Avoiding Solipsism

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Avoiding Solipsism

In my recent Newsweek column, I described the sadness that hit me on Election Day morning when I saw angry groups gesturing angrily to each other as they waved signs for and against the California referendum on same-sex marriage. Since that column appeared, I have seen hundreds of responses to my plea for a civil discussion of the issue, some of them modeling the civility I asked for, and others from folks who continue to wave the signs in anger.

Jake from Chicago is one of the sign-wavers. On his blog he expresses his rage over the fact that Newsweek failed to print his letter criticizing me. Actually, “criticizing” is a weak description in this case. Jake uses two nouns to describe me. I won’t repeat the second one in this space, but here’s a hint: it is a compound noun beginning with “a.” The first is more printable: Jake says I am a “solipsist.”

At first I wondered how Jake knew enough about me to describe me in such specific terms. Then it occurred to me that there was a Jake that I knew in high school in New Jersey who also liked to refer to me with the “a” word. The Jake who is presently quite angry with me is from Chicago, but we all move around a lot these days. Anyway, if it is the same Jake, I take some delight in discovering that he has expanded his vocabulary. The kid I knew in New Jersey would not have been voted “Most Likely to Discover What ‘Solipsist’ Means.”

For those who may not be as versed in philosophical terminology as the present Jake, a solipsist is someone who believes that he or she is the only person that exists—everyone else is a figment of the solipsist’s imagination. One of my favorite philosophical jokes was told by Bertrand Russell, who had mentioned in a BBC interview that sometimes he was tempted to endorse solipsism. A woman wrote to Russell and told him that she was pleased to hear about his attraction to that perspective. She was a convinced solipsist, she said, and was comforted to know that there might be another one around!

In his anger toward me, Jake has actually stumbled on an important social problem. As a metaphysical theory, solipsism is not very plausible. But many of us do fall into a pattern on occasion of a kind of functional solipsism. We act like we are the only ones who have genuine experiences, and we treat others as less than real persons. That was the problem I was trying to address in my column. On both sides of the current angry exchanges over same-sex marriage, there are real people with genuine hopes and fears. It would be a good beginning in working for the common good if we could at least hear each other in talking together about our concerns. The responses to my Newsweek column have convinced me even more that such a conversation is extremely difficult. I for one, however, will struggle against the temptation to retreat into a functional solipsism on the subject. And if Jake is willing to talk calmly, I will even ignore his previous use of the “a” word!

29 Comments »

  1. Love the Bertrand Russell illustration. Great post. I admit I laughed a little reading this one thinking of the times this has been my own experience. I hope I am as gracious as you seem willing to be.

