BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 14, 2009
MLK Jr. city-county planning committee responds to pastor selection question

Spaulding raises red flag over City-County MLK Jr. celebration pastor selection over gay rights

Today marks the fifth-annual joint City-County employee observation of the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., to be held at First Presbyterian Church downtown at noon today.

Each year, the event provides an opportunity for local government employees, elected officials, and the public to remember Dr. King and his fight for civil rights -- to bring the spirit and meaning of the day to light.

And each year, the employee-sponsored event's organizers select a keynote speaker to speak at the event. Last year, for instance, Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP president Michelle Cotton Laws, a 2009 Indy citizen award winner, was the speaker.

This year's selection is J.D. Greear, the pastor at Durham/RTP's The Summit Church. He's also a prolific blogger, holding court on a wide range of topics at his eponymous web site. Trained in neighboring Wake Forest's Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Greear shares a denomination and profession with King.

But his selection has drawn fire from another Durham blogger, Pam Spaulding of the nationally-renowned Pam's House Blend LGBT-focused blog.

In an email to elected officials on Wednesday, Spaulding -- herself the great-granddaughter of NC Mutual founder C.C. Spaulding and granddaughter of the late NC Mutual president Asa Spaulding, himself active in national politics as a Presidential advisor and advocate for civil rights -- raised concerns over the appropriateness of Greear's selection, given statements he had made in the past on gay marriage.

Spaulding noted the City Council's unanimous vote last year to support the right of gays and lesbians to marry, and expressed concern that Greear's opposition to that right -- and the manner in which he communicated those feelings, via his web site and presumably elsewhere -- was not in keeping with the spirit (if not the documented letter) of King's legacy.

Last year's City-County celebration speaker, Laws, is herself a strong backer of gay rights, something not noted by Spaulding but picked up by the Indy in their citizen award given her last year.

As Spaulding frets in her email:

Dr. Martin Luther King never spoke on the issue of gay rights, but he never declared that any specific group of people should be denied basic civil rights in this country. His wife Coretta Scott King, who carried on his legacy, was a strong and unfailing supporter of LGBT rights, including the right of gays and lesbians to marry.

Pastor J.D. Greear has sadly represented the the opposite view, castigating the LGBT community as sinners and undeserving of civil rights in this arena. Moreover, he conflates the issue of religious and civil marriage.

In the email and her blog, Spaulding goes on to quote from statements made by Greear, including his comments about homosexuals, whom Greear states are welcome at The Summit but notes that is in the context of repentant sinners, like all Christians, seeking a path forward to redemption:

Doesn’t the church welcome sinners? The church is indeed a hospital for all types of sinners, but the first stage of healing is calling the disease a disease....

There are homosexuals who frequent our church. They are welcome. Their sins are no different than mine. But to join our church you have to agree to live under Christ’s authority. If you are willing to submit to Him, and to cry out to Him for help from your sin, you will join a group of us experiencing healing from our sin.

Spaulding also calls out for criticism Greear's position on gay marriage, calling out for special criticism a reductio ad absurdum argument Greear makes on the subject, asking whether if one could extend the short-lived approval in California of gay marriage through what he would call a 're-definition' of the institution, what would prevent such actions redefinition around polygamy or between those of majority age and a "consenting adolescent?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I haven't had a chance to reach out to Greear, but it is worth noting that -- aside from his blog -- he himself takes a position on the separation of religion and politics in re his church's operation that's more explicitly stated than one might expect from the increasingly-politicized discussions on religion and gay rights... small comfort that that may be to Spaulding and to activists for gay marriage everywhere.

Actually, Greear's post on the subject of gay marriage makes for an interesting read -- in large part for his caveats, given several times, that it's his goal to stay away from political topics in his preaching at The Summit, even if he raises the questions on the blog:

My decision to stay out of politics, personally, has to do with my own personal calling as a pastor. My primary calling is to the Gospel, and I refuse to entangle myself in anything that keeps me from that one thing. The Gospel, and not a particular political persuasion, is the "main thing" at our church. We have both Republicans and Democrats on our staff and in our congregation. We have both McCainiacs and Obama-mamas in our congregation and on our stage each Sunday.

I will do my best to teach biblical principles about all areas of life, but applying them to various political situations I'll usually leave to you. You may disagree with me on how I apply a biblical worldview to situations--say, the war in Iraq, taxation, theories about climate change, etc. That is OK. I don't want to let that divide us. Plus, I know I might be wrong in my opinion on the war in Iraq or the proper role of the government in education. 

That position actually drew heated opposition in the comments from a self-proclaimed graduate of the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, who castigated Greear for not preaching the politics from a bully pulpit and for not excluding those who didn't fit the commenter's idea of religion:

It's easier to preach to the choir than take the ball to the hoop. It's easier to NOT get involved, and it's easier to hide behind a mantle of religiosity. If the Gospel is ALL that you are dedicated too, then you have already failed in your stated objective. Separate the men in the Bible who were not involved in government and see how many books of the Bible you have left. [...] When an abortion supporter, and an abortion opponent, can feel at home in the same church - something other than the Biblical Gospel is being preached.

As Greear responded to that commenter:

You also seemed to overlook the fact that I said that some Christians should be involved in politics full time, bringing the worldview into it. I just don't see it as the job of the local church, which is to be a Gospel community centered on the Gospel. I have plenty of experience with churches that were known for a political platform more than the Gospel. In, my experience, THEY are the ones who end up preaching only to the choir. I might be wrong in my opinion about global warming. I'm not wrong about the Gospel.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For her part, Spaulding asked city and county officials to ask Greear to step aside from speaking -- something that might be difficult for what's an employee-organized event -- or for them to make an affirmation of their support of "civil equality" for LGBTs at the event.

