Andrew Sullivan calls for tolerance for Christians

Andrew Sullivan strikes a sympathetic pose toward Christians in his “The Morning After In Arizona.” There are some things in here that I genuinely appreciate, but those items are counterbalanced by some pretty awful aspersions towards Christians. Here he is in his own words.

As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me.

Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance. If we value our freedom as gay people in living our lives the way we wish, we should defend that same freedom to sincere religious believers and also, yes, to bigots and haters. You do not conquer intolerance with intolerance. As a gay Christian, I’m particularly horrified by the attempt to force anyone to do anything they really feel violates their conscience, sense of self, or even just comfort…

Let bigots be bigots. Let gays be gays. And when those values conflict, let’s do all we can not to force the issue. We’re living in a time of drastic change with respect to homosexuality. It is perfectly understandable that many traditional-minded people, especially in the older age brackets, are disconcerted, upset and confused. So give them some space; instead of suing them, talk to them. Try seeing things from their point of view. Appeal to their better nature as Christians. And start defusing by your tolerance the paranoia and hysteria Roger Ailes lives off.

So there’s good news and bad news in these remarks. First, the good news. Sullivan recognizes—contrary to what you have heard from the media lately—that Christian business owners are not the aggressors. In every one of the high profile cases, it is the business owners who have been subjected to lawsuits and the coercive power of the government (e.g., here and here). For this reason, Sullivan calls for activists to take it easy on the Christians. Threre’s no need to pursue punitive measures when the wind of moral inevitability is at your back. Besides, it’s easy to make a temporary accommodation for doddering old folks who are too confused to know what’s good for them. Their tribe is shrinking every day. No need to chastise them on their way out.

But therein is the bad news. As far as Sullivan is concerned, Christians who oppose gay marriage are still “bigots” and “homophobic.” He still views Christian opposition to gay marriage as an expression of animus and prejudice. Sullivan’s rhetoric on this point completely overwhelms his otherwise helpful call for tolerance towards Christians. No one is going to tolerate those whom they regard as bigoted and homophobic. And that’s the problem.

6 Responses to Andrew Sullivan calls for tolerance for Christians

  1. Curt Day March 1, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Is Sullivan saying that all Christians who oppose same-sex marriages are bigots or just those who would refuse to provide services and oppose equality? My last conversations with gay activists never resulted in them calling me names even though I believe homosexuality is sin. So perhaps what is called bad news here is really providing an instructive portrait of us. And when we combine that portrait containing our myopic refusal to provide services to same-sex weddings with the insistence of some of us that the world is only a few thousand years old, the insistence that our lifestyle and business/consumption practices can’t possibly harm the environment, along with our apathy both to victims of US interventions and wars and victims of the wealth disparity that our current economic system produces, the picture of us seen by the outside world can only sabotage our efforts to evangelize.

    BTW, I would not say that saying gays were the instigators here is a positive for us Christians. Realize that during the end of Jim Crow and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, that it was the activists who were the instigators. That is it was those who tried to integrate the lunch counters and the freedom riders who were the instigators.

  2. Joe Wisnieski March 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I have just been granted permission to follow my Christian convictions by a gay activist. We’ve come along way.

    It’s interesting that the “Born this way” mentality only flows in one direction. If one assumes a purely naturalistic worldview where everything is determined by genetics and DNA, whose to say that Christians aren’t predisposed toward “religious fanaticism” in a way that we can’t change even if we tried. But as it stands, one group is being told they can’t (and shouldn’t) change, and the other group is being told they must (and should) change.

  3. Steve Potts March 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Here’s a principle I find a bit helpful. Christians should lovingly serve everyone and anyone they can in their business and personal lives up to the point where we join them in their sin. At that point we have to kindly but firmly say “no.” Now some Christians may draw that line in different places (the Bible has something to say about different perspectives regarding conscience, for example food sacrificed to idols, etc.). Providing a wedding cake itself may not join them in their sin, but providing a cake that is specifically “same-sex” in wording and decoration may be. But the issue has to do with the government forcing a person to violate his or her conscience upon penalty, lawsuit, injunction, or fines. Should a Christian printer be forced to print signs for Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay protests or a gay rights group parade? Should a Christian wedding photographer be forced to photograph and attend a gay wedding, a neo-Nazi wedding, or the wedding of a guy who dumped his wife to marry his mistress? Shouldn’t that photographer have the right to decline jobs that violate his or her religious or moral convictions? Bible-believing Christians will face difficult situations in the days ahead, but compromise on religious liberty on this issue will not stop the erosion of freedom. We must stand for what we believe is right before God. If not here, where? If not now, when?

  4. James Bradshaw March 1, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    You guys misread Sullivan. He’s simply saying that whether opposition to gay marriage is based on religious principles or pure bigotry is irrelevant on a personal level. He disagrees with suing either. I can say this because I’ve read his blog for quite some time and I know what his thoughts are on this

    “If we value our freedom as gay people in living our lives the way we wish, we should defend that same freedom to sincere religious believers and also, yes, to bigots and haters.”

    Read it again.

  5. Esther O'Reilly March 2, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I think Denny hit the nail on the head. Thumbs up for the savvy displayed in this post.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. What will be the terms of our surrender? | Denny Burk - March 1, 2014

    […] possible as we move decisively into a cultural minority. One outcome might be the one suggested by Andrew Sullivan—that gay marriage supporters would afford us conscience protections and not coerce us into […]

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