All Apologies

by VorJack

I’m reading The Outsider Interviews – or more specifically, I’m reading the companion book to the DVD. The DVD contains the interviews proper, while the book contains essays, discussion questions and some ”making of” bits. One of the authors, Jim Henderson, still owns Hemant’s soul, so let’s let him talk about it.

I’m also reading about the controversy surrounding Andrew Marin, whose Marin Foundation got a lot of attention when it publicly apologized for evangelical Christianity’s anti-GLBT stance. Despite the apology, the question remains as to whether or not Marin and his crew still hold to the biblical interpretation that homosexuality as a sin. Folks like “I T” of Street Prophets are trying to hold Marin’s feet to the fire about it.

These are two cases where evangelicals are reaching out to those who are outside their movement. It’s encouraging, but I’m having a hard time believing that this isn’t largely a marketing campaign. “If we strike this pose and say these words, we’ll win more souls for Christ.” Perhaps that’s not the only reason, but it’s there in the background.

But does it matter? After all, I’m pretty confident that dialogue will change some minds on the other side. If evangelicals are forced to deal with gays, atheists and other outsiders as fully human, many are likely to start seeing the sense in the more liberal interpretations of the Bible. I suppose I can be pretty evangelical myself, just less direct about it.

What bothers me more is that the stance being taken by the authors of The Outsider Interviews and Marin specifically precludes talking about the issues that I want to talk about. I’m gratified that they’re willing to apologize for the way that evangelicals have treated the GLBT movement, but now let’s talk about why they were treated that way.

Marin dodges around the issue saying that it’s complex. Fair enough; you’ve got all the column inches you could ever need on your blog, now dive into the complexity. Jim Henderson says that he just doesn’t know what to think anymore. Alright, let’s talk about it until you do.

Todd Hunter points out that many thoughtful evangelicals are unwilling to embrace homosexuality as acceptable. True, but if you polled thoughtful American Christians in 1800, you would have found that most of them considered slavery to be biblically acceptable. It took a number of political shocks and a strong abolitionist movement to start turning that around. We’re trying to provide those shocks, are you open to rethinking you assumptions?

I’m worried that the stance being taken by these evangelicals has the effect of walling off their beliefs from discussion. I hear, “Let’s talk about our feelings, let’s talk about our perceptions, let’s talk about how we’ve treated each other, but let’s not talk about our beliefs and their justifications because those are divisive.” I’m sorry, but that’s exactly what I want to talk about.

I’ve seen too many evangelical act like they’re trapped by the Bible. I’ve heard too many pipe up that they want to “defend the bible” against the GLBT movement, without ever having the introspection to realize that they’re just defending their own interpretation of the Bible.

They do a disservice to people like Slacktivist, who do self-consciously struggle to maintain a consistent approach to the bible yet come to different conclusions. James McGrath has compiled a list of resources on homosexuality and the bible, and I’m assuming they don’t all boil down to, “God said it, I believe it, that does it.”

But if folks like Marin and Henderson don’t stop apologizing, I’m afraid we’ll never get a chance to talk about these things.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

    These are two cases where evangelicals are reaching out to those who are outside their movement. It’s encouraging, but I’m having a hard time believing that this isn’t largely a marketing campaign. “If we strike this pose and say these words, we’ll win more souls for Christ.” Perhaps that’s not the only reason, but it’s there in the background.

    I think your skepticism is justified in the overwhelming majority of cases.

  • http://www.jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com J. K. Jones

    I’m reading The Outsider Interviews,” and I find much of it commendable. But you are on to something here.

    We will never really get anywhere by sweeping differences under the rug in pursuit of “conversation.” We don’t agree, and we should argue sometimes.