It’s Hard for Me to Hear You Over the Sound of Your Nazi Analogies

It’s Hard for Me to Hear You Over the Sound of Your Nazi Analogies April 30, 2012
This is a baby hedgehog. Not a metaphor about genocide.

The “Let’s Talk About How to Have Reasonable Discussions about Religion” post has over a hundred comments and the tone in some sections is pretty well summed up by one reader:

I love this comment thread.
Leah: My commenters are great and tend to argue in good faith and assume that others do the same.
Commenters: NAZIS! People who disagree with me are NAZIS! NAZIS EVERYWHERE! NAZIS!!

And speaking of which, today, I was frustrated by a post by Mark Shea in which he mockingly awarded a Son of Ernst Rohm Award for Most Repellent Representative of Gay Community to Dan Savage (sex columnist and founder of the It Gets Better Project).  The picture that accompanied the post was not that of a baby hedgehog.

The act that prompted the post was a speech Dan Savage gave at a high school in which he went after Christians who use Old Testament purity laws as a justification for persecuting LGBT folks.  Some students walked out, there was a blogosphere fracas about whether Savage was bullying people in the service of condemning bullying, etc.  Savage posted a reflection that everyone should read before they pick fights with him explaining that h thinks he was wrong about the tone he chose and apologizes for that, but stands by the content.  And what was the content?  Here’s a pull quote of the most relevant bit (BlagHag has a transcript and video):

People often point out that they can’t help it. They can’t help with the anti-gay bullyings because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong. We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bullshit in the Bible about all sorts of things…

What are the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? 100%. The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night – that a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, that she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days. People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.

One thing I want to talk about is – ha, so you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back in because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny that someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react to being pushed back. I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings but I have the right to defend myself, and to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible and insisting that we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.

Here’s the thing. Take ten seconds to look past Savage’s tone and notice that his critique of pick-and-choose proof-texting is something Catholics and many other Christians actually agree with.  I disagree with the Natural Law arguments against homosexuality, but I can have a conversation about it.  I can’t discuss it when it’s slotted into the same kind of divinely-inspired but ineffable category as whether quinoa is chametz.

The trouble is, it may be impossible for the audience Dan Savage is targeting to hear this critique from him.  The tone of the speech was a problem, but even if he were a lot more careful, most biblical literalist Christians aren’t going to be ready to hear bible study tips from a queer, lapsed Catholic.  Other Christians (possibly including Mark Shea) need to be the ones to make this argument from the inside, to make it easier on people.

Dan Savage admits that his tone made it hard to hear his message.  Mark ends his post with a request for responses from queers like me, but it’s similarly hard for us to have a discussion of appropriate political rhetoric when Mark’s post ends by comparing church vandalism carried out by a group of queer activists to Kristallnacht.

Taking a deep breath to try to give a helpful response eats into my cognitive energy, so if you want a helpful response, you need to make it easier for me to write a comment without having to bite back something.  (You can judge how well I succeeded).  I want to know whether Mark and others think it’s always inappropriate for a non-Christian to critique an in-group thing like approach to scripture, or if there’s a way for Savage or others to do it that they would find helpful.

Online, it’s hard to remember that you’re talking to people, not arguments-as-soldiers, so maybe folks will find it helpful to listen to Dan Savage’s segment on This American Life (transcript here) about reconsidering the lapsed part of his lapsed Catholicism after his mother’s death, so your conversation is rooted in the acts of a person.


UPDATE: Mark Shea has a response post up, and I’ll turn up in the comments over there at some point.

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  • Charles

    That segment is the finest segment ever put on TAL, and I would guess I’ve listened to 99% of the episodes.

  • Irenist

    A rambling grab-bag comment:

    Recently became a frequent visitor after you were mentioned a while back on Mark Shea’s blog. If more of my coreligionists were as thoughtful in their Catholicism as you are in your atheism, the world would be a far more pleasant place.

    FWIW, I also wish the admirable Mr. Shea would knock it off with the “gay brownshirts” business. It’s distracting, and given the whole history of pink-triangle badges in concentration camps, perhaps quite hurtful to some gay folks. Thanks for the link to the TAL interview; maybe it will help me have a more “Christian” attitude toward Dan Savage.

    I look forward to more delightful geekery hereabouts. (Speaking of which–are there any good intros to topology that someone like me who never got past Calc II could read with profit? I’ve always thought it sounded like an intriguing field, and you certainly seem to know your stuff.)

    • leahlibresco

      I really appreciate this comment, Irenist, so it’s with great pleasure I can tell you there is an excellent introduction to topology for people without a big math background (you won’t be required to even remember Calc I). The book is Flatland by Edwin Abbott and it’s told from the point of view of a Square living in a two-dimensional world who is visited by a Sphere. As he learns how to think three-dimensionally, you learn how to think about four (or more)!

      • Irenist

        Thanks, Leah. As it happens, I already know and love “Flatland,” but that certainly would have been the perfect rec had I not read it yet!

        • A Philosopher

          There’s also Ian Stewart’s Flatterland. Not pure topology, but a fair amount mixed in.

          • Irenist

            Thanks for the tip!

    • Brandon

      Caveat: I know very little of Shea. That said, it’d take a lot of evidence that’s very different from that post to imagine what you find admirable about him. In the linked post, he comes across and bigoted and blinkered. Comparing people to Nazis and then demanding that queer people share in the comparison less they be branded Nazis themselves? That’s precisely what Shea did in that post, and it’s repugnant.

      • Irenist

        Mr. Shea is quite principled, and willing to do battle with partisans of left and right on his blog (for which he takes much grief) to help what he considers to be the center to hold. Like I said, I dislike the Godwinism, but he really seems to me like a good egg overall. Compare Dan Savage, e.g.: the “It Gets Better” campaign has been a beacon for a lot of gay kids, but the “santorum” thing wasn’t very charitable. Nobody’s perfect; least of all me.

        • But the principles of the “It Gets Better” is founded in worldliness, wrapped up in a mentality of sexual activism. It skews an understanding of the good and in fact distracts from it.

          It breaks my heart that I can’t in good conscience support it. Yes, It Gets Better. If only ultimately, then that is forever. Anything before then, for any of us, is a bonus.

          That we neither deserve happiness nor can demand it means we can accept it in every littlest serving. This is the secret to perpetual joy.

      • Comparing people to Nazis and then demanding that queer people share in the comparison less they be branded Nazis themselves?

        Was it this part?

        Gay Community: Give me some hope for you guys with a clear and unequivocal condemnation of this disgusting behavior …

        Which is precisely what most commenters here are doing, were it not for:

        … without a bunch of “Well, you have to understand how he’s suffered” rationalization.

        But to refute your claim, he did not insist the Gay Community call Savage a Nazi. He only asked them to give “a clear and unequivocal condemnation of this disgusting behavior.” You do not have to compare someone to a Nazi to give a clear and unequivocal condemnation of a person’s behavior.

        Which was precisely the point of Leah’s comment, if not the post.

    • Ted Seeber

      Given the pain that Mark terms the brownshirt brigade has been doing to Catholics recently (throwing stones through stained glass windows? REALLY? That is what you think is principled behavior?) I believe the term to be very accurate. And yes, given the history, I find it very insulting that the militant gay agenda has chosen to mimic a bunch of scum like the neo-nazis- right down to their disgusting displays of political power in gay pride parades.

      • leahlibresco

        Vandalism is bad, but the reason Kristallnacht has so much emotional resonance is not because Nazis vandalized Jewish business, it’s because the vandalism was a prelude to genocide. Treating all acts of vandalism as analogous is bizarre.

        • Ted Seeber

          I am absolutely certain that given the way that liberal American culture treats human sexuality, that in this case the vandalism IS a prelude to genocide. The homosexual agenda is at it’s heart about the extinction of all who oppose them.

          • leahlibresco

            Extinction of an idea by persuading everyone to change their mind (i.e. Slavery is immoral, women are equal before the law, etc) can be a good thing. Is this the goal you’re imputing to queers like me? Because I’ll cop to this. Christians also want to convert the whole world, and I see that as a logical consequence of thinking an idea is important and universally relevant.

            It’s not at all the same thing as rising up to slaughter people for their ideas or for their ethnicity, which is what people usually mean when they say ‘genocide’ and what it sounds like you’re accusing me of advocating.

          • Ted Seeber

            “Extinction of an idea by persuading everyone to change their mind ”

            I wish it was just that. But it’s the same people who believe that 7 billion people on a planet with 7 trillion arable acres is over populated that are behind this. They want the extinction of humanity itself. So they take the 2% of people who are homosexual and start promoting that; they convince every woman that pregnancy is a disease to be avoided, if not by contraception then by abortion; they take anybody who disagrees with them and attack them as “bigots”, socially isolate them, then declare them to be terrorists and lock them up indefinitely in concentration camps. I’ve studied history- I’ve seen this whole story before.

          • Chris

            It’s not really relevant, but “7 trillion arable acres” is laughably, foolishly wrong. (As is the assumption that an acre per person somehow constitutes abundance). The land area of the Earth is 148,940,000 square kilometers. There are 247 acres per square kilometer. That means there are roughly 36 billion acres of TOTAL land. Even if every piece of land was arable, you’d still be off by over two orders of magnitude.

            But don’t worry. We queers will have plenty of remedial math classes available for you in the concentration camps.

        • deiseach

          Very quick comment because I can’t be fair to Dan Savage because I don’t like the bloke:

          (a) Yes, I agree, analogies about Brownshirts and Kristallnacht are not helpful. On the other hand, if side X make accusations of “Nazi fascist bigots” about side Y, then if certain parties on side X start behaving in a similar manner, well – six of one, half a dozen of the other, pot and kettle. And I don’t care which side is X and which side is Y in this matter, the point still holds – as Leah points out, unless you can back up your epithets with evidence that window smashing, name calling or poster ripping up is a precursor to genocide (that is, your opponents actually have an actual plan to actually murder you and those like you), then lay off tossing about slurs.

