Jim Wallis sounds an uncertain trumpet on marriage equality

“If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”
— 1 Corinthians 14:8

Evangelical author Jim Wallis, a longtime peace and anti-poverty activist, has finally announced his support for marriage equality. Or, rather, has finally conceded that he will no longer oppose same-sex marriage.

What Wallis actually said, in an interview with Marc Lamont Hill of Huffington Post, was this:

WALLIS: We’re losing marriage in this society. I’m worried about that — among low income people, but all people. How do we commit liberals and conservatives to re-covenanting, reestablishing, renewing marriage?

HILL: Men and women? Or men and men?

WALLIS: I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage. I want to talk about marriage first. Marriage needs some strengthening. How do we re-covenant a permanent commitment that’s — to parenting is really important to the common good. But then, let’s start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. And that could be the common ground. So, yes, I support equal protection under the law. I always have.

HILL: But same-sex marriage as such, would you support it?

WALLIS: I think that’s what, equal protection for many, many people, including young evangelicals, is becoming marriage equality. What I’m saying is let’s not just argue that issue back and forth, let’s go to a deeper commitment to marriage that’s inclusive. I want it to be inclusive. So my answer is yes. But I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive. And that’s where I think the country is going.

That is what an uncertain trumpet sounds like.

After being pressed three times for a straightforward answer, Wallis finally said, “My answer is yes, but.”

Contrast that with Steve Chalke’s announcement of his support for marriage equality. Chalke, a well-respected British evangelical leader, had a lot to lose, but he stepped forward — on his own initiative — and sounded a clear trumpet before what he knew would be a hostile audience. That is what leadership looks like. That is what being a “prophetic” voice means.

At Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner provides a brutally appropriate response to Wallis’ late-in-the-game hemming and hawing, “The ‘Prophetic’ Voice of Jim Wallis Jumps on Marriage Equality Bandwagon“:

In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Jaweed Kaleem last week, Wallis described what motivated him to write yet another book about How Everything Would Be Divine If Everyone Listened To Jim Wallis. (Especially you, ladies!) “The vitriol. The screaming. The polarization. The paralyzation. The hate. The fear. And I thought we’ve lost something really significant, this ancient idea called the common good.”

Oh, man, don’t you wish all those gay and lesbian people who simply wanted to have the same rights as straight people would stop with all their vitriol and screaming? Jeez.

As part of his book roll-out with the Huff Po team, Wallis gave a video interview to Marc Lamont Hill, who opened it with reminding Wallis that “you’re a leader of the religious left.” … In true “leader” form, when asked by Hill about same-sex marriage, Wallis replied, “this issue is changing rapidly,” noting that “young believers, 62 percent of young evangelicals now support marriage equality.” Because that’s what leaders do. They wait for public opinion to tell them how to lead. And then they wait for an interviewer to push them to speak plain English — and even then they use behind-covering doublespeak.

Susan Russell is similarly underwhelmed, writing “Jim Wallis Evolves: Sort Of“:

It’s lovely that Wallis is “evolving” on granting my marriage the same protections his has — truly. But in point of fact it is long past time for one purporting to be “a leader of the religious left” to support a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriages and Family Values that value all families.

And Hemant Mehta chimes in with “It’s About Damn Time: ‘Progressive’ Christian Finally Voices Support for Marriage Equality“:

It’s one embarrassingly small leap for mankind. … Let’s not pretend Wallis is a role model here. Role models do the right thing no matter how tough it may be, not wait for the political climate to change and then jump on the bandwagon that other people built.

Although I haven’t been in touch with him for many years, Jim Wallis is an old friend. I knew him back when he still had the beard — before the TV-friendly makeover and before his books came out in prestigious hard-cover editions. We worked together repeatedly throughout the 1990s and I remain fond of him. I like the guy and I retain respect for him.

But I’m not going to try to defend him from this criticism. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, because it’s accurate and richly deserved.

What I want to try to do, instead, is to explain Wallis’ blind-spot here — to explore why even though he really has been for many years a “prophetic” voice on economic justice, he has been the opposite of that for LGBT people for just as long.

I covered some of this previously two years ago when Wallis recoiled in fear from running a “Believe Out Loud” ad in his Sojourners magazine (see “My hope is built on nothing less” and “Jim Wallis and Believe Out Loud, Part 2“). At that time I wrote this about Wallis:

I don’t think that Wallis is a post-evangelical timidly masquerading as something else. I don’t think he’s being disingenuous, I think he’s just wrong.

Wallis is, like my one-time boss Ron Sider, an evangelical Christian. Wallis and Sider have both been radical, prophetic voices on economic justice because they are evangelical. Their long-time, staunch commitment to justice for the poor arises from their evangelical faith. The only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the white evangelical subculture is that they’ve read more of the Bible. And they’ve read it with the same evangelical eyes — the same “common-sense,” face-value, “literal” approach.

For most white American evangelicals, that approach starts and stops with a very selective selection of Bible verses. It’s mainly focused on the passages involving sex. But the Bible has a great deal more to say about money — about wealth, poverty, possessions, justice, widows, orphans, aliens and the downtrodden — than it does about sex.

If you’re familiar with Wallis, you’ve probably heard him talk about the “more than 2,000 verses” in the Bible that deal with economic issues. What if one reads those 2,000+ verses and responds to them in exactly the same way that most white evangelicals respond to the far smaller set of verses dealing with sexual morality?

Well, you wind up becoming Jim Wallis or Ron Sider. (Or, nowadays, Shane Claiborne.)

The point here is that Wallis and Sider never really disagreed with the substance of the sexual politics of the religious right, but mainly with what they saw as its misplaced priorities. For Wallis, the Bible’s 2,000+ clobber texts on wealth, poverty and possessions made that issue a greater priority than the six infamous clobber texts on homosexuality. But he still tended to approach the Bible as an evangelical reader — regarding clobber texts as authoritative and clobber-texting as a valid, proper hermeneutic.

I think this is a mistake — a bad process that leads to bad conclusions. I don’t think clobber-texting is a valid hermeneutic. I don’t think it’s a hermeneutic at all. But I do respect Wallis and Sider for the integrity and consistency they have shown in allowing that evangelical approach to apply to far more of the Bible than most other evangelicals are willing or able to allow.

But there’s also another side here. Or, rather, there’s also The Other Side here. And that suggests another, more insidious, dynamic at work in Wallis’ long-time avoidance of LGBT equality.