To my guess, I'd assume Greear would steer widely clear of the whole matter in today's discussion, focusing instead on King's legacy in civil rights and his accomplishments around race.

To Spaulding, the discussion of civil rights can't happen in a vacuum that excludes discussion of gay rights.

It's a matter on which there's been some support from the voting body politic -- but also one which, as Spaulding noted in her remarks on the racially-split reaction from the audience that night at City Council, not everyone in the local black community supported.

At the end of the day, to some extent, the whole matter speaks as much about the divisions we still face in this country, not just over what we've accomplished for equality in realms like race where there's broad agreement, but in how we define what the boundaries of civil rights should be in the first place.

If there's a lesson I take away from the whole matter, it's that we sure could use a Dr. King more than ever these days.

Comments

gaylib

Will, It may be easy for you to say "let this go". And I'm sorry that it is bringing you down, but this is about our fundamental civil rights and I will not "let it go" just to make you or anyone else feel better. If Dave doesn't like being called a bigot, he shouldn't act like one by comparing people like me to wife beaters and symptoms of a disease. I live in Durham and if these are views that my neighbors hold, I will denounce them every chance I get. Your sentiment that this debate makes you "uncomfortable" just shows how easy it is to diminish the importance of our struggle when our so called allies want to take the easy way out. As MLK Jr. himself said,

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

Everytime someone makes a hateful statement like Dave, or Greear, or anyone else, it is our responsibility to answer that with truth and righteousness. THAT is the legacy of Dr. King.

Daniel Cummins

It is worth pointing out that there are some serious lapses in logic occuring here. I already described above that his use of the word 'disease' is not saying that homosexuality is a disease but that all sin is the disease, and homosexuality, like lying, cheating, or just being a jerk are all symptoms. You can disagree with that if you want, but people on here seem to be assuming that Greear is spewing out anti-gay rhetoric out of some deep-seeded psychological need to feel good about himself, which based on his writings seems to be far from the truth. He is essentially saying ALL humans are equally fallen and sinfull before God. That doesnt sound like hate and fear-mongoring to me. Saying that homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so is one thing...being a hatefull person is totally different, and just because someone believes the first, it does NOT make them the second.

Also, it is a classic logical fallacy to judge a belief system by the actions of those who take that beliefe and pervert it to violent extreme to serve their own purposes. As such, judging Greear's position by comparing to a Ugandan Genocide is a very weak argument, because outside of a surface-level similarity in belief, there is no similarity. Greear has specifically stated that all are welcome at his church and that they have no agenda other than love in their hearts, whereas in the extreme cases like those in Africa, it is obvious based on the actions of those in charge that there truly is hate and fear in their hearts.

All beliefs are at some point in history distorted and perverted by human beings in order to serve their own interests. Its inevitable, but when critiquing a person, we have to be carefull not to lump them in with extremists. Is it fair for me to judge the beliefs of Islam based on the events of 9/11? of course not. Is it fair to judge the position of atheism based on the genocides committed in the 20th century by facists and communists? Again, no. Or judging the anti-abortion community based on those who bomb abortion clinics. Also no. Why then are people so quick to judge a seemingly humble mild-mannered man in Durham based on the atrocities of those in a country half-way around the world? It does not make logical sense.

If a person wants to criticize Greear's beliefs because the idea that homosexuality is considered a sin is an offensive one to them, ok good lets discuss that. Greear's position seems to come directly from the same Bible that MLK preached, so you'll have to start there. But logic and prudence dictates that exagerrating Greear's position to equate him with fundamentally different beliefs and actions committed elsewhere in the world is frankly quite dumb, and when a person makes those comparisons it actually makes THEM look like the person who is thinking in black and white, not the one their criticizing. It makes YOU look like the one who has fear in their heart. Fear of analyzing what you believe and why you believe it, instead of just projecting insecurity on to others.

You're entitled to your opinion of him of course, but it just seems like if you would step back and analyze what he ACTUALLY has said and done, you would avoid making those leaps of logic that only weaken your position.

gaylib

Daniel, first of all the belief that being gay is a sin is the root of our discrimination. I don't care what you base that belief on, it is wrong. Being gay is an inherent quality like skin color, height, etc. The entire scientific and medical establishment agree on this point. Because an archaic manuscript that is over 2000 years old says otherwise makes you look like the one with the weak-minded argument.

Secondly, if you are not aware of the connection between anti-gay evangelical christians in the US and the impending genocide in Uganda, I'll forgive your ignorance. Here's some ifo:

"Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.

The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations."

Uganda has also become a magnet for American evangelical groups. Some of the best known Christian personalities have recently passed through here, often bringing with them anti-homosexuality messages, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who visited in 2008 and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Whether you want to admit it or not, hateful rhetoric like Greears and his colleagues, which demean fellow human beings for nothing more than their inherent characteristics, has consequences in the real world.

We celebrate Dr. King for his civil rights legacy, not his christianity. That legacy belongs to all of us, especially those of us who live with discrimination and persecution.