          (b)As I’ve said before, the shellfish argument does not impress me. In this iteration of it, does Dan Savage equally mean to say about cherry-picking texts that those liberal Christians, for instance, who would quote Exodus 22:21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt” when campaigning about anti-immigration policies can’t do so unless they also carry out the prescription in Exodus 22: 18 “Do not allow a sorceress to live”, so unless the Episcopalian Peace Fellowship set out to burn the psychic hotline operators at the stake, they can’t use Scriptural principals to guide their work?

          I don’t think anyone would make that argument, so it’s not “Ha, you are being inconsistent in your application of Biblical codes!”, it’s “You’re telling me that stuff I like is wrong and I think you’re wrong and moreover I don’t think you have the right to tell me that”. I mean, even if there were nothing in Deuteronomy or Exodus or Leviticus about stoning disobedient children, for example, gay rights campaigners would still object to the proscriptions about same-gender sexual intercourse (I’ve yet to see anyone take it to the logical reductio ab absurdum that if the ‘shellfish argument’ overthrows the application nowadays of Leviticus 18:22 “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable”, then by the same token it also overthrows the application nowadays of Leviticus 18: 9 “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere”).

          • Jay

            I’m not sure I follow what you mean by the “logical reductio ad absurdum” of the shellfish argument. The point isn’t that some parts of Leviticus are clearly silly, so everything Leviticus says is wrong. The world’s greatest fool may say it’s dark out, but that doesn’t mean the sun is shining. The point is just that the assertion of authority for its own sake should have no bearing on the question one way or another. So the mere fact that Leviticus 18:9 condemns incest doesn’t matter, but we may have other reasons to think incest is bad. The point of the “shellfish argument” is to respond to those who condemn homosexuality because the Bible condemns it, as if that itself were sufficient.

            Now, if the Bible contains effective moral reasoning, we can certainly rely on the Bible to the extent of its persuasiveness (you know, just like any other source of authority). Exodus 22:21 contains a hint of this (it’s really just a specific form of the categorical imperative/golden rule, and it’s isomorphic to “but America has always been a land of immigrants”), so it’s not so bad to quote this line as an argument. But I would criticize a liberal Protestant who said “support liberal immigration, but specifically and only because the Bible says so.” That would be as silly as suggesting that the only problem with murder, theft, and lying is that God happened to but these items on the Ten Commandments.

            Of course, it is probably a minority of professed believers who have such a naive view of biblical authority, and probably even a smaller proportion in this blogging community. But such people really do exist, really do use random Bible verses to justify their views, and really do make people’s lives miserable. Hence, the point of the shellfish argument.

          • … which is yet distorted.

            One bonus fruit of the New Evangelization: Folks will finally ignore Fundamentalists.

  • Joe

    Moving story. I think he puts the finger on the spiritual problem most people face. For many people faith is good for sentimental reasons but if it makes any real demands or challenges my intuitions then it suddenly turns to bullshit and we make sophomoric jokes about it to ourselves and others in order to feel justified. I think it would be helpful if folks like Savage would give a positive meta-ethical explanation as to why homosexual acts are morally permissible. I usually just hear that it feels good so whats the big deal? It seems like basing ethics on sentiment is a meta-physical -get out of jail free card.

    • Joe

      “…we make sophomoric jokes about it to ourselves and others in order to feel justified.” By we I don’t mean you of course. Once again Im sorry for the snark. I can’t get over how a-holeish I sound sometimes. Please forgive me.

    • John

      ” I think it would be helpful if folks like Savage would give a positive meta-ethical explanation as to why homosexual acts are morally permissible.”

      Why is the onus on “folks like Savage” to explain why homosexual acts are “morally permissible”? If you’re going to demand such an explanation, you need to first demonstrate that such acts are somehow harmful to at least one of the parties involved. Otherwise, questions of morality have no place in the discussion. If you can somehow show that safe and consensual sex between adults harms one or more parties involved, you then have to apply that same standard to heterosexual as well as homosexual sex acts. If you choose not to do so, you then need to explain and defend your choice to distinguish between the two. In other words, someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do, and it’s not Dan Savage.

  • I don’t think Mark is saying all homosexuals everywhere are this. He is pointing to that branch of the gay rights movement that long ago shed its original arguments of live and let live, and wants to impose acceptance of non-heterosexual normality through everything from stigmatizing and ostracizing those who don’t accept homosexuality, to attempting to outright legally punish them. That is a heavy handed tactic that, ironically, was the type of thinking opposed by the movement that helped give rise to sensitivity toward gay rights in the first place. I can’t speak for Mark, but based on his repeated answers, I think he draws a distinction. And so do I. As a person who once suffered the slings and arrows for defending homosexuals in the early 1980s (let me tell you, it wasn’t easy), I’m appalled at what I see being done in the name of the movement that once stood opposed to these very tactics and attitudes. Dan Savage is everything that those who called for tolerance toward homosexuals once condemned. And not just because of his tone.

    • Brandon

      Dan Savage is everything that those who called for tolerance toward homosexuals once condemned.

      Because… what? I have no idea at all what you’re talking about.

      • Dan Savage invokes an absolute set of values that would shame those who once stood opposed to gay rights. It’s not hard to see. In Dan’s eyes, there is simply no alternative approach to gay rights. Anything else is evil and hate. And Dan is pretty clear about where he thinks such evil and hate should be relegated to in an enlightened society. That’s what I mean. If you’re old enough to remember the early days of the gay rights movement, I’m sure you’ll see my point.

        • Brandon

          Substitute “racial equality” in each spot that you’ve written “gay rights” and you’ll see why many people consider this to be non-negotiable.

          No one’s being oppressed by calling out bigoted arguments and behavior as bigoted.

          • What you consider bigotry is simply a different belief system. If you insist it isn’t, that yours is the only acceptable view, then that’s sort of my point.

          • Brandon

            Indeed, that’s exactly the sort of thing people said about interracial relationships circa 1950. If your point is that my intolerance of bigotry is unacceptable, I guess that it is what it is. I’m happy to own that.

          • Philosoraptor

            What are gay rights? Are they threatened if someone makes the claim that homosexual acts are immoral?

          • They are if someone tries to legislate that claim.

          • I would be interested to see exactly what the arguments regarding miscegenation were. It gets tossed around, but I have trouble believing folks actually made the arguments as folks present them today. Most has a flavorful hint of model-based history.

      • Ted Seeber

        Because people like him attack instead of tolerate.

  • Patrick

    There are two issues here, in a way. The first is whether a given approach is likely to reach people who have certain pre-programmed defenses against ideas they don’t want to hear. The second is whether a given approach is likely to be sufficiently smooth to disarm people who intend to intentionally search out whatever means is available to them to represent you as extreme or offensive. The first is a lot easier than the second, and in my opinion, the second has little value.

    As for tone… one of the hardest things about religion is that it is often something professed, and not believed. Its easier to profess something than to believe it, and that lets people profess bits of morality from ancient civilization that they’d never actually believe or act upon in their everyday life. It isn’t hard to have a conversation about religion end up in a discussion of the alleged moral justification of eradicating an entire culture by the sword on the grounds that an ancient text claims that everyone from that entire culture was evil, down to the last infant. Nazi references are hard to avoid, given the subject matter. I don’t know how you can have a conversation about genocide, rape-by-capture, slavery, the justification for believing an entire nation of human beings so vile that their deaths are deserved, or even the justification of believing that any given human being actually deserves unending agony, without hitting some trigger issues, and possibly a few Nazi references.

  • “I want to know whether Mark and others think it’s always inappropriate for a non-Christian to critique an in-group thing like approach to scripture, or if there’s a way for Savage or others to do it that they would find helpful.”

    What about quoting Christians who agree with you on the particular issue you’re addressing? And not in the sense of, “But xxx, so ha!”, of course, but more, “But doesn’t xxx say yyy? Wouldn’t that zzz?” Or something like that. This of course requires that you know someone who does, and someone who your interlocutor will likely recognize–though it should be helpful just to be able to say that there are other Christian ways of approaching this. And of course such a tactic won’t work for people who disavow the legitimacy of anyone who disagrees even a little bit, but those people are probably not going to listen to anything right now anyway. Referring to Christians who agree with might be a way of having that conversation without offending anyone, though, or making a fool of yourself (which may be as much a risk as offending someone, if you don’t know much about Christianity’s diversity–and of course the same is true for any religious or philosophical group).

    • Ted Seeber

      “What about quoting Christians who agree with you on the particular issue you’re addressing?”

      The Theology of the Body is available from Amazon and a bunch of other booksellers for anybody who wants to read it, if they dare to expand their philosophy to include such deep ideas.

      But be prepared to be challenged on what you think a human being is- and what a human being’s purpose in the universe is.

      • anodognosic

        Is it to be an a**hole in a blog’s comment section? Because if so, you’re doing an A-plus job, Ted.

        • Ted Seeber

          A grand example of what I’m talking about anodognosic. Thanks for providing your utter dismissal of my point based on your own preconceived notions.

          • anodognosic

            I apologize for my language. I came back to say that. It’s not productive, and I lost my temper, mostly at your other comments.

            Your comments elsewhere on this post show that you are clearly gripped with utter hysteria regarding LGBT rights–specifically, that bit about wanting the extinction of humanity and putting Christians into concentration camps. Perhaps the Theology of the Body is worth reading, but you are not worth listening to.

          • Some men leap with fervor into everything. Mr. Seeber strikes me as one of that sort.

          • (In part because he strikes so many of us.)

  • David

    I read Shea’s post before reading this one. It takes me awhile to post a comment so this probably has nothing to do with what people have already written. I think the strongest part of Savage’s argument has to do with Paul’s treatment of slavery in his epistles (Ephesians 6:5-8, for example). As a Christian, it challenges me in this way: everything in the Bible has its context and many teachings (in the Bible) are conditioned by circumstances–from the proscription of eating shellfish in the Old Testament to the acceptance of slavery as a reality in the New Testament–so why not go one step further and say that the gay lifestyle no longer presents the same moral difficulties which it did at the time of St. Paul. (Savage is not actually making this argument. He simply says that the Bible is wrong and moves on.) This would be a hard argument to prove, however. The Biblical view of sexual morality does not change except to become more demanding as it moves from the Old to the New Testament. It is so demanding that Jesus’ own disciples react with astonishment at his teachings on marriage (Matthew 19:10) and say: “if this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” But on the subject of slavery, the Bible moves in a different direction. The Bible is pretty clear that it is better for a person to be free than enlsaved.