Back in the day, Sojourners magazine had a kind of cousin-publication called The Other Side. TOS was a radical, progressive magazine published by an “intentional community” of evangelical Christians based in a rough part of Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood (just up the block from Sider’s house, actually).

Unlike Wallis’ Sojourners, TOS was unqualified in its support for the full equality of LGBT people in the church and under the law. This was, for TOS, an imperative of the Golden Rule and a biblical mandate based on the same kind of radically reconciling, radically inclusive hermeneutic that Steve Chalke would arrive at decades later. They championed this cause forcefully and presented their arguments for it clearly and biblically.

Those arguments were never really engaged, or even heard, in the evangelical subculture. There was no point in listening to such arguments when the conclusions they produced were unacceptable. And so The Other Side magazine became a pariah in the white evangelical subculture.

That meant they were shunned and ignored by the very people they were trying to reach. And it meant they were cut off from the Christian sources of funding they needed to become sustainable. Other funders helped to bridge the gap for a while — Mr. Cockburn chipped in from Canada, and the Hewsons sent checks from Dublin, among others — but financial support from American Christians was never enough to make the publication viable. It limped along for a while before gradually fading away and closing shop in 2005. (Dee Dee Risher wrote a tribute to TOS in Sojourners that year titled, “A Clarion for Justice.” Talk about sounding certain trumpets.)

I think Wallis and Sider took two lessons from the noble failure of The Other Side. First, they learned that the evangelical audience they were called to reach would never be willing or able to hear their message of economic justice if they were in any way perceived as “pro-gay.” And, unpleasantly, they learned that the funding they relied on from evangelical donors would disappear if they strayed from the subculture’s officially approved “stance on homosexuality.” That latter lesson wasn’t one they needed to learn from TOS — it was something many of those donors themselves stated, sometimes explicitly.

Remember, though, that Wallis did not agree with The Other Side. His clobber-texting approach couldn’t accommodate their interpretation of those clobber texts. So it wasn’t that Wallis was fearfully being disingenuous — stating one thing publicly while secretly believing the opposite in private. He really was opposed to LGBT equality because he really believed the Bible required that of him. (I know this because we discussed this in the early ’90s, and at that time, unfortunately, I agreed with him.)

So the point here is not that the constant threat of financial reinforcement of the tribe’s anti-gay “stance” prevented Wallis from stating his mind. But I think that — for far too long — that threat contributed to preventing Wallis from changing his mind. It prevented him from allowing himself to question the strictly enforced official “stance.”

And when you don’t ask questions, you’re not leading. You’re following.

When it comes to marriage equality, Wallis still seems to be a follower. But at least now he’s following a better set of leaders.

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  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    So he’s no longer an opponent, although he doesn’t want to be seen as an ally. Whee. This is me waving a tiny flag. Wheeeee.

    How do we re-covenant a permanent commitment

    You don’t, because it’s foolhardy to create the expectation that all marriages be permanent unions. No one should be forced to stay with people they no longer love or who abuse them.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m not sure it’s an idea I’m behind, but it might be reasonable to suggest that we as a society might get better at determining which unions aren’t going to be permanent, and encourage those people to pursue some alternative to marriage.

  • P J Evans

    That assumes that people don’t change as they get older, and that’s clearly an incorrect assumption.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    No it doesn’t. Though it does assume that the general pattern of how people change as they get older can in many cases be predicted.

  • banancat

    Why should marriage be presumed to be permanent and all others should find something else? Why not keep the term for the more common (both currently and historically) practice and allow others who intend permanency to find an alternative?

    But in any case, why should they even be different? And why should it ever be difficult to get out of even if the original intent was permanency? Who would it ever benefit to keep people in dysfunctional relationships?

  • other lori

    This is an area where I think we need balance. Yes, there are marriages that are so damaging that it’s better for both parties and their children, if they have them, to get out. But, really, based on the research, as much as we hate to admit it, kids are the ones who tend to benefit from marriages staying together. The idea that kids are better off with happily unmarried parents than unhappily married parents doesn’t seem to be backed by research findings (and the idea that people are happier after divorce also doesn’t have much backing).

    We shouldn’t force people to stay in marriages at all costs, but I also think we need to perhaps encourage sticking with relationships more than we do. I think a lot of it just involves tools: I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I’ve read a few places that couples that divorce generally don’t have more conflicts than couples who don’t divorce; it’s not really a matter of conflict or unhappiness but what tools a couple has to deal with that conflict and unhappiness. A particular peeve of mine is that insurance plans rarely if ever cover marriage counselling, and marriage counselling is expensive. You’d think that if we value marriage as a society as much as we say we do, we’d be willing to make some investments into things like making marriage counselling more affordable and widely available.

    I just don’t think we’re really being honest if we pretend that nobody benefits if marriage stay together, especially if kids are involved.

  • LL

    What’s amusing to me (as an unmarried – but not homosexual – person) is how people are “worried” about marriage, like it’s a terminally ill patient. And what they perceive to be the things killing the patient – same-sex marriage and premarital sex and, of course, feminism.

    Not the shitty marriages that still exist to provide an example of what marriage shouldn’t be but often is. Not abuse. Not poverty. Not racism. Not the shitty economy. Oh no. None of those are complicit. It’s just those darn gays and the people boinking out of wedlock and the feminazis who are responsible.

    This is why I have difficulty having respect for most religious people. In addition to being abundantly stupid, they are even more hypocritical than they are stupid, if that’s possible.

  • JustoneK

    To further the analogy, they’re very much not doctors who are doing all this diagnosing. They have zero training, by and large, and usually zero experience “curing” it. So on top of not recognizing what the symptoms actually are, they’re attributing them to completely unrelated (frequently unsubstantiated) phenomena.

    It’s folk medicine. It endures because people are always afraid of new. They don’t share most of the same reality, and it’s coming to a head.

  • stardreamer42

    You forgot no-fault divorce — that’s the biggest bugaboo, and the driving force behind nonsense like “covenant marriage”. Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder, and all that crap.

    If you really want to make marriage more of a permanent commitment, don’t waste time on making it harder to get OUT of, make it harder to get INTO. Make people think more about the kind of commitment they’re committing to before they’ve done it, and you’ll have fewer cases of buyer’s remorse afterwards.

    Of course, this approach presumes that most people will be getting married in a religious context, so perhaps it’s not so useful for our increasingly secular / nominally-religious society. You can’t force people to go to church, after all, let alone to actually be devout.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Of course, making it harder to get married is a good quick way to ensure that homosexuals and other maligned groups are actively prevented from marrying whether it’s legal or not.