    Comment by Todd — February 23, 2009 @ 3:34 pm


  2. I read you’re My Turn essay in Newsweek and decided to respond. You ask for a national conversation and wonder what people see as frightening about you. Though I can’t say how well my thoughts will be received, I will respond.
    I am not gay and am not promoting any particular lifestyle. My issue is the belief that people should conform to a particular mold, or they are labeled as defective. In my career, I help people to enhance their interactions with others. I don’t mold them into my ideal, but give them tools to accomplish their objectives within their belief system.
    You ask what it is about people like you that frighten others so much. There is no universal right or wrong. What is acceptable in one society is banned in another. What frightens people is that some people feel that they have the right and duty to tell others what they “should” believe, turning that belief into an obligation. I have found that doing things out of obligation creates a flock of mindless sheep. I have found that facilitating a person’s personal exploration and discovery process gives better results. When we come up with a conclusion, based on legitimate research, it becomes a positive part of our identity. When we are spoon-fed the answers, we tend to become a reaction to those teachings, either blindly believing or rebelling against them. I feel that our society would gain as a result of encouraging uniqueness rather than conformity, for teaching conformity only leads people to focus on perceived flaws, leading to insecurities. As an example, what I appreciate in a woman is much different than what women are taught is ideal for a woman, so I find it hard to locate a woman I find attractive who doesn’t feel defective and has much self-esteem. Who are we to determine what is ideal for all people? Americans can’t understand how Europeans can casually watch nudity on their television programs, while Europeans can’t understand how Americans can casually watch violence on their television programs. Can you tell me that one is right and the other wrong?
    In my work with couples, I have seen no facts that lead me to believe that heterosexual relationships are more positive, effective or loving than any other type of relationship. It isn’t anyone’s place to tell others what they can or cannot do, as long as no person or animal is hurt and nothing is forced against the will of another. Heterosexuals are already doing an excellent job of destroying the institution of marriage; are you afraid that gays and lesbians will add to the decline that has been promoted by heterosexuals? Churches have the right to determine who may wed in their facilities, but is it our right to deny a particular type of relationship to people based merely on our bias? We have laws to protect us from having to view inappropriate behavior in public, but who gave us the right to judge what people do in private.
    I’ve had clients who came to me frustrated after previously seeing a Christian counselor, for they felt that they were just taught the shoulds and shouldn’ts, not workable tools they could apply to their relationships. After a lifetime of guilt, put on them by their indoctrination, they ask me if what they do in private is normal. I ask them if what they do works for them. If they answer “yes,” I tell them that what they are doing is perfectly fine. If they answer “no,” we explore other options they can choose from. People have been led to believe that they should be normal, yet the norm for marriage is divorce, so do we truly want to be normal? It can be challenging to broaden a person’s indoctrination of right and wrong to consider using the terms effective and ineffective, instead.
    I find that compatibility has more to do with self-confidence than with similarities. When we are secure with ourselves, we tend to be more tolerant and appreciative of the differences in others. Everyone has something to offer. No one is any better than any other person. I look to see what is unique and special in each individual. I don’t focus on differences that I can negatively judge.
    You have your beliefs, and I can respect those beliefs. My problem occurs when your beliefs are pushed onto others, as if yours are right and all others must be wrong. Maybe Bush believed that by invading Iraq and sharing his religion and form of government the Iraqis would be grateful and appreciative. Would he have been grateful and appreciative had they taken over our country and offered their religion and form of government? When people insist that they are right, and so must win, then they are saying that everyone else must be wrong, and so must lose. I don’t know about you, but I don’t choose to be surrounded by a group of losers. What have we gained by labeling others as losers? Tolerance is what I believe in. Whenever I find myself intolerant, I don’t focus on those I am intolerant of; I focus on my personal insecurity that is triggering this intolerance. I teach people to think for themselves, while you teach people to believe as you do. I would much rather live in a society of free thinkers than a society of mindless followers.

    Comment by Barry Levine, Psy.D., M.F.T. — February 25, 2009 @ 11:07 am


  3. I have a blog post about your Newsweek piece. I spent a good deal of time writing it. Please read.

    Comment by Jean Kearns Miller — February 25, 2009 @ 1:55 pm


  4. Richard, it seems to me we are desperate in these days for two qualities among our leaders: courage and love. Your post displayed both. May your tribe increase!

    Comment by Len Hjalmarson — February 26, 2009 @ 9:32 pm


  5. Dear Dr. Mouw,

    Have you read the recent New York Times opinion piece “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage,” by David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch? Would a compromise of the kind they describe address your fears?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/opinion/22rauch.html

    I continue to share your hope that we can have a more civil debate about gay marriage in this country.

    Sincerely,
    Robert Hughes

    Comment by Robert Hughes — February 26, 2009 @ 10:43 pm


  6. Reading Barry Levine’s objections to Richard Mouw’s Newsweek column, it is immediately evident that Levine has unconditionally surrendered to the current philosophical relativism. There are no enduring moral truths. If no one is any better than anyone else, how, then, are we to get Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others in focus? This is reading on the same page as the claim that all cultures are equally valid and none is superior to any other. If he demands “rights” for gay marriage, the nest step is almost inevitably a similar demand for the right to be a bigamist. It is unclear to me where these “rights” are constitutionally guaranteed.

    Comment by David H. Wallace — February 27, 2009 @ 11:00 am


  7. What a fun article! This reminds me of my declaration at 14 years of age to my much older sister that when I grew up I was going to be a hedonist.

    Ever notice that the favorite gospel scripture quoted by those with a passing admiration for Jesus is Matthew 7:12. Yet, as Marva Dawn points out in her book “The Sense of the Call”, the primary focus in Jesus’ teaching is not God’s love, but God’s rule. She goes on to say that “the love God commands is intelligent, purposeful, and always directed to the needs of the other.” (p 9) We are taught in scripture to die to self and to serve others, which is a very different order than to ‘follow our bliss’ as Mr. Joseph Campbell would have us believe. Beyond the passing glance we find that the golden rule in Matthew is immediately followed by “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to *destruction*. . .but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) (emphasis mine)

    It is hard, hard, hard to stand as a Christian and say to another person, the life you are living is not the life designed for you by God while knowing that the lives many of us are living are not the life designed by God. We shrivel to think we can speak with any confidence knowing that there are fingers pointed back toward us. Yet this is why we are encouraged to remember, as many cultures do, that the life we live is not for ourselves alone.