    • Ted Seeber

      I also believe that many fundamentalists in America misread Paul’s epistles on slavery, especially Ephesians and Philemon.

      If you expand your reading to Ephesians 6:1-20, you’ll see Paul is talking about *harmony within the household*. If you add to that a full reading of the book of Philemon, you’ll notice that his real thrust isn’t to leave chattel slavery as an unbreakable institution- but rather transform it into a form of spiritual adoption, where the slaves are treated as members of the family.

      So it was precisely *NOT* following the Bible’s advice on slavery, that led to the excesses of the Plantation System in the Southern United States- and oddly enough following the Bible’s advice on slavery that gave the United States our first African American priest, Fr. Tolton, who was encouraged in his vocation in childhood by his mother’s owners.

      • David

        You’ll find no argument with me on that. In the back of my mind, I remember reading somewhere that chattel slavery was far from St. Paul’s mind.

        • David

          Condoning chattel slavery, that is.

  • Jay

    Maybe I’m just numb to this sort of concern at this point, but what exactly was the problem with Savage’s tone? Was it just that he used the word “bullshit” a few times, which I suppose some would consider too profane for these purposes? What is the polite, respectful way to talk about the Bible’s views on slavery, shellfish, homosexuality, masturbation, weddings, etc.? Savage is ultimately responding to those who would justify violence and harassment against innocent children based on a millenia-old culture dump full of proscriptions that nobody takes seriously. Is “this is obviously bullshit, and we should just get over it” really that much worse than “I’m afraid I must inform the gentleman that he is completely insane”?

    More generally, I guess I just feel like there are some positions that don’t deserve to be treated with respect. If we ever encounter overt, KKK-style racists, we don’t usually go off on lectures about the importance of a respectful tone that will foster productive dialogue. We just laugh, walk away, and make sure not to invite them to parties. I’m not trying to say that all religious believers warrant that sort of disregard, but plenty of them do, including the Leviticus-inspired brand.

    No, making fun of the Bible’s views on slavery and chastity is not going to directly win you converts if you’re already committed to thinking homosexuality is evil because the Bible says so. But sometimes (and I’m sure this will sound illiberal, but here goes), it really is better to de-legitimize a point of view then to engage with it directly, at least where its proponents are themselves unwilling to engage with you in good faith. This is why Richard Dawkins doesn’t debate creationists — there comes a point where simply recognizing a view as being worth your respectful consideration is itself giving it too much credit. Savage may not win converts (right away), but he probably wasn’t going to in the first place — and he at least helps create an environment where insanity is less likely to take root in the first place.

    • Ted Seeber

      ” Savage is ultimately responding to those who would justify violence and harassment against innocent children based on a millenia-old culture dump full of proscriptions that nobody takes seriously. ”

      Maybe a few people DO take it seriously? At least enough to know what those proscriptions are before denying them?

      • Jay

        I’m not entirely sure what point you’re making, so please correct me if I’m mistaken. Yes, I’m obviously aware that many people take some of the Bible’s rules seriously. But nobody takes all of them seriously. Surely, you’re not denying that statement, are you? Or would you like to play a round of “quote the Bible for the most absurd propositions possible”? I’m well aware of the effort that very smart Catholics have put toward providing a seemingly non-insane interpretation of the Bible — one that minimizes the more obviously absurd elements as “metaphorical,” “misunderstood,” “part of a larger message,” or “specific to a particular context.”

        But in any case, that’s still a refusal to take seriously the command in Deuteronomy that non-virgin wives be stoned. Savage’s point is that relying on Leviticus to condemn homosexuals is no different in principle than relying on Deuteronomy to stone non-virgins (except that it’s somewhat easier to get away with in polite company). However it is that a “Christian” society has made peace with Deuteronomy (either by explaining as really being about something else, or just ignoring), it can do the same with Leviticus.

        • Ted Seeber

          “Yes, I’m obviously aware that many people take some of the Bible’s rules seriously. But nobody takes all of them seriously. Surely, you’re not denying that statement, are you?”

          I would most certainly deny that statement. Taking seriously doesn’t necessarily mean following, but it does mean actually reading more than one verse at a time, and reading the several thousand years worth of philosophical commentary from a variety of sources on what the words actually mean. People go to school to get doctorate degrees in Theology and even Biblical Studies. So yes, I do believe that there are many people who take the ideas in scripture quite seriously.

          “Or would you like to play a round of “quote the Bible for the most absurd propositions possible”? ”

          Now that would be a grand example of somebody NOT taking the Bible seriously at all. And it’s done by loads of Christians and Atheists, and never impressed me in the least.

          “I’m well aware of the effort that very smart Catholics have put toward providing a seemingly non-insane interpretation of the Bible — one that minimizes the more obviously absurd elements as “metaphorical,” “misunderstood,” “part of a larger message,” or “specific to a particular context.””

          Apparently you’re NOT “well aware”, or else you wouldn’t repeat such stupidity as “no one takes the Bible seriously”. I would also point out that the Bible is first and foremost a Catholic book- other interpretations are like an American Hillbilly trying to read a Japanese comic strip, he ain’t gonna get the jokes no matter how hard he tries.

          “But in any case, that’s still a refusal to take seriously the command in Deuteronomy that non-virgin wives be stoned.”

          I have no doubt that if the Church had the political power to do it, that rule would be enforced, and we’d have a better society for it.

          “Savage’s point is that relying on Leviticus to condemn homosexuals is no different in principle than relying on Deuteronomy to stone non-virgins (except that it’s somewhat easier to get away with in polite company). ”

          And let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. Not that she was allowed to get away with it; she was told to go and sin no more, and be grateful for her narrow escape. You mean you failed to read the Gospel of John after reading Deuteronomy? After all, you need to read the WHOLE Bible for it to make any sense at all.

          “However it is that a “Christian” society has made peace with Deuteronomy (either by explaining as really being about something else, or just ignoring), it can do the same with Leviticus.”

          Truly Christian societies remember not to throw stones at all, and that all men are equally sinners. Which you’d know if you had ever read the Bible past the 30 or so verses that fundamentalists and atheists like to argue over. But hey, seeing the Bible as a library covering several different cultures over a 3000 year period of history; nah, that’s just a Catholic thing, right?

          It doesn’t make the adultery right. It just makes throwing stones wrong.

          • Jay

            I’d rather not have round 11,235,813 of the debate over whether the “the several thousand years worth of philosophical commentary from a variety of sources on what the words actually mean” is a genuine attempt to divine actual meaning or an elaborate rationalization to make the Bible seem palatable to modern society. We’re pretty clearly going to come down on different sides of that issue, and we’re even more clearly not going to make any progress right now.

            But perhaps more productively, I have to point out that you seem to be making Savage’s point for him. At the very least, what Savage is condemning is the reliance on a handful of biblical passages to justify such fervent anti-homosexual hysteria. And your point seems to be that this is exactly how the Bible shouldn’t be read. Of course, when it comes to “ignore as silly” or “explain as meaning something besides what it seems to say because it has to be interpreted in context,” Savage and I are much more likely to hit option #1. But presumably you should be equally upset at how these stray lines from Leviticus, etc. are bandied about in anti-homosexual circles.

          • Anyone who buys into this argument of “we’ll never know what the Bible means!” forgets fully the two-thirds of Christianity which didn’t go insane by means of the Friar, the Lawyer, or the King.

            Maybe read what the largest single Christian organization in the world teaches. Homosexuality is practically glossed over in that section of the Catechism. Fervent it ain’t.

            Why does everyone care about Fundamentalism? Oy …

          • Brandon

            “But in any case, that’s still a refusal to take seriously the command in Deuteronomy that non-virgin wives be stoned.”

            I have no doubt that if the Church had the political power to do it, that rule would be enforced, and we’d have a better society for it.

            I do rather enjoy when someone makes their demented, murderous desires clear. It rather mitigates any risk of otherwise having taken the person seriously.

          • For the record, Mr. Seeber is factually and morally wrong, certainly on that point.

          • Irenist

            Mr. Seeber, you wrote:
            >>“But in any case, that’s still a refusal to take seriously the command in Deuteronomy that non-virgin wives be stoned.”
            I have no doubt that if the Church had the political power to do it, that rule would be enforced, and we’d have a better society for it.<<

            At no time from Theodosian Constantinople to the Middle Ages to Francoist Spain did the Catholic Church, to my knowledge, ever enforce that rule, despite having too much power for its own good in all of those societies. That society would be better off following the more advanced example of Jesus rather than the less advanced institutions imparted to Moses for the governing of a turbulent people in a barbarous age should be obvious to any Christian who is any better than Dan Savage at telling one Testament from another. From the perspective of our shared Church, Mr. Seeber, Reconstructionist theonomy is a heresy.

          • the Bible is first and foremost a Catholic book- other interpretations are like an American Hillbilly trying to read a Japanese comic strip, he ain’t gonna get the jokes no matter how hard he tries.

            Ted, I’m sure that the Jews could make the claim that the Old Testament is first and foremost a Jewish book. The fact that either way, if God inspired it, you wouldn’t need two thousand years of commentary from a group whose infallible leader endorsed the crusades and the inquisition to understand it.

          • Only for certain definitions of “inspired.” (Incidentally, your definition is not ours. Catholics are not beholden to your fundamentalist interpretation of scripture.)

          • Fair enough, what are Catholics beholden to, is it that infallible leader? And what exactly is your definition of inspired? Of course this still doesn’t asnwer that the reasoning of the Bible as a Catholic book ignores that more than two thirds of it is a Jewish book, and the third century church so hated “Judaising” that they banned the keeping of one of the Ten Commandments. So being gay is bad, but ignoring the Sabbath is ok?

