Gasp: Rod Dreher claims that he is "normal"

Dreher_wills_1(Cue: drum roll) Here is something that seems a bit bizarre to contemplate. GetReligion readers, I bring you the journalistic team of Rod Dreher and Alexander Cockburn. It will take a moment to get to the second half of that equation.

Dreher, as many readers will know, is a conservative Catholic on the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News and a friend of this blog. In the photo he is shown with, of all people, the enlightened historian Garry Wills.

In the wake of the post-11/2 earthquake in the mainstream media, Dreher pounded out a personal column trying to explain to other journalists that, out in flyover country, the election was seen as a whisper of sanity, not the revenge of what he called "Shi’ite Baptists and the Taliban Catholics." A liberal friend even
wrote Dreher to compare the Bush victory with the 1933 burning of the Reichstag in Berlin.

Dreher is not the kind of man who hides what he thinks. He says the left, at the moment, is being tempted to engage in the "same hysteria as the McCarthy-era
right-wing paranoids who saw a crypto-commie inside every liberal." There’s more.

You love to blame us and the Republican leadership for being "divisive."
Yet it wasn’t our side that cheered when the Massachusetts Supreme Court
overturned the ancient and settled definition of marriage in a single moment,
and we were not the partisans who staged illegal and intentionally provocative
gay wedding ceremonies on the steps of city halls.

Well, last week Middle America was provoked, and provoked right back. What
did you expect?

This may come as a shock to liberals who don’t peer outside their cultural
cocoon, but believing that marriage is something exclusively between one man and
one woman is … normal. In fact, the opposite is radical by any historical or
social measure. It is also not a bizarre and reactionary act to vote for the presidential
candidate who believes it is immoral to allow a form of abortion that sucks the
brains out of partially born babies, instead of the presidential candidate who
voted to keep that kind of thing legal.

At the moment, many on the left (including more than few voices in the media) have decided that moral and cultural conservatives are not just wrong, but downright evil, the spiritual blood brothers of Osama bin Laden.

Dreher says that what this country needs, right now, is some culturally conservative — Democrats. America needs more politicians who care about old-fashioned progressive values.

Frankly, as a social conservative who worries about what GOP stewardship of the
economy is doing to families and communities, I long for the day when the
Democratic Party speaks to the concerns of people like me without derision and
condescension. You need a Harry S. Truman, an old-style populist Democrat in
sincere touch with small-town values.

Unfortunately for you — and for America — if Harry S. Truman were alive
today, y’all wouldn’t give him the time of day. For that matter, if the 1971
version of Teddy Kennedy walked in the door, those pro-life convictions would
end his career as a Democrat before it got started. Think about
that.

As you might imagine, Dreher has been receiving some email. As you might imagine, his claim that many liberals have demonized cultural conservatives struck a nerve. Here is a sample.

Let’s clear up a few obvious errors in your screed: it is nativist
know-nothing self-righteous christians who  herald America’s dark ages.  Not
Christians of any sort, as in folks who walk the Christ talk with integrity and
meekness, but nominal christians such as yourself who wrap the cross in a flag
and use it as a spear to impale those who disagree with you or threaten your
peace of mind with, oh my, thinking.  … And do I think in your America Jews and other non-Christians will have
their religious and civil liberties curtailed?  I am quite certain of it. 
Why?   Because you are part of a belief system that condemns non-believers and
dissenters to hell.

All of this sounds rather like the thesis of an earlier Dreher piece in Touchstone magazine entitled "The Godless Party." In it, Dreher called attention to what sociologists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio of Baruch College in the City University of New York call the new "anti-fundamentalist voters." More than anything else, these voters are motivated by a stunning antipathy toward traditional religious believers.

Apparently, the Bolce and De Maio data even reached the desk of one major journalistic voice on the candid left. Check out this reference from Alexander Cockburn on the role of "moral values" in the election. We can debate his reference to America being a "Christian nation." He said it, not me. I happen to disagree. Here’s Cockburn.

… this brings us to the well-known fact (greeted with amazement
on Wednesday morning by the pundits) that the United States is a Christian
nation. Tocqueville noticed this some time ago, and anyone driving today down
any county road or state highway will see a lot of churches, still well ahead of
casinos which are facilities also predicated on a relationship with Providence.
The 2002 edition of the University of Chicago’s regular surveys reported that
the adult population of the homeland is 53 per cent Protestant, 25 per cent
Catholic, 3 per cent Christians of some other stripe, 3 per cent other
religions, 2 per cent Jewish and 14 per cent holding "no religion". Of the
Christians, 25 per cent go to church once a week or more.

Even though the highest reading on any chart of Intolerance is that nourished towards Christians by secular liberals (after all, Christians believe in forgiveness and the possibility of redemption) I suppose we’ll have to put up with much earnest journalism from sensitive liberal writers driving into the Christian heartland to inspect and commune with the natives. I read one patronizing prospectus from a Californian  free-lancer that sounded like an
application by an anthropologist in 1925 for funding to inspect an African tribe.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    I would have loved to hear the Dreher/Wills discussion of the photo. Wills is among those on the left who are wringing their hands about the coming Evangelical Jihad. I can’t tell if such people are Dave Barry wannabe’s or just so cloistered in their ivory towers that they have never before met anyone who actually takes faith seriously.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    Arrrrggggh! You know, there are plenty of very religious liberals who think that their faith demands resisting the “coming Evangelical Jihad”. Why can’t this be accepted?

