Civility Saves
(photo: Metal Chris/Flickr, reprinted with Creative Commons license)

Chad Smyser, a listener from New York City, took us to task for our editorial decision to broadcast and podcast a recent show featuring Evangelical leader Richard Mouw. He wrote:

I am so disappointed in last week’s episode.

This broadcast was ill-timed in the wake of the hate crimes in New York and the suicide at Rutgers. In addition, at a time when SOF is transitioning its brand identity, one would think the choice of material would be less divisive.

I have listened to your show for years. It has brought great comfort and understanding into my life. I will continue to listen, even in the wake of what I consider to be a giant gaffe from a show that I deeply respect. Would the show have given voice to someone who supported Virginia’s anti-interracial marriage laws in 1967, no matter how civil the voice? In my mind, this is what “On Being” did, translating it to 2010.

But civility in the political and religious arena is such an important topic! I wish it had been explored in a way that didn’t highlight one man’s disapproval of gay marriage. I long to be respectful of other folks’ beliefs, struggles and communal aspirations. Regrettably, it is impossible for anyone who believes in equality to reconcile Mr. Mouw’s beliefs on gay marriage. How is it civil to deny someone his or her right to marry the one he or she loves? An on-air apology to your gay and lesbian listeners would be most welcome.

The language used on one of the Facebook posts (“No matter what your opinion on gay rights”) was appalling. While I’m sure it was unintentional, I feel that the show really needs to clear the air.

All the best,
Chad Smyser

This critique echoed many other listeners’ reactions to the show. And, we answered as many as we could. But, it was the following exchange between Kate Moos, our executive producer, and Chad that offers an example of what quality conversation can be when we are honest, open, and vulnerable with one another:

Dear Chad,

Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m sorry the show disappointed you. There has been some follow up on our blog, and there will likely be more. Our internal editorial process was quite fraught along some the same lines of question and concern you describe. The program itself was not designed to be—and wasn’t—a show about the gay marriage and gay civil rights issues. It was aimed at the broader topic of civility. But Mouw’s position on gay marriage colors his authority—in many peoples’ view—for other topics of moral weight.

We argued about this and wrestled with it. Ultimately, we felt it was important to factor in the people with whom Mouw is in a distinct position to have high authority: other conservative Christians, whom he is taking to task and challenging to greater compassion, humility and civility. In fact, we received an email yesterday from one of those conservative Christians who has been paralyzed in her relationships with 2 close family members who are gay. She wrote to thank us because she was heart-broken and felt Mouw gave her a way to be in relationship with them, and in some sense, gave her permission to love them. So that is another impact of this program.

We would not have a guest on our show who would defend inter-racial marriage laws. And yet your point is taken—theological thinkers and religious people have erred badly in the past, and continue to err on matters of central moral gravity, things like slavery, voting rights, and marriage. Some people clearly put Mouw in that category.

The idea was to challenge all of us to keep listening through our most profound disagreements.

Chad, I am a lesbian who is long partnered, and who went to Canada to be married a few years ago—believe me I was challenged in producing this show, to keep listening to a point of view that I find in its essence a condemnation of my life. I am also related to people who share Mouw’s view of gay-lesbian marriage, and of the essential sinfulness of homosexuality. I struggle mightily to keep an open heart for them. This is where we are living, all of us, in this kind of contention.

I am not writing back to you to counter what you say but perhaps to amplify it. We will be posting reflections on this show in the coming days that might help “clear the air.” If you have other thoughts on how we can do that I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for writing, and peace.
Kate Moos

And Chad’s reply:

Dear Kate,

I am deeply touched and grateful for your thoughtful, heartfelt reply. Perhaps this episode struck such a dissonant chord with me because, like you, I struggle with the issue of civility and open mindedness in dealing with folks in my own family and circle of acquaintances. It was Mr. Mouw’s views on homosexuality in the context of creating an open dialogue amongst people of vastly varying viewpoints that really caused my disappointment.

Also, I look to SOF/Being as one of my touchstones to a spiritual life. I was raised evangelical and threw out all things spiritual when I came out. I thought that the two were mutually exclusive. It was really your show that allowed me to find a way back to belief in something bigger than myself. Through SOF I discovered the quiet revolution of Thich Nhat Hahn. I started uncovering the secular movement toward well-being via Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness and Andrew Freear’s architecture. I even felt a deep kinship with Shane Claiborne, although his views on homosexuality certainly aren’t akin to mine. Nevertheless, his spirit of subversive inclusiveness and social justice really appeals to me.

I am moved by the response of one of your conservative Christian listeners who struggles to find a way to have a relationship with her gay relatives. Perhaps this one outcome is worth all the confusion and anger gays and lesbians may have felt. Furthermore, I suppose this episode has truly challenged my views on civility and dealing with those whose views I know are empirically wrong when it comes to homosexuality, yet with whom I must find a way to reconcile. There is nothing more human than failure. I would be well advised to accept others’ failure as well as my own.

