Tony’s Pre-Blogalogue Posts:
The Blogalogue Proper
Tony: A Lighter Moment
Tony’s Pre-Blogalogue Posts:
The Blogalogue Proper
Tony: A Lighter Moment
Hi there. Welcome to my blog. You may have found it because it’s been posted on some conservative website, and you feel it’s your duty to steer readers away from my false teaching. Well, you’re welcome to do so.
But, before you write your next comment, consider this: If all you do is call me a false teacher and then go on to cut and paste Bible verses into my comment section, you will be deleted. If you keep doing it, Beliefnet will block your inbound URL.
So if you want to comment, go ahead. But add something substantive, because everyone already knows that you and I read the Bible differently.
Rod, it was great to meet you and sit on your front porch drinking
coffee. Actually, it was even more wonderful to meet Julie and the
kids, your chickens, and your incapacitated dog. I appreciated reading your story, and I’ll comment more on that on Monday.
Over the next couple weeks, I know we’ll get into all manner of
angles on the topic of same sex marriage, be they philosophical,
theological, and biblical. But first, I’d like to wonder aloud about
the role of the state in defining marriage. (This will drive many of our commentors to drink, since they seem to think that all Christian reasoning begins and ends with the biblical argument. But, nay, there are several ways to approach this.)
Our government does, indeed, define marriage. This didn’t happen
overnight, nor did it happen with, say, an amendment to the
Constitution. Instead, it happened as do most items in our legal code,
over time. There have been campaigns for and against polygamy and miscegenation, but these now lie decades in the past.
At local and state levels there have
been various strictures on who can marry whom and what kinds of sexual
acts are legal and illegal. And, as with so many laws, those have
changed over time. Interracial marriage is no longer banned, and most
local anti-sodomy laws have either been dropped, ruled
unconstitutional, or simply not been enforced.
I met Rod yesterday, and we had a great time sitting on his porch, drinking coffee. I can say, with all candor, that I thoroughly enjoyed his company and now consider him a friend. I’m working on a post today which I hope to post later today. In the meantime, let me encourage you to read Rod’s initial post in our blogalogue and also Andrew Sullivan’s “stump speech” on SSM.
And now, the always hilarious GraphJam:
more music charts
I have a couple of vivid memories of the family room — we called it the “TV room” — in the house in which we lived until I was nine. The first was asking my mom about streaking, right during the streaking boom of 1974 — that would have made me six-years-old. I think I’d heard the song, “The Streak.” Having been a student at UC-Berkeley in the mid-60s, my mom was quite familiar with nudity on campus (ahem, witnessing it, not participating in it; her senior year roommate was a nudist).
The second is a similar memory. I don’t know what I was watching with my younger brother, Andrew, but the word “gay” was used. I remember walking into the kitchen, my brother trailing me, and asking my mom what “gay” meant.
It must have been one of those moments when a parent instinctively knows that it’s time for a sit-down chat, and that’s exactly what she did. I don’t remember exactly how she explained same-sex love to us, but I do vividly remember one thing she said. “Tony and Andrew,” she said, looking at us intently, “I want you to know that your father and I will still love you no matter whom you love. And you can always bring home, to our house, anyone you love.”
I suppose what struck my seven-or-eight-year-old self was that her statement implied that there were families in which being gay was not acceptable, in which family members were not necessarily allowed to bring home the person they loved, particularly if the lovers were of the same gender.
From there, I didn’t think much about homosexuality for many years. I didn’t know any gay kids in junior high or high school — well, at least I didn’t know any who admitted they were gay — the Edina, Minnesota of my youth wasn’t the most diverse community.
Of course, I did have gay friends, and I didn’t know it. My best friend in 9th grade, for instance, was constantly being called “fag” by others in the junior high. I didn’t think much of it, since Steve seemed not much different than I. We spent most of our time together at church, and we were both considered leaders in the youth group.
I lost touch with Steve during high school. Years later, our junior high pastor, Paul, told me that Steve had recently died of AIDS. Paul reached out to Steve’s family to offer condolences and offer to perform the memorial service, but Steve’s dad responded to Paul with vehement anger. He told Paul that he blamed Steve’s death on the church and that he would never step foot in a church again.
The same goes for high school and college. I had gay friends, but I didn’t find out they were gay until years later when they came out.
