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Introducing: The Gagnon Score

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2012

I’m an engineer by training, which means that I’m always looking for ways of measuring and quantifying things. So when I was putting together this post, the thought occurred to me that Robert Gagnon’s fabled method of responding to those with whom he disagrees just might be an instructive measurement. We can call it the Gagnon Score, which measures the reaction by at least one spokesman for established Evangelicalism to challenges to his beliefs. The Gagnon Score is measured in the number of pages he devotes to his response, and it goes like this:

When Alan Chambers renounced Reparative Therapy and Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) and said that gay people who are Christians can be as assured of salvation as anyone else who accepts Jesus as their savior, Gagnon’s response was 35 pages in length. This gives Alan Chambers a Gagnon Score of 35.

When Andrew Marin’s non-condemning outreach to Chicago’s gay community drew Gagnon’s ire, Marin earned a Gagnon Score of 24.

When BTB’s Timothy Kincaid questioned what he saw as Gagnon’s “unorthodox approach to doctrine,” He earned several successive scores: first, a measly 3, then a 15, then falling back to 5 before rising up to 19. Kincaid’s final Gagnon Score came in at an impressive 57.

Other examples: Prof. Lee Jefferson’s op-ed piece for the Huffington Post on the Bible and gay marriage scored a 10 on the Gagnon Scale. Dr. Jennifer Wright Knust’s piece on CNN’s Belief Blog on The Bible’s surprisingly mixed messages on sexuality registered a 9 on the Gagnon Scale. And the book Reasoning Together: A Conversation on Homosexuality by Mennonite theology professors Ted Grimsrud and Mark Thiessen Nation registered a 20 on the Gagnon Scale.

So far, I think Timothy is the champion, but Alan Chambers has come in at a respectable second place. So far. I have a feeling Gagnon isn’t finished with Chambers yet.

Update: If you’re going to introduce a new unit of measure, its important to be accurate. I had missed this 26 page response to Marin, which brings his total score up to 50. It’s seven points behind Timothy’s score but it does make for a very impressive second place. My apologies for the error.



Craig L. Adams
July 7th, 2012 | LINK

I suppose that Alan Chambers’ high Gagnon Score is due to the fact that he is perceived by Dr. Gagnon as a traitor. Timothy only achieved his high score by keeping the conversation going (and good for him!).

July 7th, 2012 | LINK

So a Gagnon is a unit of measurement? Please tell me there wont be milligagnons or centigagnons. God forbid there might be megagagnons or gigagagnons.

Reed Boyer
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Gagnon? Must have missed him in the mix.

Reed Boyer
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Given Timothy Kincaid’s demonstrated track record of being able to wield the big spoon to stir up masses of . . . “discussion,” may we remove “the TK factor” from the Gagnon scoring process?
TK tends to queer the results (or “skew” or “disproportionately weight” if another verb is desired).

Alan Chambers
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

I’ll take the bronze.

July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Dr. G. insists he has focused on the homosexuality issue because it is so profoundly dangerous to Christ-inane-ity. I DO think he’s a little too obsessed with boy-sex for a straight guy. Toss in the sin of pride over his sense of his grasp of the material, and you have Dr. G on toast.

On a more personal level, with that beard of his I think he’d make quite the cuddly teddy bear. There: I’ve just said something nice about him so this couldn’t possibly be an ad hominem post.

Ben in Oakland
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Lee, gagnon is both completely correct and completely incorrect at the same time. It’s an occupational hazard forthe self-appointed magisterial of Christ.

You see, he has made homosexuality his Armageddon, the last stand of all of the faithful who agree with him, becuase homosexuality is, after all, the subject that obsessed jesus and paul. If the church is wrong about homosexuality–and it couldn’t be more wrong if it entered the I am wrong sweepstakes and took the top three prizes– then people might question anything else the church has to say. He’s correct in that anybody with a brain ought to reject the church’s teaching on socalled moral issues in toto , not just the antigay part.

However, he lacks understanding of how people think. The church has been dead wrong on many issues– witch burning and segregation come to mind– and it has had little, if any effect.

People believe what they want to believe. That’s the operating principle here.

Richard Rush
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Ben said, “The church has been dead wrong on many issues . . .”

I have a tough time thinking of any issues where the church has ever been right. And, like the classic broken clock that is right twice a day, on the rare occasions when the church has been right, it’s generally been for the wrong reasons.

July 8th, 2012 | LINK

I think you have to distinguish between single and cumulative page lengths. So Chambers leads in the single-sitting category though not yet in the cumulative standings.

Ben In Oakland
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Richard, there have been a few.

Loving one another.

Being kind and generous to others.

Treating others as you would like to be treated.

Minding your own business, not other peoples.

And believe it or not, having a proper attitude of gratitude to the Universe.