    I think the liberal commentator overreaction is, well, an overreaction. But then someone comes along and says something like this that justifies their reaction! It’s obvious that the two sides have a great deal of trouble engaging each other civilly– or for that matter, at all.

  • http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/ Joe Perez

    Dreher’s comment about anti-gay Americans having “normal” beliefs … and Cockburn’s preening about a “Christian nation” reminds me of something my Christian evangelical college roommate used to say back at Harvard. Whenever he’d run out of rational arguments or was stuck for something effective to counter with, he’d remind me of the Gallup polls that showed most Americans belief in God, call themselves Christian, think homosexuality is wrong, etc. Appealing to the group-think of the herd is never an encouraging sign for religious conservatives. They would do well to remember the vote was 51/48 and Bush won 36% of the atheist vote.

  • http://www.anotherthink.com Charlie

    C. Wingate: I’m curious to understand why pointing out the all-too-common liberal language that equates conservative faith with Jihad, fascism, al-Quaida and such is to be ignored as “overreaction,” and is even thought to be “justified,” to use your word? I know there are men and women who embrace faith and liberalism, but I don’t find myself wanting to write NYT editorials calling them all a bunch of loonies, or worse. Wills carefully chose inflamatory language in his hit piece because he wanted to inflame more suspicion against conservatives. I’m not going to make excuses for him.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    You know, from reading this blog one would get the impression that distortion and exaggeration happens mostly on the left and rarely on the right. An ongoing meme here at Get Religion seems to be how misunderstood religious conservatives are yet rarely do I see correctives when the right pounces on us “loony” lefties of faith.

    It’s funny how Dreher rushes to the defense of the defenseless religious conservatives (the poor souls, they have no friends in mainstream media, nor the ability to address the press), yet has no problem whatsoever mocking my faith (and the faith of all modern Pagans) in the comment section of your blog.

    For every “Shi’ite Baptists and the Taliban Catholics.” I can find invective just as divisive and foul from the religious right aimed at those on the left.

    Maybe GLBT people having the same rights of union as a straight couple isn’t “normal” (if you qualify normal by whoever wins an election) but it is a just act. Once people thought people of different races getting married wasn’t “normal” (in fact much of the rhetoric is very similar) but it was just to fight for it.

    It wasn’t the darn gays flaunting their new freedoms on TV that caused a backlash, it was religious conservatives like our current president making the issue into one that divided us by backing a Constitutional ban or certain high-profile preachers stoking the fears of gays DESTROYING the very fabric of reality if we allowed them to marry.

    Again, since the Bible seems to be the touchstone of this blog, conservatives of faith need to remove their plank before fishing for our motes.

  • http://www.exceptionalmarriages.com Greg Popcak

    Jason, you wrote.

    “For every “Shi’ite Baptists and the Taliban Catholics.” I can find invective just as divisive and foul from the religious right aimed at those on the left.”

    If you can find MSM examples of that, I’ll read them. But I defy you to find them (I noticed you didn’t cite any relying instead on the old McCarthy “I have in this file PROOF of a vast communist conspiracy” nonsense). Then, count the number of times whatever phrase you may trip across with with the times the phrase “right wing Christian” is used, and get back to me.

    And second, indeed it was gay activists flouting the law with their illicit marriages and judicial activism that tipped the election to Bush.

    The left was trying to shove their moral values–such as they are–in the face of the heartland. The heartleand pushed back.

    Well, I have one thing to say about that. Faithful Christians. We’re here. We’re Sincere. Get used to it.

  • Troy

    I would like to see the exchange as well. I am not familiar with Gary Wills’ critique of current society/politics, but I appreciate very much his writing on Lincoln, Augustine, church history, etc.

    Bush won 36% of the atheist vote! I had not heard this. Amazing. And of course while values/morals/religion were an important admixture in the election, they were not determinant, merely one of many factors.

  • Clement Ng

    Jason wrote: “It wasn’t the darn gays flaunting their new freedoms on TV that caused a backlash, it was religious conservatives like our current president making the issue into one that divided us by backing a Constitutional ban or certain high-profile preachers stoking the fears of gays DESTROYING the very fabric of reality if we allowed them to marry. ”

    Then could explain to me why many proponents of legalizing same-sex marriage are now blaming Gavin Newsom (and the marriage commisioners who stood with him in breaking the law, by officiating same-sex weddings) for pushing the issue onto the national stage?

    The non-conservative Peter Stienfels had this to say in last Saturday’s New York Times: “Whatever one may think of same-sex marriage, for example, it takes a real stretch to pretend that it is not a noteworthy departure from existing social and legal norms. It would also be a long shot to deny that it was the Massachusetts Supreme Court along with local officials around the nation challenging current laws by officiating at same-sex weddings who placed this on the national agenda rather than the religious right or President Bush.”

    Had good people of Massachusetts determined, through their legislature, to legalize same-sex marriage, more citizens elsewhere might have balked at the notion of ammending their own state constitution. People in, say, Mississipi will just shake their heads, when told what the people of Masscussets did. Instead, Americans watched a state Supreme Court, not the state legislature, insist that the marriage law in Massachusetts be changed. The eleven constituencies that voted in favour of ammendments were afraid that a Masschussets style judicial overreach could come to pass in their own state. Many religious and non-religious people alike simply do not want the courts to determine how wide the legal scope of marriage should be (and if marriage isn’t really that important a social institution, and thus legalizing SSM isn’t really a significant depature from existing social norms, then why on earth do many gays and lesbians want in on it?). You can blame the judges in Masschussets for forcing the issue.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “The left was trying to shove their moral values–such as they are–in the face of the heartland. The heartleand pushed back.”