    Many of us who call ourselves Christian are embarrassed by the public screeds against others that are broadcast through our television sets. We are confounded in finding expression to the idea that we agree with the basic ideas of the sanctity of marriage because we are not willing to denounce the life of another human being. As a result, we lose our voice.

    The late Richard John Neuhaus helped me to understand that the reason Christians began entering the political sphere in the eighties was because in the seventies the basic precepts of life were being tossed away through the courts. We recognize that to ‘permit’ and ‘authorize’ a poor behavior through law is to no longer acknowledge that there is a good and a purpose higher than ourselves. The political activism of Christians is motivated by that fact.

    But what of the individual? Do I need to stop engaging in aberrant fantasies that preclude intimacy with my husband? It would be better for my family, but since I am not harming anyone should society outlaw my aberrant mental life? At the outset, no. But when my aberrant life begins to harm the life of others (as it would in pedophilia, adultery, statutory rape, gambling, overshopping, excessive drinking etc) then others would want some assurances that my active imagination would not harm their way of life.

    The population of children in San Francisco is down to 14% which is unhealthily low number of families living in the community. We understand that the families force parents to reach into the community for the betterment of their children and their children’s future. This is too short a space to delineate the psychological health of children raised by their birth parents, their adopted parents, their single parent and same sex parent. While life is not perfect, children who are lucky enough to be raised by their birth parents are psychologically and economically advantaged. As society develops its rules it is to the best ideals that those laws should be sealed.

    Comment by Diane Smith — February 27, 2009 @ 11:22 am


  8. Dear Dr Mouw,
    I appreciate your continuing efforts to bring civility to this difficult for both parties issue. I personally liked the proposal for compromise in post 4 (nytimes article), and I believe we should all work toward such a compromise. And I would certainly want Christians not to get angry or wave signs against gays. Although Christians often forget that God is love, interestingly unbelievers remember it and they can spot our hypocricy from a distance.

    I would also like to thank Barry Levine (post 2) for his thoughtful response. I learnt from his perspective, and I plan to heed his concerns in developing my theology. Like him, I have also met many mindless and even evil Christians. A Christian has to be good and holy, and he doesn’t have to be weird.

    And finally, let’s all thank Jake. As Christians, we want to be like Christ. We don’t want to be either solipsists or the other “a” word.

    Comment by Konstantinos Kalpakidis — February 28, 2009 @ 6:48 am


  9. I was one of the hundreds of people who wrote to you in response to your Newsweek article. I hope I was one of the civil ones. While, given the volume of responses you received, I wouldn’t be shocked if you didn’t have time to reply (although I would be delighted if you did), I’m sure that plenty of people who wrote to you, had, as I did, questions of their own. I was wondering if you could, at the very least, post some of those questions and your responses to them. I’d be just as interested to hear how other people responded to you as I would be to hear what you thought about what I wrote.

    Comment by Eric — March 2, 2009 @ 9:01 pm


  10. Considering the ostensible premise of your “My Turn” column, my use of profanity in my response was an unfortunate choice. But I swear all the time. It’s probably my worst habit, right after drinking too much diet soda and ignoring the dishwasher when it needs to be emptied. So don’t interpret a swear word from me as the first horseman of the civility apocalypse.

    And before I comment on the rest of your post here, Richard, I have to say I’m concerned how cavalierly you turned “Newsweek didn’t print my letter” and “I wrote this response to Newsweek” into “[Jake] expresses his rage over the fact that Newsweek failed to print his letter” … especially given the fact that your god’s celebrated Ten Commandments expressly forbid the bearing of false witness.

    Here’s a link to what I wrote. Please note the complete absence of the rage you describe:
    http://nofo.blogspot.com/2009/02/newsweek-didnt-print-my-letter.html

    But you are correct in assuming I’m quite angry with you. And more than a little exasperated. My anger comes directly from the actions of people like you who work so tirelessly to deny gay citizens equal protection under the law. People like you who go on to defend their actions–and absurdly try to play the victim–in national newsmagazines.

    While your musings here on solipsism are lighthearted and entertaining, they pretty efficiently reinforce one of the arguments in my rage-infested blog post: When faced with the challenge of providing concrete, measurable, plausible justifications for denying marriage equality to gay citizens, you people just trot out irrelevant, misleading distractions. The fifth sentence of your “My Turn” column implies that changing the definition of a word is too burdensome a price for equality. The definition of a word! Really! By the time you finish your article, you’ve raised the specters of three-way relationships, Hollywood’s portrayal of religious folk and the transubstantiation of church talk into “hate speech.” You even trot out the time-honored horrors of having to talk to your kids about gay people.