          • Cous

            This is just too tempting…open-ended questions about commonly misunderstood concepts in Church theology…can’t…resist. Smidoz, you ask good questions, but it’s hard to answer them in as few words as they were asked in, so I’m going to do a lot pointing you to longer articles and saying, “You can start by reading this.”

            1. First off, “being gay” is not morally reprehensible any more than having an excessive sex drive is. The Church distinguishes between having same-sex attractions and willfully committing and homosexual acts; it’s the latter that are considered grave sins. The Church condemns heterosexual sex outside of marriage as a grave sin as well, it’s not about sexual orientation but about the type of sexual act involved and whether the people involved willfully undertook it.

            2. I have no idea what Ted means by claiming the Bible is a “Catholic book.” I can’t really think of a plausible interpretation of this that I would agree with, but maybe he’ll enlighten us.

            3. Infallibility – ah, the myth of Our Dear Infallible Dictator rears it head again. Infallibility has a very narrow and technical definition; it does not mean that the pope is preserved from sin or any error of thought or judgment. CCC 890 states that Catholic Church is infallible, which in other words means that she is “preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals,” (source which happens when the college of bishops (of which the pope is a member and leader) all agree on a matter of faith and morals. Because it is very difficult to informally determine when the pope and bishops all agree on a matter of faith and morals, in practice, infallibility is only applied to statements of ecumenical councils and statements made by the pope ex cathedra. The pope giving indulgences to soldiers in the crusades or giving speeches promoting them does not count as speaking ex cathedra, though you are free to argue that it was a morally bad thing to do.
            3.a. Side note: this does not mean that Catholics only have to believe infallible teachings. There are a number of offices of authority in the Church, each of which can issue multiple types of documents/proclamations. These all get lumped under the tent of “teachings of the Catholic Church.” The CCC is a general summary of those teachings, for purposes of reference and instruction.

            4. Anyway, back to your main question of what Catholics mean by “inspired.” It doesn’t mean “must be read literally,” “no interpretation needed,” or “one-time interpretation only.” If you think about it, if God is Truth and God is infinite, unpacking everything that’s he’s communicating via Scripture about himself and his plan for us is probably going to take a lot of time and a lot of brainpower. And interpreting those teachings with the new moral challenges of every age is a never-ending challenge; you’ll never find a reference to in-vitro fertilization in the Bible, but that sure as heck doesn’t mean the Church has to stay neutral on it. For an explanation of “inspired,” I refer you here (if you’re in a hurry there’s an “In Brief” section at the bottom) and also here (New Advent is an online version of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, published with the appropriate approval from bishops of Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur).

            5. I am not very familiar with the Council of Laodicea (I will note that it was a gathering of bishops from a particular region, the pope was not involved and it was not an ecumenical council like the Council of Nicea), so I’ll do more reading on the historical and theological context before I respond to your characterization of Canon 29, but for now I’ll point you to here, and say that likely, the bishops were trying to deal with ongoing confusion among the Christians about what practices from the Jewish faith could be discarded and which new practices and emerging traditions were central to the Christian faith. It would be oversimplistic to think that “Judaizing” is a pejorative or anti-Semitic term; rather, it means “observing Jewish customs.” Consider for example the huge controversy in the early Church about whether Gentile converts had to be circumcised. Here, the bishops may have been dealing with the question, should Gentiles have to keep the Sabbath, or does observing the Sabbath remove one’s obligation to observe the Lord’s Day, the day of the Resurrection? But like I said, I’m mostly speculating.

          • Cous

            Dang, half of my links didn’t work. I’ll give the broken ones another shot:
            Our Dear Infallible Dictator
            CCC 890
            in practice (see section III)
            “and also here

    • Concerned Citizen

      It is old fashioned tone trolling. When someone like Mark Shea advocates the denial of basic rights for homosexuals, that is fine. When Dan Savage uses a mildly naughty word, he is a Nazi.

      • Well, Jim, it looks like the other team has challenged the call of the referee. If they turn out wrong and to have wasted our time, they’ll lose one of their timeouts. But while we’re waiting, let’s take a look at the camera footage ourselves.

        Let’s do that, Bob. Here’s the point where Dan Savage, a grown man and Respected Citizen, belittled teenagers such that they walked out of the room. With that in mind, let’s watch the Shea footage one more time. Remember, folks, it’s important to keep an open mind when it goes to review like this, but I dunno if we’re going to find what the visiting team’s coach wants us to see.

        I was thinking the same thing, Jim. There’s Shea, and — well, you don’t have to agree with Shea to note that one thing he is not is a tone troll. Shea is simply no fan of bullying, and so in response to this act, ’cause the language is just the icing on the cake, Shea like him or hate him says Savage was like a Nazi leader. Notably, this was a Nazi killed before the war by other Nazis.

        What was the coach thinking, Bob? I’m even not seeing any “denial of basic rights” anywhere at Shea’s blog, and certainly in a way that isn’t circular. Frankly, Bob, does the coach want to lose all his timeouts? At this rate, he won’t have any left for the second quarter. Not a single one of those contentions is backed up by what actually happened.

        Well, Jim, there is one thing to keep in mind.

        What’s that, Bob?

        His contract is up for review at the end of this season.

  • Ted Seeber

    “Online, it’s hard to remember that you’re talking to people, not arguments-as-soldiers, so maybe folks will find it helpful to listen to Dan Savage’s segment on This American Life (transcript here) about reconsidering the lapsed part of his lapsed Catholicism after his mother’s death, so your conversation is rooted in the acts of a person.”

    I’ll repost my response to that here. Basically- I’m not going to judge his mother- but key parts make me wonder if *rejection of authority* ran in his family to the point that his Catholic bit was switched towards “the church is wrong and I’m right” rather than “the church, having considered these issues for 2000 years, might be smarter than my individual brain on this topic”.

    From the article Leah linked two, I’ve got two passages that concern me:

    “By her own estimation my mother was a good Catholic. She believed in Jesus, the Resurrection, the virgin births, both of them. There are two, did you know that? What are the odds? The Trinity, the Sacraments. She believed that sex was sacred, and that people, particularly people with children, should be married to each other. But she didn’t believe that being a good Catholic meant blind obedience. So I guess you could say she was a good American Catholic. She believed women should be priests. That priests should be able to marry. And after four pregnancies in four years, she concluded that birth control was not a sin.”

    St. Mary’s birth was IMMACULATE. It’s not a virgin birth. But worse yet, it appears Dan’s parents, like many Catholics in the 1960s, fell away from Apostolic Authority long before the next generation ended up ex-Catholic.

    That isn’t the hallmark of a Good Catholic. That is the hallmark of what we call Protestantism. If sex is so sacred, why mess it up with birth control? Guess sex wasn’t so sacred after all, was it. The Church doesn’t ask for Blind Obedience- the Popes and the Bishops have published *several thousand pages* about their views on the subject, and expended centuries of study. A truly informed conscience would read that body of work before dismissing it out of hand.

    But even worse for me was this passage, earlier in the article:

    “By senior year I’d started going to a public school and stopped going to church, except for the odd family wedding, baptism, or funeral. And they are all odd, aren’t they? I go to church about as often as I go to Planned Parenthood for a Pap smear. Then, 12 months ago, my mother died. A virus can lay dormant in your body for so long that it’s possible to forget you were ever infected. Then something happens that weakens your immune system and the virus seizes its opportunity. For more than two decades the Catholicism I’d contracted at Saint Ignatius had lain dormant, manifesting itself only on airplanes and in passing lanes. But the immunity I’d long enjoyed was weakened by my mother’s death. Because since that sunny, awful day in Tucson last spring, I found myself slipping into Catholic churches.”

    Cradle Catholicism as a plague virus? Are you serious? Do you really think we wouldn’t be insulted by that?

    That did not bring his humanity back to me. It shows me that he was pushed down that path by parents who were already in rebellion against the Church, who were already Protestants who just couldn’t bear to give up the habit of Catholicism. They didn’t believe in Apostolic Authority, they didn’t follow the Popes, they rebelled AGAINST the Popes.

    And in the end, that’s what Mark is complaining about with all of the Nazi references- original sin writ public, the formal rebellion against the Church.

    • leahlibresco

      I caught him with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.

      I think Savage is using the latent virus metaphor to express the same idea that Chesterton does in the quote above. They differ on whether it is good to succumb, not on what the twitch on the thread feels like.

      To address a different part of your comment, I don’t think formal rebellion against the Church merits Nazi metaphors, even if Catholicism is true. Many bad things are not the same bad thing as genocide.

      • Irenist

        Yeah, immature speeches and broken windows in Seattle != genocide. Amazing how the Internets require us to make that explicit! Oh, Godwin….
        That said, Chesterton would’ve been all about rebellion against the Church = Nazism metaphors. He and Belloc spent a fair amount of WWI arguing, more or less, that there was a straight line from Germanic pagan barbarism in lands never blessed by the Roman Empire -> the Reformation -> Prussianism. They can both be delightful reading (although probably not so much Belloc if you’re not Catholic), but falling into that bit of tendentiousness is one of their flaws.

      • Joe

        I found Savages admission that there is a part of him that misses the Church very moving and hopeful.

      • Ted Seeber

        The genocide bit comes from the fact that homosexuality, like contraception and abortion, are all sins against chastity, which directly affects life.

        • Bit of a stretch, dude. All things which affect life badly are not genocide.

          • Things which affect live badly are “not all” genocide.

  • Jen

    The irony with Dan Savage is that he is a terrible bully. He brutally attacks people who disagree with him. He is uncivil and cowardly in his actions. Calling teenagers names as they quietly walk out of his hate-filled speech? Yeah, that’s bullying. He’s supposed to be a grown-up, but he is just a tall childish brat having a tantrum. The true measure of this guy was revealed in the vicious way he went after Rick Santorum. What he did to Santorum via Google and his own perverted, disgusting “definition” of Santorum’s name is the epitome of bullying and hatred. He is guilty of malicious calumny and he should be criminally charged for what he did to a good man, for no other reason than he doesn’t like Santorum’s beliefs and political opinions. Savage has lived up to his name. He is owed no apology from anyone, nor any indulgence of understanding his ways until he behaves like a respectable adult and apologizes for the harm he has done.