Brett Lybrand

i'm not much of a poster on these things but if we are honoring Martin Luther King Jr. what's up with all the hate. I don't remember MLK being filled with hate toward anyone even those opposed him, unlike many of the posts opposing JD greear on here. MLK jr. loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him. I took a class on MLK Jr. in graduate school and was most impressed with his love for his enemies. He took the attitude of Jesus "Forgive them for they know not what they do" while sacrificing himself for the movement. What I sense on this website from those who oppose J.D. Greear is hatred. I'm not saying the other side is innocent in this but i'm not impressed at all with this side either. just an opinion

Daniel Cummins

I understand your point, and I am well aware and would agree that there is a definite link between American/Western Evangelicals and the Ugandan genocide, but my point was that the genocide you speak of, and even the well-meaning (of course i use that term loosely) rhetoric surrounding homosexuality - those things may share the same root as Greears position, IE verses in the Bible, but they are fundamentally different interpretations, based on how a given party chooses to react to it. Those evangelists and the Ugandan officials use it as an excuse to feed their self-righteousness and demean others, ultimately to the point of murder. I see at no point where anything Greear has said even remotely comes close to that. Inded, he seems to be taking it in the exact opposite direction - demonstrating that he and those in his church are in No way superior, and that all humans need the same redemption from God no matter what their sin is.

THat is the difference. You are still entitled to believe that anyone who believes homosexuality is a sin is a bigot, and qualitatively no different from those murderers in Africa, but surely you must admit that the actions of one group though they may share similar ideological roots, cannot be used to define another group. This is tantamount to saying that if there were a militant Gay-rights group in some other nation taking your words out of context and using them to murder all who were not like you, that you would somehow be culpable in that. I think you'd agree that someone taking your base belief and perverting it into an excuse for murder should in no way categorically dismiss your view by proxy.

Thats all I'm saying. You could even say that beliefs like Greear's, though benign in their intent, represent a slippery slope towards genocide, and I'd probably agree, because logically it would make sense, but you just cannot lump two groups of people together who have showned 180 degree differences in their interpretation of the same idea. Again fundamental issues of sin/morality/the bible/etc are a seperate discussion, but just because two groups both disagree with you does NOT mean that they agree with each other.

Mike Morrell

It's not surprising that a megachurch pastor would have the stance he does about the inclusion of gay folks in his church; it's also not surprising that a LGBT civil rights' group would object to his speaking at a MLK celebration.

With that said - and side-stepping the issue of whether being gay is 'okay' with God & Christians or not, as much ink has been spilled on such debates already - the question this post seems to be asking is "What would MLK himself think about the struggle for gay civil rights today?"

That's a tough question to answer; even his own family members interpret it differently. For instance, his eldest daughter Yolanda was a strong advocate for gay rights and said that her father was privately during his life - but he had to choose his battles carefully in the 1960s, and he was primarily concerned with securing black civil rights first. On the other hand, King's daughter Bernice is more evangelical/charismatic, and hence conservative in her theology and politics - they insist that MLK would be opposed to gay civil rights.

I personally think that Yolanda's views are more in keeping with what MLK thought, especially considering that one of his right-hand organizers was gay in a time when it was not politically expedient. Here's a decent overview of all that: http://www.blackcommentator.com/119/119_mlk_gays.html

GreenLantern

"History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

From this quixotic discussion, it has become clear to me that there's absolutly no difference in religious bigotry and ambivalence. There's just no middle ground for the peacemakers.

Tracey

True followers of Christ do not view sinners as a "we versus them" mentality as said above. WE (including all humans) are ALL sinners and ALL fall short of being perfect. The representation here on this blog that all Christians that attend church are all lumped into one hateful pot that blindly follow our Preacher is an incorrect assumption. The point is that JD sees himself as flawed as the homosexual, the curser, the liar, the thief, the cheating apouse because WE are all flawed in many ways and imperfect. JD just preaches the written word. He didn't author the Bible, but he lives his life depending on it as his guideline. He is just a mere messenger. If you don't agree with what he preaches, then take it up with God who inspired the Bible- but don't take away our civil right to believe that homosexuality is a sin.

gaylib

Daniel, there is a direct cause and effect relationship between those that believe that being gay is a sin and violence and discrimination against gays and lesbians. Just anecdotally, look at where gays and lesbians have the most equality--in countries where religous beliefs are not given the same credence as scientific fact, like Spain and the Netherlands and Canada. In countries with higher rates of religious extremism--be it christianity in Uganda or Islam in Saudi Arabia, being gay is not only a sin, but a crime punishable by imprionment and death. Whether or not some of those people that believe that being gay is a sin think gays should be murdered is irrelevant. The effect on gay men and women worldwide is the same.

As far as comparing my suggestion that Greears words might have violent consequences to some "gay militant" group being used to demonize all gays, I have just one question. What gay militant group? Where are all those gay groups out there intimidating christians with violence and bigotry? How many places can you mention where Christians are forced into fearful silence by gay dogma and propaganda? Where gays force christians to renounce their religion through "reparative" programs? ...I'm waiting.

And as for Brett--save your tired "why are gays so hateful" schtick. You don't get to call me a sick, immoral, wife beating disease and expect that to bring out my good side. I don't hate anyone, just injustice and bigotry.

Daniel Cummins

I certainly did not mean to imply that there are or have ever existed some kind of Gay-Militant group. My only point there was to presuppose that IF such a group were to exist, however unlikely, that you would feel frustrated that your views of justice, equality, and liberty were made a mockery of by extremists who only want to do harm to others. Thus my point that critics of the Christian viewpoint on homosexuality should take care to know exactly who it is they are critiquing, and not lump all opponents into one large category, as there are some pretty fundamental differences among them.

Your point is well taken that anecodotally there is a relation from belief in 'homosexuality is a sin' to persecution, discrimination, and violence. They are two points on a spectrum. We can all agree on that. Where we might disagree is how close are they on that spectrum? Where one's personal beliefs lie is very telling in this regard. We as humans naturally tend to group other that disagree with us rather broadly into groups, ignoring subtleties make a big difference.