    And yet you still don’t explain why my husband and I are forced to invest thousands of dollars to approximate the legal protections heterosexual couples take for granted when they get married. And why–according to our attorney–there are still uncloseable loopholes in everything we’ve done to protect our home, our relationship and the developmentally disabled adult we’re raising. Here’s a little bit more about him: He was abandoned by his father years ago and savagely beaten and emotionally abused (she repeatedly told him he should commit suicide) by his mother for more than 10 years before we rescued him. In addition to the horrors they inflicted in their own disabled child, these two heterosexuals have also racked up four marriages and at least two affairs between them. And yet you used your moment in Newsweek as a platform to complain about how stripping us of marriage equality made you cry instead of grabbing the opportunity to lash out at the heterosexuals who daily make a mockery of marriage by repeatedly cheating, divorcing each other and destroying their families.

    I cover a lot more than diversionary tactics in my blog post. In between all that rage, that is. Here are the rest of my points that you ignored–tacitly agreed to?–in favor of your folksy stories about solipsism:

    • The malicious denial of marriage equality has real consequences for real families like mine.

    • People like you have no right to be shocked, saddened or surprised by gay people’s angry reaction after you stripped us of our equality.

    • Reducing our highly justifiable anger over Proposition 8 to mere “worry” and “anxiety” is patronizing oversimplification bordering on calumny.

    • Your slippery-slope arguments are intellectually lazy and logically desperate … and easily trumped: If we follow biblical mandates on marriage, then we’ll have to follow biblical mandates on adultery, divorce, reproduction and the subjugation of wives.

    • Your selective interpretation of your chosen mythology has nothing to do with my right to equal legal protection in the real world.

    • Your baffling assertion that “gays and lesbians have a right to ask me what my sincerely held convictions mean for how they pursue their way of lives” undermines every plea you make for “dialogue” and a “flourishing pluralistic society.”

    • You can’t vote away my equality, defend yourself in a national newsmagazine, dodge your accountability with transparent diversions, falsely accuse me of emotional instability on your blog and then rationally expect me to sit down and have a friendly chat with you about it.

    Comment by Jake — March 4, 2009 @ 5:11 pm


  11. Dear Dr. Mouw,

    I understand that Jake has written a comment to this post, although I do not see it here. I read about it on his blog, and I want you to know that I whole-heartedly agree with him. I am a gay man and a Christian, and although your invitation to a “civil discussion” may be well-intentioned, what you propose to discuss is whether I and others like me are whole human beings, entitled to the same rights and happiness of other human beings, and that is a priori offensive and threatening. I’m sure you’d find a similar discussion about you, or about Christians, equally offensive. I find it astounding, in fact disingenuous, that you and others claim to be surprised at the reaction of the GLBT community to the Christian Right’s campaign to strip us of basic human rights.

    Comment by Mike Scott — March 4, 2009 @ 5:59 pm


  12. The solipsism of which Jake writes is very much along the lines of what you write with due concern about in the conclusion of your article above. I think he intends to suggest that the rhetoric of the conservative Christian position on homosexuality often becomes blind to other possible, plausible logic. It would feel that the evangelicals collectively do not want to recognize the possibility of the existence of healthy eros love between people of the same sex. For example, the exegetical standards employed by most evangelicals in interpreting scripture with regard to homosexuality are not the same standards used by many evangelicals with regard to the role of women in the church. To be consistent, apply the same rigor towards the place of gays in the community towards the role of women in leadership. Suddenly women should not be in leadership (with rare exception). Or, conversely, apply the standards of Biblical cultural context so often used to defend women in ministry in the same way to understand Biblical statements on homosexuality. Many mainstream and liberal scholars have done the latter, but are dismissed by the right because it is inconsistent with a “traditional” understanding of scripture (the Catholics would be with you on this :) ). By the same token, we might say that slavery is okay because the scriptures give many proscriptions about caring for slaves, including how and when to free them. I doubt anyone in our present culture would say that slavery, even a benevolent Hebrew Testament style slavery, is okay. But rather than confront the dissonance, so many evangelicals seem to have developed a sort of “collective solipsism” (if I may be allowed to have two otherwise very different words come together to mean something new) with regard to homosexuality. We are not understood. We feel that we are feared. We, sadly, so often leave faith behind us because of the pain of judgment we have felt from the evangelical church. I left the evangelical community, and ministry, largely because I felt the evangelical Christian idea of God was too small.