    First off, having been born in “The Heartland” I would prefer if you didn’t portray it as some sort of lock-step monolithic area of conservative thinking.

    “If you can find MSM examples of that, I’ll read them. But I defy you to find them…”

    What parameters do you find acceptable? Also, I’m a little shocked that you have never encounterd conservative invective towards the left, are you saying you have never read or seen such a thing?

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “Many religious and non-religious people alike simply do not want the courts to determine how wide the legal scope of marriage should be”

    So only State Legislatures should do that? That would reframe the legitimacy of many issues both right and left I would think.

    I think its funny that people who for the most part belong to faiths that wouldn’t perform a gay marriage seem hell-bent on preventing people of faith who would from blessing a union of two people and having that union honored by the government.

    I keep hearing people talk of the “left” forcing our morals on people, yet it seems the “right” wants to do just that by defining for me, my family and my friends what a marriage can and can’t be legally.

  • Tom Harmon

    Jason,

    See, things go to much more fundamental levels than you are seemingly willing to recgonize. Those on the right who want to keep the definition of marriage what it has been since time immemorial are not interested in the kinds of arguments you refer to. For us, the definition of marriage is not some some-constituting act of will. The argument isn’t that we want to inflict our views on others because we enjoy the power trip. Most ont eh right argue that the definition of marriage is a given. It has been defined for us by God, who wrote that definition into our natures and our bodies. Any revolt against that definition is an act of impiety that transgresses against both God and reason.

    Now, you can go ahead and disagree. You can say that the definition of marriage is not written into our natures and bodies, or it is written into our natures and bodies differently. If you do that, calmly and rationally, then we can have a discussion about it, and we might actually be able to make some progress. What you should not do is to throw a tantrum and accuse the right of imposing its values on you. That is manifestly not what people on the right on cultural issues understand themselves as doing.

    Maybe if the Left realizes that, our national discussion about gay marriage can rise above hysteria. I doubt it, though. Where would such calm dialogues happen? Both of the places where traditionally such discussions have happened, the mainstream media and the academy, have bought the far-left line on sexual issues. The blogosphere is too udneveloped, and not a particularly good place for structured discussions. Anyone else have any ideas?

  • Greg Popcak

    Jason,

    1. You still didn’t answer my question. Deflection doesn’t cut it. Jason. Put up or shut up (or at least admit you’re a closet McCarthy-ite as far as religion is concerned).

    2. As far as deciding things for your family, let me give you a civics lesson. You get to present your side. We get to present ours. People vote. The winner gets their way. The losers try to be good sports unless/until they can change things.

    That’s the way it works. It’s not “jihad” it’s not “theocracy” it’s democracy. If you don’t like it, you’re free to argue your alternative. I wish you all the best, and I will fight you all the way. That’s America.

    The left has forced their “morality” on us for 30 years. For example, you used our tax dollars to pay for abortions (more or less) since 1973. Fine. That’s the way it works. In response, we have (finally) organized, gathered our facts and presented our case. The people have spoken and now you have to suffer our moral decisions for a while.

    Pardon me if I don’t feel too sorry for you.

    But I will promise you this. I will meet you in the marketplace and debate your ideas and challenge your facts. I will argue loudly and respectfully. I will insist that you present facts over invective and if you fail, I will shamelessly humiliate you for your ignorance and hubris. I will expect the same from you. BUT I will never run from your ideas and your arguments, and I will never call you names. However, if you do insist on calling me names (right-winger, jihadist, theocrat, etc) I will not hesitate to call you out for being the religious bigot you are.

    Cappice?

  • Clement Ng

    Jason wrote:

    “So only State Legislatures should do that? That would reframe the legitimacy of many issues both right and left I would think.”

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    “I keep hearing people talk of the “left” forcing our morals on people, yet it seems the “right” wants to do just that by defining for me, my family and my friends what a marriage can and can’t be legally.”

    So who should determine the definition of marriage at law, if not your community (composed, as it may be, of social conservatives)? You? If you want to marry a dog, your mother or sister, two or more people, or a consenting minor, then such a union is something the government must honour, because inidivuals ought to be free to decide for themselves what constitues a legal marriage?

    Of course, you say, we aren’t going to let people marry sisters or minors (I hope you agree with me on this!). Yet if that is the case, then you have conceded that we are indeed etititled to restrict the definition of marriage at law – and thus, you, your family, and your friends cannot simply decide for yourselves what marriage “can and can’t be legally”.

    No doubt many people take exception to the notion that the majority shall determine who has the right to marry. Let’s keep our categories clear, however. The right to marry is not simply a “negative” liberty, like the freedom of expression or the freedom of association. Negative liberty is the absence of externally imposed constraints. Rather, the right to marry is, in part, a “positive” liberty, like the right to health care (I live in Canada, so that’s my example). A positive liberty is the capacity to achieve a personal or social goal. Social recognition is such a goal. When two people tie the knot, they are asking the community to recognize them not as seperate individuals, but as a bonded couple. Surely the community is entitled to say what is recognized as a valid marriage and what is not. If I want to marry a 16-year old and she wants to marry me, then we would need the marriage law in Canada to be ammended in our favour. Only a majority of Canadian citizens can effect such a change. Is that unreasonable? If not, then is it unreasonable for the majority of Canadians to decide whether or not the public and private sector benefits that attend marriage should be granted to same-sex couples? (Alas, Canadians are only too happy to let provincial courts resolve important social policy issues)

    If two lesbians want to move into the house next to mine and declare themselves a “married” couple, they are entirely free to do so. Nobody is stopping gays and lesbians from loving each other, forming life-long unions, and living together under one roof, if they so wish. Whether or not the community, acting through the state, should confer the privileges of marriage on that couple is another question.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “You still didn’t answer my question. Deflection doesn’t cut it. Jason. Put up or shut up (or at least admit you’re a closet McCarthy-ite as far as religion is concerned).”