    • anodognosic

      The Santorum stunt was retaliation for malicious calumny against LGBT people. You may disagree with eye-for-an-eye justice, but if ever there was a proper application of lex talionis, this is it.

      • Ted Seeber

        I see no malicious calumny when it comes to saying that homosexual acts are a disordered form of human sexuality. No man born of woman can disagree with that statement.

        • Ash

          Not sure how that jives with a majority of Americans considering gay relations morally acceptable.

        • Concerned Citizen

          I can. But thanks for playing.

      • Jen

        What malicious calumny against homosexual people was/is Santorum guilty of? The belief that homosexual acts are disordered and sinful is not malicious calumny. It’s a very legitimate and rational belief based on the natural law and Christian doctrine. And for the record, retaliation does not equal justice of any kind. That is no excuse for what Savage did. He targeted a specific individual and maligned him publicly out of spiteful hate. Because that’s what a bully does.

        • Ash

          Religious hatred of gays tears families apart, drives kids to suicide, empowers bullies, and perpetuates inequality. That’s the result of your legitimate and rational belief.

          • S. Murphy

            No, it’s a result of human sin. Self-righteousness, legalism, any convenient excuse to beat up a weaker kid. My parents imparted to me faith in Christ and the sacraments of the Church, and respect for the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics, and all of that never inspired to hate gays, or suddenly be repulsed by somebody I liked because I found out they were gay. I have friends, Catholic and not, who are gay and in relationships. Some of those friendships, I’ve maintained for 20 years, with people who know full well that I accept and believe in the Church’s authority to teach on sexual morality, and it’s actual conclusions on the subject.
            I’d be happy as a pig in stuff if one day the Pope came out on the balcony and announced that, although it couldn’t quite be squared with the sacrament of matrimony as such, given what we now know about human sexuality, there could be a blessing for lifelong gay unions. I don’t expect it, and I think the Church will continue to teach that being attracted to your own sex is a call to remain a virgin, whether in the context of formal vows and membership in a religious community or not. I get that it’s a hard thing to ask of anyone, and I don’t expect anyone who doesn’t have strongly held religious views to live that celibate, chaste lifestyle. I don’t expect the civil laws of the US to reflect Catholic theology on the Sacrament of Matrimony (they already don’t, after all). I’d prefer we’d said ‘civil unions’ and legalized them across the country 20 years ago (ensuring that the rights, privileges, tax advantages, one-stop declaration that someone was your NOK, etc were equitable across the board), than to call it marriage now, and use anti-discrimination laws against wedding-cake bakers and photographers and K of C chapters that might raise some cash by renting out their hall, to constrain people, against their consciences, to support what they regard as mortal sin.
            NB – I’m not talking about housing and stuff like that – if I own a 6-flat, and a same sex couple wants to rent one of my apartments, my conscience is clean anyway, because everybody needs a place to live, and I’m not responsible to God or the state or anyone for the private, consenting-adult sexual behavior of my tenants. Moreover, the fact that everybody needs a place to live should be the prime concern behind whatever laws apply. Similarly, being civil to people in the workplace or on the street or in a public park or wherever is also a no-brainer.

      • The Santorum stunt was retaliation for malicious calumny against LGBT people.

        What exactly was the malicious calumny? My undeststanding (which seems reaffirmed by this excerpt from the interview in question) was that Santorum was trying to make a reductio ad absurdum argument against allowing complete personal freedom in the privacy of one’s own home. It’s just a question of whether you consider homosexuality to fall into the category of “immoral things the state should have the authority to ban” (possible objections being either that homosexuality is not in fact immoral, or that the state does not in fact have that authority).

        You may not agree with his position on homosexuality, but there didn’t seem to be any malicious intent there. Savage’s response seems pretty wildly inappropriate against a man who was actually trying to make a reasoned argument. I’m no fan of Santorum, but after this exchange made the news, I’m even less of a fan of Savage.

        • Damien

          Sorry Jake, Santorum didn’t just disprove of homosexual relationships, he directly compared them beastality and rape !
          Malacious intent is not in worthy of consideration. That such a boneheaded, ignorant and disgusting comment refering to any homosexual relationship in this way shows a serious moral lapse and shows Santorum’s deeply flawed comprehention of what a loving relationship is . That you seem to blow this off as not a problem just shows your ignorance as well.
          Savage’s reply was a blow between the eyes Santorum deserved . Santorum compared Savage’s family and every other homosexual family to a crime. Some of the worst crimes in our society.
          So if someone insulted your family, someone you loved , You would shrug it of would you ?
          “No problem” . “Every ones entitled to his or her opinion.” ” Yeah right sunshine.
          So now, most people have suppress a smirk when they say Santorums name.

          • Jen

            So to your thinking, Santorum deserved this malicious, bullying “blow between the eyes” and Savage was completely justified in his libelous attack? I guess the extremely personal insult to Santorum’s family is just something they’re supposed to shrug off? You call it a “reply”; I call it a perverted and vicious hate crime. Yes, a crime. And so far, Savage has gotten away with it and people defend him and make excuses for him. The preachers of tolerance are the most intolerant folks around. So what if people “smirk” you say? Tough? He had it coming, right? So when bullying and slander and libel and hate works for you, it’s okay?

          • Sorry Jake, Santorum didn’t just disprove of homosexual relationships, he directly compared them beastality and rape !

            I assume you’re talking about the following:

            You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.

            Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.

            It seems to me he’s drawing a distinction between “Traditional Marriage” and “Everything else”. Yes, he’s “directly comparing” them in the way that we “directly compare” murder and petty theft when we say they’re both wrong- but we’re not equating their magnitude. He doesn’t seem to indicate that he thinks they’re the same. In fact, he clearly differentiates the three- he’s saying “Marriage is not homosexuality. Marriage is not rape. Marriage is not Bestiality”. Let me ask you this- is there something you consider a sexually deviant act that you would prefer him to compare homosexuality to? Because if not, it seems like you’re rejecting his definition of sexually deviant, rather than what examples he chose

            Santorum compared Savage’s family and every other homosexual family to a crime. Some of the worst crimes in our society.

            Where? Can you post a quote? I see him saying that homosexuality is bad for the family unit, not that it is a crime (granted, he thinks it should be made into a crime). He specifically says at the end “I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn’t want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn’t agree with it, but that’s their right. But I don’t agree with the Supreme Court coming in.” That seems like a rather reasonable approach from someone who fundamentally thinks homosexuality is morally wrong. Again, disagree with his morality all you like, but I don’t see anything malicious here (other than Savage’s response)

            So if someone insulted your family, someone you loved , You would shrug it of would you ?

            Most of my family and friends would be considered “Fundamentalist Christians”. I insult them more often than other people do 🙂 But to answer your question seriously, no, I probably wouldn’t. I would fight for recognition that my family unit was not a corrupt version of what it was supposed to be, but was rather a healthy, functioning environment. But I don’t think aggressive public humiliation facilitates that dialog. Matter of fact, I don’t think aggressive public humiliation is ever appropriate. Turn the question back on you- if someone led a successful campaign to make your name synonymous with something you consider disgusting, vulgar, and sinful, would you shrug it off? Do you think that’s an appropriate response for someone else to have when they disagree with you?

  • John

    The issue was that Mr. Savage was speaking in front of a hall full of teenagers. Minors. He singled out a minority of kids to make fun of them and their beliefs. If that’s not what bullies do – normally to the cheers of a peanut gallery egging them on – then what is it? Or is being a bully OK so long as “the right side” is doing the bullying?

    It’s one thing to be disrespectful with adult peers, strangers or known, as they can be expected to carry their own weight. But to use a position of authority to publicly call out for shame a group that’s a minority…that’s neither cool nor ‘brave’. If he was haranging the majority, risking the ire of the hosting party, risking his career to make a higher point that did not involve children, then I’d grant him artistic license. But not with minors and not with folk who were the minority present.

    If you want to know why many otherwise non-engaged people are suddenly paying attention its the double standard…. once the ‘rule’ is established that what is sought for is equality before the law – then every case of special pleading and special rights not enjoyed by anyone else is given extra scrutiny.

    Every time gays demand equality to mean re-defining marriage, heterosexuals notice that the re-definition of words by dint of sheer willpower is not one of their assumed powers. Heterosexuals don’t casually, commonly go about re-defining terms, transmogrifying things to be so because they simply will it so. So when minorities like the LGBTQ? groups demand the right to re-define marriage… it’s striking and seems not at all a question of equality but of super-duper rights.

    After all, if 5% of the population can demand and obtain a re-definition of marriage, why can’t 6% demand polygamy? Why couldn’t 30% have demanded a re-definition of state or person or property?

    • The issue was that Mr. Savage was speaking in front of a hall full of teenagers. Minors. He singled out a minority of kids to make fun of them and their beliefs. If that’s not what bullies do – normally to the cheers of a peanut gallery egging them on – then what is it? Or is being a bully OK so long as “the right side” is doing the bullying?

      If Mr. Seeger or Mr. Lee had found something to disagree with, your excellent point would not have been so ignored. Alas.

  • I can’t put it any better than John Shore did:

    “The people who walked out during Dan’s talk… were not frightened or cowed. They were offended. They felt that by disparaging what amounts to their God, Dan had transgressed beyond their capacity for toleration. And they were pleased to show their intolerance of Dan’s words by protesting against them in the manner they did. Theirs was not an act born of suffering. It was a proud show of disdain.”

    • Ah I get it. A grown up can lead a majority of a group of kids into a self-affirmation tied to ridiculing a minority of them and it doesn’t count as bullying as long as the victims don’t actually break down on the spot. But if they remove themselves from that situation that is “intolerance”.

      Sounds somewhat counterintuitive, but now that you explain it…

      • What “self-affirmation” are you referring to? The handful of people who walked out did so because Dan Savage correctly pointed out that the Bible contains many other immoral rules which are correctly ignored by Christians today. And oh, yes, he used a mild curse word: “bullshit”. In front of teenagers and their virginal ears, no less! Someone fetch me my smelling salts!

