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.