  • cyllan

    Even better, build up a support network so that it’s not just two people trying to manage impossible tasks like raising a child. Right-wing conservatives like to hand out a lot of shit to liberals who say it, but it really does take a village to raise a child. The better your support network — no matter how fast you got into a marriage, the better your chances at staying married. The more options you have, the stronger your family will be, and the more stressed out you are, the more likely it is that the day-to-day grind will wear you down.

  • JustoneK

    Whether or not most conservatives realize it, that exact support network is (usually) what they enjoy and keeps them stable. It’s built in. To extend it to more people potentially disrupts their service, and that’s terrifying.
    And there still seems to be this idea that not being tapped into that network means you don’t want what it provides, not that you never had an opportunity to tap into it at all.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    I think trying to make it harder to get married is, as AnonymousSam says, more likely to cause problems for already-marginalized groups than it is to solve any problems.

    Other people have already discussed the importance of providing tools and support networks for married and engaged couples. But I think another thing that’s worth mentioning is the importance of accepting and honouring the choice not to get married.

    I’ve often heard it said that we’d have fewer bad parents if more people were open to the idea that it’s okay not to have children. Similarly, I think we’d have fewer unhappy marriages if more people were open to the idea that not everyone must or should get married.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    He really was opposed to LGBT equality because he really
    believed the Bible required that of him. (I know this because we
    discussed this in the early ’90s, and at that time, unfortunately, I agreed with him.)

    This part of your post really touched me. It’s not just that you changed your mind about what Christ’s justice means and became an activist for equality; it’s that now that you are on the side of equality, you’re honest and unashamed about admitting that you used to not be. A lot of people never admit previous mistakes — they’d sooner pretend they always had the opinions they have now. I admire you for being as unafraid to own your mistakes as you are to correct them.

  • Worthless Beast

    Same here.
    I mean, I was getting to think that (on the Internet) I was the only person in the world who openly admits to past wrongheadededness in this. I mean, most of the world seems to want you to “have always been perfect / to have always been on our side,” so to admit that “I once subscribed to the stupid thing” is like a death-knell to anyone’s respect. You may be on the right side now, but you weren’t always, so you suck for life. It’s like the idea we have that criminals cannot change that keeps people from even trying to help them do so, or something.
    I actually think “having once been one” makes one’s arguments stronger – because you know how the other side thinks, you know that they aren’t all monsters, that some of them believe unfortunate things sincerely because it was what they’re being taught by authorities they respect, because they don’t know any of the people they are hurting and etc. I think being able to address ignorance from having once been ignorant is an underappreciated thing.
    Because the world wants you to be perfect since the day you were born. It takes guts to admit when you aren’t.

  • other lori

    I’m not sure how much of it is conscious, though. I just read an essay with my students last semester about how people seem to have a built-in capacity to deny when they were wrong. People reconstruct their past in terms of their present. It seems like, unless you are going to take the time and effort to be really ruthlessly self-reflective, the natural tendency isn’t to say, “I used to believe X, then realized I was wrong, and now I believe Y,” but to say, “I was heading toward Y all along.”

    I think part of the problem is that admitting you were wrong about X leaves open the possibility that you might be wrong about Y, too. If you acknowledge that you’ve been wrong in the past, it means you might be wrong about things right now. And, on the internet at least, nobody is wrong about anything.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    It’s kind of like dissociation from one’s past self fueled by cognitive dissonance. I could almost consider it a variant of the dissociative disorder I coined in my Abnormal Psychology term paper*, but most of the time, it’s pretty obvious it’s just ego getting in the way of admitting their faults. :p

    * Dissociative Severance, a disorder categorized by abrupt, complete loss of identification with one’s life up to the assumption of the disorder — their memories of past experiences, beliefs and relationships remain, but the sufferer has no recognition of them as something that relates to themselves in any way. It’d be like if you woke up tomorrow morning and everything that happened up to that day felt like something you’d read in a book, instead of something that actually happened to you.

  • other lori

    When everybody, their grandmother, and their Republican senator now supports marriage equality, you don’t get progressive bonus points for it. Nice try, though, Jim.

  • Victor Savard

    (((Evangelical author Jim Wallis, a longtime peace and anti-poverty activist, has finally announced his support for marriage equality. Or, rather, has finally conceded that he will no longer oppose same-sex marriage.)))

    Whow! I just heard on our Canadian news but “I’M” sorry to say that I just got the tail end of “IT” from Andrew saying, I mean reading that bus drivers left their uniform at home and are wearing a pink dress on the job because they are Fed…. UP with all that bullying that is taking place NOW!

    Will YA smarten UP sinner vic! Before you jump off the roof, you should at least get all the fact of the story first. You know that I agree that bullying should not be taking place anywhere and/or against anyone. What do you want U>S (usual sinners) to do sinner vic? Do you want U>S to eleminate and/or destroy all those video game because they are violent NOW?

    Good idea Victor and while we’re at “IT” “I” think that we gods will put an end to all guns that kill people. Hey we took yours on the year that you died in the early 90’s for five years and Victor they sent YA a letter five years later saying that if you brought in a Canadian F.A.C. in order to get “IT” back. I guess you’re right Victor, there’s no way that they would have ever given a FAC to a little retardo as yourself and besides you’re dead so why worry about “IT” NOW?

    Tell YA what! If you kiss our butt Victor! We gods will gladly make sure that your rifle is gift wrapped and given to you the next time around NOW and……

    End YA say sinner vic! Look sinner vic! I want this world to know that you are no more a god than I was ever made in the IMAGE of GOD (Good Old DAD) so give “IT” UP cause most humans still know that “IT” is not what humans have invented that kills but those who choose to Kill who are responsible and….

    And Yes Victor! That’s why we want to keep all these tools out of your hands NOW and….

    End….YA! There’s no use talking to you sinner vic cause you and your alien gods have an answer for everything NOW!

    Go Figure folks! :)

  • MaryKaye

    You shouldn’t force unhappy couples to stay together, but you can try to provide tools to increase the chance that marriages will work. My sister was married in a liberal Catholic church, and they required her and her fiance to take a marriage-preparation class. She was skeptical but ended up regarding it as quite valuable. She told me that the best part was the panel discussion involving one rather conventional and one extremely non-conventional (in terms of lifestyle and gender roles) couple. They talked honestly about what had worked and not worked; what you had to do to stay happily married; being prepared for rough spots. If you are serious about supporting marriage this would be one way to start.