        I think that Savage calling the people who walked out “pansy-assed” was less defensible, but he’s already apologized for that, and again, that wasn’t what spurred the walkout; he said it in response to their getting up to walk out. Are you arguing that any criticism of the Bible whatsoever constitutes bullying of Christians?

        • Yep, you got me convinced.

          So if an authority figure tells an audience of kids that “fucking faggots are sinning” that can never be bullying because it’s technically correct that homosexual actions are sinful and according to dictionary definitions that’s what those words mean and they surely heard swearwords before. If any homosexual kids leave that’s intolerance. Which retroactively makes the speaker’s words about them being “pushed back” even if they personally never did anything to the speaker before. By the same rationale it would also be totally justified to go on “ha, so you can tell the homosexuality guys in the hall that they can come back in because I’m done beating up homosexuality” for a laugh from the rest of the audience. That totally wouldn’t be trying to diminish them before their peers in any way, just inviting them back for the rest of the interesting talk. Calling them “pansy-assed” would be “less” defensible but an apology would clearly wash out any suspicion of it having been bullying. And that apology focusing on homosexual actions actually being immoral wouldn’t diminish it, because nobody could rationally doubt that was the communicative intention in the first place. Anyone disagreeing with this is obviously arguing that any criticism of homosexuality whatsoever constitutes bullying of homosexuals.

          It’s all so obvious once it’s explained.

          • You somehow neglected to answer either of the questions I posed to you. Permit me to restate them:
            1) What “self-affirmation” in Savage’s speech were you referring to?
            2) Are you arguing that any criticism of the Bible whatsoever constitutes bullying of Christians?

          • Oh, I had thought them rhetorical.
            1) The one that lies in demonstrating social superiority to an outgroup. You know, the one that is sought by bullies.
            2) No.

          • 1) Since Dan Savage was citing something that Christians and gays theoretically agree about, namely that the Bible’s laws on slavery and other topics should not be followed, I fail to see how this could possibly be an attempt to “demonstrate social superiority” to anyone. If you want me to understand what you’re upset about, it would help to supply an exact quote.
            2) So, what makes this particular criticism of the Bible impermissible? Again, can you quote the exact line from his speech that you feel was unacceptable?

          • I’m not going to pretend to take you serious on this. At some point the pretense of open question turns into collaboration and this is clearly beyond that point.

          • I think the reason you can’t answer these simple questions is because, contrary to your earlier protestations, you do in fact believe that any criticism of the Bible should be forbidden. If that weren’t the case, you’d be able to say exactly what about Savage’s speech you found objectionable, rather than rhetorically throwing up your hands and refusing to discuss it.

          • Amazing! Do me!

          • (I love free psychoanalysis!)

  • So can someone offer another word for “people who (attempt to) crush dissent by intimidation and/or legal repression”?

    I see that “brownshirts” has a problem with Godwin’s law, but all other words I can think of play the thing down as far as “brownshirt” plays it up. If it exists, I for one would be happy to use a less hysteric term still clearly naming the evil. But going without any term naming it doesn’t seem like a reasonable request.

    • So can someone offer another word for “people who (attempt to) crush dissent by intimidation and/or legal repression”?

      But you realize that both sides are accusing each other of doing this, right? Why not actually just describe the other position, without attaching a negative value to it with an inflamatory word? argue about the value, convince people about the value, but don’t start the discussion with an insult. I would offer up “Pro Homosexual Marriage” and “Pro Traditional Marriage” as options. If you’d like to go the slightly more passive aggressive Roe v. Wade route, you could go with “Pro Marriage Equality” and “Pro Marriage Protection” (this is what happens when we let movements name themselves :))

      If you’d like to complain about a particular individual or group’s tactics, use adjectives, not analogies. Say that they repress valid dissent, that they force their beliefs on others- but don’t call them Nazi’s and browncoats.

      • Say that they repress valid dissent, that they force their beliefs on others — but don’t call them Nazi’s and browncoats.

        Okay, look — I look out for me and mine. That don’t include you unless I conjure it does.

        • I wish there was a “Like” button…

        • Irenist

          Awesome. (Maybe “browncoats” could be the pejorative term for people who support the legalization of “licensed companions.”)

          • leahlibresco

            I was discussing my day with my roommate and she misheard “browncoats” for “brownshirts” and thought my day had been much better than it was.

      • The point is, I don’t accuse everyone on the other side of doing that. Neither does Mark Shea. Just advocating for a change in law is not the issue. But there is a problem with some gay righters systematically doing that. If you read Mark Shea’s blog that is precisely the subgroup he calls “gay brownshirts”. And he has occasion to report on the phenomenon often enough for it to need a name. Asking to use only unemotional five word descriptions is effectively a request to treat it as an abstract academic question nobody needs to care about.

        • Yeah, I see what you’re saying, that if there’s a subgroup of people that you tend to reference often, it’s helpful to have a moniker to refer to them so you don’t have to rexplain the basic concept every time. It just seems like every example I can think of people doing this has a few things in common:

          1) a deragatory term is picked (usally with allusions to something really, really, unquestionably bad)
          2) the term is chosen to mock or insult, rather than to inform
          3) nobody other than the already-convinced takes you seriously anymore

          I think about Glen Beck or Ed Shultz- they use such needlessly inflamatory language that they alienate the other side of the debate, effectively destroying any possibility for meaningful dialog. If you don’t think the other side is worthy of engaging in meaningful dialog, that’s your perogative, but you’re not going to win any converts among the reasonable moderates if your strategy for looking “less crazy” than the other guys is to compare the other guys to the most outlandish super-villian organization you can think of.

          I guess my point is, some people actually want to have these discussions, and the escalation that happens once either side starts name-calling makes that impossible. As Leah said, let their crazy do the talking for them- if it really is as crazy as you think, a simple description should be enough to convince a reasonable person (who are the only people you have a chance of convincing anyways)

          And I have a hard time believing that “gay brownshirts” is chosen as a name because there just aren’t enough two word combinations in the English language to go around 🙂

          Asking to use only unemotional five word descriptions is effectively a request to treat it as an abstract academic question nobody needs to care about

          I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I’m of the opinion that using emotional terms tends to obfuscate debates rather than clarify them. Moreover, I don’t think this should be an emotional question. If the other side is doing something absurd, feel free to be angry about it (there’s something to be said for righteous indignation), but it seems counter productive for the response to someone else being crazy to be going all-in with over-the-top diction and nazi comparisons in the other direction

        • Concerned Citizen

          He said that someone who made a speech in which he correctly pointed out that the Bible has moral elements in it that society disagrees with are Nazis. At no point did Dan Savage suggest that people be denied the right to believe what they want in regards to sexuality. At no point did he suggest any legal punishments for people who think that being gay is wrong and sinful and will lead people to hell. At no point did he suggest that people be arrested for their faith, or denied the right to marry, or suffer physical violence from people. He just said that the book they like has bits in it that were nasty.

          And yet, to people like Mark Shea, that counts as being a Nazi. People who advocate for gays to be put in prison? Not Nazis. Gay people who say that a book has some silly bits in it? Nazis. See the difference?

          • Well, Jim, looks like the coach is up to it again. Let’s go to commercial. Eat Doritos or something.

  • David

    Reading the comments Mark Shea makes on his blog, I want to know why you treat him as a serious interlocutor deserving of your respect. He and his commenters are nasty, mean-spirited, disrespectful to disagreement (look at the comments section on the article you linked to in this post) and their arguments have no intellectual weight behind them. As Ted Seeber’s comments here make evident, much of the activity at that blog consists of nothing more than asserting that anything not in line with all the teachings of the Catholic church is morally repugnant and unworthy of respect: see Seeber’s line here. “And in the end, that’s what Mark is complaining about with all of the Nazi references- original sin writ public, the formal rebellion against the Church.” That is to say, if it’s not in line with what the Church teaches, it might as well be Nazism (a bit ironic given, you know, the actual history of Catholicism and the Nazis, but whatever). For a similar style, you’ve determined that atheists like PZ Myers are undeserving of your respect. So why do Shea and his blog receive it?

    • So a troll coming over from Mark Shea’s blog proves there can’t be anything better there? I would understand that as an heuristic, unfortunate as the result is in this particular case, but I don’t see how it could make anything “evident”.

      Also, I don’t think she “determined that atheists like PZ Myers are undeserving of [her] respect”. If she did she surely kept that determination private. What she did was publically disapprove of his strategy. Which, looking at it, is exactly what she presently does to Mark Shea.

    • It helps that Shea’s Patheos blog is neither his real job nor his main writing. As I pointed out once before, Catholic and Enjoying It! had a post about Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show.

      • Also, even at his personal blog, a brief overview of his posts revealed maybe two rants in as many pages. I see also random levity, prayer requests, plugs for various events, and a great deal more dissatisfaction with the GOP and certain elements in the Catholic media sphere than with merely “Our God King Emperor” or the “Drop 50 IQ Points when You Listen to the Clueless Media.”

        So he’s admirable because he’s basically right, if histrionic sometimes, at things which are bad. But that doesn’t make him uniquely admirable on the Internet. Perhaps the best way to explain why he stands out: There are as many rants on his blog as there are apologies.

    • Irenist

      I think posts like this may indicate why Leah views Mark Shea as a serious interlocutor:

  • Jonas

    Any talk of Christian “charity” or “love” goes out the window when it comes to homosexuality. I wouldn’t bother making the effort on this topic.

    • Chastity and homosexuality

      2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

      2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

      2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

    • Even Mark Shea doesn’t go that far. Read his response. It isn’t the homosexuality but the brownshirting. Hate the term if you want, but he crafted the metaphor more carefully than you give him credit.

