When It Comes to Marriage Equality, Wisdom Doesn’t Necessarily Come with Age

After Dannika Nash published her open letter to the Christian church about being anti-gay, and after a back-and-forth between her and one of the church’s defenders, Dr. Michael Brown (the defender of the church’s bigotry) has directed his attention at me.

Dr. MIchael Brown

First, he takes issue with my tone. Dannika was admittedly nicer than I would have been — I don’t argue that — but he goes after commenters, too:

If you’ll look at the comments following my article on the Charisma site, you’ll see that the vast majority of readers, including young people, found my tone to be gracious and respectful, which is exactly what I intended. In contrast, most readers commenting on your blog shared your perspective, some of them apparently adding their comments to the Charisma site as well, with comments like this: “This is one of the most vile, condescending, repugnant pieces of [mild expletive deleted] I have ever read.”

Isn’t this fascinating? Two different sets of readers with two different worldviews and two different sets of presuppositions perceive the identical words in two totally different ways. This underscores how easy it is to misread or misunderstand written communication. As far as my article was concerned, I absolutely intended it to be respectful and gracious, and there was no condescension in my heart when I wrote it.

Amazing, isn’t it? The Christians on Charisma’s (heavily monitored and filtered) comment thread were so much nicer toward Brown’s anti-gay rhetoric than the commenters on this (monitored but rarely censored) site.

This isn’t a misreading or misunderstanding of written communication. This is we’re-sick-of-your-’I’m-such-a-nice-Christian’-bullshit. You can’t fight against equal rights and expect us to get taken in by your smile.

You think those comments are mean-spirited? Well, I think it’s far worse that anyone could vote to prevent loving gay couples from getting married.

Then, Brown goes into this notion than we can all learn something from his generation. First, here’s what he said before:

To be totally candid with you, I always listen to young people and ask for their insights, and I’m sure that your generation cares a lot about fairness and justice and equality. But could it be that my generation is not totally ignorant about these things? Could there be a reason that one of the Ten Commandments says, “Honor your father and your mother” — or is that outmoded now too? Is there no wisdom we can impart to you about marriage and family and gender?

This isn’t about age. This is about using age as a stand-in for wisdom. Those two things are not as correlated as Brown wants everyone to think. His generation of Christians is very ignorant (and outmoded and just plain wrong) when it comes to equal rights, women’s rights, science education, sex education, and the list goes on.

Sure, there are exceptions, but, as Dannika showed, even many younger Christians are realizing their parents and pastors don’t get it.

When Brown’s generations of Christians put as much passion into banning divorces as they do banning gay marriage, I’ll take their claims about marriage more seriously. Until then, they’re pretty much hypocrites on the matter.

Here’s what Brown says about his age now:

Perhaps you overreacted to what I wrote? May I also ask if you, as a high school teacher, expect your students to show you a certain level of respect? And, all things being equal, are most people wiser when they are 40 years old and have had many more life experiences than they were when they were 20?

Respect, sure. We should respect others, regardless of age. I respect you, too. But I don’t expect my students to believe everything I say unless I’ve earned that right. And Christian adults have not earned the right to tell anyone else what to do when it comes to marriage. Certainly, their irrational obsession with gay marriage hasn’t helped anyone take them seriously.

Older people may be wiser in certain areas. But that doesn’t extend to all areas and it definitely doesn’t extend to all people.

Finally, Brown explains what can’t be misinterpreted:

… yes, I’m convinced that, all things being equal, it would be better for a child to be raised by his or her mom and dad than to have two moms or two dads and be cut off from one of the biological parents.

I would argue kids are better off with parents who love them, regardless of gender.

But I’m only 30, so what do I know…

Brown’s heart may be in the right place, but his conclusions (and those of people who share his faith) have hurt too many people. He wants marriage limited to straight people like him, while I want marriage extended to two people who love each other, something he doesn’t care about because yada-yada-the-Bible-said-so.

Brown, much like Mike Huckabee and (I’m sure) many other Christian pastors, are great to have conversations with. I don’t doubt their sincerity or good intentions. (Indeed, I’ve sat on many stages with Christian pastors and had public discussions.) But their narrow-minded, Biblically-based viewpoint on marriage is no less prejudiced or bigoted just because they say it without screaming at you.

We should oppose them and fight their absurd views without backing down, and we need younger Christians to join us in the battle.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.