And though you and I have had a civil discussion between us, and I am respectfull of that, be carefull not to let your emotions overcome your skills at debate. For example, in response to Brett, you implied that either he or someone has called you a 'sick immoral wife-beating disease'. I understand that you were exagerrating to make a point, and that you have every right to be emotional and passionate about defending yourself and your beliefs, but statements like that make it seems as if you are lumping all those of a different opinion into one class of bigot, which I don't believe is the case. Again, i mean you no disrespect and I thank you for engaging me in intelligent discussion, just remember that you hurt your credibility and that of your cause when you make assumptions and exagerrations.
peace, Dan

gaylib

Daniel you can put lipstick on that pig all day long, but it's still a pig. You're wrong, and bigoted, for defending someone who considers who I am a "sin"(and for believing it yourself). If that bigotry is based on ignorance and then blanketed in good intentions and under the guise of "civil discussion", it doesn't make a lick of difference. It's all the same to me. One of the things that the civil rights movement taught us is that we can not force people to not believe that they are superior to others, but we can stifle they're ability to profess that bigoted belief in the public square. By standing up to intolerant people like you, I'm am only doing my part to further MLK Jr.'s dream for a land where all of us are treated as equals.

Daniel Cummins

"stifle they're ability to profess"

that doesn't sound very American to me, or in the spirit of MLK. I was in the most civil way possible attempting to discuss a sensitive subject with you, and you respond by labeling anyone who doesn't agree with you, or defends via logical discourse anyone who disagrees with you, a bigot and someone who does not deserve the constitutional right of free speech.

It seems as if you are deciding who you think is wrong and then using that as justification for removing their rights. You do not grant me the right to speak because you believe I am wrong, which is exactly what you are railing against. You are saying that intolerance cannot be tolerated. Do you see the logical flaw in that? If you truly cared about equality for all as you are saying, then you would be responding to me in the same civil manner with which i am speaking to you, instead of calling me names and equating me with evil people.

But honestly (and I dont know you personally so I apologize if Im misrepresnting you - I can only go by what you post here) it seems as if you are either incapable or unwilling to be objective enough to respond to opposition in an adult manner. That is understandable because its clearly a very important issue to you, so i respect that. But you are categorically dismissing anyone who shares a different belief than you, and deciding that they do not have the right to speak as result. If I were the type to make similar generalizations as you are, then I could say that you are basically doing the same thing as those who are discriminating against you because of your belief. I do not think you are that bad, however because I recognize that there are infinite subtleties in life. My point is that maybe you should examine how you are reacting to people and treating them and start to analyze whether that is consistent with MLK's words that you are so quick to invoke.

I mean no personal offense, but seriously.

Kevin

gaylib - They will never understand. Keep fighting the good fight!!

Kelly

Daniel--I don't think the question is whether the pastor has a right to speak. The question is whether a pastor who does not support full equality and civil rights for gays and lesbians--or any other group of people--is an appropriate choice to speak at a city-county event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights. Speak all day, if you want to--speak on street corners, in your pulpit, anywhere you can find some ragtag band of like-minded bigots to listen to you. But the right to speak and the right to speak at an event honoring equality and civil rights are not the same thing.

Jon

I like the issue that James raised, at least as a question, not necessarily his answer. I don't think "gaylib" provided a valuable response at all, and for him/her to say that James' argument is logically flawed and not explain logical reasons, but merely emotions, as to why it was illogical is a waste of comment space. If we're all going to get anywhere, let's at least stay focused on real arguments of reason.

James question ultimately is: "Do supporters of gay civil marriage - meaning access to all contractual rights (federal and state) afforded to heterosexual couples who sign a marriage certificate - wish to define any parameters about what marriage IS NOT?"

This question is very important. It's clear that many people have differing views about what ought to be constituted as a valid civil marriage. The real question in finding where we disagree is what we believe isn't marriage and ultimately the reasons why. If our government is going to offer special benefits to people because they sign a document, that government has to explain upon what basis it has decided who can and cannot sign the document. Are their reasons for the government to deny these privileges to same sex couples? Are their reasons to deny them to a relational unit of three people - one man and two women or two men and one woman? How about 4?

If at any point on the continuum of possible relational frameworks you discover you're willing to deny marriage to any conglomeration of people, you have now proven yourself a bigot towards their rights - as defined by many people in the above posts. In order to justify the bigotry, you must appeal to some type of reason, moral authority, or justification for your views, otherwise a conversation about it is pointless. The argument then becomes a discussion over which standard for civil marriage makes the most sense for a society.

If anyone wants to enter this sort of debate, I'm very interested because I'm not sure where I stand yet. It's pretty obvious where a lot of the Christians stand. I want to know about the gay supporters. Do any of you gay supporters advocate denying civil marriage rights to any combination of humans if all voluntarily desire to be in that relational framework and believe it is the ideal version of family?

Kelly

You know what--I could find a pastor and a church to marry me and my partner right now. I could have a big, fancy church wedding, presided over by clergy, stand up in front of God and everyone and declare my eternal and undying love for my partner, have our relationship affirmed by our family and friends and a witnessing congregation. All the religious trappings a person could want. I could have a religious marriage right now. Today.

But big deal. That church marriage would get me none of the rights and privileges that straight people are accorded BY THE STATE when they get married. They do not have to subscribe to any religious beliefs to get these rights. I say render to Caesar what is Caesar's: Civil unions for all: Gay & straight. And let people sort our their religious marriages on their own, in their own churches and congrations--or not.

