February 08, 2009

"Less Shouting, More Talking"

There was an interesting essay in last week's Newsweek titled "Less Shouting, More Talking." The writer, Richard Mouw, is the president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and he wants to have a civil conversation about same-sex marriage, which he voted against when he cast his ballot in favor of Proposition 8.

I have spent several decades of my life trying to spell out an evangelical alternative to "the worst kind of fundamentalism." My friends and I have argued that the Bible supports racial justice, gender equality, peacemaking and care for the environment—views that often draw the ire of the worst kind of fundamentalists. But none of that seems to matter to folks who don't like our views about same-sex relations. Because we also believe that the Bible frowns on sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and a woman, we are being relegated to the margins of the civil dialogue.

I refuse to go to the margins. As my fellow citizens in a pluralistic society, gays and lesbians have a right to ask me what my sincerely held convictions mean for how they pursue their way of lives.

I don't doubt his sincereity, but he also brings up "deep concerns about the raising of our children and grandchildren," "what would keep us from extending marriage to a three-partner arrangement," and "will we even be allowed to counter these influences in our homes and churches without being accused of 'hate speech?'" These phrases are right out of the right-wing fundamentalist playbook, the "worst kind of fundamentalism" that Newsweek editor mentioned several weeks ago when the magazine ran a cover story on same-sex marriage.

Mr. Mouw wants credit for holding moderate positions on several other important issues, but for someone focused on marrying his same-sex partner, why should it matter his concern for the environment matter when Mr. Mouw wants to stand in the way of them enjoying the same civil rights he does?

Of course folks like Mr. Mouw can enter into a civil conversation about this issue--it's not his rights at stake, held hostage to the whims of voters. He can show a level of compassion while still being dispassionate. I suspect if roles were reversed, he'd be a bit more riled up if someone voted to take away HIS right to marry.

Trying to divert the focus on the tone of the conversation is a lame attempt to avoid facing up to the actual content--those who voted for Proposition 8 and any other constitutional prohabition of same-sex marriage treat GLBT people as lesser citizens. When one group places themselves up on a pedistal, especially when it propped up by a misinterpretation of the Bible, those who are looking up generally have to scream and shout to be heard.

When "the other" is treated as an equal, then we can have civil discourse. Until then, the GLBT community and their allies plan on making those advocating discrimination as uncomfortable as possible.

1 comment:

  1. Here’s another discussion of the Newsweek article by Richard Mouw: