An Orthodox writer argues that almost everybody on both sides of the Gay Culture War

An Orthodox writer argues that almost everybody on both sides of the Gay Culture War May 11, 2012

…is a Calvinist at heart here in America. It’s a persuasive analysis, though I don’t buy his conclusions.

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  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    The notion that Christians “hate” persons who have entered into disordered relationships with members of the same sex, because Christians oppose their demands that the state redefine the institution of marriage to accomodate these disordered relationships, I believe is neither well-thought-out nor based on good evidence. In most cases, it is a reflexive if not downright disingenuous analysis of the Christian position, with its origins in an attempt further to paint same-sex-attracted persons as aggrieved “victims.” Horrible, mean, hateful Christians don’t want to give us poor, downtrodden, fluffy LGBT people X, Y, or Z! (Fill in the blank.)

    Anyone who’s ever had teenagers is well familiar with the tactic” “You’re not going out of the house wearing that!” “But, Mom, I really, really want to wear it!” “No!” “You’re mean and horrible! You hate me!”

    Whatever this may be, this is not adult-level political discourse. It’s just not. It’s teen-level temper-tantrum shrilling. And the mainstream culture, which, sadly, doesn’t seem to have advanced much beyond an 8th grade level of analyis, seems to have picked up the “hateful Christian” meme and now parrots it quite faithfully.

  • Tim

    “…several posters…. declared that anyone who voted in favor of the amendment was not a real Christian.”

    I have noticed recently that same-sex marriage advocates are beginning to say (or at least insinuate) that religion motivates their advocacy or even requires advocacy for such “marriage.” I heard the President made such comments. I’ve also seen some churches (Episcopalian, I think) advocate for it.

    It makes me wonder if same-sex marriage is now “tainted” by religion and would be a secular anathema to endorse it in our laws.

  • Faith

    To be fair, through the years, many superficially Christian people have gotten press because they hold up signs saying God hates fags and it isn’t just the Westboro Baptist folks either. Also, gay people getting ostracized, mocked, beaten up, etc has also been going on for forever. So they didn’t make the ‘hate’ thing up out of whole cloth. If they are missing the Christian message, it’s because Christians have been really bad at delivering it. I think one good thing about the gay rights movement is that it has woken up the regular Christian in the pew and made them think about their own prejudice and try to separate hatred of the sin from hatred of the person. This isn’t to say that it isn’t easier for the gay rights movement to continue to cast Christians into the role of bigoted haters. Shrill shouting at each other seems to be the way we debate issues anymore. Open minded discourse has to go both ways and gay rightists certainly seem to play the media take on things to their advantage. But I think it is a little dishonest to say that the response ‘you hate me’ doesn’t or didn’t have a kernel of truth to it.

  • Rosemarie


    An excellent article ruined at the end by an unnecessary swipe at Western Christianity. *sigh*

    • To me, it’s a silly hang-up in Catholic circles to take swipes at Calvinism as if before Calvinism, folks just sort of got along. It’s worth noting that comment you mention that reminds the good readers it’s not just Calvin, it’s all those rascally western Christian types with their Platonic influences – to much cheers and applause. Just remember when we are inclined to jump to the other side and say ‘the problem is those dumb Christians over there who aren’t like me and my tradition’, there’s another Christian tradition saying the same thing about us. Perhaps the best thing is to tread lightly where accusations are aimed at the dreaded ‘not me Christians’, because it could just ricochet right back at us.

      • Rosemarie


        In this case, though, it’s an Eastern Orthodox priest taking swipes at Calvinism and then approving of another Orthodox priest’s swipes at Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, enough to add it to the main body of his post. I doubt an us -vs- them attitude is purely Western one, though. I once read an Orthodox website that called the “Roman Church” and Pope John Paul II “satanic.” It was dripping with hate toward Catholicism. If that’s not seeing the “other” as evil then what is?

        (Yes, I know not all Eastern Orthodox are like that, but these guys were and I don’t think they were from the US either, so you can’t blame it on Calvinism.)

        • Rosemarie


          I also find it interesting that a commenter at the bottom of the thread is now defending Calvinism against the charges made in the article. Maybe the author is wrong in attributing the us-vs-them attitude in American politics to Calvinism’s distinction between the elect and the reprobate. Maybe it’s just another example of age-old human tribalism, which cuts across all ideologies – Eastern, Western, or whatever.

        • An odd swipe indeed, since both St. Augustine and St. Thomas are explicit that Scriptural passages can have more than one meaning.

        • Rade Hagedorn

          I’m not certain that Father Andrew is taking a swipe at Calvinism so much as arguing that the impact of Early American Puritan theology had a significant impact on US culture and politics that continues on today — even for those who identify themselves as atheists.

          Father Andrew is an advocate of the premise that theology matters and impacts how people interpret the world.

          • Rosemarie


            If it’s rooted in a Puritan mentality with us since Colonial times, then shouldn’t we have seen the same mentality all along throughout American history? Many have noted that politics today is more polarized and divisive than it was decades ago; did the old Puritan influence stop working for a while and then start up again? I’m starting to think that the article is right on until it blames Calvinism for the meanness in modern political discourse. That’s where it gets things wrong.

            • Rade Hagedorn

              The article isn’t blaming Calvinism for anything. The article is arguing that Calvinist theology has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on US culture — and therefore politics.