    You could also try to combat societal forces that break up marriages: one place to start would be immigration laws that split families. You could also look at the prison industry, which is a big destroyer of families, and at work situations which make putting energy into one’s family next to impossible.

    It is stupid to try to support marriage by forbidding loving couples to marry. It is a bit less stupid, but quite useless, to support marriage by whining about divorce. You have to *do* something positive to make a positive difference.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I can get behind classes like that (at least, provided they’re proper classes about communication and whatnot — I can readily imagine ones like the image in the last thread, “There’s no such thing as a victim, we’re all supposed to suffer!”).

    Sadly, too often, I’ve heard people say they want to support marriage by making divorce illegal. See Iowa.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I kinda wish I could go and be a Poe out there, attend one of their rallies and say, in a reverent, awestruck voice, “You mean even if I hit her, she still can’t leave me? Wow. Bless you guys, you really are doing God’s work here!”

  • ReverendRef

    they required her and her fiance to take a marriage-preparation class.


    I require six sessions (as well as a few other canonically required things) of marriage prep. In my priestly career, the majority of people coming to me asking if I would marry them turn a few shades of gray when I give them the booklet outlining the requirements for getting married in the church. They take the booklet, politely say, “Thank you,” and I never see them again.

    I’m never really sure why these people don’t start out by renting the gazebo at the city park and hiring a local JP.

  • cyllan

    Despite the fact that I am not Christian, one of the reasons I wanted to be married by my childhood (Presbyterian) pastor was because he insisted on having a Marriage Prep meeting with the two of us before he would agree to the wedding. It turns out that my then-fiancee and I were sufficiently prepared that he told us that one would do it, but I wanted that double-check to make sure I’d done all of the sane things one should do before getting married.

    Our 13th anniversary is next month, and while the marriage class isn’t the reason we’re still together, it most certainly helped smooth out some rough spots along the way.

  • ReverendRef

    I won’t get into all the technical stuff as to why that would or would not have worked if I were involved, but I will say that I find it very cool that you thought enough of your marriage to want to pursue pre-marriage prep.

    while the marriage class isn’t the reason we’re still together, it most certainly helped smooth out some rough spots along the way.

    That’s kind of the idea — to provide tools to help cope.

    And congratulations on your upcoming anniversary.

  • cyllan

    We had a number of conversations leading up to this that centered around making sure all three people involved in the service were comfortable with the rituals and professions of faiths that were involved. The fundamentals of our various beliefs align sufficiently that the fact that we express those fundamentals through different systems wasn’t actually an obstacle.

    It was important to me (and to my spouse) that we be married by someone who had wrestled and questioned their faith because it underscored one of our vows — that we would support one another in our questioning and in our faith journey.

    I will say that I really recommend considering the wedding as a microcosm of what you-as-a-couple want your marriage to be. Our vows were by no means standard, but even 13 years on, they are vows that still have meaning and that we attempt to live up to.

    Circling back around to Mary Kaye’s point: we did not promise to be together until death. We didn’t promise to be monogamous. A number of the decisions that we made in our wedding would be anathema to the more hardline Covenant Marriage people. But, because we worked at it, and because we discussed it ahead of time, we have a relationship that is, basically, what they want. We’re committed adults raising a family. Making sure that other people are in a position to do what we did — by providing support networks, counseling, child care that is non-stressful — is a great way to build a working relationship. Mandating that you can’t divorce the spouse that just trampled all over your marriage vows is not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpolicar David Policar

    > I’m never really sure why these people don’t start out by renting the gazebo at the city park and hiring a local JP.

    (nods) Yup, agreed. That’s what I did for my wedding and it was quite lovely. But a number of my peers felt obligated to have a “church wedding”, either to satisfy family members of to satisfy their own expectations or both.

  • Richard Hershberger

    I got married in the Catholic Church, despite my not being Catholic, for my wife’s sake: my (Lutheran) church doesn’t fetishize this like the Catholics do. So I went through pre-Cana. Did I find it valuable? Not really. On the other hand, it was held at a monastery, and I like monasteries, so that was nice. If you have to jump through a hoop, it is better to do it in a congenial setting. We celebrated our tenth anniversary last summer, so my lack of appreciation of pre-Cana seems not to have hurt things. The priest who married us is always glad to see us. We are the only couple he married that summer who are still together. What to make of this? Heck if I know.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I know that I have linked this 2008 New Yorker article “Red Sex, Blue Sex” before, but it seems appropriate to this.

    A big thrust of the article is in the comparison between the way red states treat their sexual mores and blue states leads to some interesting contrasts. One of the things that they mentioned is that red states, on the whole, tend to a culture that is very clear in the kind of sexual mores it expresses, while being in line with the wider culture on the sexual mores it actually practices. On the other hand, blue states tend to be a bit more murky on the sexual mores they express, but are pretty solid about the sexual mores that they actually practice.

    One of the points was that red states put a lot of cultural value on the idea of marriage and family, condemning sexual promiscuity and adultery. However, things like adultery still happen in red states, and the emphasis on marriage and lack of valuing of birth control among the unmarried (as something that implies you were looking for or expecting to have sex) leads to lots of young pregnancies and early marriages to avoid losing face. Unfortunately, a marriage that is rushed forward due to unfortunate circumstances tends not to be a very lasting one, producing broken families more often than not.

    In contrast, blue states tend to express fewer “firm” moral valuation of sex and family, but on the other hand consider things like young pregnancy as a dangerous thing that ends careers and life plans before they have begun in earnest. Hence, there is a lot more acceptance of birth control, more careful family planning, later average age of marriage, etc. But thanks to better assets at the time of childbirth and more time spent selecting a partner for whom one is a good long term match, the blue state model tends to lead to a more long-term stable family structure, even if the expressed mores are less strong about how much they value family.

    It is a good read.

  • Carstonio

    “Losing face” encapsulates an entire culture. One legacy of slavery is a corrupted set of values, prizing appearance, status, honor and tradition. What the New Yorker article describes for the red states is a slightly milder version of the sexist idea that a young unmarried mother brings shame on her family.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There are pragmatic considerations too. Raising a child alone is difficult, especially when one does not have a lot of job skills or experience to leverage into resources to provide for the family. Having a spouse with an income to supplement your own (and get tax breaks for being married with a dependent) can make a difficult situation (and having a child is always difficult no matter how much joy a parent might take in that challenge) a little easier.