Jon

Kelly,

Would you support extending those same rights of a civil union to a group of 3 who have a deep relationship with one another and want to build a family around it?

Kelly

Jon--what is your issue with polygamy? You seem somewhat obsessed with it. And if you want to get Biblical about it, we can find biblical precedents for that--so how would you argue to deny it?

Frank

@gaylib You are a sinner...and sin is a disease. Not JUST homosexuality. There's tons of sins. You just happen to commit one that is specifically forbidden in God's Word. Romans 1:18-32

GreenLantern

"Do any of you gay supporters advocate denying civil marriage rights to any combination of humans if all voluntarily desire to be in that relational framework and believe it is the ideal version of family?"

Red herring.

"Would you support extending those same rights of a civil union to a group of 3 who have a deep relationship with one another and want to build a family around it?"

Slippery slope.

If you don't define the limits of the argument, you can come up will all kinds of fallacies. No one is advocating the extreme slippery slope that you and a lot of other people are afraid of. It just serves to get people of both sides shouting at each other rather than moving forward step by step until some universal limit or common ground is reached. You try to jump to the very end of possibility just to silence the debate at the beginning.

gaylib

People like you, Daniel, and you, Jon, used these same arguments almost two centuries ago to justify keeping their fellow human beings in chains and subjugate them and submit them to all sorts of foul abuses. They claimed that they were only following the word of the bible. They were wrong. It wasn't their opinion, it wasn't an "alternative" way of looking at things. It was just wrong. It took nearly all of those two hundred years for most of them to get that. when I suggested curbing the use of bigotry in the public square, I didn't mean that it should be illegal, but that there should be consequences for it that make it unattractive, and thus less disruptive of a cohesive, just society. If you want to say the things you believe about being gay, then you'd better expect a response like mine every time until you get it through your thick skull that a lot of us don't want to hear it. Over time people like you (like the segregationists of past decades) are taken less and less seriously until there's just a few die hards who just won't ever open up their minds. I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that when you don't have a leg to stand on in an argument you resort to condescension and faux indignation. You might find sympathy for that in some quarters, especially in this part of the country, but it won't last forever. People like you will just become isolated further and further from the mainstream until you peter out. And if that means I have to write a million comments in response to you, for me it is well worth it.

kelly, Jon obviously doesn't know that in heavily Christian Uganda, wherer evangelists like Greear felt the need to spread anti-gay rhetoric (in a country where it is already illegal to be gay), polygamy is legal and widespread. I guess they figure as long as it is not a result of homosexuality, its ok.

Jon

First of all, I am almost willing to advocate civil marriage for both homosexuals and polygamists. Both gaylib and greenlantern judged my opinion when I didn't even offer it. I simply asked a few questions in order to understand the framework we're operating under in this debate. I haven't excluded anyone, condemned them for their behaviors, or made any judgements about what is right and wrong. I just think the question raised is important: should we deny civil marriage rights to any relational framework? I honestly do not know the answer to that question and I'm seeking to learn your opinion and the reasons why.

Greenlantern, I agree with you that discussing an extreme possibility could have the effect or the intent of stifling the debate now, but that's not what I'm advocating. I'm not advocating the fear of polygamy as a means to prevent gay marriage. I'm asking the question: on what basis do we make the decision to extend civil marriage rights to gays now, but delay extending those rights to polygamists? In my mind, in order to be logically consistent, we should offer the rights to all relational frameworks unless someone can provide a solid reason why we shouldn't. You mentioned that it's an evolving process, so I ask: what is keeping us from extending those rights to polygamists or what is yet to occur in our evolutionary process that justifies prohibiting three-way marriage? I've read many stories of swinger couples and multiple partnered households who would genuinely want to earn those same rights. Do you believe they should be denied. It's a reality in the present moment, not a red herring.

There is an incredible arrogance in stating that you hold the correct understanding of civil marriage at the present time in world history and that we just aren't ready to embrace further extension of those rights to other frameworks. You are claiming to hold the perfect understanding for this current time and you're also saying that best practices are always in flux (which is yet to be a proven principle). To claim that you hold the most valuable perspective without giving any justification for why I should think so and especially without proving that your opinion is somehow informed by an immense aggregation of knowledge about everyone's readiness for other types of unions is fallacious.

Both you and gaylib have labeled me into a certain category when I'm yet to make a single claim. You have no idea what my beliefs are. I think both of you and many of the Christians posting here have extended your opinions well beyond the reach of your evidence.

Gaylib, you lost me amongst all your spewing. I don't even know if we disagree and yet you make hateful comments about a perspective I haven't even expressed. You've shown your true colors.

Jon

Kelly,

First of all, I don't think the government is the ideal institution through which to define any form of marriage. Because our government has chosen to get into the marriage business and unfairly redistribute wealth from singles and renters to marrieds and homeowners, we must have a discussion about who deserves those benefits. For the purpose of this discussion, I don't think I have a problem with polygamy or three-way households of any combination as a civil union. Do you? If so, why?

Erik Landfried

@Jon,

I think you raise an interesting point about polygamy, since that is the other potential form of civil union that could involve consenting adults.

I don't even pretend to know all of the pros and cons of allowing polygamy in this country, but one thing that would seem to be different between that and same-sex unions are the legal ramifications of having multiple parties. It just seems like a lot more would need to be worked out before a decision could be made about different scenarios (what happens financially if one person wants to end the union...what happens if two people want a third person to leave the union, etc.).

There are so many different scenarios for polygamy that it seems like, even if society decided it should be legalized, it would take a long time to work through all of those legal issues.