When it came to what I thought about homosexuality as a Christian, I pretty much walked the middle of the road. I’ve always thought that all persons should be afforded the same rights and no one should be discriminated against. But I also knew that the biblical prohibitions to homosexual sex should be taken seriously. And I remember quite a few debates in which I argued against homosexuality using the argument from natural law, the book of Genesis, and my own pithy deal-closer, “Look, the parts don’t fit. The plumbing’s not right. That’s how we know how God feels about it.”
Aside from that rather crass and unsophisticated argument, I didn’t talk about it much and didn’t think about it much. Confronted with a gay couple who wanted to teach Sunday school, the church staff on which I was serving in the late 1990s studied the issue, read a book (Homosexuality in the Church: Both Sides of the Debate) about it, and took a vote. We were each given a sheet of paper with a line on it that represented a spectrum. On one end was “Shouldn’t be members” and on the other end was “Ordained.” Between were “Members only,” “Teach Sunday School,” “Deacons and Church Council,” and “Weddings.” When plotted out, the majority of our large church staff clustered around the middle, allowing gays to serve as laypersons in leadership, but stopping short of blessing gay marriages/unions.
As I gained a little prominence as an author in the youth ministry world, people began asking me my opinion on homosexuality. I often quoted one of my seminary professors, Bill Pannell, who was involved in the civil rights movement. I had lunch with him during my last semester at seminary and as we drove back to campus he said to me, “Civil rights and abortion will be nothing compared to how the church has to deal with homosexuality. I’m glad it’s your generation and not mine who’ll have to figure that out.”
With that in mind, I always responded, “I’m holding that issue in abeyance. I haven’t made up my mind yet, and I’m in no hurry to. Homosexuality,” I would say, “I one issue that I don’t want to get wrong.”
And yet, all the time I could feel myself drifting toward acceptance that gay persons are fully human persons and should be afforded all of the cultural and ecclesial benefits that I am. (“Aha!” my critics will laugh derisively, “I knew he and his ilk were on a continuous leftward slide!”)
In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.
Well, I suppose this blogalogue will be a test of whether I have good theological and philosophical reasons for supporting the rights of GLBTQ persons to marry, or whether I’ve simply caved to the mushy inclusivity of pluralized nothingness. In either case, Rod, I’m looking forward to this conversation, and I’m praying that it is ultimately glorifying of God. (Read Rod’s reply here.)
Same sex marriage is an emotional issue to begin with, and the stakes have been significantly upped by the passage of Prop 8. So I have no doubt that my blogalogue with Rod (which I intend to start tomorrow, on the eve of our lunch in Dallas) will provoke strong reactions in the comment section and in the blogosphere.
I’m not averse to emotion in this conversation. Keith Olberman’s monologue last week is a good example of emotion being used to good effect:
I’ve also done what I can to hear from the voices of the GLBTQ community who have been most immediately impacted by these election results. Here’s one that caught my attention. Money quote: “Finally, I fear for you. If the God you worship is the one about whom
I’ve read, you’ve got some serious explaining to do. As the woman in
John 8, I’d offer you the first stone, but I’m already bloodied by
But emotion cannot win the day, as Andrew Sullivan has repeatedly warned. Nor, I hope, will Rod and I rely on emotion to direct our dialogue.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope we can allow emotion to play a role in our blogalogue but not to overwhelm us.
One question I’ve been asked repeatedly is whether the issue of same sex marriage is inevitably shifting toward cultural acceptance. Yes, it is.
As Kevin Drum pointed out last May in Washington Monthly, the American populace is shifting on same sex issues at the rate of one percent per year (full PDF of the report from the American Enterprise Institute here).
It does seem that the trajectory of the United States is toward more personal freedoms, and GLBT rights seem to be the next on the list after women’s rights and civil rights. I understand why some conservatives stand against these liberties, and I’m sure the “slippery slope” argument will be invoked repeatedly during the forthcoming blogalogue. The progressive counter to that is this: those same arguments were used to deny women the right to vote and to deny civil rights to persons of color.
I do tend to think that our society is shifting toward full and equal rights for same sex couples — I think once a society is moving in a libertarian trajectory, there is no going back (this holds only in a democracy, not under a dictatorship).