    If the fetus was aborted, that would stop the problem, but again that runs smack into cultural mores that try to clamp down on that sort of thing. Preventing the pregnancy in the first place with appropriate birth control would be even better, as a pregnancy that does not happen is not subject to consideration for termination in the first place. But again, cultural mores demanding abstinence before marriage discourage birth control in unmarried persons.

    In this later case, I think it is not just a matter of face for the unmarried persons. I think that a lot of them genuinely believe that they should remain abstinent until marriage and think that they will. Unfortunately for them, they are just as human as anyone else, and just as subject to the same desires and lapses. As the Vulcans say, “There is nothing logical about the Pon-farr.”

  • Carstonio

    Very true. I wasn’t denying the existence of those practical considerations. My point was that these are ignored or discounted by the value system. I’ve heard defenders of that system insist that those considerations make shaming of single mothers necessary, but usually it’s a rationalization for women’s sexuality as male property.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    That is one of the things that frustrates me. From an ethics standpoint, I tend to lean utilitarian. To me, the morality of a given decision has to do more with how practical it is in realizing certain values. Therefor, the idea that a society will espouse certain values very strongly, but make impractical choices that do little to realize those values (or put the values into conflict with one another) strikes me as incredibly dysfunctional.

    Say for example, I thought that abortions were a moral abomination due to an overwhelming value of life (not that I actually think that, mind.) In that case, how “moral” my actions toward the issue are would deal with how practically I can stop abortions. Making them illegal might have a positive moral value, but that might get outweighed by the negative consequences of completely outlawing abortions, making its net moral value negative. On the other hand, reducing demand for abortions by, say, making birth control cheap and easy to afford would have a much higher net moral value because it helps to realize that valuing of life without adding the additional negative consequences of outlawing abortion.

    But again, in cases with people who hold that value, the most vocal people who want to outlaw abortion are the most dysfunctional ones.

  • walden

    Thanks for this explanation. Not every “prophetic” leader is on the leading edge of everything, and some that are good on one issue are ignorant or wrong or belated on others. Elijah had a lot to learn, for example. Jesus seems to have grown throughout his ministry (viz. his exchange with the Syrophoenician woman). And most have blind spots, too. We just have to follow that moral arc of the universe, if we can!

    Thanks, too for the shout-out to “The Other Side” which I never knew about til the year it was gone. Forty years is a pretty good run for any magazine. I wonder, though, about the notion that Wallis was drawing any funding/editorial lessons from the closure of The Other Side. Surely Sojourners (with its own track record of nearly 40 years at that point) didn’t need to take lessons from a scrappier, less prominent publication. I just think Sojourners has always had its set of biases (shifting to be sure, as we all do over time). Having lost track of DeeDee Risher, I hope she’s gone on to do more wonderful things in ministry, writing, and art.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    On Sider, I should point to this book:
    and on Wallis, I should point to this page:

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

    You know Gary North is completely insane, right? He wants to execute all the gays. And atheists. And adulterers. Assuming you’re not covered in the above, just wait…he’ll get around to you eventually.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Partially irrational, not completely insane. I have learned throughout my life that even the wackiest people can harbor excellent ideas. I am an atheist. Could you cite your sources for your last four sentences?

  • Lunch Meat
  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Treatment of atheists as foreigners isn’t the same thing as executing them.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    From Lunch Meat’s link:

    Gary North is a Christian Reconstructionist who is on record endorsing the stoning of children who curse their parents, LGBTQ individuals, adulterers, fornicators, women who have had abortions or encouraged or assisted in abortions, and blasphemers

    Do atheists not count as blasphemers? And if not, how do you feel about the right to vote?

    North: “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Ah. You’re right, then. That still doesn’t discount from North’s criticisms of Wallis.

  • Lunch Meat

    North is being ridiculously inconsistent. His complaints about the social gospel are basically that it says the government should support the poor through enforced taxation, despite the fact that this is exactly what is instituted in the Old Testament law he claims to want America to follow. If he is going to advocate for the stoning of disobedient children, he should advocate just as strongly against the charging of interest, for the year of Jubilee, and for farmers to be forced to leave the extras of their crops for the poor and the widows.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    All that’s discussed in the critique of Sider I linked to.

  • Lunch Meat

    With respect, I am not going to read that because I can tell just from the title that it is going to make me angry and I have better things to do tonight. All I’ll say is that starting off characterizing his opponents as “guilt-manipulators” is basically saying they are not in good faith. Not interested.

    If you have a brief summary or quote stating succinctly and fairly, without biased language, why the laws about the poor should not be enforced while the laws against adultery should, please link to it.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Do I really have to copy-and-paste arguments?
    “But Sider is correct about one thing. The Jubilee law is not
    binding today, on several counts. It referred specifically to the
    land of Israel, which God had divided among the tribes. By divine
    fiat, the Israelites became the “original owners.” The previous
    owners – the Canaanites, Hivites, Jebusites, etc. -were forever
    dispossessed, because God had declared that the land belonged to
    His people. No other landowner can make this claim. I may buy
    or sell property, but I cannot claim a “divine right” to anything in
    the sense that the Israelites could. We cannot establish the Jubilee·
    anywhere outside Palestine, for we have no starting point. Who is
    the original owner of your property? The Indians?”
    -From the critique of Sider I linked to.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That argument seems fundamentally flawed, but I can’t put a finger on why…
    …oh yeah, maybe because it’s theological, and we’re looking for secular.
    Also, no, not the Indians. Try ‘Native Americans’ or ‘First Nations’ or use the names of the specific tribes to which you refer. Or ‘American Indians’ if you’re speaking of people who prefer that term. Indians, no qualifier, are invariably from India.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I am quoting, not paraphrasing. I do not like the use of the term “Indians”, either. As we are discussing theological issues, your first sentence is a non-sequitur.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Funny, because debts are a secular matter, not a matter of theology or morality.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Sure, they are. I was responding to Fred’s

    Their long-time, staunch commitment to justice for the poor arises from their evangelical faith. The only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the white evangelical subculture is that they’ve read more of the Bible. And they’ve read it with the same evangelical eyes — the same “common-sense,” face-value, “literal” approach.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which is about the morality of how one treats poor folks and debtors, as I recall. And the theology of what God thinks about people who mistreat poor folks and fail to forgive unpayable debts.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Which’ above is the Bible, sorry.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    The Jubilee law is not binding today, on several counts. It referred specifically to the land of Israel, which God had divided among the tribes.

    North is not quite so literal about what counts as Israel and what doesn’t when it comes to the laws he does want to uphold:

    Why, then, do so many Christians say that there’s no such thing as biblical law for today’s civil governments? Why do they choose to live under the control of something other than God’s civil law? Why do they continue to choose Egypt and Babylon as their homes? How long will they continue to argue that any law-order can be accepted by Christians, no matter where or when they live, except one law-order, namely, the law-order ordained by God for His people and delivered by Moses and the prophets? How long will they continue to defend the legitimacy of Egypt and Babylon and continue to deny the legitimacy of Jerusalem?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    It’s not the people that count; it’s the land. By “Israel”, Chilton means “Palestine”.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Here’s North on the Jubilee: http://www.garynorth.com/public/592.cfm

  • Lunch Meat

    lol @ North using “genocide” as a scary word and arguing the OT order is no longer in force when he advocates for the stoning of disobedient children.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Apparently, North advocates stoning disobedient children as a potentially more effective substitute for the (far more expensive) Drug War. http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/html/gnde/Chapter49.htm

  • EllieMurasaki

    “North advocates stoning disobedient children” is all we need to know to dismiss his opinions.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    No. As I have said, even the wackiest people can harbor good ideas.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, they can. That doesn’t mean it’s worth listening to whatever good ideas might be held by someone who thinks it’s a good idea to KILL DISOBEDIENT CHILDREN.

    Find someone who isn’t batshit and who has the same good ideas as North, and cite that person instead. Assuming North has good ideas; I certainly haven’t heard any.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    North is by far the most prolific writer among those who advocate free markets using the Bible. Also, by “children” North means “adults who live with their parents”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Prolific’ != ‘saying anything worth hearing’.

    Specifying adult children DOES NOT IMPROVE MATTERS.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    That’s supposed to be better? And I thought it was bad that your primary objection to slavery was “slaveowners denied the slaves (unseen) opportunity.” You’re starting to remind me of Just Sayin’ on the mental health thread — “Sure, he thinks the entire British civilization is out to start wars in Syria and that there’s a global conspiracy against Russians and the decline of Christianity can clearly be measured by Easter becoming a commercial holiday and that all relates to why we’ve become barbarians, but BESIDES THAT, I’m sure he’s got a very good point about antidepressants.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    And I thought it was bad that your primary objection to slavery was “slaveowners denied the slaves (unseen) opportunity.”


  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Because it makes you sound like your sole identification with the slaves was in what kind of business ventures they’d have been capable of if they hadn’t been slaves, which is a particularly inhuman and dehumanizing way of regarding people who were already being treaten as subhuman creatures.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your primary objection isn’t that people were forced to do backbreaking labor, or raped and forced to bear children, or tortured and killed for putting a toe outside exceedingly restrictive lines. Your primary objection is denial of opportunity.

    You don’t see the problem with that?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Backbreaking labor is done by non-slaves all the time (esp. in Nigeria and Bangladesh). I have no problem with employers setting up “exceedingly restrictive lines”, or punishing workers brutally for going outside them (if this is part of a voluntary employee-employer agreement). Rape was largely confined to female slaves and was certainly not committed by all (or even most) male slaveholders. Citing only the worst instances of a practice to condemn all of it is simply lazy, as is not comparing that practice’s results with alternatives.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    So… you have no actual problems with slavery then.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I do have problems with slavery: namely, that it caused large distortions in the Southern economy, similar to those under socialism, only on a decentralized scale, deprived opportunities for economic (and other) advancement to millions of people, and deprived millions of choices over what to do with their lives. Slavery also helped to deprive many of a spirit of personal responsibility and helped cement racism and its pernicious effects.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    So, let’s see if I understand this.

    Slavery is wrong because
    1) It creates economic problems
    2) It deprives people of the chance to pursue advancement
    3) It deprives people of autonomy
    4) It fosters racism

    But beating people, starving them to death, not giving them proper medical care, raping the women… all that is forgivable as minor side-effects (perhaps even consented upon side-effects) in light of the greater good slavery brought about?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Rape isn’t forgivable, but it wasn’t universal. I never said slavery brought about a “greater good”. It brought benefits to slaveowners and those who traded with them, directly, or indirectly. It didn’t benefit the vast majority of slaves.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    You know, at no point in all the time you’ve been here have I ever gotten the impression that you understand you’re talking about people, just points on a scoreboard which can be modified however necessary to bring about the greatest prosperity for whoever happens to have power at the time. It’s almost utilitarianism taken to an extreme, where the advocate really has ceased to see individual value in a person’s experiences except whereas they benefit whoever exploiting them or their ability to set up exploitation machines of their own.

    I’m with Ellie. This is the last I intend to acknowledge your existence until you pull your head out of your ass.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Do you understand I am in no way defending slavery? How is voluntary exchange “exploitation”? How does my strong opposition to the bailouts of 2008-9 fit with your idea I support “the greatest prosperity for whoever happens to have power at the time”? Taxation is, in a sense, “exploitation”.

  • Victor Savard

    (((I’m with Ellie. This is the last I intend to acknowledge your existence until you pull your head out of your ass.)))

    Hey AnonymousSam! You’ve got to tell U>S (usual sinners) how Enopoletus Harding pulled that trick off or are you not just simply giving him/ her more credit then deserved here NOW?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    It is amazing that three people liked this comment. Apparently, they, like the fundagelicals, want me to be an advocate of slavery so that they can feel more comfortable dismissing my points.

  • EllieMurasaki


    I believe it’s official: you have no opinions worth hearing.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Criticizing poor reasoning renders all my opinions (even those on my blog) not worth hearing? Okay, then. I speak with sarcasm.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    So, if we had a system in place to allow slavery but prevent backbreaking labor, rape and forced childbearing, and included a strict prohibition against torture or killing, would slavery be okay?

  • EllieMurasaki

    What the fuck, Ross. How do you divorce ‘slavery’ and ‘exploitation of slaves’?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Alternate, more cynical reply: We have that. We call it ’employment’.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    So then, not “Parents should be able to murder their children for acting like children by being disobedient” but rather “Parents should be able to murder adult children for acting like adults by trying to have control over their own lives,”?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Don’t use the term “murder” in this context, as “murder” is in the eye of the beholder.
    According to North, parents should not be able to kill their adult children who live with them; rather, as states Deuteronomy 18:21, “all the men of his city” should be the killers. The idea that children are the property of their parents until they become independent has been justified by Walter Block, a prominent libertarian. According to North, if both parents of an adult child are willing to allow that child to be killed, that child is almost certainly unworthy of those parents’ inheritance (one could even make a genetics-based argument for this).