With same-sex unions, there wouldn't need to be any differences from the way opposite-sex unions are treated today, right? Just make it lawful for two consenting adults, regardless of their gender, to form a civil union. End of story.

Like I said, I know very little about this subject and I think it's definitely an interesting point to raise. I'm just not sure polygamy and same-sex unions should be lumped into the same conversation because the issues involved in each seem fairly different. In other words, I would hate for same-sex civil unions to be delayed any further while the government figures out all of the complex rules that would surround polygamy.

If anyone knows more about this than I do, I'd love to read more about it.

Jon

Erik,

I like your pragmatic thinking, but that may in fact undermine the whole point of the discussion. You actually may be making the point that civil rights are only to be extended when it becomes a low cost implementation procedure. That subverts the idea that rights are rights, regardless of when it becomes easy to enforce.

GreenLantern

Jon: I don't know you, so I'm not going to lump you in with the extremists based on a few comments about an issue you are struggling with. I'm just trying to apply some logic and pragmatism as to why we should be celebrating MLK Jr's legacy by inviting a speaker (who I also don't know enough about) who says one thing about homosexuals, marriage, and the struggle for equal rights in one venue and possibly another in the public forum. We're all struggling with these types of issues as society evolves into a new mainstream of the 21st century in comparision to just a few decades ago in the last century. In 1990, I may have felt differently about whether or not to support something like gay marriage. Back then it seemed a ridiculous proposal and I considered how the slippery slope would lead to all sorts of arrangements.

For me, the difference just boils down to a simple comparison of one couple, either of opposite sex or of same sex. That's as far as I go. Just because we go from A (traditional marriage) to B (civil unions/gay adoptions) to C (gay marriage w/same financial & legal benefits), does NOT follow that we must go to D (decriminalization of adultery) or to E (marriage between human and animal), and so on...

Mainstream views evolve over time, which is why we have such difficulty interpreting the Constitution and the amendments and laws that have followed. Think of slavery, women's rights, minority rights, privacy rights, civil rights, fetal rights, etc., all having evolved over time. In nearly all cases rights were bestowed or interpreted from judicial precedent over time, rather than taken away, with the exception of Jim Crow.

If we were to poll the population on marriage today, we could maybe find that 70% believe in traditional marriage only, 20% civil unions, 8% gay marriage, 1% polygamy, 0.5% cousins, 0.48% adult/child, and 0.02% human/personal pet. Even if my numbers are way off, the fact that nearly 30% of the population (which is probably low based on recent state referenda) believe in gay unions is a much more significant argument than what the other 2% would like to see happen. That doesn't mean at some future point there will be a new debate about the other arrangements, but to the distance those proposals are from the simple choice of two, unrelated adults.

Yes, rights are rights regardless of how difficult it is to enforce, UNLESS those rights harm another person and clearly break social mores. Examples are the remaining 2% or less, or some other "don't even go there" situation that receive nearly universal opposition. Since the question of gay marriage is between adults, and the difference is only gender, it becomes vastly more simple to support the proposal than all those that follow. To go from A to B to C becomes analagous to the relative distance between Mercury, Venus, and Earth, and to go from C to D or E becomes the distance between Mercury and Pluto! The slippery slope fallacy loses its impact on the argument, as does many other red herrings that are thrown down to paralyze the debate.

The last thing I will say regarding Dr. Greear and others with similar views, is that while I understand their position based on what I know of religious and socio-political influences, I don't agree with them because I can't find those views supported by logic and reason. It's obvious I'm not religious. I only hope they evolve to at least consider the scientific basis for what they seem to despise, rather than evolving a more sophisticated, gentle, "loving" form of tolerance that serves as much to keep others down as any outward bigotry of the past. They can try to wrap a pretty package around good deeds and the outward expression of compassion to us just as sinners in their eyes, but unless they back that up with a change of heart and a call to action, I'm left to object to their representatives and their agenda.

Erik Landfried

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked by the practicality/legal aspects of each situation. I should have been clearer.

I do not see polygamy as a civil right. I do see same-sex civil unions as a civil rights issue. To me, homosexuality is a part of who some people are, like the color of their skin. It is not something that can be overcome or "cured". So by denying homosexuals the same opportunities and advantages as heterosexuals, I believe that their civil rights are being violated.

Polygamists are not born polygamists...they choose that lifestyle. So whether or not they have the right to marry multiple partners is not a matter of civil rights, it's just a matter of legality. A heterosexual polygamist (say, a man who wants to marry two women) still has the right to marry a woman, just not two women. That is a very different situation.

Honestly, the most disheartening thing about the struggle for gay rights to me is that so many people don't seem to believe that homosexuality is part of the essence of a person rather than a choice. And I honestly have no idea why people believe that. I mean, do those people think that a homosexual just wakes up one day and says, "You know what? I think I want to be oppressed and ostracized in society and not have all of the same rights as every other American?" It's such a patently ridiculous argument and yet so many seem to cling to it.

And that's what scares me the most. Not people cherry-picking verses from the Bible to mask their fear of the "other" (people have done that for a very long time - see: defending slavery). As has been proven throughout history, fear can eventually be overcome. Women and blacks now have the same rights as white men in America. So it can be done.

The difference here is that some people think of homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, not a way of being. Is that just another part of the fear that be overcome? If not, then homosexuality will continue to be lumped together with things like polygamy. And that would be a huge mistake.

Jon

I think both Greenlantern and Erik have really hit some great points in this debate.