I continue to look forward to the journey from “Faith” to “Being.” Airing your and the staff’s own struggles with this episode would be a great help to your gay and lesbian listeners. Understanding your journey has profoundly affected mine.

Sincerely,
Chad

Of course we are sensitive to these types of personal conversations, so I requested Chad’s permission to publish the exchange, to which he replied with a graceful note:

Dear Trent,

Yes, you may publish our correspondence. I am very grateful for Kate’s response, and I imagine that it will speak to others. It really helped me to understand the spirit behind Krista’s conversation with Mr. Mouw, along with the editorial struggles that went into its production.

All the best,
Chad


Share Your Reflection

49Reflections

Reflections

Thanks -- deep ones -- to Chad for letting us see this exchange. It is cause for deep consideration and celebration. Thanks to Kate, too, but I do think Chad's courage is vital and inspirational. I lift my glass to you both.

If only this type of interaction/conversation was the norm. Blessed Be, Being!

Are you so sure this kind of conversation is not at least a norm? I know some number of gay people who have come out to parents or others who think they disapprove of homosexuality. Those conversations can degenerate into vitriol, of course, but when people have a stake in maintaining an ongoing relationship, they often can speak both candidly and kindly.

What is less common in our society is for total strangers, especially on a quasi-anonymous medium like the internet, to make the effort to be polite. As I noted in my comment below, Chad started out being civil; it would have been remarkably churlish for people who work on this show not to have shown him the courtesy he initially extended. It may be remarkable that Chad made the effort to be so polite when he felt the deepest affections of his soul were under attack, so bravo to Chad.

On today's show, the topic was torture, & it touched on the infamous Milgram experiments, in which some -- but not all -- of the subjects gave faux subjects increasingly strong electrical shocks. Tippett observed that it was too bad no one ever studied the people who refused to administer the additional shocks. Another point the show touched on was the tendency of people to be willing to mistreat others if there were essentially two sets of rules & institutional authorities seemed to tolerate cruelty.

Doesn't this, to some extent, apply to civility, especially on the internet? Who are the people like Chad who refuse to just rant & make demands, but who instead present polite, reasoned arguments? What can we do to foster that in others? Are there institutional changes we can make to facilitate that? I suggest at least one place we look is in the norms for internet discourse. People can be polite & they often are -- when they are face to face. Shouldn't we celebrate & seek to reinforce that norm & push for it in other contexts, such as the internet?

This is what seperates your show from every other show the openmindedness and fairness

Wow. I am new to the Being family and I feel like I have found like minded people whom I can relate to and learn from. The most recent term to explain a desire I have is, holding space for. The uncivil family members, the not like minded fellow employees, those moments of my own confusion, are all being held space for. I can roll like that because everyone needs acceptance on some level. We are fragile creatures.

Even though I did not even hear this show, just this exchange made me want to cry. This IS what civility is all about. Thank you so much for sharing this dialog with everyone. We are all in this together.

Thank you both - this is why we listen (and speak) to Being.

I think your headline needs rewriting. The writer did not "demand" an apology; he requested one, very politely. & civility did not "result" from his letter; his letter was civil. The exchange started in civility -- it didn't become civil.

It's great to be for civility, but I think being more precise & accurate in your word choices would help the cause. I don't think this headline is accurate & consequently, it is slightly inflammatory because it implies that the letter writer was initially less polite than he was.

THANKS for calling this one that way it is: inflammatory. Becoming Sensitive is such a daily struggle.

Well, the headline got me to read on, and I was moved to tears by the beauty of the exchange. I wouldn't have noticed the incongruity of the headline and the content if you hadn't pointed it out. Of course, you're correct, they are a little incongruous, but maybe it's OK here. Words are imprecise tools… demand/request, started/resulted; not so far apart for me in this context, not enough to soften a functional (if imprecise) headline.

I was a seminary student at the same time as Richard Mouw (Western Theological Seminary) and have had occasional interaction with him over the decades. While I do not consider myself an Evangelical in the popular use of the term (rather evangelical as understood by the Reformation), and favor gay marriage, I appreciate Richard's refusal of edict theology and his attempts to open dialogue with those holding positions he does not embrace and could not embrace without losing his authority among Evangelicals. Moveover, the movement from shunning to discussing may well be the precursor to accepting. Having taught many Fuller students Reformed theology, I can testify that they are theologically alert and generally not rigid concerning matters of faith and practice and that too owes something to Richard Mouw.

Paul R. Fries, PhD.
Emeritus Professor of Foundational and Constructive Theology
New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

I think it is vital that Krista and staff chose to air things that are challenging to all of us. I haven't always agreed with guests in the past and probably won't in the future. But that's what gives balance to the discussion and causes me to reflect on what I think is truth! Let's all be mature enough to allow other people to express themselves and trust that Krista and crew will stimulate our thinking!

It is really good to see the dialogue here. That is what this show, I hope, should be able to bring about. I feel bad for the people who were offended or maybe upset is a more accurate word. I can understand, at least to some degree, why they feel the way they do especially in light of the horrible and heart wrenching suicides which have been occurred which have now been brought to light. I think it is important to remember, though, that we cannot just present the ideas that we agree with or that seem "politically correct" and more acceptable, but be able to take an honest look at those who, with conviction, believe things that some may find difficult to understand. Although I didn't agree with everything Mr. Mouw said, I admired his willingness to talk about it in such a public way and his perspective. I think it is important to be honest that a lot of people feel the way Mr. Mouw does and we have to respect his opinion especially when he is so willing to put himself out there on this very tender topic, just as we would like him to respect our own opinions. Do I think there is a limit on this? Yes. In otherwords, do I think "Being" should play host to a white supremist neo-nazi and we should all respect their opinions, no, I don't. Who is to say where those limits are? I don't know. HOwever, my impression of Mr. Mouw was that his beliefs were not out of hatred or fear, but from what he believed to be right. To me there is a difference. I realize some might think it is all the same.
But I think Mr. Mouw is trying to be true to his convictons while being open to individual human beings in love. Do we not all admit that there are other people, even groups of people, who rub us the wrong way and we do not agree with their convictions? Whether the group of people we don't agree with is far right wing politicians or evangelicals, the tea party movement, the athiest, the catholics, the lists goes on, hopefully we aspire to still take those people as individuals and even as a group in a way that is not hateful or judging them but understanding their convictions and lifestyles are not our own.

in tears ... thank you

Perhaps SOF should look long and hard about the whole idea of a religious leader who puts his or her time into condemning the beliefs of others. I cannot conceive of an in-the-flesh Jesus or a Tich Nhat Hanh, or a Jiddu Krishnamurti, or a Mohandas Ghandi, or Siddhārtha Gautama, prefacing a talk on peace and compassion with the statement, "First I must explain that I believe that you are a sinner..." Not being a scholar, this is the kind of test I have at my disposal when listening to your program. Beyond this, I highly recommend familiarity with Helen Schucman's writing about "forgiveness to destroy." This works for me, but it is an acquired taste.

JD

I don't know about Tich Nhat Hanh, but the others you mention were sometimes highly critical of other views. And Jesus, at least, was sometimes much less diplomatic than your example in pointing out sin. (And of course implying that Mouw isn't worth having on the show is also an implicit condemnation.)

How surprising is it that two people with practically identical views can have a civil exchange? It's a touching episode, but this isn't quite a miracle of bridge building.

Ultimately, we felt it was important to factor in the people with whom Mouw is in a distinct position to have high authority: other conservative Christians, whom he is taking to task and challenging to greater compassion, humility and civility.

The attitude of several staff members who have written about the interview with Mouw has come through clearly enough: we know conservatives are wrong, and that we liberals are right, but some of us think we should still be willing to talk to them, or at least those of them who will say what we want to say to and about conservatives ourselves, such as that they need greater compassion, humility and civility. It's there in remarks of Ms. Moos (again), and it was just as clear in Ms. Tippett's post about the show with Mouw, which was practically an apology for even talking with him. She made it clear that the openness to change she was hoping for was entirely for change on the part of conservatives. Other staff have repeatedly posted poorly informed comments critical of conservatives in connection with Mouw's remarks.

This is nothing new. Speaking of Faith rarely had conservative guests, but on the few occasions it did (e.g. John Danforth and Jim Wallis), they were usually there to take to task other conservatives. Being continues this "let us help you remove that speck from your eye" approach to conservatives. How's that working out?

Besides flouting the standards of fairness and balance the show is supposed to uphold (check out the CPB ethics guidelines), this approach is largely self-defeating. The audience for the show is on balance already distinctly left of center, and those conservatives the show might hope to see change are mostly not listening. Why would they, when the show continually suppresses, treats unfairly, and ignorantly criticizes them and their views? Is that the compassion, humility and civility the show wishes to promote? Being mainly preaches to the choir it has created by its long-standing polarization.

For Being to live up to the ideals it sometimes invokes, it needs a staff and guests balanced among the various views and approaches to spirituality. Instead, by all visible manifestations, the staff is uniformly liberal, and most of the guests are too. This implies a greater interest in preserving and advocating the views it already has than in achieving and promoting greater understanding and allowing itself and its audience to learn for itself from real openness.

If the show ever seriously moves in the direction of real openness, then you might see some real bridge building. It has to happen inside the show before it will manifest outward to the audience.

Dear Sanpete,

I can see how framing my conversation with Ms. Moos as "bridge building" can seem like liberal self-congratulation. "Gay man and lesbian find common ground" isn't exactly headline news. But the point of the conversation wasn't for me and Ms. Moos to reach consensus, it was for me and the greater LGBT community to find a way to make peace with incredibly intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful people like Mr. Mouw who think that Ms. Moos and I don't deserve equal marriage rights. Our conversation has at least started me, and perhaps others, on a path to that kind of reconciliation. With great optimism and hope, I trust that the path runs in both directions.

All the best,
Chad Smyser

Chad,
I am glad to hear you describe Mr. Mouw as intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful. What I take issue with is not with your homosexuality as much as you believing that he should not have been given a voice on the show (or at least at this time). Have you considered it timely instead.
You said, "... civility in the political and religious arena is such an important topic! I wish it had been explored in a way that didn’t highlight one man’s disapproval of gay marriage. I long to be respectful of other folks’ beliefs, struggles and communal aspirations. Regrettably, it is impossible for anyone who believes in equality to reconcile Mr. Mouw’s beliefs on gay marriage. How is it civil to deny someone his or her right to marry the one he or she loves? An on-air apology to your gay and lesbian listeners would be most welcome."

The church views on gay marriage and homosexuality are not radical. They are long standing traditions. I do not feel that an apology is warranted. Furthermore an apology would be a step backwards i the conversation. Here is why.

I found that he placed his understanding that homosexuality sin on par with the sin of remember the sabbath and keep it holy or not bear false witness against your neighbor, nor covet your neighbors wife. He also expressed that as any other sin, it is near impossible to acheive for humans. That all sinners are to be embraced, not punished.

Is it important to you that he must agree that homosexuality is accepted BEFORE you can have a conversation, of course not.
The reasonable outcome is not that all people everywhere embrace homosexuality as the norm, nor is it reasonable that all gays go into a closet. There will be disagreement for our lifetimes and that is point of continued civility and compassion on both sides. Mr. Mouw has extended that compassion toward you, can you see that? I felt his love for all humans come through. I did not feel you return the favor.

Dear Khatmandue,

As I said in my correspondence, we would be wise to accept our own failures as well as the failures of others. And as I said in my reply to Sanpete, I do honor Mr. Mouw's intelligence, compassion and thoughtfulness. However, I do think you can allow that it will take me some time to reconcile the idea that the life I have built is on par with bearing false witness against your neighbor. Civilitas is a powerful force, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

Best,
Chad

That's a good point, Chad. I've focused on what I see as deficiencies in Being, but there are certainly many good things that come from the show and the staff, and your exchange with Ms. Moos was helpful to you and may be to others. I wish you well with your reconciliations.

In the interest of possibly clarifying the ground for that, here are some points that I've come across in looking into Mouw's beliefs in the last couple weeks that might interest you or others.

About your choice of words, I'd guess Mouw doesn't think anyone "deserves" marriage rights as a theological matter. He's a Calvinist who doesn't put much stock (perhaps none) in the notion of desert of God's gifts, including sexuality and marriage. For him it's a matter of how those gifts fit into God's order for us and how that order should be reflected in secular order.

Mouw recognizes that a pluralistic society, which he favors, cannot simply reflect a sectarian view of what God desires and that we must often work to find compromises. Thus his view on same-sex unions is more complex than might be expected. In response to the Lawrence v Texas decision he said, "I do not oppose sexual freedom for homosexuals, but I worry about the slippery slope." In particular, he has been concerned about the view that a committed relationship is an adequate ground for marriage, which he takes to be a chief argument for same-sex marriage. However, he has more lately said, "Perhaps I can be reassured by the folks that I disagree with about same-sex unions. They may have clearer—and quite sensible—restrictions in mind that would keep us from moving into the anything-goes scenario that worries me. I am willing to listen to the case that they make in response to my expressed concerns."

http://www.netbloghost.com/mou...

My impression is that Mouw is doing his best to understand and be open to the views he currently opposes, and doing much better than most who oppose his views, though he may still have some tone-deafness about some sensitive points. Among the examples of slippery slope he has given is the famously sensitive one that a 40-year-old man might be able to claim a marriage right with a 13-year-old boy. The point of course isn't that same-sex unions are like child molestation but that a committed relationship can't be an adequate ground. I suspect he could be satisfied that there are already legal principles in place (i.e. the principles of consent) to prevent that. Some of his other concerns would be harder to get around--any argument for same-sex marriage is bound to lend support to arguments favoring legalization of polygamy, for example. That doesn't particularly bother many people, but I can see why it bothers him (and some feminists opposed to traditional polygamy).

He is attuned in his own way to the sensitive issue of whether homosexuality is normal: "I have often told the story of hearing a conservative spokesman express his views in this way: 'We normal people should tell these homosexuals that what they are doing is simply an abomination in the eyes of God.' When I heard that, I tell my audiences, I wanted to get up and cry out, 'Normal? You are normal? Let’s all applaud for the one sexually normal person in the room!'" Etc.

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?...

I find it difficult to sympathize with your criticism (that the staff of SOF "knows that Liberals are right . . . conservatives are wrong...."), particularly in light of your expansion on Mouw's views and some that you identify as legitimate ("any argument for same-sex marriage is bound to lend support to arguments favoring legalization of polygamy, for example"). It is these sorts of comments that have made it difficult to have a civil discourse on this topic, akin to starting from the accepted 'truth' that homosexuality is a 'sin'. I applaud SOF for having the fortitude to invite Mouw to the show. I could not have made it through the interview. It is one thing to defend traditional theological beliefs - quite another to argue that those beliefs should remain secularized and be reflected in our civil institutions (like marriage). It is appropriate to ask why any spiritual belief ought to enjoy the force of law in this country. Not a radical notion (see discussions on the First Amendment's 'no establishment' and 'free exercises' clauses). And, I think that was an inherent question during the interview.

Tom, I'd welcome some reason to think there's no link between the legal arguments in support of same-sex marriage and those supporting polygamy (along with some explanation of how that would relate to the criticism of Being staff, whose certainty has little to do with legal arguments).

As I understand the legal case, a central issue is whether there's any rationale for treating those who wish to marry someone of the same sex differently than those who wish to marry someone of the opposite sex. In the case of polygamy, the rationale for forbidding it even as a religious practice (which would normally be protected) is basically that traditional marriage must be protected, a rationale also advanced against same-sex marriage. If that rationale goes away, the most plausible basis for prohibiting polygamy does too. I don't see that as a problem, personally, but perhaps you do.

As I mentioned in what you replied to, Mouw doesn't argue that his religious beliefs should enjoy the force of law. His argument that same-sex marriage shouldn't be legal is a secular one.

Dear Sanpete,

Wow! That is a most welcome elucidation of Mr. Mouw's thoughts. I appreciate your research and presentation. Many thanks.

Best,
Chad

Very well spoken. I am a new listener and this was the third episode that I heard.
For the record, not that it should matter, I am not a christian
I found myself listening for the apolgetic tone....and it came. The irony is that I think the apolegetic tone come from a general fear of vocal anti-conservative critics and trying to appease them early. How is that embracing compassion and understanding?
For example, I thought that Ms Tippets carefully worded description of the person that committed suicide during the production of the show came off as being slightly accusatory to her guest. Mr. Mouw was very thoughtful and gave me a sense of aspiration to be better at compassion...... and to fearlessly hold to principles that are important to me in face of criticism and harsh treatment, but with compassion.
Unfortunately, the conversation has reinforced my belief that the show is anti-conservative. And more disturbing, that being conservative is somehow comparetively related to ills in our society and the only way to touch the great unwashed is to put a token conservative on the show. It feels like there is an ignorance, anger and confusion from the production staff against conservative values that came through during the show and the response from Ms. Moos.

"The irony is that I think the apolegetic tone come from a general fear of vocal anti-conservative critics and trying to appease them early."

It does appear that way. Having some conservatives on the staff might help balance out such concerns, make them more sensitive to the concerns of all sides.

Great thought and insight. Write on.

Jim Wallis is hardly conservative, and SOF/Being should be biased toward the liberal side of these issues. Despite the pejorative rhetoric of conservatives, liberalism advocates unbiased examination of an issue such as gay marriage. As a result of its unholy alliance with the evangelical subculture, the conservative position and the evangelical position are now synonymous - "God said it, I believe it and that settles it!"

For decades, public radio and television have attempted to be bastions of intellectualism in a sea of mediocrity. You people have Fox News. That should be enough for you.

I should have said that Wallis has been on as an Evangelical who criticizes other Evangelicals, which has made him very attractive for liberal talk shows.

The theory that Being should be biased because one side favors lack of bias doesn't entirely make sense to me. Whether liberals favor lack of bias or not (lack of bias was widely considered a central value in journalism and inquiry before the success of Fox made some people on both sides forget why bias is harmful), anyone who imagines liberals really are unbiased is fooling herself.

About your reference to "you people" (classic language of bias, by the way), I'm a liberal and detest Fox. My point is that Being should be less like Fox, i.e. less biased, not more. Unfortunately, it's possibly the most biased show distributed by NPR, with predictably harmful results for itself and its listeners.

I'm a liberal and detest Fox.

My apologies, then, but I still maintain that public TV and radio comprise (and should remain) a liberal enclave - and I maintain as well that liberals are less biased than conservatives. The Republican/conservative subculture has been commandeered by a lunatic fringe. There are few enough places where liberals can go to not have to listen and engage people like Hannity, Glenn Beck, Coulter et. al.

"I maintain as well that liberals are less biased than conservatives"

Yeah, liberals are often pretty convinced of that. Oddly, conservatives tend to feel otherwise. I can't say I've noticed much difference myself.

But it doesn't matter in this context which side is less biased. Bias, whether a degree less or more, is unacceptable in a program that strives to understand spirituality or "being" in its fullness. This show has shown repeatedly that it's nowhere close to understanding conservative spirituality, and it seems not to want to very much, even though conservative spirituality forms a huge part of the spiritual world. The partial view also prevents full understanding of liberal spirituality, which comes out of and understands itself in part in contrast to more conservative views, and which can benefit from hearing how it's seen by others. The bias tends to polarize the audience and keep conservatives from benefitting from the show, since they find their views unfairly represented and tune elsewhere--which supports outlets like Fox.

The partial view is a disservice to listeners of all persuasions--even you, even though you talk as though you prefer a more insular view.

I wonder why we aren't parsing the difference between civil union and marriage. The former is granted by the state, the latter by religion. Civil unions should bestow all the rights of privileges of a legally committed bond. Religions add a clerical component to the civil union, but religious marriage is not, and should not be, an affair of the state.

If we could keep these two concepts separate, I believe religious leaders like Mouw would find it easier to accept the concept of gay unions, while maintaining the precepts of their tradition.

I also wrestle with the issues Mouw presented, but remain "agnostic" on the subject - neither for nor against, and moving more towards acceptance. I really don't understand homosexuality. And it's best not to judge something we don't understand.

Wow! What a great exchange showing the upheaval in which we now find ourselves and how On Being is touching so many lives. I, too, have listened to the show for years, and still like the old title, but I love the open approach that is such a needed corrective to the bigotry and small-mindness masquerading today as piety.

While I am an alum of the seminary of which Dr. Mouw is President (before his time) my spiritual journey has also led me to embrace a more inclusive vision of the gospel I believe to be more in keeping with the largeness of Jesus' own vision for humanity/being.

Keep up the good work!

Rev. Rick Oppelt
South Plainfield, NJ

I am a listener who has been with you from the beginning. And while what is represented on Being is not always reflective of my views I find the education I receive each week thoughtful, often provocative but never, never dull nor condemning. You have broadened my education beyond what ever graduate school could ever do. But, I cannot accept the "righteousness" of a gay life style but I can accept the person. From a Biblical standpoint I have yet to hear a discussion where common ground can be found. Unless you can accept scripture that is written to serve your point of view then there will always be a problem with the gay life choice.Isaiah and Paul called this "men with itching ears"! I can be no one's judge but I can set a moral standard based upon scripture, as long as it is translated correctly, to be my moral compass.

There is a consistency in over a thousand years of Biblical writings that is very clear about the moral standards we must choose if we wish to be obedient to our Heavenly Father. We can NOT parse out that which we do not like. But simultaneously we can NOT parse out those who do not accept our views. The Savior was as clear on that issue as he was on His moral standards.

There is a rhetorical trope called an enthymeme. It is easy to define but it is often very difficult to recognize and understand it when it is used. Many times I think the speaker using such a trope can not even identify that they are using such an rhetorical device. You can often tell it is being used when you hear a statement that you know is logically wrong but you can't quite put your finger upon exactly what is wrong. It is the truncated and logical equation of: if A=B and B=C then A=C. An enthymeme simply assumes one part of that equation is assumed. Usually it is the first or second part. But, when it is used it is most often a falsehood that could not stand up to full logical scrutiny. Aristotle was the first to write about this interesting twist of logic. Politicians were the first to employ it's deception!

Such is the case with the underlying implication of the gay rights movement. Almost always the race issue is the comparison to the justification of a Gay life. It is true that race is not an issue for debate and can be very clearly enunciated through our understanding of genetics. Race differences often go on to validate their legitimacy through various diseases that are indicative to a particular race. While there have been hopeful implications to the genetic argument that a gay person is simply born that way there has never been a proof positive that it even exists in the least measure. On that hangs the crux the gay community uses to justify their way of living. The implied portion of the rhetoric is that scientifically demonstrable genetics is the same as wished for genetics. It almost seems a desperation on the part of many who are Gay to force this rhetorical stance upon those who are not Gay because they want so much to find a reasonable explanation to their feelings. And by such a subtle and not so subtle attempt at force they contradict the very effort they are trying to make so to exculpate the choice they have made.

Now those of you who are Gay please do not turn this forum into another battle ground for your lifestyle. I do not think either camp are going to ever agree upon these underpinnings. But is that failure to logic a justification to persecute those who claim to be Gay? NO!! They bleed just like us as the Merchant of Venice so carefully articulates. I firmly believe that Gay people have an absolute expectation of dignity and a frank acknowledgment of such from those of us who are not gay.They have the right to not be persecuted, not to be called names, NOT to fear walking down a street at night! Such persecution is what the Savior called hypocrisy. And He ranked hypocrites among the vilest of humans and never equivocated on that important distinction.

I have a nephew who is gay in a religious community that will never accept gay"ism" as the moral equivalent to racism. Yet many are duped into justifying the coals they heap upon the heads of gay people. I truly love him with all my heart and share his sorrow for the way society in general treats him. He should not have to fear ever in our world. Nor should he have to fear the lumbering thug with little more than grist between his ears. He is a gifted artist and a great conversationalist with a big heart among his many talents. And the lifestyle he has chosen is fraught with pain. I could never add to that pain. I love him no different now than when I did not know he is gay. But racism and gay"ism" are simply not the same thing.

Those of us who are not Gay have the right to express our moral ideas just as well as those who are gay have such a right. Take away those inalienable and God rgiven ights and we all perish. Once the debate can be extricated from this enthymeme conundrum then both sides can at once see the other first as human Beings, first as deserving of each others respect and claim to dignity and FIRST as members of a free and democratic republic who MUST share the ground upon which we all walk if we can ever hope to be redeemed as such Beings and as creatures of our Creator.

You've given this a lot of thought. Just to clarify a couple points, most gays and scientists who study such things don't think it has been shown that sexual orientation is strictly genetically determined. Rather the best evidence is that it's determined by a combination of factors probably including some genetic ones. What's more clear is that people generally don't choose their orientation, that it's due to factors beyond our control. I don't recall choosing to be straight. I doubt very much that your nephew chose to be gay. (We could wonder why anyone would in such a hostile climate.)

Whether sexual orientation is chosen is thought by many to determine its moral status, but that isn't the case. The Catholic and Mormon churches, for example, officially accept that sexual orientation may not be chosen, but they still oppose homosexual behavior.

Some analogies between race and sexual orientation may be dubious, but there are some striking parallels in the social developments and the legal arguments.

He should not have to fear ever in our world.

No, he shouldn't - but, according to your theology, he needs to fear the next one.

i just listened to the "uncut" version of the conversation with Mr. Mouw... i had already listened to the aired version. i was really "disappointed" as well... to echo chad's voice. i really struggled with "why" would he be included in this show. i listened on the train riding along the hudson river from manhattan to the bronx... and on my walk home from the train. "was i mad at krista?' such dialog in my head. i was --- i don't know--- bummed. i ove this show!

chad's so eloquently stated what is so closely aligned to my relationship with sof/being. i recommend it all the time. i was having to talk myself "off the edge."
So many things that Mr. Mouw was saying is agree with and really respect. should i discount it because of his views on gay marriage?

i find myself here so moved by the exchange between chad and kate. THANK YOU !

i really come to the site... just no time... something led me here tonight.

you will recognize this...."i will not let this go until i find the blessing..." there it goes... bless us all. peace + love, k

chad

I don't get all the broo-ha-ha. I am glad the above exchange took place but I am still left to wonder why those with Richard Mouw's ideas can not be respected without feeling the need to be accepted by any of your listeners.I don't agree with all he said but then I don't agree with all that is spoken here in general.

For example I thoroughly enjoy listening to the Dali Llama and other articulate and well grounded believers in Buddhism. But that doesn't mean I am a Buddhist. I am a Christian and I have complete trust in Christ. I am also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but my faith does not require me to swallow Glen Beck's particular bent!

But that is precisely what I love about Being. This well thought out program amazes me as each week a different or collateral view is examined. It challenges me to think and reach down into the deep wells of my own faith. This is such a rewarding experience!! I find my understanding about being and my faith richly rewarded and magnified. And, yes, I am one of those who must listen to the uncut version of almost each show. I find that often the nuances of the topic of the day are often not caught without listening to the uncut version.

Krista Tippett is at once erudite and humble that she makes what she does sound easy which from my own experience it is all but easy!. Also from listening to the uncut version I have come to appreciate the equally superb group of people who are her foundation. Thank you all for the gift you bring each week into my home!!

Chaz, thank you for all you just wrote. Sound advice for us all, including the producers of this program. It's interesting to see how many people are now listening to the unedited version of each show, and finding deeper meaning in the conversation that wasn't produced. Happy holidays!

I think this correspondence between Chad and Kate exemplifies the problem that cultural opinions, such as "gay rights," can quickly become a "truth" or an unqualified standard to which others who disagree can be held captive not because of the right or wrongness of their stance but because of the sensitivity of the issue or the changing cultural bias which doesn't normally require that ideas be tested, just quickly accepted. Chad chastises Mr. Mouw for his opinion, but then Chad states that those who disagree with him are "empirically wrong." Empirically wrong? Upon what empirical evidence does his opinion rest? I suggest Chad should listen to the show again. I find it frustrating that anyone who disagrees with the idea of "gay rights" is characterized as a "hate crime" criminal. I do not support violence in any way. I have a standard which I believe is true, the same as Chad, but in opposition to Chad's. How should we treat one another? Within the media, Chad's opinion is generally given the higher moral ground. Why? Because these ideas have been empirically tested? Or because of the ramifications of opposing a large body of enraged citizens (who might be disproportionately represented within the media and entertainment industry)? Might does not make right, is an old and true saying. I believe what is right or wrong is an absolute, although I don't claim to have absolute knowledge, but I do have a desire to find the "truth" and at present I have an opinion based upon my efforts. Should I have the right to express my opinion without fear of being labeled as someone "empirically wrong" or as a "hate crime criminal" simply because I disagree? If I don't then this is simply prejudice in reverse. To find the truth we must search and communicate civilly with one another. I applaud this program's effort for not setting a standard of hypocrisy that might otherwise be popular, but dishonest in it's effort at revealing truth.

