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Newsweek Essay Draws Howls of Protest

Jim Burroway

December 9th, 2008

Anti-gay activists are pulling their hair out over Lisa Miller’s essay in Newsweek, in which she lays out a religious case for same-sex marriage. She opens her essay by saying, “Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side.”

As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with one particular segment of Christianity. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the Focus on the Family Board of Directors, wrote:

Many observers believe that the main obstacle to this agenda [of allowing same-sex marriage] is a resolute opposition grounded in Christian conviction. Newsweek clearly intends to reduce that opposition.”

That was one of the calmer reactions. Tony Perkins of the Family “Research” Council denounced it as “yet another attack on orthodox Christianity.” The Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association called it “one of the most biased and distorted pieces concerning homosexual marriage ever published by any major news organization.” Not surprisingly, he also is calling on his followers to inundate Newsweek with emails.

And Peter LaBarbera, not one to be outdone, called the essay a “scandalous hit piece” and an “embarrassing attempt to make a Biblical case for sodomy-based ‘marriage.’” (See why we have an award named in his honor?) And Peter’s pal, Matt Barber responded, “You know, scripture says woe to those who call evil good and good evil, and I say woe to Newsweek for even printing this drivel.”

Part of the outrage stems from the fact that anti-gay activists have tried for years to couch their opposition to same-sex marriage on sociological research to make their point — research that, as we have pointed out many times, they have distorted with amazing consistency. But by calling on science instead of the Bible, they seek to inoculate themselves from charges of trying to impose their religious views on others. “See? We’re not religious zealots. Science supports us,” they like to say. Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, repeated this line in saying, “The arguments that are used are often not biblical arguments. They are secular arguments, arguing about marriage as being a civic and a social institution, and that societies have a right to define marriage.” And Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, claimed, “We’re not trying to take the Bible and put a bill number on it and legislate it.”

But when they are talking among themselves, religious arguments are firmly at the fore, whether it’s LDS Elder M. Russell Ballard speaking of the “central doctrine of eternal marriage” or Richard Land himself explaining with an apparently straight face that what he calls the global warning “hoax” is simply due to “cycles of nature that God has allowed in the cosmos.” Neither of these positions sound very scientific to me.

But the religious face is not the public face that these religiously-motivated leaders want to present. And by having to respond to Lisa Miller’s essay, they are forced to publicly defend the religious basis for their beliefs, which annoys a few of them to no end.  Watch how Concerned Women for America’s Janice Shaw Crouse pivots when asked about the Newsweek essay:

“Beyond the Scriptural distortion, the article distorts the pro-marriage and pro-family movement that is solidly grounded on sociological research about family structures that contribute to the well-being of women and children.”

She then goes on to mischaracterize what “experts agree.”

But the other part of the outrage also seems clearly aimed at someone who really did intrude onto their home turf. After all, in the same-sex marriage debates, only one small group of Christians are presumed to be allowed to use the Bible — when they think nobody else is looking. Anti-gay activists behave as though the Bible is solely their possession and no one else’s — including other Christians who read the same Bible and come to different conclusions. It’s okay for anti-gay opponents to turn outside their own sphere of authority — science — to make their point. But now that Lisa Miller has taken them on in their own home turf, they’ve let loose with their persecution complex and complained that they– and by extension all of Christianity, since they presume to speak for all Christians – have been “attacked.” 

Which reminds me of a great and appropriate graphic making its way around the Internet:

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Pomo
December 9th, 2008 | LINK

This is NOT an attack on Orthodox Christianity. If anything it is an attack on Evangelical views of certain topics. The problem is that Evaneglicals believe that ALL their beliefs constitute Orthodoxy. So if anyone of them is questioned, its attacking Orthodoxy.

There is no wiggle room with many issues.

Hence the problem the rest of your post addresses.

Pomo
December 9th, 2008 | LINK

um… and why am I NOT on your blogroll??? ;)

Ephilei
December 9th, 2008 | LINK

I’m a Christian and pro-marriage.

The article was better than most, but contains a fatal flaw which does attack Christianity. It has nothing to do with same-sex marriage but with the misapplication of love. The love of Christ isn’t styled after romantic comedies or libertarian “do whatever you want” or politically correct, “every opinion must be positive.” Christ’s love involved yelling at “children of the devil,” tearing up a religious landmark, and eventually the very suicide of God. The love of Jesus is tough love. It’s “leave your family,” “sell all you have,” “take up your cross and follow me” love. Take the woman at the well, for example, which the article uses for support. Yes, Jesus did love her despite her sins and misplaced beliefs but the conversation is clear that Jesus does not approve either. Among Jesus traveling disciples were a cheating tax collector and prostitute, but you can bet both changed behavior. You could perhaps invoke Christian love to pass libertarian style stay-out-of-our-business law, but it cannot address morals. Love as a catch-all argument would equally support any sin that does not (clearly and directly) hurt others. I don’t support Mohler et al, but confusing love with approval is already making the Church toothless.

If you want only feel-good love without discipline, don’t appeal to Christianity.

David C.
December 9th, 2008 | LINK

To Ephilei,

Actually, I want to leave plenty of room for Christians to believe what they want. I do not want to leave room for them to enshrine their beliefs in secular law for a variety of reasons, chief among them being that many of those beliefs are subject to wildly varying interpretations and many are no longer suitable (if they truly ever were) for ordering the society of our modern world.