    Just read North’s chapter on this.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    There’s got to be a limit to the Poisoning the Well fallacy, especially when you do it to yourself.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Okay, fair…but seriously, what has he said that’s worth a hearing?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Actually, I’m agreeing with you. I think if a person poisons their own well to the point of making themselves a noxious presence, then they fully deserve to be thought of as having no credibility. A stopped clock is correct twice a day; that doesn’t mean it’s a reliable timepiece.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I actually agree with most of the commentators here far more than I disagree with them. When I agree, I tend to say nothing, but merely endorse a person’s words by clicking some kind of “like” button. It is when I disagree I am most strongly tempted to comment. Thus, my apparent (to you) poisoning of my own well.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    What good ideas are you saying North has? If it’s his understanding of Jubilee, then wouldn’t a “wacky” exegesis on the one part of Leviticus call into question his supposedly interesting thoughts on another? These are related topics; it’s not like he’s saying to stone children on the one hand and bemoaning the designated hitter on the other.

  • Lunch Meat

    Not to mention the way for someone who claims to want everyone to follow Christian laws, he sure is invested in ignoring a lot of what Christ actually said. Like “Give to anyone who asks you, and do not turn away from one who wants to borrow from you. If anyone asks for your tunic, give him your cloak as well.” And “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” And “Blessed are the poor.” He seems to like the God of the OT far more than Jesus. The man’s like the opposite of a Messianic Jew, except that Messianic Jews are at least Christians and my guess is that his applications of the law are nothing like actual Jewish interpretations.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    North is obsessed with the letter of the law over the spirit. How ironic that he claims Luke 4:18-21 has Jesus abolishing jubilee. It seems to me that Jesus is actually calling out the Pharisees for falling to live up to the spirit of Jubilee and saying that therefore he’ll take it from here:

    He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

    Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And then he dropped the mic.

    (To be fair, I’m Jewish- and no expert on Luke- so I am quite frustrated with North’s bizarrely literal and outmoded understanding of Leviticus.)

  • Lunch Meat

    “Do I really have to copy-and-paste arguments?”

    Do you really expect me to read a 453-page book for an internet discussion?

    I should note that I have not read Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, so my conclusions about a Christian response to poverty are from my own study, and I don’t know what specific proposals Chilton’s critique is responding to. It looks like Chilton thinks that the economic laws about Jubilee cannot be applied today because it wouldn’t make sense, and the laws about gleaning cannot be construed as support for welfare to those who don’t work because they are not equivalent. That’s a fair statement.

    However, we’re not talking about Chilton’s critique of Sider–we’re talking about North’s. And North is being inconsistent if he agrees with the idea that the laws about economic justice cannot be applied today because in our contexts they don’t make sense, cannot be applied easily, or are untenable. The man wants to stone people! If North wants the Old Testament law, he should want all of the Old Testament law. If gleaning is not equivalent to modern welfare, fine–let’s institute gleaning as it was! Is North advocating for that? If not, he is inconsistent. Is North advocating for a definition of needy as “only possessing one outfit of clothing”? If not, he is inconsistent. He is not allowed to make arguments about reasonableness or context if he wants disobedient children and blasphemers to be stoned.

    Particularly the argument about Jubilee makes no sense with respect to North’s consistency. If it’s inapplicable today because it was based on divine fiat, then the *entire law* is inapplicable because it was based on divine protection and blessing! The beginning point of the law is “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” None of us have been brought out of Egypt, so why should this apply to us?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Do you really expect me to read a 453-page book for an internet discussion?

    -Of course not! I do, however, expect you to know how to use the “Find” feature.
    North opposes welfare-statism, which, according to him, is “economic aid to the poor in the form of government policies that can be enforced only by the threat of systematic violence”. For North on gleaning (in his “Boundaries and Dominion”), see http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/html/gnde/Chapter60.htm
    The argument about Jubilee is that it only applies to Palestine.

  • EllieMurasaki

    welfare-statism, which, according to him, is “economic aid to the poor in the form of government policies that can be enforced only by the threat of systematic violence”

    How does he propose to ensure that the poor collectively stop being poor?
    The argument about Jubilee is that it only applies to Palestine.
    Which still makes no fucking sense considering we are discussing debts, not morality or theology.

  • Lunch Meat

    You can’t seriously claim to object to the possibility of government violence in the service of feeding the hungry when you’re *advocating stoning of disobedient children.*

    I completely disagree with his distinction between “civil crime” and “sin” in the law. Just because a punishment is not listed does not mean that it was not viewed as a violation of the law and a crime. And I still think it’s inconsistent to complain about context and taking things literally and what makes sense in society when you’re advocating the stoning of disobedient children. Even if gleaning wouldn’t work in a non-agricultural society, he makes no effort to describe what *would* be analogous in the modern world, or to offer a proposal to make sure that poor people *are* offered opportunities to feed themselves by working. He is inconsistent and I cannot take his criticisms seriously.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Again, from the critique of Sider I linked to:
    “Two points are of special importance here. First, gleaning was
    not indiscriminate. Landowners apparently had the right to specify
    which of the “deserving poor” could glean on their land, and
    special favors would be granted by the owner (Ruth 2:4-16).
    Gleaning was not simply a “right ” which could be claimed by any
    poor person against the field of any landowner. In no sense was
    property held in common. God required landowners to allow the
    poor to glean, but the owner nevertheless had the right to dispose
    of his property as he saw fit, within the boundaries of the law. The
    gleaning law cannot be used as a basis for social redistribution of
    Second, gleaning was hard work – much harder than normal
    harvesting. Gleaners had to labor arduously in order to gather
    sufficient food. Only a little would be left after the reapers were
    finished: a small cluster of grapes here, a sheaf of grain there.
    Israel was no Welfare State. Recipients of charity had to be diligent workers. The lazy and improvident could expect no saving intervention by a benevolent bureaucrat.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    So the “lazy and improvident” deserve to go hungry?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Of course, if food is sufficiently scarce.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s not.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I know.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Lastly, in regards to interest laws and the poor, according to Exodus 22:27, the truly needy were people with only one set of clothing. According to Deuteronomy 23:20, unbelievers were allowed to be charged interest. Matthew 25:27 suggests interest was allowed to be charged on business loans to fellow Israelites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

    Also, as a self-admitted atheist, why DO you give a shit what the Bible says?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    [Growling due to annoyance]. Didn’t I answer this question a dozen or so comments back?
    “I was responding to Fred’s

    Their long-time, staunch commitment to justice for the poor arises from their evangelical faith. The only thing that distinguishes them from the rest of the white evangelical subculture is that they’ve read more of the Bible. And they’ve read it with the same evangelical eyes — the same “common-sense,” face-value, “literal” approach.