    Comment by Michael Brieschke — March 4, 2009 @ 8:44 pm


  13. Interesting post!

    Comment by SGarcia — March 5, 2009 @ 12:50 am


  14. Dr. Mouw,

    The solipsism of which Jake writes is very much along the lines of what you write with due concern about in the conclusion of your article above. I think he intends to suggest that the rhetoric of the conservative Christian position on homosexuality often becomes blind to other possible, plausible logic. It would feel that the evangelicals collectively do not want to recognize the possibility of the existence of healthy eros love between people of the same sex. For example, the exegetical standards employed by most evangelicals in interpreting scripture with regard to homosexuality are not the same standards used by many evangelicals with regard to the role of women in the church. To be consistent, apply the same rigor towards the place of gays in the community towards the role of women in leadership. Suddenly women should not be in leadership (with rare exception). Or, conversely, apply the standards of Biblical cultural context so often used to defend women in ministry in the same way to understand Biblical statements on homosexuality. Many mainstream and liberal scholars have done the latter, but are dismissed by the right because it is inconsistent with a “traditional” understanding of scripture (the Catholics would be with you on this ). By the same token, we might say that slavery is okay because the scriptures give many proscriptions about caring for slaves, including how and when to free them. I doubt anyone in our present culture would say that slavery, even a benevolent Hebrew Testament style slavery, is okay. But rather than confront the dissonance, so many evangelicals seem to have developed a sort of “collective solipsism” (if I may be allowed to have two otherwise very different words come together to mean something new) with regard to homosexuality. We are not understood. We feel that we are feared. We, sadly, so often leave faith behind us because of the pain of judgment we have felt from the evangelical church. I left the evangelical community, and ministry, largely because I felt the evangelical Christian idea of God was too small.

    Comment by Michael Brieschke — March 5, 2009 @ 9:06 am


  15. An open letter to Richard Mouw
    Dear Mr Mouw,
    In response to your article in Newsweek Feb 9 “Less Shouting, More Talking”
    Sure let’s talk, since you had asked about my vision of a “flourishing pluralistic society.” Let me share that with you. It would be a society in a transition- very much like the fad of cigarette smoking in this country- once a very popular pastime- which now has been regulated, and relegated, and become no longer socially acceptable. It is frowned upon, and even illegal in some places. Historically the transition took decades to reposition cigarette smoking in the mind of a society where it had once been considered the norm. But of course, we had very good reason to do this- public health was at risk. So laws were enacted by our government to protect the general public from cigarette smoke.
    Similarly I envision a transition with the fad of heterosexual coupling- yes, a very popular pastime indeed- which now must become regulated, and relegated. But of course, we do not have to have any particularly good reason to do this. Oh, but wait, we do! There is a very good reason- human over-population. It is impacting our planet’s health and placing it, and ourselves, at severe peril. Therefore laws must be enacted by our government to protect the sanctity of our planet from heterosexual marriage. We need to make it NOT legal for heterosexual couples to well, couple. Therefore we need to make it no longer socially or sexually acceptable. It must be frowned upon, and yes, totally illegal. Plus now that the heterosexuals have been scapegoated you can imagine the ensuing animosity, derision, and persecution they will suffer simply because of being heterosexual.
    But gee, doesn’t this scenario sound all too similar to what has actually been happening for decades, and without any particularly good reason to the fags? Um, I’m sorry I meant, to cigarettes.
    So now, Richard, you had asked where you would “fit into that kind of society.” Tell us if you would be voting to ban heterosexual marriage for the sanctity of our planet? Or would you just let it all go up in smoke?? Or would you be thinking that the heterosexual marriage ban was in reality a smoke screen for hetero-phobia???
    Sincerely,
    J.A.Bottary

    Comment by J.A.Bottary — March 5, 2009 @ 11:17 am


  16. In old Greece, homosexuality was widely accepted and practices. Gay marriage was not. One could – and should – wonder about this discrepancy. I believe that in Greece, marriage was a social institution, intended to raise family and lineage. Sex between men had not this goal and was more kind of an “enhanced friendship” or physical pleasure. The special value of marriage should not be forgotten. That is why I am an opponent of gay marriage. I do not condemn homosexuality, but I believe that a marriage has nothing to do with it.