Blessings to you both and to you all... Grace at work..

This morning (2/22) I awoke to a very short NPR tidbit about a straight couple who got married while running a marathon. I got the lightheartedness of this piece, and at the same time I just got sad. As a person who is part of the 18,000 same sex legally married couples in California, I long for a time when same sex couples have this same opportunity to express their marriage in whatever form they choose. To have media coverage as in, "look at those cute whacky kids" not "look at those protesters". Like lots of days, I take this sadness and check the status of Prop 8, DADT, DOMA, health care and a myriad of others topics that effect my day to day life.

I'm sharing this because it points to what I really want in terms of a civil discourse. For me, a civil conversation must include the personal. Both the speaker and the listener must be left with a sense of being heard and known. I would LOVE the opportunity to discuss same sex marriage equality with some one who disagrees with me. I really want to understand the resistance to same sex equality. I want to hear the personal. I want to understand and speak to that. The way it is now, I preach to the choir and in return get screaming media heads. How and where can disagreeing "sides" interact in such a personal way?

Dear Lisa,

I come back to this post every now and then to look at the comments. As I continue to better understand this discourse, I am convinced that the realm of civility need not include entertaining ideas that are historically on the side of inequality. I stand by my statement that Mr. Mouw's views on marriage equality are empirically wrong. The curve of equality is often well behind that of public opinion, especially among those who use tradition as a stronghold from which to espouse their thinly disguised fear of change. It doesn't mean we respect or love them any less. It just means that we can say with the confidence and clarity of those who know their cause is just, "I'm sorry, but inequality is simply something we cannot stand for."

I know that my cause is just. I know that our community deserves marriage equality. I know that I can continue to love those who disagree with me yet remain firm in my stand.

Best,
Chad

Chad,
I was wondering what you meant by your statement "I am convinced that the realm of civility need not include entertaining ideas that are historically on the side of inequality."
I have another question for you, which I offer respectfully, do you believe that those who are homosexual are homosexual genetically or by choice? And I asked this because when I think about the issue of "marriage equality" I think that this question of genetic or choice makes a difference (at least to me). I asked this question because several years ago I had a conversation with a woman who was a homosexual, who I knew from work and was fairly well acquainted with, and she said that she was homosexual by choice. If a large group of people are genetically homosexual then that is something to consider in this debate, but if people are homosexual by choice then this would seem to be on par with people who would by "choice" prefer a polygamist marriage, which I believe is not lawfully allowed or fill in the blank with any "choice" that people might prefer but is not lawfully allowed.
That curve which you spoke of, which as you stated "is often well behind that of public opinion," could be tweaked a little to say that "truth" often alludes the public's opinion and I would agree, but is it true that by "choice" alone anyone who wants something should be given it? You mention "equality" is that something everyone should have? That might seem a silly question, but should we extend equal rights to every person with a strong desire to have their belief recognized or does equality demand more than mere desire?

For your consideration, John

Dear John,

I fear that my reply to Lisa has moved the discussion away from the kernel of compassion and understanding which began this whole exchange. All of your comments warrant consideration, yet I believe that this is not the forum for that discourse, and that includes what I said in my reply to Lisa and even about Mr. Mouw's being empirically wrong. Let me say with the utmost sincerity that I welcome your thoughts and disagreements, and it is with great optimism that I hope you will continue to seek your own answers to these very thorny questions, seeking guidance from trusted spiritual advisers. I have found my answers. It could be argued that my answers are self-serving, and I can't deny that they are, but it's up to you to decide for yourself. And it's up to me to respect your process. We really aren't talking about the law as it pertains to marriage equality here, we're talking about the context of the open and hopefully civil exchange of ideas as that law takes shape. This is a very important distinction, and I believe it is the heart of this discussion.

There is a quote, often attributed to the Buddha, that I think works well here: "If you propose to speak, ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind." There is another from the Bible: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7.12 ESV) I will try my best to relay this kind of equanimity before I speak.

Best wishes,
Chad

Chad,

I wish you the best in the future and thank-you for your reply.

sincerely,
John

Here, on the Being site!

I appreciate the opportunity to continue the discussion on civil discourse particularly in regard to online conversations in general. I listened to the Krista Tibbet's interview of Mr. Apaih today in which this topic was discussed which offered (in my opinion) thoughtful and intelligent discussion. I am not responding specifically to the exchange which was originated with this thread. Rather I long to be able to engage in civil discussion online. However, I have found the comments more often than not seem to devolve into online shouting and angry exchanges.I am frequently disappointed and disillusioned with the result that I tend to just not even bother. I want to "bother" as I long to both listen and speak. I want to better understanding and become more educated and compassionate. I believe we can be honest and compassionate as well as truthful and passionate as we present our beliefs and opinions.

Thanks for Chad's comments.  I started to listen to Krista Tippett, around  October/2001.  And as the transitioning of SOF into Being, is going I have been losing interest.  Something is missing...Can't pinpoint it yet...