      My own attitude toward homosexuality is, it may surprise her to know, pretty relaxed. That is, while I regard homosex as a sin, I don’t regard it as a uniquely terrible sin, nor do I pretend to have any answers about the genesis of the disordered attraction, nor do I think it’s my job to go around telling people with temptations I do not feel what they should be doing, nor do I think that homosex should be punished by civil law, nor do I think that gays who love their partners should be told to stop, nor do I think they should be prevented from having the right to support one another financially or be denied the normal civil protections anybody should have.

      What I do think, however, is that the gay community is unusually prone to an ugly combination of bullying and narcissism and that Savage is a poster boy for that. More people like Leah and a lot fewer like Savage would do a world of good for them.

    • Irenist

      I don’t think marriage equality advocates are wasting their time when engaging with thoughtful Christian conservatives. (“Thoughtful” is the key here.) Some of us Catholics, e.g., are capable of thinking thoughts like “I think divorce and contraception are sinful, but I can’t imagine wanting them to be illegal. Similarly, I accept the Church’s teachings on sexuality, but opposing civil marriage equality just feels cruel and counterproductive.” I know LOTS of Catholics who feel this way. I think the arguments of people like Andrew Sullivan have done far more to make support for marriage equality intellectually attractive to Christians than the arguments of atheists who think we Christians are too mean-spiritedly homophobic to engage with.

  • I want to know whether Mark and others think it’s always inappropriate for a non-Christian to critique an in-group thing like approach to scripture, or if there’s a way for Savage or others to do it that they would find helpful.

    It’s worth pointing out that he didn’t critique Mark Shea’s in-group thing of scriptural interpretation whatsoever. Catholics are not beholden to mere literalism, &c., &c., and that Dan Savage didn’t seem to want to really engage this at all.

    • leahlibresco

      Catholics aren’t the only ones driving the political discourse on this, and I don’t think Savage or anyone else has an obligation to address every argument on one side in a single speech. It’s all right to just call out one pernicious strain and try to root it out.

      • I agree! But then you can’t call out Mark Shea for defending or not a principle he has no necessary interest in. (Was this your intent? If not, I happily retract the observation.)

        Also, it remains that Savage was not at all interested in debate. I couldn’t hear him over the sound of his tone, to adapt your post’s title.

  • anon atheist 78

    I think you are orders of magnitude too generous towards Mark Shea and his Fred Phelps like actions. Do you really think it is necessary to explain the difference between bulling – driving somebody to commit suicide – and what Dan did? Shouldn’t we keep at least a minimum amount of intellectual integrity? We cannot keep pretending that rhetoric devices like charges of bulling or the “homosexual agenda” are real arguments when in reality they are solely used to cover up the fact that the positions that these people hold are intellectually unattainable.

    • Is bullying only bullying when you get someone to want to kill himself?

    • And Fred Phelps-like? Please, show me a picture of Shea standing outside a funeral with a sign that says “God Hates Fags.” Anything of that vein. Please. Because I would hate it if what you just said was pernicious calumny.

  • John

    Any time any authority figure speaks to a group of teenagers and uses the podium to isolate a sub-group of those kids for public derision, we have a situation of “bullying”. Especially if the majority begins to join in.

    If a teacher or other authority figure strode the podium to talk about the 1st Amendment and then proceeded to harass all the kids whose parents vote Democrat – finding that less than 30% of the class is in that category, to cat-calls and the delight of their Conservative classmates…. would it be “nothing” or would it be “bullying”?

    You can disagree about a religion and a religion’s moral teaching, but to do so with crude language and personalized passion directed to minors, teens who aren’t in a position to reply to either the speaker or their peers…. is crossing a line of fair play. Which is especially important when the “goal” is to promote some sort of “cultural acceptance of equality” whereby everyone is judged by the same standard.

    Since no Democrat and no gay activist would be cool with some Catholic Conservative Republican making fun of the beliefs and orientation of minors to the cat-calls and derision of a majority of their peers….why is it OK when your side does it? Unless what you seek ISN’T EQUALITY?

    • Brandon

      Indeed, you’re oh so repressed when someone says “bullying gay people because of the Bible is bullshit”.

  • Katherine Harms

    My answer to you and my answer to Dan Savage is, God loves you. He loves me, too. We can disagree all we want about what behavior he would prefer, but nobody can ever argue against the most obvious and profound truth in the Bible — God loves you. I find Dan Savage’s behavior revolting, because he said revolting things, and he said them to a captive audience (well, some did escape captivity) of young people. They deserved a good speech on the subject of why bullying is evil and what we ought to do about it, not a defensive/aggressive speech about his own pain. He has pain, and probably justifiable pain, and he has no doubt endured insult and injury, but he is supposed to be the grownup. It was not the place to vent his own anguish. There is a place to do that. He can go to God’s throne himself and cry out his own pain, but to attack a group of young people who have done him no harm is ridiculous and immature. But guess what? God loves him anyway, and God won’t give up on him. Or you. Or me. That’s who God is.

  • Man, I love it here.

  • Ronald King

    I have never been to this site before and I find that there is a level of intelligence here which I can only hope to begin to comprehend by spending more time here. I read Leah’s post on mathematics first and was curious why she needed a break. Resistance to the truth of another human being’s reality can be extremely hurtful and draining. What appears to be rejected and misunderstood by those who consider themselves Christians and have a “conservative” framework is the expression of rage from those who have been identified as being “disordered”. Rage would be a natural response for someone who has been attacked in this way. What the “conservatives” do not understand is that labelling someone as disordered in the current discussion is a violent act. To call someone a “brownshirt” in this discussion is a violent act. The rage of the one who has been a victim of such violence, and I am purposely not discussing physical violence at this time, is the uninhibited language of how deeply one has been hurt. In my opinion, it is critical for the victim of prejudice and the perpetrator of prejudice to understand the language of the victim and how deeply that human being has been harmed throughout her/his life from the attitude, words and actions of others who have rejected and invalidated their humanity.

  • Seamus

    t’s similarly hard for us to have a discussion of appropriate political rhetoric when Mark’s post ends by comparing church vandalism carried out by a group of queer activists to Kristallnacht.

    Did I get this right? You are suggesting that Mark has gone over the top by using a reference to the Night of Broken Glass to talk about the acts of people who literally break the glass on church buildings?

    • Jonas

      “At least 91 Jews were killed in the attacks, and a further 30,000 arrested and incarcerated in concentration camps.[2] Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked, as the attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers.[3] Over 1,000 synagogues were burned (95 in Vienna alone), and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged” (Wikipedia)

      Yeah, I don’t think they’re comparable.

      • Certainly not in magnitude or historical significance. But in the hearts of the perpetrators, how much a difference could there be?

        (This is not what Seamus says, so do not think I’m defending the whole of his comment.)

  • John

    What I’ve always found very interesting is how gays especially (and then feminists) seem to have a really difficult time making distinctions. Conflating similar or ‘like’ things with identity of other things is coin of their realm.

    Take for example the tendency to conflate disagreement or descriptions of their actions as “disordered” with VIOLENCE.

    To be “violence” disagreement has to involve actual ‘violence’. Else, the word has no meaning.
    To bully is to denigrate someone verbally/emotionally and usually also physically. Typically the bully is a popular, powerful person who is singling out an individual or sub-group not just for personal cruelty but also or especially for public, peer cruelty.

    Now here’s the thing: virtually everyone who has gone through K-post grad public schools have been bullied at least once in their lives and it had nothing to do with sexual orientation. It had to do with being the “new kid” or the junior classman, or being too fat or thin, too tall or short, for not wearing the right shoes or having glasses, etc.

    It’s not pleasant and it is often traumatic. But “violence” it’s not unless sustained and/or directly physical.

    Similarly, the Catholic Church’s position that merely begs to differ with your subjective position as to the order or dis0rdered nature of your same sex attractions, is not “violence”. It’s “a difference”.
    There is no hue and cry from Catholics to actively ferret out or persecute those who experience Same Sex Attraction.

    There’s no presumption that a “disorder” is automatically ‘sinful’ either. Or that a disorder in one area of life automatically means there’s no other redeeming qualities in the person, or that they’ve no rights or dignity or value.

    Not at all. Guess what else the Church holds to be a disorder? Depression.

    Having a chemical imbalance is a “disorder”. It doesn’t make you a sinner and it doesn’t mean all your ideations are evil or you’ve no dignity, no destiny for glory or no value.

    Now obviously those who identify themselves as “gay” will disagree about a Church teaching that holds their attractions to be disordered. But don’t conflate “disorder” with “evil and oozing with horribleness with no skills”.

    Distinctions are in order – and if you can’t make them, if you can’t see the difference between a disagreement about the order or disorder of the attraction vs. “bullying physical assaults that are violent in nature, possibly homicidal against which we need to defend ourselves with commesurate violence….” you’ve got a problem.

    • Ronald King

      If you do not understand the violence associated with labelling someone or a group as disordered because of same sex attraction, then you lack the empathy and insight needed comprehend this reality.

      • Diordered has a specific, literal, philosophical definition. As in, “there exists a proper order to things” is presupposed and disorder is, literally, “this lacks the proper order.” It’s almost clinical.

        That said, I can understand how you might say this, much in objecting to someone saying that a fire, once put under foam from a fire extinguisher, can be said to be “retarded.” It carries not only bad connotations but a different definition entirely.

        However, we’re in the “consubstantial” dilemma. There is no other word which can say precisely what we mean and can be understood, from context, as meaning only what we mean. So we use it, knowing it’s a little awkward and some will take it the wrong way. That’s why we take pains to make sure folks don’t take it the wrong way.

        Which is precisely what John did throughout, which indeed was the point, of his comment. Your criticism of this particular commenter is misplaced. One might say your comment is disordered. (But only in the limited way we’ve already explained.)

        • Ronald King

          Why would someone take it the wrong way? You may take pains to make sure folks don’t take it the wrong way, but that is not empathy. Instinctively we are constructed to know what is empathy and what is not empathy. I understand what you and John are attempting to state, however you do not seem to understand empathy. Your response appears to be one associated with the dominance of left-brain logic and the linear thinking that goes with it. However, there is more to interpersonal relationships than what appears to be logical from the left-brain perspective. My comment may appear to you to be disordered due to your lack of knowledge of the dynamics of interpersonal relationships and interpersonal neurobiology.

