, and strong – but you are now a different shape, a different size. This sort of change — the change that occurs when you sit inside your own pain — it’s revolutionary. When you let yourself die, there is suddenly one day: new life. You are Different. New. And no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore. You are like a snake trying to fit into old, dead skin, or a butterfly trying to crawl back into the cocoon, or new wine trying to pour itself back into an old wineskin. This new you is equal parts undeniable and terrifying.
Because you just do not fit. And suddenly you know that. And you have become a woman who doesn’t ignore her knowing. Who doesn’t pretend she doesn’t know. Because pretending makes you sick. And because you never promised yourself an easy life, but you did promise yourself a true one. You did promise – back when you were putting yourself back together – that you’d never betray you again.
Now, far be it from me to accuse her of a wrongful divorce. She technically has biblical grounds for a divorce. But what seems strange is that this happens after her and her husband started to heal their relationship. And the explanation she gives quoted above is mainly about herself: how staying in a relationship where she didn’t fit would be a betrayal of the new, true her.
Perhaps you could argue that I’m being too harsh or reading between the lines too much. And you might be justified in saying that, up to this point. But the plot twist that comes next changes the story. Glennon announced earlier this month on her Facebook page that she is in a relationship (only a few months after leaving her husband) with a woman. Actually, not that it necessarily matters, with a famous female soccer player. Then again, maybe it does matter. She explains:
Now we are entering a new time which calls for a different type of leadership. And now it is my job as a leader not to concern myself too deeply about what you think and feel about me- about the way I live my life. That is what I want to model now, because that is what I want for YOU: I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing – that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are. I want you to refuse to betray yourself. Not just for you. For ALL OF US. Because what the world needs — in order to grow, in order to relax, in order to find peace, in order to become brave — is to watch one woman at a time live her truth without asking for permission or offering explanation. The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not explain herself.
These are startling words coming from a Christian leader. Essentially she says that she gets to do whatever she thinks will bring her the most fulfillment and peace in life, and she doesn’t give a rip about what you think because she doesn’t answer to you. And, on top of that, you don’t answer to anyone either, so don’t feel like you ever need to explain yourself or justify your actions to anyone.
While there is a measure of truth in living by your own convictions, and not letting others around you dictate your life, there is also an extreme in the other direction to be avoided. The reality is that Christians are accountable to one another. We are supposed to hold each other to biblical standards of morality and doctrine. We do answer to God and to each other. God has placed us in communities of accountability for our own good. Yet Doyle Melton seems bent on removing any sense of accountability whatsoever. She’s advocating for a kind of moral code that sees the highest good as pleasing yourself and being true to who you are, despite any objections from others. While this may sound good to the ears, it is most certainly not biblical Christianity.
This pains me because this kind of self-centred gospel of freedom offers no gospel and no freedom at all. Christ did not call us to be true to ourselves, but rather to deny ourselves. In doing so, he promised we would find true life (Mark 8:34-35). This means that what Glennon advocates for is the exact opposite of what Christ calls us to. She offers not the denial of self, but the unmitigated fulfillment of self. And she suggests that in being true to ourselves we will find life, when in fact Jesus promises that in doing so we would lose it. Plainly speaking, she is someone who is inverting the message of Jesus Christ while doing so as a “Christian leader”. Therefore, we have an obligation to say it like it is: Glennon Doyle Melton is a false teacher leading people away from Christ, not towards him.
I hope that does not remain the case. I hope that she repents and discovers that the true life she seeks will come from an unwavering commitment to Christ, and not to self. I hope that she will realize that the glory of God is the goal of every Christian, and that pursuing that goal, even at great cost to oneself, is the most fulfilling life possible.
There are other issues that I’ve seen in her life and teachings. She advocates for a sort of social gospel. She refers to God as “her”. She evidently believes that same-sex relationships are morally acceptable in God’s eyes. But as I see it, these are merely symptoms of a heart that is refusing to adopt the Lordship of Christ in every area of life, and a penchant for self-love at the expense of how it may affect others or rob God of glory. It’s unfortunate, but I hope it’s not the last chapter of her story.
I really don’t like saying these kinds of things. I would much rather talk about Christ, his sacrificial love for sinners like Glennon and you and I, his death on the cross to forgive our sins. I would much rather praise God and tell of his greatness, that he offers eternal life to all those who repent and believe the gospel. But sometimes there are moments when, like Jude says, it is necessary to address a pressing problem. I hope that I have done so in a spirit of fairness and truth and love. I sincerely hope that Glennon finds what she is looking for, though I am sure she is looking for it in the wrong places. As she wrote about her new lesbian relationship:
What I need you to know — and what I know you need to know — is that I am deeply, finally, FINE. Fine through my bones and soul and mind and just every fiber of me.
Sadly, what she fails to see is that her new lover isn’t what will finally make her “fine”. The wholeness that she wrongly believes she has found in her girlfriend is only found in Christ. Not only do I pray that she comes to that realization, I pray that those who are influenced by her would be led by God to discover the truth.
Christ is better than anything this world has to offer. The only way we can have him and experience life to fullest is to get outside of our own self-centred world and value Jesus above all else. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear what God would have to say to us in his Word, and not be led astray by our own selfish desires.