              Have you never heard of America’s “Protestant work ethic” or its “puritanical” views on sex or Edwards sermon IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD? These are direct references to Early American Calvinism. Maybe it is simply that I read a lot of Early American history but I didn’t realize that this was particularly controversial.

              US politics have always been raucous and fractious — Burr killed Hamilton in a duel after all. The polarization that is being seen is driven by the speed and ease of receiving constant political coverage, an increase in American democracy, the growing power of the Presidency, and the decline of Congress among other things.

              • Rosemarie


                One could similarly argue that Deism, the theories of Hobbes, Locke and Montesquieu, Freemasonry or any number of ideas and beliefs had, and continues to have, a significant impact on US culture. That the current polarized political atmosphere is rooted in Calvinism’s elect -vs- reprobate dichotomy has still not been proven.

                I have certainly heard of America’s “Protestant work ethic” as well as its alleged “puritanical” views on sex (though how much of that may have been influenced by later Victorian sensibilities rather than the Puritans is up for debate). In high school I read a significant portion of the sermon Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God, as well as the entire _The Scarlet Letter_. I am aware that Calvinism was one influence on our country, I’m simply suggesting that he may be overstating it’s influence in American political attitudes.

                The US is hardly the only nation to have raucous and fractious politics. I’m sure the same can be said of nations never touched by Calvinism. All I’m saying is that the good priest gives an interesting theory which it is hardly proven fact.

                • Rade Hagedorn

                  I’m not really certain what point you are trying to make, or what point you think I am making. Father Andrew made a blog post. I suspect he did not intend it as a dissertation on the impact of Calvinist theology on the American body politic or was trying to prove anything. Certainly he was not swiping at Calvinism which was my original point.

                  Does the theology of Calvinism (especially in its Separatist strain) influence modern US culture (even among atheists)? To a degree I am sure, and it certainly is an interesting way to think of the rigid hard-line politic of hate that both the left and right in the US often engage in. Does theology really matter to this degree?

                  My reference to early US politics was a direct response to your assertion that we are more polarized today than ever before. It is safe to assume that I am aware of the existence of other countries, wars, philosophies, etc.

                  • Rosemarie


                    I didn’t say “than ever before.” I said “Many have noted that politics today is more polarized and divisive than it was decades ago….”

                    There were time in the history of this country when partisanship wasn’t so absolute, when a president could choose a VP and cabinet members from the other party, or when both Dems and the GOP could actually talk to each other, listen to each other and try to do what is best for the country. This seems to be much rarer these days. Each side is talking to itself within an echo chamber and caricaturing the other side as Evil Incarnate. When brought together, they scream at one another and refuse to compromise; the loathing they feel for each other is palpable. The abortion debate has been called a “clash of absolutes,” I think that phrase will soon define the entire political scene.

                    I don’t think that this hardening of sides is due to Calvinism because it is a recent development. IF there is a Puritan influence on the US, then surely it’s been here all along, so why is it we’ve had periods in history when we got along much better with those who disagreed with us? Or when people could at least follow an argument rather than emote and shout down unpopular opinions?

                    • Rade Hagedorn

                      All I can suggest is that you re-read Father Andrew’s post. Your fixation on a belief that he is swiping at or indicting Calvinism or Western Christianity is causing you to miss the point that he sent talking about Calvinism. He is talking about a Calvinistic theology — a Calvinistic world view if you will — where some people are purely evil and can’t change and so should be silenced by force if necessary. You are reading into Father Andrew’s post much more than he actually wrote.

                      As I mentioned earlier such a world view would only be partially responsible for today’s political polarization. And by the bye, it was as late as the last Presidential election cycle that a member of the other party was strongly considered for the VP (McCain originally wanted Lieberman as his running mate) and in the past this was originally enshrined into the Constitution. One of the reasons it was changed is that it created a bizarre situation where the death of the President would result in the other political party taking power.

                      I strongly suspect that we are not more polarized than a few decades ago. The extreme ends of the political parties have greater voice and are more empowered than decades ago. A lot of this has to do with the constant barrage of news created by 24-hour instant news and the increasing power of the Presidency (with an increase in federalism and weakening of state/local power).

                    • Rosemarie


                      Anyway, I’ve long suspected that the rising nastiness in US politics has to do with abortion. I think the rancor that has accompanied that controversy for decades was actually a slow-acting poison which is now infecting the entire political discourse.

                      Another factor (perhaps related to the former) could be the increased involvement of women in the political sphere. I mean, men can spar and argue with each other fiercely, then sit down over a beer and still be friends. We women, OTOH, can get downright vicious; many an argument has ended a friendship. Maybe this is what happens when “mean girls” get into politics. (Which refutes the meme that, if women were in charge, we’d have world peace.)

  • Mark R

    If everyone’s a Calvinist then no one is a Calvinist.

  • Ted Seeber

    All I can say is he’s completely right.

  • Joseph

    I find that Protestant/Catholic converts to Orthodoxy are anti-everything. So, I never put much stock in what they have to say (sometimes their more anti-Catholic than Jack Chick, which basically exposes the fact that they became Orthodox because they wanted the Tradition without the evil Pope… and they still wanted to be able to look down their noses at Catholics, but this time wearing a ikon around their neck).

    • Rade Hagedorn

      Was that a charitable post?