          • I responded to this, emphasis added:

            … the violence associated with labelling someone or a group as disordered because of same sex attraction …

            My contention was to disprove violence as necessary in the use of “disordered.” That you compliment my comment for its to “left-brain” logic seems to underscore my counterclaim.

          • Patheos ate my longer comment. (Should put that on a T-shirt.)

            If what you mean is to echo John’s comment that homosexuals will readily conflate violence against homosexuals with our use of the word “disordered,” I will point out that the use and origin of the word comes from a document meant to widely expound narrow doctrines, for consumption of those who need to know what the Church teaches.

            We do not, even with a handshake and a smile, accuse a man of being disordered when we first meet him just because he has an earring on the wrong ear. I find myself defending the term more often than I use it.

        • Concerned Citizen

          Simple. I don’t accept your premise that there is a correct way to engage in sexual activity. I do not share you presupposition and so I do not share your conclusion. Even though you said that was impossible. Once again, reality meets dogma.

          • leahlibresco

            I’m not sure this is a fair critique, Concerned Citizen. I don’t have any problem with sexual intimacy between two people of the same gender, but that’s not because I deny that there are incorrect ways to engage in sexual activity. In the sexual sphere, as in any other, I think there are plenty of wrong ways — ways that hurt people and objectify them. I just have never heard a compelling reason why queer romance falls into this category.

            But I think it’s unfair to go after Ubiquitous for drawing lines between licit and illicit. The fight is about where the lines should be drawn.

          • Hang on. I said what? Here I thought I definined a term, outside of the context of sexual activity.

          • Donalbain

            Leah, I talked about the premise that I do not accept. I would not say anything about what you believe, that is not my place.

            And ubiquitous, you defined a term that you used in regard to sexuality. For sexuality to be disordered, it must have a proper order in which it should be done. I do not accept this premise and so I do not accept your conclusion that homosexual activity is disordered. Despite your earlier claim that such a thing was impossible.

          • CTRL + F disagrees. I think you have me confused with Ted “Macbeth” Seeber. In this comment thread fer sure, I did not mention sexual ethics whatsoever. I had hoped to provide a clarification about the use of “disordered.” As John pointed out earlier in the comments, disordered is used throughout the Catechism in multiple contexts.

            That said, I do happen to take the tack that there are disordered sexual acts. Rape stands out, and NAMBLA. Not that all things which are disordered are equally disordered, for there are degrees of order and disorder. My point here is to show at least one thing is disordered so to show your absolutist statement absolutely false.

            Also, are you Concerned Citizen? You’d better be careful switching handles like that. That sort of thing, even inadvertent, got Mike Flynn booted off an atheist blog. (Kind of a dirty trick to silence the opposition, I think, but either way that kind of thing isn’t good netiquette.)

  • DJ

    Dan Savage was right on the mark.
    Too bad the snivelling little christianists in the audience couldn’t stand to hear the truth.
    And I’m including you, Mark Shea.

  • Ronald King

    Unbiquitous, The point which I am attempting to make is that the use of the word “disordered” in this present context does further harm to those who have been harmed since being aware of their same sex attraction. The use of a philosophical understanding of the word does no good for the person it is used to describe. Empathy requires that we be in the other’s shoe in order to understand the impact our words have on the other. What I have witnessed with philosophy experts, not all, is the emphasis on the rational without a proper understanding of the emotional. That is another discussion. I see you have a blog and I would be interested in discussing this with you further.

    • The use of a philosophical understanding of the word does no good for the person it is used to describe.

      Absolutely. For them, CCC 2358, which is really just a re-emphasis of CCC 2052. Our present context did not appear to be one where our side conversation would have been inappropriate.

      I see you have a blog and I would be interested in discussing this with you further.

      Certainly! If you don’t have a blog, feel free to post a comment on the About page so I have something to respond to.

      • Ronald King

        Ubiquitous, Another little side note on CCC 2052 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”, correct me if I am wrong, could also be interpreted as, “You will love your neighbor as yourself.”. With our inability to express perfect love for ourselves and for God we are then predisposed to self harm and harming others unintentionally. So, taking into consideration the history of violence acted out against those with SSA there may also be a predisposition to post traumatic stress associated with being a victim of this violence. With PTSD anything that may remotely is associated with this violence can trigger symptoms of the trauma such as intense fear, rage, avoidance, numbing of affect, loss of trust, etc. So, to the outsider what may appear to be innocuous can actually trigger the whole emotional history of that particular trauma. CCC 2477 would seem to be applicable here. Thanks for you kind discussion.

        • Did my previous comment get eaten by Patheos? If so, here’s basically what I said:

          CCC 2477 is of course binding on all the faithful, but who in particular do you single out by mentioning it? Do you mean those suffering from a kind of PTSD or those suffering from the rash judgments made by those suffering from a kind of PTSD? What does your last comment get at?

          • Nope — my comment had been hidden in a tab. Scooby mystery solved.

          • Ronald King

            When we apply labels, such as disordered in this case, it is harmful to those who have already been harmed because of their sexual orientation. PTSD must be considered as a possibility, when we observe anger being acted out such as in the situation with Dan Savage. Rage would be a natural response for anyone who has been considered an outcast by the social system that person inhabits. The last comment above is appreciation for the tone of your comment. Anyway, CCC 2477 seems to apply to the discussion and the term disordered does seem to trigger the pain of being hurt no matter how clinically it is applied.

          • Here I thought rush judgement might apply to the PTSD victim who, in a rush, judges others for hating him or not caring for him for the mere use on their part of strictly clinical language. In fact, the use of clinical language does not in any way reveal an inward judgement on behalf of the person using it, which is pretty much the point of clinical language. This is pretty much the point John and I hoped to get across. I am sorry if it appeared any other way; Internet comments have a terrible bedside manner.

            Food for thought: PTSD hides the word “disorder” in an acronym. In a similar vein, would SSA-D be equally appropriate?

  • Hmm… As a seriously devout Catholic, I would suspect that it’s ALWAYS appropriate for a non-Christian to critique Scripture interpretations. The manner and tone of critique is another issue, but if we can’t stand up to logical questions, then our beliefs are probably nonsense. After all, that’s how they converted all those Greeks…who were masters of philosophical inquiry!

    My answer to Dan Savage would have simply been that Scripture is never bullcrap, but that there is enough bullcrap within us as people, that we (Christians very much included) often don’t understand its meaning or intent.

    My answer to anyone who sees Scripture interpretation as an “in-group” thing, would be that such a view is inconsistent with the prime assertion of Christianity, which is that Christ came for, and is accessible to, all us Gentiles. It’s not an in-group thing at all.

  • Lest it be said that those objecting to Dan Savage’s language as a matter of diction — rather than setting or context — are merely tone trolls: Ever since the shock value in a nice, heady “bullshit” went the way of sensitive singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars, cussing is about as meaningful as a dry fart, and about as interesting. As my French teacher said, a potty mouth is a sign of a poor vocabulary. Generally true, I’d say.

    But suppose this is not true. Suppose our man does have better, more interesting words which would fulfill the same purpose. In this case, we would wish he had a bad vocabulary; What stupidity is worse than a feigned, willful stupidity? Such a mental suicide is in a way worse to behold than if even the worst P*tty M**th be heard.

    This is not a paean declaring unilateral victory over invective, for if the situation warrants feel free to disgust me with grotesqueries. Better stated, here is my bias: No situation is too terrible to disgust me with banalities.

    • We also have the flipside of the problem: If the situation does not warrant it, please do not fly off the handle. To instantly throw up your hands and all over your keyboard is, among other things:

      1. Counterproductive, because it is
      2. Rude.

      I speak for myself but probably a lot more people when I say: I would have no problem with the ideas of man-made global warming or evolution if it weren’t for the behavior of advocates for each proposition. So now, on both of these issues, I’m simultaneously agnostic and apathetic when I may have been an ally.

  • Ronald King

    Ubiquitous, I knew you would see the D in PTSD as I have seen it for over 30 years in the DSM. There is no SSA-D diagnosis in the DSM. In this instance it is does not appear to be appropriate to use it and in my perception it is actually harmful. I also have a problem with the use of “disorder” in the DSM and have personally spent many hours attempting to help others ease the shame associated with that label being attached to their diagnosis.

    • I submit this image for your use: Clinical language does get dirtied by the hands of laymen. Men hate the dirt and learn to hate the label. Only when no other label will suffice is its use justified in bedside language, and only when no superior label exists is its use justified.

      No superior label exists to express the Catholic teaching on homosexual passions. Disagree if you must, for that since Adam is our prerogative, but it alone, cleaned up and ready for the prom, expresses what we mean.

    • I would also hasten to say: There is no shame in disordered passions, for there is no shame in anything except insofar as you are culpable. That, if itself gets cleaned up and ready for the prom, is the right way to approach the topic with something approaching bedside manner.

      • Ronald King

        I never went to the prom, too shy = too scared to ask. Shame is programmed into the psyche at an early developmental stage in one’s life and it becomes a part of the structure of the foundation of one’s identity. IMHO unresolved shame has been a transgenerational influence in the development of Catholic philosophy and theology throughout its history. It appears to me to have been intricately and unconsciously woven into the CCC. I see within the CCC a sort of dissociative personality structure in which there is espression of both love and compassion intermingled with prejudice and fear. That discussion is for another place. Low blood sugar, must go.

        • Wikipedia clued me in:

          It is characterized by at least 3 of the following:
          1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
          2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations.
          3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.
          4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.
          5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.
          6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

          No. 6, maybe, but it’d be a stretch. In any case, what disproves your diagnosis: Saints are not commonly grounded in such a disorder.

          • Ronald King

            Which diagnosis are you discussing?

          • “Dissociative personality disorder,” or the nearest analogue I found on Wikipedia.

          • Ronald King

            That looks like a sociopathic personality. There is a book out which I cannot remember at this time which illustrates the sociopathic/narcissitic personalities with high intelligence who are in positions of power.