But this is no reason to avoid a robust dialogue about the issues surrounding same sex marriage. In fact, as we approach a cultural tipping point on this issue, it’s all the more important that we have serious, thoughtful, respectful discussions. For, if we don’t, an issue like this does have the potential to provoke nasty, even violent rifts in our democracy.
I’m a real fan of the blogging medium, and I’m actually becoming more so. But I think it’s only one medium in a panoply of media that help us to engage an issue like same sex marriage. Blogs are good, and I have great hopes for my blogalogue with Rod, but I also hope that all of our readers will also read long-form essays and articles, books, shorter op-eds, even Tweets.
An example comes from my last post. Almost immediately after posting it, I received a couple emails from friends asking what exactly I meant in titling it, It’s “Not About Me.” What I meant is this: One the one hand, I’m not gay, so I necessarily don’t feel the passion about this issue that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons do.
On the other hand, I’m not a social scientist. I won’t be reporting on my blog in some sterile, forensic fashion about research that says our society will be quantitatively better if same sex marriage is legalized. If that were the case, I could throw my hands in the air and say that the research isn’t my opinion, it’s just what the research says.
But that’s not the case. Instead, I’m somewhere in the middle. Rod and I, I’m sure, will both bring research to bear on the blogalogue, and we’ll use data to support our viewpoints. But, in the end, we’re not scientists, and we’re not gay. We’re opinionators. I’m not ashamed of that fact — I’m just trying to call it what it is.
So I tried to communicate that on the last post, and I failed in some sense.
Which exemplifies the shortcomings of the blogging medium. In fact, the medium is so limited that some of my friends have warned me not to enter into a blog-based dialogue on such a sensitive. They fear that I’ll be misunderstood and misinterpreted, that a blog cannot communicate the nuance and complexities necessary to this topic, and that the comment section will become a verbally violent place. And they may be right in all of those concerns.
But every medium has limitations — just look at the “news” that passes for the major network newscasts. So I endeavor to do two things as I enter into this blogalogue. First, acknowledge the limits of a blogalogue. We won’t solve this issue; and it’s unlikely that we’ll write anything that hasn’t been written before. But maybe we’ll shed light on some things, and hopefully we’ll dialogue in a way that will provoke further dialogue in the comment sections, at coffee shops, over dinner tables, and at church committee meetings.
And second, Rod and I are going to complement our written blog dialogue with an in-person conversation (this Thursday), maybe some video, and even a closing podcast conversation. The point being, Rod and I will have the benefit of breaking bread together at the beginning of our dialogue. You probably won’t if you get into a debate with someone in the comment section. But how about you act like you have broken bread with the other? That might be a good rule for us all to live by.
In advance of my blogalogue with Rod Dreher, I want to get something off my chest. I will write about this once and only once. That is, this conversation about same sex marriage is not about me. I am heterosexual, as is Rod, which, as Bob C. commented on my last post, is a bit strange.
And yet, as is so often the case, straight white men end up debating and, unfortunately, deciding the role of minority groups (or, in the case of women’s suffrage, a majority group) in society. This, of course, is part of the inequity of the system.
But this blogalogue is about me insofar as the opinions that I will make public here for the first time will very likely affect my ability to provide for my family. It is almost assured that I will be considered for fewer speaking engagements as a result of these posts. I may be disinvited from events at which I’m already contracted to speak. I may be asked to stop writing in a publication or two. Less of my books may sell; some bookstores may stop stocking my titles.
I write all this not to invoke your sympathy. No one is making me take a public position on this issue. And, of course, what ever recriminations I encounter as a result of my opinions is minute compared to the discrimination faced by my GLBT brothers and sisters, not just regarding their ability to marry, but in virtually every corner of their cultural experience.
Instead, I write all of this to acknowledge that many of my friends and collegues, though they may agree with my position on same sex marriage, are not yet ready to go public with their opinions. I am having lots of offline conversations with friends and collegues whom I respect immensely, and they are sharpening my thinking. This may be the role for them at this time. I cast no judgment on them for not going public with their opinions (yet), regardless of which side they’re on (and, as I will write soon, I don’t really think this is a black-and-white issue). And I hope that you, in spite of how strongly you feel on this issue, will also have understanding about why some relatively public figures cannot make their feelings known publicly.
A word of caution: Let your comments be words of civility and respect, lest they be removed.