Timothy Kincaid
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

I can’t decide between the Grammy Response (praise God for winning for a song called F*ck That Skanky Ho) or the Sports Response (generically point upward to indicate that you think God loves you just a pinch more than the other team). I think maybe I’ll just smugly pretend to be modest. I am humbled by the company.

Nathan F
July 8th, 2012 | LINK

Very interesting idea, but it seems counter-intuitive to me that a high Gagnon score is a good thing. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? As it stands, Gagnon himself would have the lowest possible Gagnon score. :)

July 9th, 2012 | LINK

I think a more useful service to BTB readers would be to explain why Gagnon’s responses are so voluminous. I really don’t want to wade through his writings to find out. Are they larded up with Bible quotes? Does he make the same point multiple times? Does he go off on irrelevant tangents? That’s really the issue, not the number of pages. If he writes 50 pages of compelling, relevant argument, then he shouldn’t be criticized.

Michael Bussee
July 9th, 2012 | LINK

Love Alan Chambers’ comment. Hey, we could make reading Gagnon an Olympic event…

J Chervaux
July 14th, 2012 | LINK

Once and for all, let it be said that Gagnon is an inaccurate and poor student of Biblical homosexuality : he is far too opinionated and self-indulging for someone who would have us believe in his impeccable judgement (whence my jibe at his status as an ayatollah), has no grasp whasoever of the major ancient Near Eastern languages apart from Masoretic Hebrew, never consults scholarly literature in other tongues (German and French Bible studies simply do not exist for him), and he is ridiculously parochial in his selection of primary and secondary sources (they are principally American, and wherever possible come from the Evangelical right).

Just consult any piece of his which appears on his website ; you will discover that he is all rhetoric and blistering, with virtually nothing in guise of scientific apparatus. I would have been loathe to expose him for what he is (see S. Ackerman, When Heroes Love. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David [2005], 16-17 ; J. E. Miller, ‘A Response to Robert Gagnon on “The Old Testament and Homosexuality”’, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 119, 2007, 86-89) had he been decent enough not to charge his opponents with gross dishonesty. So let us not mince words any longer.

Jean-Fabrice Nardelli

J Chervaux
July 14th, 2012 | LINK

Time has come to conclude and leave aside the duty of impartiality which
it was oftentimes found difficult to adhere to in the face of the detailed evidence forour a uthor’s [Gagnon’s] crass academic and scientific dishonesty in the making of his book, but which nonetheless had to observed.

The Bible and Homosexual Practice is a quite a slippery target to criticize, despite its documentary flaws and outrageous claims, for Gagnon never grants anything that does not square with his conservative methodology,
thus putting those who disagree with him in an uncomfortable position. If they multiply rebuttals over minutiae, they are bound to produce, in the average reader,the feeling that but for these blunders, the book basically stands, which could not be more wrong-headed ; and if these critics fault the author for indulging in ideology driven
special pleading at odds with the critical method in Bible studies that rightly dominates the more academically-minded studies of Scripture, all Gagnon will have to do is ignore this charge as stemming from a ‘liberal’ viewpoint.”

There exists no middle ground between bowing down to Gagnon and stepping up as the sneering,scholarly onlooker who deems himself capable of proving that, eleven years after,at a times when America looks torn between twin extremes of acceptation and outright
demonization, most provocatively advocated by Lady Gaga and Fred Phelps
(of the Westboro Baptist Church), The Bible and Homosexual Practice is moot. As Queer scholars or ‘liberal’ exegetes, we have a duty towards students and the GBLT community who needs guidance rooted in sound interpretation of the Scripture, not
to wallow in a pity party around such a detestable pile of junk.

Jean-Fabrice Nardelli
Universite de Provence

Timothy Kincaid
July 14th, 2012 | LINK

J Chervaux, I think that you will enjoy a commentary that I will be posting tomorrow or Monday

J Chervaux
July 16th, 2012 | LINK


Thank you for the follow-up post. I eagerly await your commentary.

July 16th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you for sharing your analysis. This man consistently failed to
reach out or respond to multiple opportunities to actually discuss any
of these issues man to man between Marin and Gagnon. His so-called educated response was never
predicated on any real-time discussion on a face to face level. After we
made many repeated efforts to open up any sort of dialogue, Gagnon consistently refused to leave his ivory tower. This is not the Jesus I believe in as the gospels indicate a very involved leader who walked with the people to bring them good news, abundant life and hope for a better way.

J Chervaux
July 17th, 2012 | LINK

@PM View: Who are your talking to??

July 19th, 2012 | LINK

The Marin Foundation reached out to Gagnon multiple times without success. It was very disappointing as we kept discovering his ‘analysis’ as published attacks. This ranking system highlighted for us the way in which Gagnon treated others.

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