    -And ancient history is fun.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

    Really, find someone who doesn’t make Adolph Hitler look like a liberal and I’ll try it out. Not going to pollute my mind with this guy’s garbage.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Wanting to murder a good chunk of the population simply for not sharing your exact beliefs is “partially irrational”?

    WTF do you consider insane, then?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    A homeopath who happens to be a flat-earther, scarcity-denialist, creationist, a supporter of Fomenko’s chronology, and a Marxist who refuses to use lowercase letters may be fully irrational. Also, I do not like the use of the word “insane”. It suggests that the source of an idea is more important than its truth or defensibility.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    That was me. I accidentally hit the “X” button. Respond to the repeat.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I accidentally replied, but while I’m here, I’m going to tell you you’re full of crap.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    In what way?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    A homeopath who happens to be a flat-earther, scarcity-denialist, creationist, a supporter of Fomenko’s chronology, and a Marxist who refuses to use lowercase letters may be fully irrational. Also, I do not like the use of the word “insane”. It suggests that the source of an idea is more important than its truth or defensibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Mielke/100001114326969 Marc Mielke

    I’m all for calling people on the ad hominem fallacy, but when someone is provably worse than Hitler — more people would be killed under Biblical rule than under the Third Reich, such as EVERY CHILD EVER BORN — one might safely dismiss his views as very far out of polite discussion.

  • Richard Hershberger

    I subscribed to Wallis’s magazine for a year, but never felt tempted to renew the subscription, despite the years-long deluge of appeals. I never before now understood why it didn’t quite click with me: why what I read in the magazine didn’t seem right, so much as merely less wrong. This post is very helpful. It makes much more sense now.

  • lowtechcyclist

    I’m still not sure why Wallis has changed, other than that the bandwagon was heading down the road without him. If he still believes in the clobber-texting approach, those clobber texts are still there. I don’t see how you get out of that bind without disavowing clobber-texting itself.

    The former math teacher in me says: maybe he came up with the correct answer, but it doesn’t mean much if he doesn’t show his work.

  • other lori

    In fairness, though, isn’t that how most people come to the opinions they do on most issues? It’s not that they’ve given it much thought, it’s that they jump on the bandwagon.

    I know many people around Wallis’s age, including my parents and ILs, whose thinking on these issues probably followed the same trajectory: if you’d asked them about gay rights in the early 1990s, they would have been opposed; if you’d asked them in the early 2000s, they’d have said that they support legal equality for LGBT people, but not marriage; if you ask them today, they think gay couples should be able to marry.

    If anything, Wallis is just kind of exemplifying the trajectory of many in his generation on this issue. I don’t know, while I don’t think it points to anything special or good about him, I still think it’s pretty astonishing that so many people changed their mind so completely on the issue in such a relatively short period of time. Wallis might seem like he changed his mind too late, but if you consider that, in 1994, 25 years after interracial marriage was legalized everywhere, only 48% of Americans said they approved of it, it seems like most people figuring out that gay marriage should be legal when it’s still illegal in most states is pretty impressive, as a trend.

  • lowtechcyclist

    The reason we know who Jim Wallis is, is that he’s been an intellectual proponent and defender of certain ideas. That’s why people have thought he was worth listening to, or worth taking issue with.

    If he’s now OK with gay marriage because that’s where the bandwagon is going, there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but it negates any reason we might have to be discussing his change of mind, rather than that of Joe Blow down the street.

    The very fact that we are having this conversation is why we should be asking what Wallis’ basis was for changing his mind.

  • other lori

    I’m not sure Wallis really needs to have changed his view of any particular verses to change his mind. He’d just have to think differently about how to apply those verses.

    He could take the view of Richard Foster in Money, Sex, and Power (and that was written in the mid-80s, so it’s possible Foster too has changed his mind since then) that homosexuality is always and inherently sinful, but that if somebody is unable to be celibate, they should be encouraged to “practice their homosexuality” in the most moral context possible, which he considered to be a monogamous, marriage-like commitment.

    Or he could take a position more along the lines of J.R. Daniel Kirk in Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?, who believes that the Bible does rather unequivocally condemn homosexuality, but that that necessarily doesn’t mean that’s the last word on it, and is open to the possibility that the presence of faithful LGBT Christians in the church today signals God doing a new thing requiring some former laws to be let go, along the lines of Gentile believers in the early church leading Christians to conclude that laws around diet and circumcision could be let go.

    I don’t know. I’m not really a fan of Wallis, but it’s more a matter of disliking his tone; he always comes across as patronizing to me. But it’s possible that he still interprets the “clobber verses” the same way he always did, but has altered his view of how to apply them and what importance to give them.

  • lowtechcyclist

    Maybe. But I’d like to hear it from him, whatever his reasoning is.

  • Nick

    Wallis did say that we should *include* gay marriage in our “renewal” and “deepening” of the definition. Maybe he has changed his mind on homosexuality itself and is just being spineless.

  • Carstonio

    Good news from Fred’s neck of the woods:


    This afternoon, most of the state’s leadership — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state senate president, speaker of the house — will gather in Wilmington to announce legislation that would legalize gay marriage. All they need to do is alter Delaware’s statute on marriage, which prohibits unions between “people of the same gender.”

  • Carstonio

    “Uncertain trumpet” is a good description. Wallis appears unsure of the exact limits of the legal realm, at least on the marriage issue. Opponents of same-sex marriage claim that their goal is also strengthening marriage, and Wallis is enabling their disingenuous argument, or at least treating it with a seriousness it doesn’t deserve. A “deeper commitment to marriage” shouldn’t even be part of the discussion, since the millions of same-sex couples who seek marriage equality are already willing to make that commitment. The term is so vague that it’s tempting to suspect Wallis of using it euphemistically. Perhaps he really believes in Charles Cooper’s strange argument before the Supreme Court about relationship modeling.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    wallis was sort of my gateway into progressive faith/politics in college, (and i actually visited the Hill with sider on a call-to-renewal lobbying day.) your take is fascinating and, i think, true.

    at least he’s not actively standing in the way of lgbt equality? #babysteps