    The Bertrand Russell joke was great! And, I must admit, I have expanded my vocabulary with the word “solipsist” :-)

    Comment by Evert Mouw — March 6, 2009 @ 2:43 am


  17. Curious, if this is a dialogue, why are there no posts from someone openly gay? I know many openly gay people who have posted here. Are none worthy? Or is it too scary to post something written by an openly gay person on the Fuller Theological Seminary website? Guess you are not *really* interested in a dialogue… you just perpetuates the functional solipsism. We don’t exist- at least not in the dialogue on your blog.

    Comment by Michael Brieschke — March 6, 2009 @ 8:29 am


  18. I would like to thank Fuller seminary people for printing posts from those openly gay people above. They had the right to be heard. I also want to thank the people themselves for their input and for bothering to post on a seminary website. It was very helpful to hear from you. I could feel your humanity and pain, and I apologise to you for all the hurt my Christian brothers have caused to you through insensitive comments.

    As an answer to both Christians and gay people, our Christian mission is not to become polemical and openly decry homosexuality as sin, but instead we need to bring God’s love to all humanity. As a Christian, my hope and prayer is that all people, including gays, will see something of God in me, that they meet God, and that this encounter with Him will be lifechanging.

    Comment by Konstantinos Kalpakidis — March 6, 2009 @ 12:08 pm


  19. Illegal aliens have more rights than gay couples in the U.S.

    Two members of the California Supreme Court – Chief Justice (let’s call him “Frick”) Ronald George and Justice Joyce “Frackette” Kennard – said they have “deep skepticism toward the gay rights lawyers’ arguments for killing Prop. 8 (right for gays to marry)”. (LA Times, March 6, 2009)

    Skepticism for what? That two people in love wanna get hitched? Don’t we have more pressing issues in this country than making a big hullabaloo that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry? I know – don’t want the supreme court to have too much power now. ‘Course that depends on what side you’re on. Certainly women’s rights proponents laud the supreme court for upholding their right to choose. And one could argue that since the voters in California chose to uphold Prop. 8, the right of the majority should prevail. But isn’t part of the supreme court’s duty to intercede when cooler heads don’t? Not to toss the biblical card in the fray (why not, Mouw does), but didn’t Jesus intercede and save the prostitute from being stoned when the majority thought differently?

    Gays vote. Gays pay taxes and spend money. How can anyone, in the same breath, say gays have no right to marry, when illegal aliens in the U.S. have access to free health/medical care, welfare/food stamps, education from K-12 and free tuition for college?

    Mouw talks about sitting down to talk? What should be talked about that hasn’t already been discussed on this issue. Sit down and talk. Right. And another 20 years will pass with no progress made on this issue.

    I’m heterosexual, but believe in the rights of gays to marry. I believe those against that right are simply homophobic. And I believe the California Supreme Court is homophobic for not killing Prop. 8. You need to look in the mirror

    Comment by Jeff Ircink — March 6, 2009 @ 5:59 pm


  20. i agree with you article 100%.

    Comment by jeff ircink — March 7, 2009 @ 9:28 am


  21. let me try that again.

    “I agree with your article 100%. The Bible says a man should not lie with another man. It’s for the best – for the family unit to be held in tact.”

    Comment by jeff ircink — March 7, 2009 @ 9:30 am


  22. my last comment was false. i just wanted to see how long a comment that agreed with mouw’s reasoning would stay on the board. my original comment did not agree with mouw and it was deleted. let’s try again:

    “Two members of the California Supreme Court – Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Joyce Kennard – said they have deep skepticism toward the gay rights lawyers’ arguments for killing Prop. 8 (right for gays to marry).

    Skepticism for what? That two people in love wanna get hitched? Don’t we have more pressing issues in this country than making a big hullabaloo that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry? I know – don’t want the supreme court to have too much power now. ‘Course that depends on what side you’re on. Certainly women’s rights proponents laud the supreme court for upholding their right to choose. And one could argue that since the voters in California chose to uphold Prop. 8, the right of the majority should prevail. But isn’t part of the supreme court’s duty to intercede when cooler heads aren’t prevailing? Not to toss the biblical card in the fray, but didn’t Jesus intercede and save the prostitute from being stoned when the majority thought differently?

    Gays vote. Gays pay taxes and spend money. How can anyone, in the same breath, say gays have no right to marry, when illegal aliens in the U.S. have access to free health/medical care, welfare/food stamps, education from K-12 and free tuition for college?

    As a heterosexual male, I believe in the rights of gay men and women to marry. I believe those against it are homophobic. And I believe the California Supreme Court is homophobic for not killing Prop. 8.