    I asked for what your parameters are for “MSM” I didn’t want to give you example only to have you claim them invalid because they weren’t “mainstream” enough for you. So please lay off with your paper-thin victim mentality about how I’m some closet McCarthy-ite trying to persecute you.

    “As far as deciding things for your family, let me give you a civics lesson. You get to present your side. We get to present ours. People vote. The winner gets their way. The losers try to be good sports unless/until they can change things.”

    Actually that isn’t how participatory democracy works. Maybe it’s you who needs the civics lesson.

    “However, if you do insist on calling me names (right-winger, jihadist, theocrat, etc) I will not hesitate to call you out for being the religious bigot you are.”

    Actually I never called anyone a name ever. You sir, are the one turning this discussion into an ugly one. The only name-calling I recall is the quote from the entry we are commenting on. I said I had heard the same sort of invective on the right. I never called anyone a name.

  • ken53

    Interesting to read the comments from conservative christians trying to defend their votes in the last election as a defense of traditional marriage. Your claims that it is not just a matter of homophobia would be more convincing if you could offer a rational argument that proves that the same sex marriages that have already taken place in other parts of the world are not really marriages.

    If you cannot offer a coherent argument proving that the marriage of gays in Canada, for example, are not actually married then you have to qualify your opposition to same sex marriage by saying that marriage is between a man and a women exept in Canada, Sweden, Massachusets etc.

    It seems to me that if it just comes down to the fact that gays do get married elsewhere and you don’t like it and you don’t want them to get married in your area, then this is pretty convincing proof that it really is just a matter of homophobia after all.

    I personally think that a more christian approach the conservatives should take would be to convice the public that there is a difference between a cival and a religious marriage and that the state should not impose its ‘equality’ standard for same sex marriages on churches. Leave it at that.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “What you should not do is to throw a tantrum and accuse the right of imposing its values on you. That is manifestly not what people on the right on cultural issues understand themselves as doing.”

    Hey fine, I wasn’t throwing a tantrum. I don’t remember raising my “voice” in this discussion.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “If you want to marry a dog, your mother or sister”

    “If I want to marry a 16-year old”

    I hear a lot of talk from the right about how people on the left need to calmy discuss the issues of gay marriage with people on the right.

    In that case do people on the right realise how insulting and hurtful it is when my best friends relationship is equated in discussion with pedophilia, beastiality and incest?

    I’m not saying this as an accusation, I am only wondering.

  • Clement Ng

    ken53 wrote:

    “Your claims that it is not just a matter of homophobia would be more convincing if you could offer a rational argument that proves that the same sex marriages that have already taken place in other parts of the world are not really marriages.”

    This remark trades on a serious conceptual confusion between the legal and social senses of the term “marriage”. Obviously, a lesbian couple that ties the knot in Holland is *legally* married – *in* Holland, that is. No sane person would deny that. Yet why should a legally valid marriage in Holland neccessarily count as a *socially* acceptable marriage in America? And why should a legally valid marriage in Holland neccessarily count as a *legally* valid marriage in America, for that matter? If Canada legalized polygamous marriages, then would Americans be in need of some coherent argument to show that marriage *ought* to consist of the union of two people, except for what goes on in Canada? What marriage *is* and what marriage *ought* to be are obviously two different questions and what marriage is in Canada and what it ought to be and what marriage is in America and what it ought to be are also different questions. Traditionalists are well aware that marriage in America (and Canada) all too often falls too short of the ideal advanced.

    Moroever, the confusion I pointed too above may involve a semantic difficulty. We could redefine the term “marriage” to include the matrimonial union of a mother and her son (e.g. an incestuous marriage). Suppose Holland legalizes incestuous marriages and adopts the definition of the term “marriage” that I just offered. Would Americans then be obliged to adopt this definition too? Two lesbians could move into some house in Texas and declare themselves a “married” couple, if they so wish. That does not oblige the rest of us to recognize their union as “real” marriage. Of course, if same-sex marriage becomes legal in Texas, then everyone would have to concede that this couple’s union is a legally valid marriage *in* Texas – but whether or not the definition of marriage at law should be changed is exactly the question that’s under consideration, right?

  • ken53

    “In that case do people on the right realise how insulting and hurtful it is when my best friends relationship is equated in discussion with pedophilia, beastiality and incest? ”

    I doubt they even think of your best friend as a real person Jason.

    Jesus on the other hand, were he here today, would no doubt bless your friends love and probably have dinner with them, drink some wine, break some bread, and then show them, by example, how to suffer the persecutions of the rightious.

  • Tom Harmon

    ken:

    Have you asked for such an argument? Have you looked for one? A good place to go might be in the pages of http://www.marriagedebate.com. There, very bright, civil people on both sides of the issue are engaging in a dialog. You might also try the upcoming (Feb ’04, I believe) In Defense of Marriage by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese (ISI Books).

    Simply assuming good arguments don’t exist is not a good place to start.

    By the way, I think the burden of proof is definitely on the one who want to change an institution that has been conceived of in pretty much the same way (baring a very few aberrations) since the beginning of recorded history in most cultures. In other words, ken, you should be trying to convince us that Canadian gays are are actually married.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Jason:

    Do people on the left realise how infantile and anti-intellectual it is when arguments about the nature of marriage are repeatedly distorted, and “slippery slope” arguments willfully misunderstood with personal snits?

    I’m not saying this as an accusation, I am only wondering.

    Look. If your *argument* for why two men *can* marry (in the sense of “how is it possible”) is that “marriage is whatever the parties themselves want it to be and not what society as a whole judges it to be,” then, no rules restricting who *can* marry will stand up. Ever. The argument the pro-SSM folks are making is simply too powerful and goes much farther than “two men” or “two women.” It DOES justify any arrangement you can think of because any refusal, any social “no,” would have to have some moral reason. Pro-SSM people, yourself here included, are emphatic in saying that moral disapproval from others is not a valid reason to refuse people a marriage license and is a mere prejudice akin to the miscegenation laws.

    If you don’t want to back bestiality, incest, polygamy, etc., then don’t make libertarian antinomianism your argument for SSM and don’t claim that moral disapproval is no better in nature than racial prejudice. Some day (actually very soon, as the polygamists are already filing court cases), those kinds of “prejudices” will be needed.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    “I doubt they even think of your best friend as a real person Jason.”

    Please back this up, Ken.

  • Clement Ng

    Jason wrote:

    “In that case do people on the right realise how insulting and hurtful it is when my best friends relationship is equated in discussion with pedophilia, beastiality and incest?

    I’m not saying this as an accusation, I am only wondering.”

    You’re missing my point (and I’m glad that you’re not accussing me of insulting you). The point is that you, your family, and your friends are not entitled to decide for *yourselves* marriage “can and can’t be legally”. What a marriage can and can’t be legally is something the good people of your state should decide (and you are among the people of your state).

    If we agree that there ought to be restrictions on what counts as a legally valid marriage (such as age requirements), then then the next question we have to ask is: what restrictions are reasonable? (I’m sorry if you found my examples insulting, but they are there to make a point, not to belittle your friends’ relationship. I do not for a moment believe that gays and lesbians who want to marry (and not all of them do) have the moral sensibilities of people who want to marry animals or parents).

    The marriage law in your state is something a majority of citizens either endorse or reject. It is not something you, your family, and your friends can change to suit your preferences. If the majority of your fellow citizens are entitled to insist that “only people over the age of eighteen may be married”, then they are entitled to insist that “only heterosexual couples may be married”. Your job is to change your fellow citizens’ mind.

  • Joey W

    Jason,

    Do you realize how hurtful and insulting it is when I say that I believe God loves all of us, but that homosexual activities are sinful, and I am promptly called a “Nazi homophobe” and a “gay-basher”? (I have gay friends that know I am neither of the above.)

    And no one equated relationships as you suggest. What was being discussed was the logic used to arrive at the conclusion that same-sex marriage is acceptable. The same logic that says a person can reasonably state that they have a “right” to a same-sex marriage can also be used to justify any kind of marriage.

    And Ken53 -

    Why is there a necessity to justify the actions taken by those in other countries? Since when does the enaction of a law in Sweden imply that it is authoritative? You are suggesting that when foreign nations pass legislation, the US must accept it as legitimate by fiat unless someone in the US can explain or refute the actions of those nations. Since it was the people of those nations that made the choice, how can people of this nation be held accountable?

    Perhaps you’d like to take on the challenge of explaining to US citizens that since the Netherlands now allows the involuntary euthanasia of children under age 12 without parental consent, the US should accept this and follow suit.

  • Ken53

    Clement, no need to be long winded about this topic. Conservatives are saying that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Yet facts exist that prove that claim wrong. They have to either 1) deny the facts or 2) redefine marriage to encompass the facts.

    Denying the facts is stupid and indefensible, I hope even conservatives realize that. (Although some may be so outside the reality based community that they cannot be reasoned with)

    By redefining marriage to encompass the facts they are denied an objective reality based opposition to same sex marriage. Now it becomes a normative discussion. Which leades to motive. Which by process of elimination leaves homophobia which is decidedly unchristian.

    My hope is that real christians will reflect on this, think about their motives, and come around to do the right thing.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    So, Ken, if Sweden decides to allow a man to marry a dog (or Utah to marry a woman, a woman and a woman), does that prove that man-dog marriage and plural marriage (so much better than that judgmental term “polygamy”) are facts?

    Our argument has never been that counterfeit currencies can’t be willed into existence by those determined to create new “facts.”

  • Clement Ng

    ken 53 wrote:

    “Jesus on the other hand, were he here today, would no doubt bless your friends love and probably have dinner with them, drink some wine, break some bread, and then show them, by example, how to suffer the persecutions of the rightious.”

    If Jesus were here today, he would drink Canadian beer, not wine. So would his gay friends.

    (Just uhmmm… trying to take lighten things up).

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Ken writes:

    “Now it becomes a normative discussion.”

    It never hasn’t been actually, but ….

    “Which leads to motive.”

    Only if “ad hominem” is a valid argument and that rational, surface-sincere deliberation about values is, in the decisive sense, impossible and merely masks for whatever the Other decides it is. (Believe me, homosexuals do NOT want to go down that route.)