Before I hit on them I'll say this: Civilly speaking, marriage laws shouldn't necessarily be held to a religious standard, but I would argue that being a progressive and constantly improving society doesn't necessarily mean we simply give the majority what they want. That isn't a solid principle on which to build the foundations of justice. I think there are definite cases in which the majority should not get their way in order for individuals to be protected: the bill of rights, religious freedom, barriers to entry in competition, government provided homes, etc.

On to the good stuff. I think if civil unions/marriage should be extended to homosexuals, it should be regardless of how many people want it. It's either a right, or it's not. Rights don't change. The way you guys have laid it out almost says that "it's ok to oppress 2% of the population for their marriage convictions because we believe it's a choice. We don't like their choice to be polygamists because it's unhealthy for our society." That's the exact argument that christians use to prevent gay marriage. The numbers don't matter, it's the principle. This brings me to the most important question your posts raised.

"Is homosexual lifestyle and/or the fulfillment of homosexual desires a choice?" From what I know, I don't think any Christian would argue that having homosexual desire is a choice. We all experience desires that we don't have volitional control over: hunger, thirst, sex, anger, fear, etc. These are general categories, but depending on the person, they can be manifested in very unique ways. Some people have some incredibly strange, but natural ways they want to fulfill sexual desire. Where Christians think a choice is being made is when someone decides to act on their desire. If someone acts on a desire that God has described as unhealthy in their life, they're rebelling against God's prescribed way of living. Now, it would be naive to think God (assuming he's all powerful) doesn't know that the people he's created have natural desires running against his prescribed way of living. I don't think it's unfair for God to ask people to control their desires. I'm not sure about you guys, but I have desires all the time to sleep with other women. I'm married. Having those desires isn't wrong, but acting on them, either mentally or physically is. It's something I must manage and work toward eliminating. I value monogamy.

That said, I'm not arguing this is the case in homosexuality, just that this is the Christian perspective, which, I've found, many non-Christians are naive to. They lump Christians into this one group of bigots without really addressing the reasons Christians think homosexual fulfillment is a choice.

So, from a moral/religious standpoint, we're talking about whether or not homosexual fulfillment is a choice that people can have control over. This informs civil rights. Certainly, if someone can't control a character trait or behavior that doesn't harm the property or person of others, we would give them a right to that. If they can, the decision becomes more complex. We have to ask more detailed questions about the implications of that right on society.

It sounds like both of you would argue that polygamists are making a choice but homosexuals are not. I'm still not convinced of how you distinguish those. Does it require a consistent, intense level of desire? If those are your criteria, I would argue that there are other types of sexual behaviors in the world that fit them. What does it mean to say that someone is born gay? How are they different from people with other types of instinctual sexual desires?

gaylib

Just in case you need more evidence of the violent christian bigotry that keeps gay people living in fear and in second class citizenship.

http://glaadblog.org/2010/01/14/glaad-demands-apology-and-retraction-of-dangerous-anti-gay-cartoon/

"On Wednesday, 13 January, The Observer, the student newspaper at Notre Dame University ran an incredibly troubling cartoon that promotes violence against the LGBT community.

The cartoon depicted a conversation between two figures. The conversation read,

"The Mobile Party" from The Observer January 13, 2010

“What’s the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?”

“No idea.”

“A baseball bat.”

As many people know, “fruit” is often used as a derogatory term for members of the LGBT community.

This type of advocacy of anti-LGBT violence must stop. It isn’t funny. What’s more, it promotes hate crimes, which are all too prevalent in society today.

The cartoonist had posted on his blog – though it’s since been removed – his original version of the cartoon. In the original version, it shows that the punchline read, “AIDS” instead of “A baseball bat.” The paper, he reported, preferred “not to make light of fatal diseases.”"

This sort of thing happens every day, and not by "fringe" groups. Notre Dame is the premiere Catholic Institution of higher learning in the US. It is mainstream christians like yourselves that are keeping hate and violence alive in this country. Those of you that sugar coat your wicked hate speech should be ashamed of yourselves. Your views enable this type of hate, which leads directly to violence against gays and lesbians like Matthew Shepard and Lawrence King. Your hate filled assertions that being gay is a sin leads directly to the deaths of children, like King, in this country. You are without shame or conscience.

gaylib

Jon your argument is as ridiculous as it is petty. Let's apply your logic to dominant hand use. most people prefer to use their right hand, a small group use their left. An even smaller group uses both. The "choice" to use any given hand is available to all people, regardless of their preference. Imagine if a religious group determined that the bible prohibited the use of the left, or both, hands. They might argue, like you, that left handed people have the ability (choice) to use their right hand (even though it is unnatural and uncomfortable), so therefore they should, and if they continue to use the left they are in violation of some superstitious belief and guilty of sin. Don't you see how ridiculous that is? Can't you see how infuriating it is that people like me face constant intimidation over such a deeply flawed belief system? yet you want to continually claim to be the victim of discrimination. you are a world class hypocrite and in my opinion a coward because you don't want to say why you REALLY oppose gay rights, which is a deep seated fear and hatred of gay people based on entrenched sexual and gender conditioning. If that is not the case then the only alternative is that you are exceedingly weak minded and easily convinced of the most twisted, unfounded logic that comes your way.

BTW I was last harassed for being who I am on the streets of downtown durham (near the carolina theater) a couple months ago. My partner and I were called "queers", "sinners", "disgusting", and "faggots" just for walking down the street. Our harassers outnumbered us and threatened us with violence, all the while quoting the bible. When was the last time something like that happened to you for being christian?

Liz

As a member of First Pres, where this event was held, I'd like to point out that our church is one if many that rejects beliefs like those taught at Summit.

"First Presbyterian welcomes all who worship here. We honor and respect the human diversity and unity that God gives us in Christ. We welcome individuals of every age, race, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and economic circumstance to participate fully in the life of the church."

Andy

Do we not currently have "equal" rights? The definition of marriage currently excludes most of the population. One may not marry someone of their own sex or a minor. Furthermore, a married person may not marry anyone else simultaneously. So to have the state recognize a marriage tomorrow one must be unmarried, not a minor, intend to marry another single person who is not a minor of the opposite sex.
There is nothing about having a right to marry whoever you "want" to, who you are "naturally inclined" to have sexual attraction towards, or anything of the sort. One group just wants to change the current "equal" right to be a different "equal" right - marry whoever you want: as long as it is a single, currently unmarried person who is not a minor. By their own definitions the "pro gay marriage" side is just a "bigoted" (a ridiculous word in this context) as their opponents, but fortunately for them their opponents also dislike polygamy.
While the author has dismissed the "polygamy" argument, it is still an argument that deserves a response. The situation is the same - consenting adults want to do something which affects only them and others find it "icky". Is there any difference between polygamy and homosexual marriage? "It's a silly argument" is not an acceptable answer to the many groups who have practiced this historically and the many, many groups who continue to do so around the world today.

Erik Landfried

@Andy and Jon

Here's why "it's a silly argument": You are both confusing a "civil right" from a "law". It is illegal to marry more than one person and it is illegal to marry a minor. Whether you agree with those laws or not, that's up to you.

Likewise, it is illegal (in most states) to marry a person of the same sex. Whether you agree with that law or not is irrelevant. The difference is that no one is born a polygamist. There is nothing inherent in being a person who wants to marry a minor. Homosexuality is inherent to who some people are, just as heterosexuality is to others (and lots of things in between). If you do not offer the same rights to consenting adults BASED ON SOMETHING THAT IS INHERENT TO THEIR BEING, then you are denying them basic civil rights. I don't know how to make it much clearer than that.

Polygamy and homosexuality simply cannot be equated. Polygamy can either be legal or illegal, but it is not a basic human right. As long as you deny homosexuals the ability to form a civil union, you deny them a civil right.

Final note: Jon, what does "homosexual fulfillment" mean? Sex? Is sex a necessary factor for a civil union? Or marriage for that matter? I don't understand that argument one bit.

Joshua Allen

The reason this man should not speak at MLK events is simple: MLK events are supposed to celebrate civil rights, and this man is opposed to them. If you disagree, then you do not understand the definition of civil rights. Here is a snippet of the 14th Amendment, which defines civil rights:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Gays are denied the civil right of marrying the person of their choice, while straights are allowed to marry the person of their choice. That denies their equal protection of the laws. This is not about religion. It is about civil rights, and this preacher should not be speaking at MLK events, because he only supports the rights he happens to agree with. That's the antithesis of civil rights.

Helen

@Erik -
Could you discuss a bit what you're basing your statement "no one is born a polygamist" on? From what I understand, the phenomenon now mainly referred to as "polyamory" has only begun to be studied with any sort of seriousness, and there are those in the scientific community who believe it may indeed have some biological or genetic basis. If further studies did conclude or confirm this (at least to the same level that homosexuality has now been linked to genetics), would this affect your position?

SINNER TOO

WOW THE ONLY HATRED I FEEL HERE SEEMS TO COME FROM A BUNCH OF SELF-SERVING A** HOLES, SPREADING HATE TO MAKE THEMSELVES FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEIR PERVERTED PRACTICES AND BELIEFS, GOD HAS THE FINAL WORD, WE WILL PRAY FOR YOU ALL READ YOUR BIBLE PRAY AND IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT GIVING TO YOUR COMMUNITY, WE CAN TALK, BUT IF YOU JUST WANT TO BE-LITTLE OTHERS FOR THEIR BELIEFS, YOU ARE WORSE THAN WHAT YOU PREACH AGAINST GROW UP

Kelly

Hey Sinner Too: what a charitable Christian example you set by referring to people as "self-serving a**holes." You're certainly setting the morality bar low. Not to mention the compassion and love-your-neighbor-as-yourself bars.

Joan Dark

Summit cultists, some of us find such statements as below quite offensive:

"...not saying that homosexuality is a disease but that all sin is the disease, and homosexuality, like lying, cheating, or just being a jerk are all symptoms."

You glibly compare our orientation with "...lying, cheating, or just being a jerk..."

Then you seem surprised that we are offended?!

Truly, it's like our suggesting that your penis is not a disease but, like lying, cheating, or just being a jerk, it's just a small symptom of your disease.

As a mainstream church-going, tax-paying, charity-helping, decent human being, sometimes I'm a jerk, but not because of my orientation.

Jason Davis

I had a bit of a debate online with JD concerning his views on homosexuality, the New Testament, and politics. I'm a 3rd year law student at UNC-chapel hill. It is a good read if you would like to understand the relationship between modern Christianity and homosexuality. It also gets into the history of how all the clear references to homosexuality as "sin" in recent Protestant, American translations of the New Testament are actually very recent additions to Scripture.

The discussion occurred at his blog, but he then deleted most of my comments toward the end. If you want to read the full debate, see http://www.unc.edu/home/jasondm/here.html

Brandon

It is interesting that nothing has been said about the color of JD's congregation. After all, we know the context of Dr. King's speech. If you bother to know the facts I think you will clearly see that JD does not pastor a segregated church. You can suppose MLK's stand on homosexuality, but it is all conjecture. Race and sexual orientation are two very different things. On a day to celebrate equality in race why is the major topic homosexuality? To all who have been critical, what have you done for Durham?

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