    Comment by jeff ircink — March 7, 2009 @ 1:49 pm


  23. The good news today is in USA today. Fewer and fewer people identify themselves as Christian and so we’ll have fewer people pushing their religion on the rest of us. Hallelujah! http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/09/us.religion.less.christian/

    Comment by Mary Andeal — March 9, 2009 @ 4:59 pm


  24. I read your letter in Newsweek during my morning workout this morning and I have to admit it certainly raised my heart rate and really got me sweating. That’s lovely that you would like to sit down and have a conversation about your feelings about gay marriage. And it’s great that you would like to do so without inflicting pain or offending anyone. What you fail to realize that it isn’t just swearing, yelling or waving sticks that hurts people. What you said in your letter basically casted homosexuals into further social alienation by continuing to deny them basic rights. This is an interesting point as you say it really hurts your feelings when you are inaccurately labeled as a religious fundamentalist. Can’t you see this is the same hurtful label you give to homosexuals when you deem them unfit for marriage or raising families? Being a man of the cross I thought love and empathy for all of God’s creatures, created in His image would be a cornerstone of your values, I guess not.

    What happened to the separation of church and state? That’s great if the Bible define marriage as a union between a man and woman. Well what about those people who don’t read the Bible, or believe in it? Or those people who don’t subscribe to an organized religion, or YOUR religion. What happens to those marriages? I for one am not religious, I don’t read the Bible, I don’t go to church and I don’t plan on being married in a church or by any member of the clergy. Does that mean that my marriage won’t be a real marriage? Does that mean that my parent’s marriage isn’t real?

    And most importantly, and most offensive in your post, what does legalizing gay marriage indicate for the future of our children? Well hopefully it means that children of homosexual parents will be able to form stable, happy families that all of the United States of America will recognize. Marriage has nothing to do with an individual’s ability to raise a child. How about single parents who do it alone all the time, or how about heterosexual married couples who beat their kids, or each other? What does the sanctity of their marriage imply for the future of their children?

    I think our current school systems education on sexual issues and family values is deeply flawed as it fails to reflect all different kinds of families. Don’t even get me started on how the Bush administration cut funding for anything other than abstinence sex education, which is the greatest harm we could impart to our children, as it leaves them without options, information and the tools to make the right decisions when biology and human nature start to kick in.

    I think you would do best to check out some more recent research about sexual education in our schools. It shows when students are given all of the information they need to make healthy decisions, they do. Also research has shown that homosexual couples resolve conflicts easier, are more positive and use humor more often in their relationships than heterosexual couples. Yes-what would we do if we were raising children in families with two married, happy individuals who were able to solve conflicts healthily and send their children to schools where they were given all of the information they need about sexuality and relationships? I see the social infrastructure crumbling indeed.

    Homosexuals are not going to defy and destroy the sanctity of marriage. Your assumption of this unfortunately leaves you looking grossly misinformed in a national magazine that thousands of intellectuals, better informed and open minded read everyday. I think heterosexual couples by and large have done enough on their own to destroy the sacred nature of marriage. You are right, the situation does seem hopeless. You are trying to preserve something that has already disintegrated. You are clutching onto its remains in a book that much of this country doesn’t use to define their lives or their values anymore. Until people like you can just get over spreading their belief’s like infections through a country that long ago set the separation of church and state, than yes you still have many selfish tears to shed. It is so sad that you have to cry about what men and women chose to do in their personal and intimate lives that has absolutely no effect on you whatsoever. Very sad indeed.

    My cousin, who is a man, is getting married in June to a man. I will be attending that wedding and I am not scared or feeling anxious about any of the moralistic mayhem you seem to think homosexuals embody. I wouldn’t think twice of leaving my own children with my cousin, knowing my children would learn the difference between right and wrong and the beauty of accepting all of God’s creatures regardless of who they choose to love. That is more than you could say for any children you rear. Yes let’s have a discussion about gay marriage and let’s turn that discussion into legal action. Actions speak louder than words and this discussion will not be over until my cousin’s marriage is recognized in more than just the state of Massachusetts.

    Comment by Hayley Chaffee — March 13, 2009 @ 9:11 am


  25. To members of the GLBT community,

    As an evangelical Christian (theologically speaking, not politically), I would like to personally apologize and repent for the way my religious tradition has often demonized people like yourself. For those of us who claim to follow the example of Jesus, I believe there is no place for hatred or oppression on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation.

    It is simply wrong to scapegoat members of the GLBT community for the breakdown of the family or any other social problem that heterosexuals (myself included) are largely responsible for. Heterosexual marriage and divorce are treated far to flippantly in our culture and our children, who deserve to be raised by both a mom AND a dad (biological or adopted) whenever possible, are paying the price.