The article here and the situation it comments on are significant beyond any scripture-based argument by Lisa Miller. To wit, that when the anti-gay industry is forced out into the open by being challenged on their own turf, we see that their tactics have been fundamentally dishonest, both in the false representation of their position being supported by social science, and forthrightly admitting that their efforts are grounded on specific interpretations of scripture.

As a scriptural aside, the effect of allowing gay people to marry would in an instant lift them from the sin of adultery, and put their love for each other on a more holy footing. If Christians could get over the interpretation of ancient texts they can never fully ensure are even referring to our modern idea of homosexuality, this whole aspect of the “culture war” would end. Because of that shadow of a doubt, Christians should drop their objections to same-sex marriage and leave the judgement to God.

Ben in Oakland
December 9th, 2008 | LINK

We have to thank the fundies. they keep talking aobut it, which means that THEY are taking it out of the closet…

…unlike those incompetent (fill in the blank) who screwed up this campaign as badly as they could.

cd
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

I think if you put all the relevant Biblical texts together and truly meditate on the aggregate of them, you can’t genuinely sustain a conviction of the anti-gay interpretation. It looks solid on the surface, but it just doesn’t really work.

The older I get, the less convinced I am that the Bible cares much about sexuality at all. It’s there, it often messes up things, the messes have to be dealt with, but it is fairly incidental. It’s process, not event.

Willie Hewes
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

Wow, these people are being really nasty about the Lisa Miller’s religious beliefs!

Hey, you think we should write to those No Mob Veto guys? Maybe they can speak up for her, after all, they have committed themselves to exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry — against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.

They got to have something to say about this, right?

Also, I found it very funny that the commentators on the article online wasted no time in illustrating a minor but important point in the article: “Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument).”

Look at how many of the “disagree” comments talk about anal sex, the anus, or poop. It’s unbelievable.

Timothy Kincaid
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

Ephilei,

Take the woman at the well, for example, which the article uses for support. Yes, Jesus did love her despite her sins and misplaced beliefs but the conversation is clear that Jesus does not approve either.

You (and Miller) may want to be cautious with this Scriptural reference. While “go and sin no more” is perhaps the favorite verse to those who most align Christianity with adherence to (selected) Levitical commandments, it is also the least historically sound.

The Pericope Adulterae (the story of the woman at the well) is believed by many scholars to have not become part of the Scripture until the fourth century and it was unlikely to have been written by the author of the Gospel of John (or the Gospel of Luke, where the story found itself in some texts).

Zeke
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

Ephilei, I don’t think you paid very close attention when you read the story of the Woman at the well since it seems that you got it almost completely upside down and backwards.

The reason that Christ and other Jews looked down on the woman was PRIMARILY because she was a SAMARITAN, who were considered, even by Jesus, lower than dogs. Jesus asked the woman to go and bring back her husband. She responded that she didn’t have a husband and he told her that she was telling the truth because she had had five husbands and the man whe was living with now was not her husband. He went on to tell her about the “water of life” with ONE SINGLE TIME condemning her, shaming her or even telling her to repent and become a hateful, judgemental, obnoxious proselytyzer in order to become a good Christian. All the scripture says is that she went away and told the other Samaritans about what he had told her and because of this many were drawn to him and followed him even though it was COMPLETELY contrary to the culture, religion and traditions of the day.

The point was that even Jesus looked down upon her until she asked him “do not even dogs deserve compassion? Even Jesus had to grow and turn away from prejudices that he, the self proclaimed lord and saviour of the world, had learned through the cultural, traditional and religious indoctrinations in his society that he was brought up with.

I think the story of the woman at the well is more about what JESUS learned from the Samaritan woman than it is about what the woman learned from him.

Zeke
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

make that “…’not’ ONE single time…”

Zeke
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

Bottom line:

The words, examples, and life of Jesus the Christ, as reported in the Gospels, teach us how to live lives of inclusive love and abundant welcome for all of God’s children; especially those who have been legally, spiritually or by culture and tradition marginalized and oppressed in society (as found in the story of “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well”, John 4:1-42).

cd
December 10th, 2008 | LINK

The love of Jesus is tough love. It’s “leave your family,” “sell all you have,” “take up your cross and follow me” love. Take the woman at the well, for example, which the article uses for support. Yes, Jesus did love her despite her sins and misplaced beliefs but the conversation is clear that Jesus does not approve either. Among Jesus traveling disciples were a cheating tax collector and prostitute, but you can bet both changed behavior. You could perhaps invoke Christian love to pass libertarian style stay-out-of-our-business law, but it cannot address morals. Love as a catch-all argument would equally support any sin that does not (clearly and directly) hurt others. I don’t support Mohler et al, but confusing love with approval is already making the Church toothless.

No one is saying that. You’re confused because you think the claim that gay sex is a sin holds water.

The point of the argument about applicability of Christian love is not really about getting over not the sin claim (which is Biblically problematic) but against the prurient faux and selective prudery that antigay people create out of Paul’s generalized prudery.

If you want only feel-good love without discipline, don’t appeal to Christianity.

In mature Christianity love is a high and suffering kind of love. No one says otherwise. But is it not strange how the antigay sorts refuse to suffer for what they love, and do not love what they suffer for?

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