    “Which by process of elimination leaves homophobia…”

    O Brother. In two sentences, he’s ruled out all possible argument and reduced statements of moral belief to prejudices. What a waste of time.

  • ken53

    “In other words, ken, you should be trying to convince us that Canadian gays are are actually married.”

    Tom, what is it about two people being married that you don’t understand?

    Just kidding. But seriously, if you are trying to define marriage as being between a man and a woman there are plenty of facts that prove this definition wrong. You cannot win the argument by trying to use a definition that is not accurate.

    And denying the facts is irrational. If you indulge in this denial then we have nothing to discuss.

    This is a normative discussion and involves motive. What is your motive for denying people the right to marry? Not in your church, but some churches allow it, some other legal jurisdiction allows it. What is your problem with it?

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    “This is a normative discussion and involves motive. What is your motive for denying people the right to marry?”

    Why does that matter? What is your motive for turning the question toward motive? What is your problem with reason?

  • ken53

    “Just kidding. But seriously, if you are trying to define marriage as being between a man and a woman there are plenty of facts that prove this definition wrong. You cannot win the argument by trying to use a definition that is not accurate. ”

    I should have been more specific here. I am just trying to point out the fact that marriage is not now an exclusive arrangement between one man and one woman. So that definition of marriage is off the table in the discussion.

    Marriage is different in different cultures. It is not universally fixed either over geography nor over time. We don’t need to get into discussions of poligamy either modern or biblical, or child brides in China, or gay marriages in Swedan to know this is true.

  • ken53

    “Why does that matter? What is your motive for turning the question toward motive? What is your problem with reason?”

    The purpose for turning towards motive is because I believe if a sincere Christian where to examine the facts and reflect on Jesus’s life and who he hung out with they would not be so homophobic about this issue.

    I have no problem with reason. That is why I demonstrated that trying to argue by definition is senseless. This is a normative issue and motives are crucial in coming to a christian response to this issue.

  • Joey W

    Ken53 -

    To extend your argument, there are brothers and sisters who are married, 11 year olds who are married, first cousins who are married, polygamous marriages, bigamous marriages – all of these are facts.

    Now, according to your logic, that means that since all of these things are facts, the definition of marriage must be changed to include these realities.

    In fact, since people are selling drugs licitly in other nations, all US drug laws should be revoked. And as I noted above, we need to get on the euthanasia program right away, and redefine life as “that which is useful, productive, and acceptable” – in the eyes of a physician or judge.

    If facts are used to define laws, then there can be no laws, since there is an infinite set of factual possibilities. And, as is customary, you fall back on the “homophobia” slander as the only possible reason people could oppose same-sex marriage. Once you’ve explained to me why I should listen to anyone who slanders me without any reasonable context for doing so, I’ll start listening – but make it good. (While you’re at it, answer my question about how you plan to justify the euthanasia laws that your logic dictates you should be championing.)

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    “marriage is not now an exclusive arrangement between one man and one woman. So that definition of marriage is off the table in the discussion.”

    Only to the extent that counterfeit currency denies the legitimacy of definitions of legal tender. And people print counterfeit bills every day. Doesn’t make them legal tender (though they do succeed in driving down the value of the real thing.)

  • Greg Popcak

    Jason,

    Touchy, touchy. Ok. I’ll play ball. How about I show you some examples of what I’m talking about. Any examples from similar sources to support your argument would be perfectly acceptable.

    *In today’s New York Times, Gary Hart proclaims, `There is a disturbing tendency to insert theocratic principles into the vision of America’s role in the world.`

    *DeWayne Wicham of USA Today frets, `Putting God in the public square runs the risk of turning our democracy into a theocracy.`

    *Miami Herald writer Leonard Pitts Jr. warns that social conservatives are `the soldiers of the new American theocracy.`

    *Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe, always fearful of morality, says people like her `don’t want their country racked by the fundamentalist religious wars we see across the world.`

    *Another worried soul, author Barbara Ehrenreich, argues we are polarized because of `Christian fundamentalism.`

    *Syndicated columnist Byron Williams sounds the alarms by noting we are moving `closer to a theocracy.`

    *Tony Kushner, the anti-Catholic playwright, believes we now have `a kind of unholy alliance between theocracy and plutocracy.`

    *Cynthia Tucker, an editorialist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, blames `black churchgoers` for using the Bible `as a bludgeon` against gays, saying `homophobia` now `oozes across lines of color.`

    *Similarly, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial says the rejection of gay marriage means `the old bigotry against homosexuals has not abated.`

    Clear enough for you, Jason? Can you show me any list that even comes close to approaching this kind of bigotry from the right toward the “moral agenda” of the left?

    I’m waiting…

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Ken wrote:

    “I have no problem with reason. That is why I demonstrated that trying to argue by definition is senseless.”

    Since when has having clear and factual definitions not been “reason”?

    “I believe if a sincere Christian were to reflect … (they would be pro-SSM)”

    And yet, curiously, they seem not to think and reflect as you say they should. Could there ever, conceivably, come a point where you might conclude that, *you* were the one mistaken (at least with respect to what Christianity teaches), and that *they* were the ones correct.

    (snip the homophobia accusation … it’s just a tiresome cuss word.)

    “This is a normative issue and motives are crucial in coming to a christian response to this issue.”

    Wrong wrong wrong. The fact this is a normative issue is precisely why motives are irrelevant. One’s motive for arguing something is nothing but a personal judgment of one’s interlocutors. It has no place in rational discussion as it says nothing about the issue itself, but turns it to “what is your problem” psychologizing.

  • Clement Ng

    This is my last post. Promise. I’m blogged out.

    ken53 wrote:

    “The purpose for turning towards motive is because I believe if a sincere Christian where to examine the facts and reflect on Jesus’s life and who he hung out with they would not be so homophobic about this issue.”

    Jesus hung out with the tax collectors, the adulturers, and other disliked groups. If he were here today, he would indeed sit down gays and lesbians, listen to them express their fears and anxieties, and hug them tightly. He would open up his house for them to say in. He would loan them whatever money he had. He would help them wash epithets (like “fag”) that were sprayed on their houses and cars. He would love them like he loves you and me.

    But why should this picture lead others to suppose that opposition to the legalization of SSM is always underpinned by a hatred of gay people (e.g. homophobia)? I don’t doubt that there are many, many Jimmy Swaggerts in this world. I also believe that there are many sincere, loving Christians who honestly believe that changing the marriage law would have deleterious social consequences. That we live in a secular country is no reason not to defend a norm of marriage that many (but not all) Christians think is ideal for everyone, religious and non-religious alike.

  • ken53

    One more try.

    Child brides in China, incest in the story of genesis, poligamy modern and ancient, gay marriages in Sweden, Canada, Massachusetts, etc.

    And one upon a time in Texas marriage was ’till death do us part’. Not any more. Now marriage in Texas is for as long as it still feels good.

    So the definition of marriage is fluid. You will not win the normative argument against same sex marriage by trying to define it away.

    I understand why you throw up all kinds of smoke on this cause the more the facts are known the weaker you think your arguments are. In fact, you have no argument from facts. It is exclusively a normative argument about what should or should not be local marriage custom this year, or next year. We all know it will change in a decade or so anyway. Like in Texas, marriage is for most people what feels good.

    My concern is that for christians we try to get away from that and start honoring, or at least respecting and stop fighting the union of people who want permanently what you are willing to allow Britney Spears to trash.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    “It is exclusively a normative argument about what should or should not be local marriage custom this year, or next year.”

    That is not an argument about norms, but about fashions. And yes, fashions change with the leaves, but they don’t create “facts” in the sense of definitional essences.

    Do you even realize that what Jason takes to be so insulting (a comparison with polygamy) is precisely what you’re using to argue FOR homosexual marriage?

    And do you realize that for 5,000 years of recorded history, despite all the various ways that, yes, marriage was defined differently in some of the ways you cite, the ONE thing unchanging was male-female. Even where and when polygamy has beenpracticed, the sultan’s harem members were never considered married to each other, only to the sultan. If they ever tried to get a bit of girl-girl on the side, they were adulterers and worse. You can’t cite a single example of a gay “marriage” from earlier than yesterday. Only the unserious could consider these variations equal.

    I notice, BTW, that you haven’t even alluded to my argument about counterfeits, which rather suggests that you haven’t thought through what a “fact” is and what relationship it might have to “truth.”

  • Joey W

    My last posting -

    Ken53, several people have attempted to engage you with questions and examples. You choose to write them off and simply repeat your previous words. That’s your decision to make – but how can you be surprised that people don’t take you seriously if you make no attempt to address the very issues you yourself raised?!?

  • ken53

    victor, if it is any comfort to you to think in terms of platonic ideals go right ahead. I ignored it because about thirty years ago I dealt with it till it made my head hurt. You can discuss those issues of realism vs objectivism with someone else, they are insolvable.

    As far as facts go as how they relate to the truth I have given it far more thought than the subject deserves. Facts are stubborn things and will defeat any attepmt to deny them over a long enough time. Truth, on the other hand, is, outside the realm of math, mostly poetry.

  • Rod Dreher

    Thanks, Terry, for posting this column o’ mine.

    One quick observation: I find it fascinating that the cultural/religious left has not one word of criticism for John Kerry, who is on record opposing gay marriage. If he had won last Tuesday, would they have bewailed the election of a vicious homophobe who obviously hates gay people? Of course not. Mostly, I think, because everybody knew Kerry didn’t mean it, that he was just saying what he needed to say to get elected. But also because they couldn’t very well have used the election of Kerry to bash cultural and religious conservatives. I simply cannot take the arguments of these people seriously. When they don’t get their way, they reduce everything to, “You hate me! You hate me! You hate me!” Is this where identify politics and “the personal is political” gets you? A political disagreement cannot be seen as anything other than personal rejection? This is how 13-year-olds argue.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    Ken:

    “made my head hurt” is about as unconvincing a reason not to think as I can imagine. And to have to hear it come from someone who sets himself upo as a paladin of reason, against the prejudices of the Religious Irrationalists and Bigots is … well … pretty effin’ galling.

  • ken53

    victor, I don’t think you have anything to add to a philosophical issue that has been debated since Plato. I understood the issues very clearly once cause I got my degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies a long time ago. I know I don’t have anything to add to the discussion of universals beyond saying to you it is very tough and not something that will be solved on this blog.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton

    But you make this issue one of universals by saying that certain things are bald “facts” — indisputables that cannot be denied except by the delusional and those worthy of having their motives hunted through. This is a philosophical issue (you’re just taking Nietzsche’s side) and to see you and other SSM-pushers wuss out precisely where the disagreement is joined (and after having talked down to us) is … well … I’ve already said what it is.

    And one more thing. Nobody who could write a sentence like “Truth, on the other hand, is … mostly poetry” has any right to lecture others about the ability to accept facts.