    Still, we live a country ravaged by the culture wars and I respect the sincere efforts of Mouw and others who have attempted, though not always effectively, to facilitate some sort of civil dialogue to move things forward in a constructive manner. There is a lot of anger on both sides of this issue, which has the effect of generating a lot of heat without much light.

    Unlike most of my fellow evangelicals, I would not be outraged if (or when) gay marriage is legalized (as in Massachusetts for example). I’m not hell-bent on stopping this from happening because there are many other issues I see as far more pressing: global poverty, Darfur, climate change, healthcare, education and energy independence to name a few. For the most part, I do not think the government should be regulating what goes on in private between consenting adults, but the main reason that adult sexual relationships are still of concern to the state (i.e. the regulation of marriage and divorce) is because of the effect they have on children, who all deserve to be raised in the homes of committed parents as often as possible.

    To those who see this as a black and white, cut-and-dried issue, I’d be very interested to hear what you think of a “compromise” recently suggested by Steven Waldman of Beliefnet where conservatives would allow gays to marry in exchange for gays supporting efforts to reduce the divorce rate. It’s probably unrealistic in light of current political realities, but certainly thought-provoking:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/steven…us- co.html#more

    Due to my odd mix of politically progressive, yet theologically conservative beliefs, I still have many conflicting thoughts and emotions about the redefinition of civil marriage, but if the GLBT community can help us salvage and bolster the concept of lifelong commitment through thick and thin, I’d be all for it.

    Comment by Dan S. — April 3, 2009 @ 11:26 am


  26. Mr. Mouw,

    Your article in Newsweek is entirely about you: your hurt feelings, your sadness, your dismissiveness of the demand for equality, your decision to decline to address (at least in the article) the real issue at stake: to what degree churches should influence public policy.

    I’m discouraged by the tone you took in the article, one that seeks to shame supporters of homosexual marriage for not giving you your full opportunity to speak.

    hedda

    Comment by hedda lee — April 13, 2009 @ 10:39 am


  27. It’s funny that Jake is the name of a central character of your book “Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport.”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=9lAhRFgzm5AC

    Another thing caught my attention in your book – the Scottish woman responding to a challenge about her Calvinist faith. What if, after serving and trusting God all her life, God sends her to hell?

    “God would lose more than I would lose. I would lose my soul … but God would lose his *honor*. If he should fail to be faithful to his promises, then his word would be proven untrue.”

    This is an issue for me as a gay man raised in a progressive but devoted Christian family. The phrases from the Bible that are used (by some) against us are so malicious that the words themselves prove that they are not God’s words. If someone claiming to be “God” wrote that gay men are to be murdered (Leviticus 20:13), then either that person is not God, or that God is more evil than 90% of all human beings.

    The way I see it, if an evil God created the universe, wants my worship, and offers me eternal reward if I give it to him, I would be evil if I cooperated with him.

    For me, this conflict is reconciled by the recognition that God did not write Leviticus 20:13. Instead, it was written by a human being who, at least in that moment, was not expressing God’s will.

    Unfortunately, Paul took that human being’s writing as if it were God’s word, and incorporated it into his own (very few) anti-gay verses. And that constitutes the totality of what the Bible has to say against gays.

    Nothing in the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah ever says that God was going after the Gays. Instead, Isaiah and Ezekiel (16:49) say numerous times that S&G were destroyed because they were rich and they refused to help the poor and sick people. Pretty much the opposite political message for the United States for example: Dems love the poor, the sick, *and* the Gays, exatly the three groups that the Republicans hate.

    So how do you reconcile the malicious nature of these verses with the notion that God is good? Can you not just say, hey, I’m not so sure that God wrote Leviticus 20:13?

    Comment by Dan — April 15, 2009 @ 4:23 pm


  28. P.S. I, Dan J at 4:23 today am a different Dan than the Dan S. on April 3.

    But he sounds like a great guy too! :-)

    Comment by Dan — April 15, 2009 @ 4:29 pm


  29. Here’s the kind of thing that I’d like you to consider. When you express your opinion that God disapproves of gay people, you encourage murder.

    Does this not matter to you? That might qualify as solipsism.

    ‘They Kill People Like Us’ says gay Iraqi.

    Iraq’s gay population is being targeted by militia groups in a wave of killings that has claimed the lives of up to 25 young men and boys in the past month.

    Comment by Dan — May 4, 2009 @ 11:02 am

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