  • ken53

    Victor,

    You are framing the issue wrong.

    Think of a universal as an ideal. It could be an ideal chair, or an ideal marriage. There is only one ideal for each something or other.

    Facts are what we see on the wall of Plato’s cave as shadows. We see all kinds of chairs, four legged, three legged, six legged, etc. We see all kinds of marriages, child brides in China, drunken Vegas style insta-marriage, Nero marrying his horse, (I think it was Nero, it could have been Caligula, but you get the point) church marriages and Texas style marriage for as long as it feels good and gay and lesbian marriage in some places as well. It would take a long time to catalog all the different ‘facts’ we see as shadows in Plato’s cave about both chairs and marriages.

    Now here is where it breaks down you see because it is just as logical to argue that there is an ideal chair for each and every different kind of shadow (fact) we see on Plato’s cave wall as it is to argue that only one of these is the ideal chair and the rest are then what, shadows? OK so which is it?

    Same thing with marriage.

    That is why it is senseless to go the route of trying to argue philisophically from universals. They are unknowable. We see only their faint shadows and we can’t tell if we are seeing one or many.

  • ken53

    By the way victor, I am not trying to provide a framework to make an argument from universals myself. I was only trying to show you how the terminology should be used to differ between facts and universals.

    These arguments have some rhetorical value because the language used has emotive meanins as well as their strict philosophical meanings. But once we get into these kinds of discussion, they really go nowhere cause it is too easy to confuse the usage.

    I really don’t know what to say to someone who questions me on saying that outside of math truth is mostly poetry. Perhaps you need to think on this a bit while reading the Bible.

  • Scott

    “You love to blame us and the Republican leadership for being “divisive.” Yet it wasn’t our side that cheered when the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned the ancient and settled definition of marriage in a single moment, and we were not the partisans who staged illegal and intentionally provocative gay wedding ceremonies on the steps of city halls.”

    Please. Bush lied us into a war. Someone else held a wedding ceremony that turned out to have no legal weight. Big difference. This sort of BS is why I’m refusing to take communion w/ evangelicals until we’re out of Iraq and Bush is out of office.

  • Kathleen

    Ken is arguing from a relativistic, you can’t know the truth point of view.

    Following his line of reasoning, it leads me to ask, yes there may be different kinds of chairs, but which chair has been most successful for sitting on over time? Which has been the best for society in holding up people so they don’t fall to the floor? The three legged chair or the four legged chair?

    And don’t bring up the Brittany Spears bit it doesn’t demonstrate anything, historically. Also, most serious Chrisitians would point out that this is exactly why no-fault divorce has been a disaster for society and the family.

    I think the biggest glaring problem with Ken’s line of reasoning is that it leads to “anything goes” as a result of Lawrence v. Texas ‘mystery of life’ standard. It that’s o.k. with proponents of SSM fine for them, but they have to at least argue that on the basis of Ken’s reasoning (if that is the argument they make) that the “anything goes” standard is what comes next. So don’t get mad when the 55 year old polygamist with 15, 14 year old wives and 25 kids moves into the townhouse next to you. You asked for it.

  • Scott

    “So don’t get mad when the 55 year old polygamist with 15, 14 year old wives and 25 kids moves into the townhouse next to you. You asked for it.”

    The same Old Testament evangelicals like to quote against gay marriage seems to support polygamy.

  • http://www.getreligion.org tmatt

    Greg and Jason:

    Well now.

    Please note that almost nothing in the current torrent of debate on this item has anything to do with the purpose of the original blog article, except that this is a demonstration of how hard this kind of debate is to cover in a newspaper.

    Try to imagine writing a story in a newspaper that deals fairly with the voices on both sides of this major-league slap-fest.

    But there is a factual question here that is central to the work of the blog.

    The MSM is, consistently, much harsher to the cultural right than to the cultural left. Please check out the media bias studies on this, going back to the classic Los Angeles Times study on abortion coverage. Check out the current Oliphant cartoon.

    A comparison of invective in THE NEWS MEDIA is what we were trying to discuss. That is, after all, what this blog is about — press coverage of issues of religion. Also, we are interested in editorial pages, but not as much as we are interested IN NEWS PAGES. We jumped in on the New York Times op-ed freak out theme because this was so symbolic of the general attitudes in the newspaper.

    But, let me stress, EVEN at the Times where was some fabulous journalism going on out in the main columns. There were outbreaks of information about both sides. There were voices quoted that told us what was happening. Good.

    But I continue to think that the undercovered side of this debate is the hardcore religious left and the secularists. Or maybe not. Maybe that is what we are reading on the editorial pages.

  • francis

    just for the record:

    it was caligula, but he didn’t marry it. According to sueton he did honour it with presents, a house, slaves and rumour had it he planned to make it consuls.

  • Molly

    Wasn’t there something about civility in this space?

    I am amazed at how much folks above automatically assumed the worst of one another and fired both barrels.

    It helps to go away for a couple days and come back with a calmer spirit. I recommend it!

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Amen, Molly.

    It also helps to remember that this is not meant to be a theological wrestling match blog. Our goal is to promote better coverage of religion — left, right and center — in the mainstream media. I like to bring that up every now and then.

  • http://sodakmonk.crimsonblog.com Fr. Matthew K

    Wills himself says and writes things so inflammatory it suggests he’s got a lot of personal baggage. On the other hand,nice to see Dreher confronting someone other than priests for a change. It was starting to sound like Rod considered us the source of all evil in the world. Wills probably does believe that in truth.


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